Our Neighbor

dying pink flower on tree branch - photo by Sahra Peterson on Unsplash

Someone we love is dying. Our neighbor is near 90. Her body has been slowing down for a while now. We are not surprised, but we are grieved.

My family’s path crossed hers nearly a decade ago when I was a new mother. While my oldest was in preschool, my younger son and I would stop by for morning coffee. My son sat at the kitchen table and colored quietly while my neighbor, her grown daughter, and I gabbed. Our neighbor’s husband, who has since passed, loved to feed things to my son: bananas, croissants, muffins. We watched his cheeks fill with sweet things until they grew round, too round for one so small. It delighted us.

My sons are now 10 and 11 and have grown to love our neighborhood matriarch, as have I. Their own grandmothers live far away, and, in many ways, our neighbor has become a surrogate grandmother for them—one they could see and hug often.

During this past year, when the pandemic kept her in her home, my boys performed sidewalk concerts with their violin and trumpet. They wanted to make sure she felt connected and loved. Each concert she would clap wildly from the front window and tell the boys how great they were. Each time we said goodbye she reminded the boys, “Be good to your mommy. Always be kind.”

As her body begins to shut down, her family has been incredibly generous with us. They have allowed us to say our goodbyes, to sing hymns, to read Scripture, to be with her. Even in her pain, she sings with us and whispers the Scriptures she learned so very long ago. Even in her pain, she says, “You’ll never know what a great comfort this is to me.” Even in her pain, she tells us how much she loves us and, “Be good to your mommy, and always be kind.”

I want this faith. Even in pain and sickness and exhaustion, my neighbor radiates God’s love to others. She feels Christ close to her, and in turn, we feel him close too. She is unafraid, for she truly believes what she has always said she believed.

Living with this kind of woman has taught her family to extend grace and generosity to others, like how they have allowed my family to be a part of this sacred time. Through this my sons and I learn to honor their mother, our neighbors, and our neighborhood matriarch. Through my neighbor’s family we are learning to be kind. Through them, we feel God’s presence in our life.

Photo by Sahra Peterson on Unsplash.

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Shemaiah Gonzalez
Shemaiah Gonzalez is a freelance writer who holds a B.A. in English Literature and a M.A. in Intercultural Ministry. She thrives on moments where storytelling, art, and faith collide. Published on Busted Halo and America Magazine among others, she is obsessed with being well-rounded as she jumps from Victorian lit to Kendrick Lamar, from the homeless shelter to the cocktail party. A Los Angeles native, she now lives in Seattle with her husband and their two sons.


  1. This story reminds me of my Mother who died last year. Vivacious, happy, ELSA GIRL. Despite lacking in material things, she never complained. She managed without, and carried on with life’s journey positively. We are who she nurtured us to be….GOD CENTERED…THANK YOU MOM. We miss you and love yiy.

  2. So lovely that you and your family can bring such joy to someone old , and fading. How lucky she was to have you. I wish you were here and the kids visiting me!! God bless you and your sweet family. A.M.D.G.

  3. Your beautiful message has truly touched me. I heard yesterday that a dear family friend who was also in her 90’s just passed away this week. Taking time to reflect on the love and relationships we have in our lives is a blessing and something we should try to remember each day. Thank you for sharing this reminder.

  4. Oh, Shemaiah, with tears in my eyes I can say that I am so happy for all of you. Family has both a literal and mystical origin and meaning. You…each and all of you…have been brought over the line and have entered the sacred space that brings people together as your neighbor and God have their conversation and she gets ready to leave. It is a process like every other part of life and your family has been integral to it…croissants, concerts, hugs and all. Her hands will open easier because of you.

  5. Thank you Shemaiah! Your beautiful tribute to this blessed earth angel inspired me today – and – reminds me of my own grandmother, who, was so deeply beloved by her neighbors and their children. The children would bring her flowers, and pictures. They would visit her on the back porch, where Nana’s chair was, because they needed someone to listen – attentively. She gave them as much attention, and presence, as a world leader would expect. I loved that at Halloween, in their costumes, all the neighboring children could not wait to visit and tell jokes or perform skits, before they could have their candy! You, your family, and all my Nana’s neighbors – were blessed by a wise woman – and these women now inspire you, and me. Thank you for sharing – and now, today, I will remind my own children, and my siblings and cousins, of a blessed Marguerite. (By the way – even her last home – a room in a nursing home – exuded an aura of welcome to all who entered. One entered a stranger, exited a friend.)


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