Standing in the funeral home, I thought about the man with whom we shared a fence, property line, seven dangerously overgrown pine trees, and zip code for the last eight years.

He called me ‘kiddo.”

I remembered our conversations on his driveway about the beautiful weather, our yards, and the endless, but satisfying, upkeep they require. He asked my opinion about which trees to cut back, what to plant along the gravel path. Sometimes, he grabbed my arm and I helped him navigate the ruts so he could offer me advice on pruning techniques.

Until close to the end, I could count on seeing him out stocking the bird feeder, calling to his cats, raking the leaves, mowing, trimming the tallest branches from his holly bushes. Shoveling snow!

He adored his garden and appreciated the life force it granted him–no wonder he pushed himself outside, even after a bout with cancer, and kept himself moving.

Towards the end, his voice weak, it became more difficult to understand him, but the spark remained in his eyes, and the firmness in his grip when we shook hands.

It was tough seeing him so fragile on our last ambulance call. The medics affixed their wires to his chest, prodded him, asked him how he was feeling, but he could barely communicate, and answered their questions by slowly nodding his head.

We lifted his fragile body with ease onto the stretcher. It made my heart heavy.

The last time I saw that spark in his eyes I was bidding him farewell at the hospital and wishing him a speedy recovery. Until that moment, he had been nearly unresponsive to the medics and my crew. When I said, “See you at home, partner,” a bit of rosiness appeared in his cheeks and his lips formed a smile. Our eyes met. He recognized me.

I feared this would be the last time I would see him alive.

I never knew my grandfathers.

In some ways he became a grandfather figure in my life. I was proud to introduce my children to him. Show him our renovation. Receive his compliments on our green lawn and garden.

Rest in peace my friend. You are missed.

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