A friend of ours died suddenly last week. It’s affected my family deeply, as we’d known this young man since he was born. As a former neighbour said, “this is one of our own”.
My sister Meredith wrote this essay about him. She did it so beautifully, I wanted to share it with you.
Remembering Someone I Used to Know
From eight grade until I went away to college, I was the exclusive babysitter for a family in my neighborhood. I watched the two children, a baby girl and later, her brother, at least once a week for five years. At a $1.50 an hour, it's no wonder the parents had a "date night" just about every weekend.
The kids were a big part of my life. I went on their family vacations and the children were the subject of my high school photography portfolio. I visited on college breaks, but as the kids grew, I saw them less frequently. Eventually, my parents moved from the neighborhood, I married, had my own children and only occasionally bumped into my old neighbor who updated me on the comings and goings of my former charges.
Last week, almost by accident, I learned that, John, now a 35-year-old man, died of a head injury. I got the news hours before his funeral, but knew I had to be there. Sitting in the back of the packed church, I struggled to learn something about the little boy I once knew so well.
When his sister stood to reflect on her brother, she painted a vaguely familiar picture of their childhood. She told a story about the time John cut his beautiful strawberry blond curls in an effort to not be "cute" and then she described how they "terrorized" their babysitters, except for their "beloved" Meredith. I was stunned to learn that I was more than a fuzzy childhood memory for the pair.
As other speakers provided clues to the last 30 years of his life, I learned that John had a love of music and animals, affection for his nieces, and that he was a thoughtful and generous friend. Despite some ups and downs, it was clear he had an impact on the people in his life.
At the reception following the service, I was warmly greeted by his family who seemed relieved I'd heard about the funeral. Anxious to see how John had grown over the years, I moved to the corner of the room where a slideshow told the story of his adventurous life. And there, among the images, was one from my photography portfolio—a picture of a sweet little boy sharing his ice cream cone with his sister. It was then I realized that I did know the person he would become.
Why I found out about his funeral only hours before the service, I'll never know. But I do know, learning that I meant something to John and his sister, simply by being their babysitter, has had a significant impact on me.