A Sobering Saturday, Startling Sunday

It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I had witnessed. It was a peaceful Saturday morning, though not necessarily a quiet one. The sun rose and turned the sky sepia tones through a thin fog that coated the hills.

A rooster pheasant marched his way up toward the patio, crowed a few times, beat his wings, and continued his solo parade through the tall grass. Robins perched on the branches of the otherwise bare chokecherry tree, serenading the sun as it peeked up over the horizon.

As I stood at the door sipping my coffee, I was nearly moved to tears for how beautiful a morning it was. I thanked God we lived here, and for His creative morning greetings. Could it have been a more amazing morning?

I turned to look to the south, where I noticed both of our neighbor’s horses had escaped and were grazing their way through a cut hay field. I remembered the previous night I had seen one of the horses in the neighbor’s front yard, and figured he would see it was out and take care of it. Apparently that was not the case, as now both horses were over half a mile away, grazing through their newfound freedom.

Hubs had started to feel a sinus bug come on the day before, directly on the heels of me being able to walk again. Somehow, midweek, my back went on a very painful vacation and left me immobile. Two consecutive visits to the chiropractor later, I was finally on my feet again, though taking a slow, relaxing recovery.

Given the onset of sinus ills, I let Hubs sleep in while I started breakfast and kept an eye on the wandering horses and on the neighbor’s house.

Eventually, Hubs came out and I asked if he felt up to alerting the neighbor of the situation. The horses were now well over a mile away and only wandering further south. Grabbing some of our oats, just in case, Hubs headed out the door and down the hill.

I should note, in order to get to said neighbor’s house, we have to go north, then east, then south before we can simply check in. It’s a complicated layout up here. We only can see the back side of the neighbor’s house, and have only ever seen him when we’ve happened to be in a spot overlooking that area as he’s been out watering the horses or throwing them hay.

Hubs was down there for a while, yet I then noticed him leaving and driving south to head the horses off in the field. That must have meant he had gotten no answer and was off to corral the horses on his own.

They were quite a ways away by the time he reached them, and with patience and oats, he was able to lure them back to their corral within about an hour’s time. I drove down to tell him where I had seen the horse out the night before, and the fence was completely down in that particular spot. As he worked to get the fence back up, I looked up and noticed our neighbor’s pickup truck sitting in front of the house.

Concerned, I looked at Hubs and asked him about not getting an answer at the door. He said he had tried several times, including as he was leading the horses back into the fence.

“Should I call the Sheriff?” I asked. And yes, that is ultimately what took place.

We had never met this neighbor, and had been convinced sure he preferred it that way. The dispatcher asked me, “What’s the address?” and I had no definite answer, so gave her ours as a reference point.

“What’s the name?” Again, I had no answer.

“You said his pickup is there? What color…make?” That, I had an answer for. “And do you have a plate number?” I did not. I’m sure at this point, she was wondering why, if I knew nothing, I was calling for a welfare check.

“We have only ever seen him outside to care for his horses, and they had gotten out. When my husband brought them back in, he noticed all of their waterers were empty and they had no fresh hay. That’s just not typical of what’s been happening the six months we’ve been here.”

That was answer enough, and within the hour a deputy came out to try to contact Mr. Neighbor.

After no answer again, ultimately, the plan was to return with another deputy and possibly break the door down. But in the meantime, would I be willing to keep an eye on the property and let them know if his pickup left, or if anyone came to visit? Of course I would.

I tried to sit out on the patio for a while, but it grew too chilly with the breeze, and despite my efforts to layer up, I couldn’t stay out there long. The morning’s thin fog had been blown away by the strong breeze, and the sun offered no warmth hidden behind the large tree that shades our patio. Additionally, I had kids and a husband to feed, and needed to also rest my back.

I turned one of our sitting chairs around, butted the ottoman right up against the door, and sat perched in my new watch, covering myself with the blanket to ward off the chill seeping through the seam of the door. I couldn’t see hardly anything from that spot, but I could see a portion of the road and could keep an eye on any comings or goings.

As I sat there keeping watch, I kept mulling over a series of “best case” scenarios. Best case, he had a stroke and was immobile, but still alive and okay. Best case, he had fallen and hit his head and was just asleep from the bang-up, but would come to soon enough. Best case… the best cases were running out, and in my gut – despite what my head was cycling over – I knew what the real case was.

It was a long and involved day. One horse stomped the fence down again in that same spot and they escaped. Hubs went down there a second time, catching them in the yard before they had a chance to go exploring again. He secured the fence with zeal to keep the horses inside their perimeter, now that we knew they had plenty of hay and water to keep them satisfied (and safe).

Eventually, the deputies returned to the house and stayed for quite some time. We could see nothing except their vehicles turn into the driveway, then disappear in front of the house. As the sun set, it was a different kind of feeling that gripped me than the one that had as the sun first peeked above the horizon that day.

Our concerns were affirmed: our neighbor had passed away in his home.

Right away, I felt like the worst neighbor ever to have lived. I was soon kindly told, however, it was our neighborliness that had allowed our neighbor to be found. Also, we were honoring his preference of having his space and keeping to ours. It may not be how one would think of being neighborly, but that’s exactly what it was in this situation.

I felt for the deputy. For what he must have seen inside, what he thought of (and I would like to be clear, had he busted the door down earlier in the day, it still would have been too late. There was nothing that could have been done, as notable time had passed since the neighbor’s demise).

Thoughts were running through my mind faster than I could wrestle with them, and it was an exhausting day mentally. I thought sleep would be long in coming, but when I finally rested my head on the pillow that night, my thoughts quieted and I drifted off.

It was a sobering Saturday. It started so beautifully and ended so sullenly.

The next morning, while I couldn’t explain it, there was a tangible peace in the air. It was a calm, comforting morning. I was thankful for it, and felt because our neighbor could finally be at peace, the area around us was too. I thought with the activity of the day before it would be a difficult day, but it was the opposite.

Well, at least the morning was not difficult.

Later that afternoon, Hubs had sudden and severe abdominal pain, and a (several hours-long) visit to the Emergency Room later, we had a manageable diagnosis, available treatment, and a new plan for a healthier approach to life.

Sunday was just as intense, though in different ways, as the day before and I was completely spent. It was a startling, scary evening, especially following so closely to a day we somberly realized no one knows the day or hour which will be their last.

Those five days felt like fifty as I crawled in bed that evening, almost too timid to wonder what the next day had in store. I felt like the events were our monkeys and the days had, in fact, been our circus. I didn’t like the role of ringleader when things were spiraling out of control.

With another prayer of pleas and gratitude, I once again drifted off to sleep. It had been a long several days, and every part of me was worn out.

And now that it’s a couple of weeks behind us, I can say it was harrowing. It was horrible. But it was also blessed. The dance between grim and grace is one I’ve become quite familiar with over the years. This was simply another instance where my hand was taken and I was led to twirl and turn as the situations required in their time and tempo.

It was a sobering Saturday. It was a startling Sunday. But neither day was one the Lord didn’t carry in His hands, and all the comfort and strength I needed were carried just the same.

2 Replies to “A Sobering Saturday, Startling Sunday”

  1. I almost never take the time to stop and read these due to being in school and never feeling like I have time. Today I don’t know what made me stop for a moment but I did. Val, for all my time of knowing you, you have been the strongest person in your faith. I continually ask God to forgive me for not being that kind of person. Crazy enough I understand that peace you felt for your neighbor. You and Brent have hearts as big as the mountains. I miss being present with you. You make my heart feel blessed to be even distant friends. Know my heart is hugging you.

  2. Val, it is hard for me to imagine walking in your shoes that weekend. So true we do need a reminder sometimes to tell us only God knows how long we will be living our life’s journey. Thank you for posting, I learn alot from your expressions of how you understand life. Take Care! 🤗

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