Our neighbor walked to our door this morning and rang the doorbell during breakfast. He seemed distraught. I could tell from the way he rang it. It was two short dings in rapid succession. One after the other without a break in between to even acknowledge that the first had rung. I muttered to myself as I got up, “How daring of him.” Not only was he disturbing breakfast, but he’s also double-ringing the bell.
I opened the door to greet him. He stood still, eyes hidden behind sunglasses, and the round part of his nose glowed slightly red. “My dad passed. He went last night.” were his only words. Without saying anything, I hugged him with whatever comforting strength I had, just a slightly harder hug to let him know he could squeeze back, lean if he needed to, and to cry when he was ready.
He told my wife and I a story about his father, Joe. Some old obscure memory in his mind about someone asking Joe about heaven. His father had said, “I don’t think it exists. Nope, but if it did I hope it’s just a giant coffee shop, where I can sit around, listen to stories, maybe tell some of my own. That would be heaven.”
I remember one morning, I had a cup of coffee in my hand and I walked outside to feel the crisp, freshness of the air, and Joe was on his front porch listening to the radio and rocking in his rocking chair. I waved, “Hi Joe, good morning!”
He didn’t wave back. He got up from his chair and walked over to me. “Hey there, neighbor. I can’t see you very well from over there, and I might not recognize you when you wave, but please keep doing it. Keep waving, it’s a nice sight for my old eyes.”
And as our neighbor stood at our door telling us a few more stories, I cried. If all he wanted was coffee and stories, he could have had that here, at my doorstep, and he could have let heaven wait just a little longer.