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Unwavering Guilt

  • My neighbor, who I’ve known since I was a little kid, got out of the hospital for the millionth time just a week or so ago. She’s had pneumonia, Covid and a blood infection. Her immune system was ruined by years of battling cancer, but damn if she wasn’t a strong woman. She had pneumonia seven times last year. I know people who hardly made it through having pneumonia once in their lives.

    She was really weak when she got out, but tackled life head on as if nothing had happened. She had plans that were cut by the hospital stay, but she was hell bent on keeping them. I wish I was half as strong as her.

    The day before yesterday, her whole family had a gathering at her house. A big happy party for the kids and grandkids and cousins. They planned on coming back the day after to help clean up her yard and plant the garden.

    Yesterday, I got a call from my mom that there were ambulances, police and a fire truck at her house. I rushed over to see what was going on. I waited with another neighbor if known since I was a kid. They started bringing a stretcher into the house, but stopped at the steps. Then they put it back in the ambulance, empty. That, along with the wailing coming from side told us all we needed to know.

    The other neighbor and I ended up rushing in to be with her daughter as her son-in-law rushed out to get the two grandkids who lived with her out of the house.

    In the end, I had the son-in-law go back with the daughter while I stayed with the kids across the street. I’ve known the two youngest grandkids for most of their lives. They’re not my neighbors biological grandkids, but she loved and cared for them like they were. Neither of them were strangers to death, since they lost their mom when the youngest was only 6 months. Not to mention, they saw my neighbors husband die about 2 years ago. I didn’t need to explain death or dying to them. The youngest had a lot of questions about the body, though, and I explained the process of getting a body ready for burial. She seemed genuinely interested, which was cute but unnerving. Her older brother, who found my neighbor’s body, was numb and didn’t say anything at all.

    The day I found out my neighbor was in the hospital, I told my boyfriend “I don’t think she’s going to make it through the year.” I hate myself for saying that. I didn’t think she would die so soon. I don’t know what caused her death, but she was on the floor beside her bed. It could have been a fall, but it could have been her health. Either way, I wish I hadn’t said anything.

    I feel guilty about other things as well. I wish I had checked up on her more. Granted, her daughter lives across the street, but my house is right next to hers. Still, if I had made some kind of routine of checking up, maybe I would have found her in time? I know it’s unlikely, but I feel guilty. So does everyone else who lives on our street. She was the neighborhood grandma and I already miss the hell out of her.

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