Mr. Lockhart died on December 12, 2007. And he was meaningful to me, because for the past 18 years he’s been a next-door neighbor.
I didn’t know him overly well I would say, but having rubbed shoulders with him at the mailbox, out in the yard and across the fence, the inevitability of living in close proximity creates a mutual bond between persons.
So, in the wake of his farewell, I can say that his presence on the block will be missed. The way he devoutly flew his OU flag outside on every game day, his soft-spoken voice, his sauntering gait.
I mowed the lawn of he and his wife since I was 16. After each mowing, Mr. Lockhart would mosey over to my house and hand the check over with a smile, his scrawling, telltale left-handed script a noticeable mainstay (and largely illegible).
But some interesting conversations with other block-side neighbors have arisen on account of the recent passing of life. One stands out among the others.
And as I sat last week in the pleasantly grandma-ish and comfortable living room of Marge, a 70-something widow on the block (and former mowing client), I saw in her a perspective that I should like to emulate, if e’er I make it to such a seniority.
And I should say I love sitting in Marge’s boisterous armchairs with her needlepoint masterpieces resting here and there in various states of completion. Each one is for someone else. Each one with a story.
And Marge always tells stories. She told of the day she moved into her first house in Grand Rapids. It cost 36 thousand. Her family was very poor growing up and she never imagined she would be able to own a house. It was a blessing beyond her comprehension.
And I tried to take note: don’t simply expect blessings or feel entitled to them. And learn to appreciate every blessing in life as uniquely significant and worthy of thanks.
And so, after a while, we talked of death, a subject many older folks purposefully avoid. But Marge’s faith, optimism and assurance always strike me deeply.
“John, we just don’t know how much time we have,” her slightly shrill, Minnesota accent filled the room. “We just have to be thankful for everything that we have. I can’t do a lot of things that I used to, but you know what…I just sit here and I stitch and I read and I go to church and that’s enough.”
Invariably we spoke of her late husband, Bud, who died in '91. I remember him only vaguely. Many things don’t stick when you’re a seven-year-old neighborhood brat scrubbing about the street.
Marge told about Bud’s funeral, about his cremation, and his ashes being placed in a holder in the cemetery, with space right beside for hers when the time is come. She talked of her own death and future burial plans like the weather or the news. She didn’t flinch.
So, interesting lessons to be learned in the presence of death, it seems. It fronts the question of eternity and sifts out life’s forefront concerns.
And those who knew him think of Mr. Lockhart. He will be remembered. He will be missed. On Cheyney Court and elsewhere. And I pray for faith like Marge, who leans on her assurance in Christ to the point of freedom from fear of temporal death. And that is a remarkable freedom.