Last night, our neighbor had a stroke.
I had just decided to wash my face and get ready for bed around 9:20 when I heard sirens in the neighborhood. Because we live in the middle of Little Rock this noise did not necessarily frighten me. Sirens happen quite frequently. I heard Adam ask from the other room, “Didn’t that sound a little close to you?”
“Not really I responded,” as I proceeded to see if the water in the bathroom sink had adequately heated up enough for me to begin my nightly face wash routine.
“Kate,” he answered. “It’s at the neighbor’s house.”
I immediately snapped off the water and followed him through the house. By no means are we 1950’s style close to our neighbors, but we do know all of the families living directly beside and across from us on all sides. As I approached the front windows I could see which house the fire truck was at and suddenly I was worried. These particular neighbors are slightly older and I immediately was concerned. Without thinking twice, Adam and I hurried out the front door and down the steps into the street. We were greeted by other neighbors — all stepping out to see what was going on. While we waited for word, one of our neighbors told us that years prior, the gentleman in the house had had a massive heart surgery and they were fearful of a heart attack.
I kept thinking, “I saw them both recently and everyone seemed in good health.”
Minutes passed and an ambulance finally came. The paramedics did not seem to be in a rush and so I worried all the more. I did not want there to be an emergency necessarily but it didn’t seem like a good omen for them to be taking so much time to get in the home. At last, they went inside with the gurney and we were all left standing in the street wondering… hoping… silently praying.
After some time, they emerged from the home but not with the husband on the gurney like everyone expected. It was the wife. By looking at her, it was clear what had happened. One side of her body was slumped over, completely out of her control. Adam lightly grabbed my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Stroke.”
Standing there in the street, I felt so powerless. I found myself thinking of what their evening must have been like before it happened. Were they laughing? Were they eating dinner? Were they just about to break open a bottle of wine? It seemed so utterly unfair to me in one moment, everything can be okay, and then in the next, potentially your entire life changes.
After the ambulance left and her husband followed it to the hospital, the neighbors began to disperse. I held Adam’s hand tight as we walked back to our house. After we got inside and I started washing my face again, I quizzed Adam on why strokes happen and how we can prevent them. As always, he gave me answers but I still found myself looking for comfort.
You see, sometimes I worry that my life is “too good.” I worry that I’m too lucky to have found a good job, live in a nice home, and be married to the love of my life. I worry that somehow, I’ve slipped through the cracks of the universe and it just hasn’t noticed how blissfully happy I am most days (hell — there are days that I don’t even realize how blissfully happy I am). My fears only increase when I see bad things happen to good people; even more so when those good people are just a door down the street.
I wish I could end this post with some sort of major insight into life’s meaning or perhaps provide an answer to the oldest question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But I can’t. All I can do is stop by my neighbor’s house soon and offer to drop off a meal or run errands. All I can do is be thankful for every second I have with Adam… every second that I have in this life of mine… every second of health and happiness. That’s all I can do. And so I’ll do it. Today. Tomorrow. And every day after that.