For the 35 years living next door to my family, you kept to yourself and yet we knew enough to construct a picture for your family after your death. After all, 35 years is a long time and you get to know a few things. When we moved there from the city, you helped us move in. Like dad, you were 35, young and strong. Together the two of you moved in all the heavy appliances. We'd talk to you occasionally across the fence and we got to know Pat a little. I remember mom used to borrow Alka-Seltzer from her. She was always nice to us. Then one day she left and we never saw her again. You were all by yourself with the dogs, Thunder, Lightning, Sad and Lonely.
On Saturday nights we could hear country music coming from the house. You obviously enjoyed the solitude. You took care of your place and the horses and you worked and that was it. That was enough for you.
When you weren't at work, you were usually outside working. Most of the time you were shirtless, wearing a ball cap, shorts and tennis shoes, and you'd be on that tractor cutting grass, trimming trees, grooming the horses, washing the truck, something that kept you outside most of the day. I recall you had a tan from working outside. For a while you were busy building that cabin. There were times you and dad were both working outside and you'd take a break to talk by the fence behind his shop. You were always nice to dad but you never wanted to be friends, that much was apparent. It wasn't us though, we realized later you didn't want to be friends with anyone. And so we respected that.
We never recalled anyone visiting and you never spoke of friends or family. I didn't learn until later that you had at least one friend and you didn't talk to your family. As it turns out, we may have known you better than anyone else. At least we knew enough to tell your family that you were a nice to us, kind to animals, worked hard, and were quiet and never bothered anyone. I was glad to meet your sister-in-law, though I wish it'd been under better circumstances and not your death. It felt good to tell her about you. I felt she needed to know there was more to you than misanthropy and isolation.
Upon making the decision to end your life, you could not possibly realize how it would affect the few people who knew you. For a while I felt guilty that we didn't reach out more, but it's likely you wouldn’t have been receptive. In the end you were sick, and very tired. You'd lived 70 years and life had taken its toll. It took a while for me to come to terms with your death. I kept thinking about the man who was once young and vibrant and how 30 years ago he never could've imagined his life would arrive at the point where he felt the need to end it. If only that young man had been given a brief vision of the future, what would he have done differently? I guess it doesn't matter, for now you’re gone and all questions are irrelevant. All that’s left behind is the cabin you built, which sits empty, all the things you'd collected over the years, now gone.
In the months just after you died, when I was visiting mom, I'd walk over to the fence line and just stare at the cabin. It was quiet save for the occasional barn owl and whippoorwill and the rustling of the leaves from the soft evening breezes wafting through those tall trees that were just seedlings three decades ago. I'd lean on the fence, close my eyes and turn my head just so... and then I thought I heard music—that old country music you used to listen to—coming from the cabin.
Our lives are a compilation of experiences and the people we meet. They help make us who we are. Without even realizing it, you were one of the many threads, woven together to make up the fabric that is my life. Those threads all matter.