Linda Teague–A Good Neighbor
“You’uns come and sit sometime.”
That’s what she said on more occasions than I can count.
And when I said, “We will,” I meant it.
But time passes, life stays busy with too many missed opportunities.
Frankly, that’s a shame.
I’d never written a haiku particularly for someone who was passing away.
But, having been asked to write something to be included in a “Blessing Box” of sorts–the wonderful idea of several White Oak women, each who loved dear Linda Teague—I decided to do so.
Carefully choosing several photographs, I then wrote a haiku for each, desiring to bless this woman. To encourage her. It seemed the very least one could do.
This dear friend who was battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer had…
- Made and served meals for VBS and other church events too many times to count.
- Helped scores of young folks get their driver’s license as a much loved employee at the DMV.
- Been like a mother to many, though she and her husband Jake never had children of their own.
Gracious and kind, Linda’s been a neighbor of biblical magnitude for years. You know the type–
Those who love God the most. Then, out of that love, love others, even more than they love themselves.
We were blessed by her, and I’m sure many stories will continue to circulate.
Isn’t it funny how, too often, we get to know people better after they’ve passed away?
Though a gift, that, too, is a shame.
How wonderful instead to have the main character of those tales present to enjoy them, relish in them, perhaps offer an occasional correction—
“Now, now. It didn’t happen quite like that…”
Linda, however, wouldn’t have wanted any special treatment, to be the center of all that attention, on whom the spotlight would shine.
So, the last several days, knowing of her progressing illness—that which was too far advanced to be helped or slowed by any of the more typical treatments—I found myself shaking my head often.
For some reason–
Songbirds kept singing.
Beautiful sunrises kept beckoning.
Blue skies kept appearing.
Even our asparagus sprouted.
I wanted to shout, “Don’t you realize? There’s a gem of a woman just through those trees, over that hill, lying in a hospital bed dying.” (Still, they didn’t listen.)
Even yesterday morning, in fact, I snapped numerous photos of the finger-painted sky—God’s handiwork.
The scene was so much like the photograph of another recent sunrise, the one I’d included for Linda’s “Blessing Box.”
And I thought, “If she’s gonna step into heaven today, this would about be the perfect time.”
In fact, if the phone had rung right then, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
And it did ring—not long after, in fact.
Linda’s sister-in-law Mary spoke, her words broken with crying–
“She’s with God.”
Then I, too, cried, “She’s Home. She’s with Jesus—whole and free.”
That truth, the faith we hold to, brings consolation. It eases our grief, though doesn’t diminish it entirely.
After I hung up with Mary, dried my tears, I turned to my daily Bible reading—Psalm 29–and I read these words–
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. The voice of the Lord is over the waters… (Ps. 29:2b-3a).
A perfect melding of God’s creation and His Word. And I thought, “Isn’t it just like Him—to call to Linda from the heavens? To call her Home!”
(Made me think that maybe all those seemingly rebellious things in nature were really… what? Praising the Lord, in her honor perhaps.)
No. There’s no doubt in my mind,
Not one bit.
Linda loved Jesus, and she’s with Him now.
Still, we’ll miss her here. (Remember, I’d put off that visit—her invitation, You’uns come and sit sometime.)
It was only recently, only days ago, in fact, that I followed through, not wanting to miss my opportunity, knowing how sick she’d become.
My photographs picked up from Walgreens and the haikus written for each, I had my contribution for her “Blessing Box” ready. Then, I pulled onto Flat Top Rd. with plans to place my poems in her mailbox—one of several boxes in a line.
Sister-in-law Mary was outside with her grandsons when I passed. I rolled down my window, inquired, “Which mailbox is Linda’s? I want to leave something for her.”
She pointed, then said, “Or you can just leave ‘em with me. I’ll be headed back in shortly. I’m sittin’ with her.” She paused. “Unless you’uns have time to come in. You’re welcome to.”
I hesitated, wanting to right then, but I had to pick Allie up from school, then run by the hospital. “How ’bout I call when I’m on my way home—see if it’s still good?” I inquired, before asking, “Oh, and can I have your number?”
“Of course,” Mary replied, then spoke the number as I wrote it down on a scrap piece of paper.
“Thank you. I’ll call shortly.”
And a little while later, I dialed the number on that Walgreen’s receipt. When Mary answered, I asked, “Is it okay to stop in briefly? I’m almost home.”
“Yes, and she’s awake.”
Having parked in the Teague’s driveway, I was greeted by their sweet pup Cricket. “Allie, stay out here with her. She’s probably sad too.”
As I approached their house, I was struck by the beauty. Jake, her husband of more than six decades, had built their home, situated their porch, perfectly—with a breathtaking view of the mountains.
I knocked, and Mary answered, invited me in a whisper, “Come on in.” Jake was sitting in a chair facing his beloved.
I walked to the side of her bed. Linda held a small cup of ice cream. She looked peaceful, though her face registered a bit of discomfort.
“Okay if I sit? I’d love to pray with you if you’re okay with that.”
Now, don’t think for one moment, not a single second, that I’m some “holier than thou,” pious person, asking to pray.
I’m a coward, truth be told. I don’t like to face death, am personally afraid of it, if I’m being completely honest. It’s something I want to overcome, truly, but I’m not yet there.
It’s just my way of trying to be brave in the face of fear. Like looking to Someone much braver than me, turning to the One who helps me be brave. And I figured both Linda and I might need an extra measure of courage.
She nodded, “Yes, please.” So I bowed my head after taking her hand.
I’m not exactly sure all I said in those few moments, but tears welled, then fell, as I sensed the sweet peace of our Savior in the room. My prayers hadn’t brought Him. He was already there. My petition just enabled me to sense His presence, much like truth conveyed by the late C.S. Lewis—
Prayer doesn’t change God. It changes me.
After I concluded, Amen, Linda looked up. “Thank you.” Then, “And I wanted to thank you, too, for the poems and pictures you sent over earlier. They’re beautiful.”
I didn’t know what to say. Here she was, a woman facing her own mortality, thanking me—for something that was supposed to encourage her as she walked a path she didn’t choose.
“You’re welcome,” was all I mustered. Then, “I love you… and…” I choked. “I’m sorry we never had that good long visit. You were always so sweet to invite us. I just wish I’d have taken you up on it… sooner.”
“Well, time just seems to pass us by.” She closed her eyes, a punctuation mark to conclude that sentence.
I stayed a few minutes more, talked in whispers to Mary and Mary’s granddaughter Samantha.
Before I left, I patted Jake’s shoulder. “I’m so very sorry. We’ll be praying for you too.” What more could be said? Really, all this was probably the hardest for him.
Back outside, Allie was still playing with Cricket just a few yards away. I paused just off their porch, took a picture of the beautiful late afternoon sky, the view outside Linda’s home. It was what she, too, could see from her hospital bed which was positioned so she could watch, again, the close of another day.
Gazing out over those mountains at another sunset, the sum of sunsets since we began calling this place home more than twenty years ago now numbering over 7,000, I said–
I never knew.
“What?” Allie heard me but hadn’t deciphered what I’d said.
“Oh, I was just thinking.” And I repeated–
I just never knew….
And what exactly hadn’t I known?
Way too much.
Why? Because I’d not taken her up on her offer–
You’uns come and sit sometime.
But… what I can tell you is this. Linda wouldn’t want anyone to linger too long in grief or regret. No. Instead, she’d say–
Get busy being there for others. Be a good neighbor. Be hospitable. Be kind.
And you know what? I think the sunrise yesterday morning, God’s fingers across the sky, were especially for her. And that glorious veil? Linda stepped through it, took His hand as He held it out to her, welcoming her Home.
And now? She’s singing out with a voice no longer hindered by, hurting from, the ugly mark of cancer.
You’uns come and sit sometime.
And I can say with the utmost honestly–
“I will, good neighbor. Though I don’t know when, I promise. I’ll come!”
And I will.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the hope we have in You. Thank you that we can rest, knowing Linda’s with You, probably fishing and having the time of her new life. But please, sweet Savior, comfort those who will miss her most, especially her dear Jake. Give him glimpses of what he, too, can anticipate… one day. And please tell Linda thank you–for always being such a great neighbor and friend. So many love her because she loved so many. What a testimony of Your presence in her life. Amen.
(Click the link to read her obituary and watch a lovely video of an even lovelier woman.)