Saturday, March 22, 2008

In Memoriam: My friend and neighbor Max

I knew he was in our hospital, in the ICU, and had planned to visit him, but I was too late. The next morning, I received this note from his daughter:

By now I'm sure you have heard that Max passed Thursday afternoon at 4:47. It was as quick and comfortable for him as could be. Everything that could be done was being done, with respect and love beyond words. The people who make the day to day of life and death work are nothing short of amazing and wonderful gifts to the world. They made what could have been all pain, gentle. Their first concern was for his comfort, the second was for ours. I am most grateful to all, for all.

He lived next door and had been there for many years before we moved into the neighborhood. Everyone knew him. He was a handyman and had every tool you might ever need to borrow. As another neighbor noted, "The first day I moved on to the street, Max showed up at my door to let me know there was a neighborhood ladder in his garage, available for all to use."

Max was a handyman, but he loved nothing more than "supervising" other people's work. My brother-in-law, Dave, a contractor of great skill -- and even greater kindness and patience -- would quietly seethe while Max stood over his shoulder watching him work on a project at our house, offering a running commentary on what Dave was doing wrong. But you could never complain because he was such a kind and giving man.

When Max and his wife grew older and moved out of the house into a more manageable apartment, he gave me all his tools, plus dozens of jars of nails, screws, and bolts. He had never thrown anything away.

My daughters grew up with Max. Favorite story: One day, he and Sarah (age 4) decided to pick the blackberries growing in our back yard. She had on shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and so he volunteered to step into the prickly bushes to hand the berries out to her. She held the Tupperware container. So, he would reach in, pick some berries, and hand them out to her to put into the bowl. She would promptly eat them as they arrived. After ten minutes, he turns and sees an empty bowl. He says, "I thought we were going to share." She says, "We are. You get the pretend ones. Here (and hands him the bowl)!" He laughed and laughed at being outsmarted by a four-year-old.


e-Patient Dave said...

What a moving and effective portrayal of Max, Paul. I feel like I completely know him. Well done.

And as the loving step-grandparent of a 4 year old, I laughed my buns off at Sarah's response. How perfect.

You get today's Steel Magnolias "laughter through tears" award.

Lyss said...

That is a very nice tribute. So sorry for your loss. Really, truly good and trusted neighbors are hard to find.

Anonymous said...

I could not have parted with pretend backyard blackberries to anyone else. The truth is, those really are the best ones. I'm glad that I knew, even at a young age, that they were only worthy of someone very special, like Max.

Anonymous said...

The pretend ones are always sweeter. I am sorry for your loss.