Love Thy Neighbor

These neighbors helped each other survive difficult times, and formed lasting bonds in the process
By By Michelle Brunner

‘My neighbors saved me when my husband was battling cancer’ - Rosemary Wesela, 65, Joelton, Tenn.

When my husband, Gary, was first diagnosed with throat cancer, the doctors said he either wouldn’t survive or would never be able to swallow again. Those first two years of treatment were challenging for our family, but they would have been much harder if it weren’t for two of our neighbors, Pam Heintzman and Stephanie Taylor.

If my lights went on at 2 a.m., Pam called to see if I needed help. Knowing I barely had time to eat, much less cook, she’d tell me to pick up supper at her house. Stephanie works from home, and she would come over during the day to check on Gary. When I got home, I’d find a bouquet of fresh flowers—Stephanie knows I love them.

I didn’t think my neighbors could be any more special until the first Christmas that Gary was able to leave the house. We headed to my sister’s for Christmas Eve. Because we had been so preoccupied with Gary’s illness, we had not bothered to put up a tree or decorations in our home.

When we returned from my sister’s that night we found a small, decorated Christmas tree on our kitchen table surrounded by beautifully wrapped gifts, plus bowls of food, delicious-looking pies and a note. We were dumbfounded. The note said, ‘Merry Christmas from Pam and Stephanie! There’s a ham in the fridge. Enjoy your Christmas dinner.’ We both cried. I realized they had waited until we left and, like a pair of Santa’s elves, set about making Christmas wonderful for us.

Today Gary is a cancer survivor, and I believe I am a “caregiving survivor” because of Pam and Stephanie. They were more than neighbors. They were angels who helped me if I faltered. I don’t think I would have been able to come through our ordeal without them.

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