I meant to invite him to dinner. I really did. My gentle, old neighbor with the ruined long-term memory, who always smiled enthusiastically but never remembered my name.
I meant to invite him to Christmas Eve service. I really did. And I knew that if I extended the invitation, he would come.
Truth, though? In my heart of hearts, I knew if he came, we’d have to take care of him. Couldn’t just throw out an invitation, hope to see him show up, give some big hugs and “Merry Christmas!” and head our separate ways.
No, he’d need a ride. And he’d need checking in on the day of … multiple times. Otherwise he would never remember. And then, once he came, and we drove him home, we would almost certainly learn that he was on his own for Christmas — with just his house full of roommates. And if we had that conversation, we might feel like we needed to … have him over on Christmas Day. And having him would mean an invitation to his roommates. And I was just. so. tired.
So… I meant to invite him. I really did. I thought about it. I talked about it. I prayed for him — as I often had before. … But in the end, it was so. much. easier. not to.
And only a few days after that Christmas, my journal reads…
Around the corner from my house right now, at the intersection of our two busiest streets, there are flowers dying in jars around the base of the light pole. An American flag flaps in the wind.
What happened there? Who was it? What happened there? We all want to know.
And then we hear… A pedestrian. A driver on a cell phone. And now a gentle man with a ruined long-term memory who will never walk our neighborhood streets again.
Our kids collapse into tears.
And the empty, mocking cry — I meant to! I meant to!