Last summer, Jason and I made a couple of friends from down the street. The first time they came over was taken at the time of this picture when Jason was working on the front sidewalk. Jonique is on the left and her cousin Larry is on the right. Since then, they have come over almost every weekend and either sat on the front porch with us sipping sweet tea, or played in the back yard with the pups, or even sat inside for some heart-to-heart conversations when the weather was too cold. They are the sweetest kids with the best manners and though we come from extremely different backgrounds, we can hang out for hours having a blast and talking about school and life. These sweet kids are 11 and 12 years old and live with their grandparents and several other relatives in a one bedroom house, just four homes down from us.
Last Friday, I was leaving for work when I noticed an ambulance and fire truck in front of their home. I unlocked our front door and yelled to Jason inside to keep an eye out. Later that afternoon as Jason was out by his truck, Larry came walking up the street with his grandmother and mom following closely behind. Jason asked him why he wasn't in school and he nonchalantly replied, "My dad died this morning." His dad was only 35 years old and sadly had a long history of being in and out of jail. Jason told me that Larry said it as if he'd gotten a B- on a school paper. Sure enough, his grandmother and mom soon confirmed what Larry said with Jason, their eyes puffy and glazed over. From what we know, and have been told, he died from chest pain. I hate that Larry and Jonique witnessed this horrific incident in their tiny little home. Jason called me at work to give me the news and the first thing I wanted to do was head home to be there for Larry. Jason assured me, he was ok and playing with the dogs in the backyard with some cousins. So I texted Larry from the office.
See that response? "I miss you." As soon as I got that text I completely broke down at work. I was hurting so much for our little buddy, I could barely stand it. My heart completely broke for this boy. A couple hours later I called Jason to see how our friend was doing. I could hear him in the background laughing and the boys were barking. Jason put him on the phone and I made him promise to come see me the next day.
Saturday was a bit surreal. Larry and some of his cousins came to the house to play with the pups as relatives and family friends started filling up his front yard. Larry has a HUGE family and they were pulling up in droves. His mom happened to be at their house and I had yet to meet her. She doesn't live with them but has an apartment in the projects with her boyfriend. Larry asked if I would come with them to meet his mom. Of course I wanted to and changed out of my sweats. Jason and I headed over to the house and Grandma immediately came out to greet me. I embraced her and she started to cry. I met all kinds of family members and they welcomed us with open arms. An uncle from Louisiana was frying up whiting (fish) dipped in cornbread meal and french fries over a propane deep fryer in the front yard. If any of you know me, I HATE fish. But because I love this kid and didn't want to offend anyone, I excitedly took that fried piece of cornmeal breaded whiting and chomped away with a big ol smile on my face!
Never would I have thought that 4 years after moving into our house I'd be eating fried whiting in our neighbors front yard down the railroad tracks with our little friends and their families. But I was so blessed that God had truly answered a prayer of mine from when we first moved in - and that was that we could get to know the kids in this neighborhood and be an encouragement and safe place for them. Larry has stayed home from school all week and every day makes a visit out to see Jason and the boys. He's asked that we attend his father's funeral on Friday. I wouldn't miss it for the world.