INTENTIONAL FRIENDS  By Lori A Alicea

Her name is Betty.

My next door-neighbor of many years and twenty years my senior, and yet our relationship celebrated differing views and perspectives; not competing generations.

Across the street where whistle blowing trains rattled our windows all hours of the day, was an old country street of five houses nestled under the acreage of trees they were built on, where barns, horses, gardens and chickens running loose added to the old fashion charm of a picturesque postcard.Jake 1

Betty and I began borrowing cups of sugar from each other when she was a young grandmother and I a young mother myself.

As neighbors, we smiled and witnessed from our porches and swing sets the passing of time in the growing faces of Betty’s grandchildren and my children between the two houses.

Betty’s twin granddaughters and two grandsons always seemed to sport a glove and bat for a family baseball game of endless innings in their backyard where parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, each took their position on the field.

My two year old son watched these games from the dugout of his sandbox, waiting his turn to be big enough for the team; my baby girl and I rooted Betty’s grand-kids from the window or lawn chair nearby.

Betty and I loved being home with our children and grandchildren, both sharing the arts of sewing, canning and crafts.

More than anything, we neighbors shared the same pew at heart when our love for God overflowed those morning cups of conversation.

USE church

As time passed by, my young children and I would leave the neighborhood in tears and brokenhearted due to an unwanted divorce, but would return years later as Betty’s next-door neighbor, newly married to the man of my dreams.

Sadly, moving back to this old country neighborhood of five houses where whistle blowing trains from across the street would fascinate my future grandchildren, Betty has said good-by in sickness to the love of her life; a marriage of thirty-five glorious years.

In her husband’s honor, Betty planted a backyard tree to celebrate his life and life going on thru nature in its magnificence towards the skies and God; a widow’s place of remembrance for someone she deeply loved.

Albeit divorce, sickness or death, Betty and I continued to share sugar and heartache over tears, conversations, hugs and sometimes sitting in silence as true friends and neighbors feel comfortable to do.

For years I felt guilty for all the celebrations of open houses, baby showers and parties that took place on the front acreage of our property, where life and laughter…

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Could be heard and seen from Betty’s house and open windows a few steps away.IMG_6069

Through our intentional friendship though, Betty continued to be encouraged and lifted up, reminding her through scriptures that God promised to be a husband to the widow, a father to the orphan, a redeemer for another day.

Fifteen years later God redeems Betty’s vacant heart at a high school reunion with the re-introduction of an old friend. Betty’s eyes illuminated with joy and happiness unspeakable once again as a little girl, and the two were married in the fall of that year; eventually moving out of the neighborhood to begin their newly married life in another state.

Distance didn’t change our friendship as the miles were bridged with Betty’s cards sent in the mail and my telephone calls to her.

Betty and her new husband would come into town every so often to visit family or attend their favorite quartet concerts, for which they stopped into the old neighborhood for a visit with us.

Not making excuses, but life started happening in those one by one good-byes to parents, grandparents and loved ones and moving two more times for us, somehow losing touch with Betty.

Interestingly, Betty’s cards stopped coming although I didn’t question it, assuming life was happening for her.

Sadly and heartbreaking enough, it was.

I decided to look Betty up on social media after three and a half years from our last conversation, when an arrow plunged my heart in despair after realizing Betty’s account had been moved to legacy status.

Not wanting to assume the worse, I searched the internet for an obituary, yet never finding one in my quest.

Remembering in former conversations of Betty’s wishes to be buried by her husband of thirty-five years, David and I drove to the old country cemetery a short distance from where Betty and I used to be neighbors, only to find that indeed, Betty had passed away mere months after our last conversation.USE cemetery

With only one dirt road winding through this final resting place of a few hundred loved ones, it didn’t take us long to find the headstone of Betty’s last name she once shared with the love of her life.USE dirt roads

To my surprise, Betty left behind a love story of a different kind, choosing to be remembered beside both men who stole this woman’s heart in life.

Not knowing for sure, I imagine Betty’s thoughts…

God didn’t forget Betty and she wanted to thank Him by telling the world her beautiful story beyond her absence.USE headstone

I’m so sorry for the conversations we didn’t have those final months of Betty’s life.  I regret not bidding good-by to my intentional friend.

I didn’t attend Betty’s celebration of life and convey to her family how much their mother and grandmother meant to a next door neighbor; only because I didn’t know.

But may these words be the flowers I send to Betty on her life’s Graduation day to heaven, albeit three and a half years after she received her diploma.USE flowers

Thank you Betty for decades of friendship, for cards, for sharing cups of sugar as next door neighbors do.

I will never forget you.

Remembering…

One day we will once again share a front row pew with God who will tip His heart’s tea-pot and overflow our morning cups of conversation.USE church

THE FINAL CALL By Lori A Alicea

We are all called by God to give honor,
Where honor is due.
(Romans 13:7)

The military also gives such honor,
To its deceased soldiers in a final roll call
At their life’s celebration.
SOLDIER STANDING ALONE use
As a family, we recently said good-bye to one of our own,
A proud marine who faithfully lived and died by these three simple words:

God, Country, Flag.
JOE MILITARY Flag half mast
Presenting to our fine marine,
The honor now due him.

THE FINAL CALL
By Lori A Alicea

Before our eyes a sea of blue,
Attention straight and tall.
A roll call of our fine Marines,
Who took the clarion call.

Defend our Lady Liberty,
Protect our countries shore.
A roll call of each faithful name,
Who proudly stands before.
SOLDIER STANDING GUARD

Where one by one Marines are called,
The flag is flying near.
FLAG FLYING NEARAnd down the list, those dressed in blue,
Acknowledge that they’re here.

But heaviness of silence felt,
The roll call stops the same.
When one Marine does not respond,
Or answer to his name.

But try again this soldier’s name,
ACKNOWLEDGE Sergeant Joe!
The roll call waits for his response,
But each Marine they know.

The faithful never leave their post,
Their heart and soul give all.
This brotherhood of tears concede,
Must be his final call.

The dog tag worn around his neck,
The names of our Marine.
Identify the man he was,
The hidden and the seen.
BROTHERS
A dad to four and papa six,
A brother and a friend.
An armor bearer, uncle too,
A hand of hope to lend.

A child of God, beloved son,
A warrior on his knees.
Who lived to give his life away,
Embraced the least of these.

A husband of one bride he loved,
No name could dare compare.
And at the feet of Jesus lay,
The crown he used to wear.

Then arms are raised, three volley rounds,
Bombs bursting in the air.
A gun salute which bursts a heart,
Without her soldier there.
HAT AND SWORD
Resounds, a bugle call of TAPS,
The words, A day is done.
His faithful years they fade into,
The drawing of the sun.
BUGLE PLAYERBUGLE AMRS

The flag is folded end to end,
For which he gave his life.

FLAG FOLDINGFLAG FOLDING 1

The service of a proud marine,
Presents a soldier’s wife.
DIANE RECEIVING FLAG
His country held against her chest,
Down flowing from her cheek.
The years of love she shared with him,
Her tears begin to speak.

Her heaviness of silence felt,
MY GOD! MY GOD! My heart!
This soldier’s wife, God grant her peace,
The years they are apart.
DIANE SAYING GOODBY
A name now stricken from the roll,
Though etched in memories set.
A name who loved those stars and stripes,
His country won’t forget.
SOLDIER SALUTING JOE 1CEMETERY
Our fine Marine he took up arms,
Defend our countries shore.
A roll call now of faithful ones,
His Savior, stands before.
GUNNERY SERGEANT JOSEPH ALICEA
Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Alicea
September 23, 1955 – July 30, 2021

A country thanks you for your service.