Love Thy Neighbor
By Amanda Waley
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
-The first verse of It is Well with my Soul,
written by Horatio G. Spafford
with music by Philip P. Bliss
This is a story about my neighbor, Annette “Tobie” Hickcox who was like a sister to me. She was forty-four years old when she died of pneumonia, and complications with diabetes. My mother verbally adopted her into my family when her own mother passed away. She took her mother’s death very hard because they were very close. Her mother became friends with my mother, and Tobie switched from a downstairs apartment to one directly above her old apartment when her mother could no longer walk up the stairs. My family stepped into the role of “adopted” siblings when Tobie needed us the most.
For a while she came over to my apartment across the yard once a week to watch movies with my brother and I. Before she passed away, she was over 2-3 times a week watching television, watching movies, and having the occasional pizza party.
Tobie and I started calling each other “Twin” even though she was fifteen years older than me, and we weren’t related by blood at all because we were both accident-prone and would end up comparing ouches. A lot of the time, we had bruises and cuts in the exact same places. Most of her falls were the result of grand mal seizures, whereas mine would be sheer clumsiness.
Whenever we saw each other in public, we would greet each other with “Hey, Twin,” followed by the E. T. phone home signal with our index fingers. The E. T. thing is something I started doing with my mom when I wanted to “phone the mother ship,” but with Tobie I would say “sister ship.”
Aside from having epilepsy and diabetes, Tobie was partially deaf. When my brother and I were going to college together, we took an American Sign Language course. Tobie would practice with us when we did our homework. My mother is also hard of hearing, so the Sign Language course was supposed to help talk to her, too. Even though a lot of what my mother learned in her Sign Language class wasn’t retained, it was like we were teaching her some of the signs again.
Tobie also volunteered a couple times a week at the local Library in the Children’s department. She always loved being around kids even though she never had any of her own. Since her death, I’ve began volunteering at the same Library once a week with my brother to continue something in her memory. She loved working at the library.
A few months before Tobie passed away, my dad lost his battle with prostate cancer and the Lord called him home. That’s one of the reasons Tobie ended up coming over so much before she died. Because most of my brothers and sisters were very close to my dad, and my brother, Ray, and I would visit him several times a week. My brother, Vern, and sister, Amee, ended up taking care of him a lot in his final months by taking him to several doctor’s appointments, going shopping for him, and making sure he didn’t skip any medications. They were both at his bedside when he drew his last breath along with my nephew, Aaron, who was visiting his dad.
Tobie got sick with what she thought was the flu, but she wasn’t getting any better. She had her housekeeper make an unscheduled visit on one of her regular days off to take her to a doctor’s appointment. Her housekeeper came over, and had a hard time getting my neighbor to open the door to let her in. Tobie had been sleeping on the couch, and the door was locked. My neighbor seemed confused, and delirious for five minutes. Finally, the housekeeper got her to unlock the door and she called 9-1-1. The housekeeper found out later the doctor’s appointment was actually set for the following week.
The first night Tobie was in the hospital, she went into cardiac arrest and had a stroke that she never recovered from. My mom and I visited her in the ICU, my brother and I got her apartment key to take care of her cats while she was in the hospital, and found her uncle’s phone number in her address book and called him to let him know what happened. He lives in
and couldn’t make it to
right away. A few days after Tobie was
admitted to the hospital, her uncle gave permission over the phone to “pull the
plug.” She died ten minutes later. Oregon
One week before all this happened; I made Tobie promise to come over for a movie night the following week thinking she would get better. A week after she died, I believe I got the visit I was promised. I was sleeping in my bed the following Friday night, and I shot up out of bed when I heard the word “Twin” in her voice. Then I heard giggling after I said “Twin” back. I had been praying for a sign from God that Tobie was okay. I knew when she was alive she attended church regularly, and believed in God. However, she was never really sure if she was ever baptized, and that’s what had me worried the most. The thought of never seeing her in the sweet by and by. Ever since that night, I’ve been comforted knowing I’ll see her again someday, and she’s happy where she’s at because she’s reunited with her mother and Heavenly Father.
I’m glad I had met
My soul sister, Annette,
Before we both were gone.
She was a great shoulder to lean on
After my dad died
Because she experienced something similar
When her mother died,
And she cried,
But got a new “family”
In it, and a support system
She couldn’t beat.
Have you ever been so close
To someone that they become
A brother or sister
Even though you’re not related by blood?
I told her often she was my sister
From another mother,
And I don’t know what I would’ve done
Without her kindness and smiling face
To brighten up the place.
 Copyright June 2011 by Amanda Waley. The poem is taken from pg. 87 of Second Thoughts: A Collection of Poetry by Amanda Waley. Published by Lulu Press.
I also have a second story to submit to "Chicken Soup for the Soul" typed up, but I still need to add more to it. It's still a work in progress, but I don't have to submit that story until December 31st.