Young teens honour 84-year-old neighbour with 'We Love You' sign
Published Friday, July 5, 2019 11:38AM PDT
Gabriel is bouncing a basketball at the end of the street while Sydney rides a skateboard. The 13 year olds say they've been friends "since forever." They show me pictures of their much younger selves playing in the snow and posing beside Christmas trees.
There's also a video of them singing 'Happy Birthday' at their 82-year-old neighbour Joan's front door.
"Is this what you do in this neighbourhood?" I ask. "You serenade your neighbours?!"
Sydney says she's lived across the street from Joan since she was born. "She never forgets our birthday," Sydney says. "Might as well never forget hers!"
Gabriel says Joan is the kind of neighbour who also fills up your Halloween bag, donates to every single school fundraiser, and – when you need an ear – really listens. "She has constant compassion for us," Gabriel says. "[It's] comforting because somebody always believes in you."
They say Joan has lived in the house across the street since she was a baby. There's a black-and-white photo of her posing at the nearby beach as a youth, and a colourful picture attending a neighbour's backyard party as senior. "She's such an amazing member of this community," Sydney says.
Which is why her unexpected death the other day – at 84 years old – was such a shock. "It was very heartbreaking," Gabriel says. "There was an emptiness."
The young friends processed their grief by jumping on Sydney's trampoline. And then they came up with a plan.
"That evening we painted the thing white. And the next evening we stayed-up until 11, knowing we had school the next day, and finished the sign." Sydney explains. "Then my dad put it up at midnight."
And the next morning, the street awoke to see the sign on Joan's front yard. It was painted with bright colours and included a message that distilled the neighbour's complex feelings into perfect simplicity – 'We Love And Miss You Joan.'
"It was the realest thing we could say," Gabriel explains.
An adult placed a vase of flowers next to the teenagers' sign. Others have replenished it with fresh bouquets, when needed. It's happened four or five times, so far.
"She brought light to this community," Sydney says. "We needed to bright that light back, needed a way to say 'thank you.'"
A message of gratitude that Joan is no doubt responding to with, "It was my pleasure."