A little over a year ago, we came home one night, rolled up the garage door and drove into our garage. My wife opened the door to the house while I was unloading grocery bags and was working to keep our two small dogs from running out into the garage. Suddenly a strange dog darted into our garage and headed for the door into the house. Expecting a dog confrontation with an unknown dog, I quickly started trying to run the dog out of our garage while thinking to myself, "Who is the irresponsible owner letting their dog run free through our neighborhood?" I soon discovered who the owner was as I hear a voice down the street several feet snort, "Obviously not dog people!" I was taken back by the retort after having some strange dog running into my house. In fact, I was expecting an apology instead of such a snappy retort. I finished getting groceries inside, and Allison walked out and had a conversation with the owner. She explained our concern for our two small dogs in the house and that we walk our dogs on leashes per the leash law and tried to respect our neighbors property. I heard bits and pieces of the conversation, but to say the least I was put off by the whole encounter. Allison later told me that the woman was our new neighbor two houses down. "Swell", I thought.

The next day, my next door neighbor stopped me and said she had spoken with the woman and confronted her about the situation and told her in as much that she was wrong for her actions and her response and had expounded on our virtues as some of her favorite neighbors. I was flattered that she had jumped to our defense. I thanked her and figured we just had a new neighbor that would be a burr in our saddle for the future.

A few nights later, the door bell rang. When we opened the door, there stood the new neighbor lady with some flowers and a small bag. She introduced herself as "Marli" and began to apologize for our encounter both with her dog and her earlier in the week. She then presented my wife with flowers and the gift bag of treats. I was pleasantly surprised by the change in events.

Over the course of the next few months, we regularly saw Marli and struck up conversation. We discovered she suffered from Lupus and was on disability. She had a hard time getting up and down the stairs of the house she rented, but worked really hard to have a positive outlook. We showered her with encouragement, stopped by to visit from time to time, and surprised her with small gifts of freshly baked goodies and homemade candies.

About three weeks ago, she announced that she had found a one-story house for rent about 15 miles away and was going to move as the stairs were just becoming too much trouble for her. We were sad to see her go, hugged her neck and said our goodbyes. A couple of days after her move, we found a note and some large envelopes on our doorstep with a note from Marli. The Post Office was not forwarding her mail, and she wanted us to collect her mail and send it to her. We were more than happy to help and mailed three packages of mail to her. When the envelopes run out, the mail was continuing to pour in. She called and said to just collect it, and she would swing by that Saturday to pick it up. We set a bag out on our front porch for her on Saturday before departing to a function as she had requested. When we got home late that night, the bag was still there. It concerned us, because we knew her bouts with Lupus and automatically assumed she was having a bad day. She called on Monday to say she had in fact had a bad weekend and had not been out of bed.

We continued to accumulate mail this week, and I thought we would give her a call Sunday afternoon and carry the mail down to her. She had left a voicemail Friday that she had been in the hospital with problems swallowing and had just been released. Sunday while I was with my 6th grade small group, Allison called Marli to see if we could drop her mail off for her. No one answered, so she left a voicemail. A few minutes later, Allison's cellphone rang, it was a lady police officer. She relayed the news that Marli had died Sunday morning.

We were both stunned. I walked around for a couple of hours feeling like I had been electrocuted. I am grateful for the time we were given to love on someone having a tough time with a terrible disease. I am amazed how a friendship grew from a rough first encounter. It is my prayer that some how we made her life a bit more enjoyable in the last months of her life.

Rest in Peace, Marli.

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