Neighbor’s Absence a Sad Reminder of Obesity’s Toll

Looking out my window during this brisk October morning, I notice several trees that are simply bursting with the colors of yellow, red and orange accompanied by a beautiful blue sky above. It’s just gorgeous outside. It’s a great day to be alive!

Yet I see something else as I look into my neighborhood — a home where a friend of mine used to live. It’s been about three years since I’ve last seen her; in fact, it’s very difficult for me to view this house because it brings some heartbreak.

I don’t enjoy this feeling but I can’t help but experience this when I look at that empty home. My friend and her family didn’t move away; her two children are seen there often when they visit their dad — her husband — who still resides there. To me, the house is empty ever since she’s been gone.

Being Neighborly

When I first moved to this neighborhood I was happy to learn that there were many people in the area that I knew. The majority of these families were familiar to me because of the volunteering I’ve done for years at my children’s school functions. When I began my new lifestyle years ago, my neighbors witnessed my daily walking routine and began to notice I was losing a significant amount of weight. As the months passed many would stop me and ask questions about how much weight I had lost and tell me that they see me every day out there walking — they thought it was great! A few would ask me for my “secrets,” which I obviously loved to share.

I’d explain that my secret was changing my lifestyle. I was eating healthier, keeping my portions under control and that walking was really the key factor in helping me lose my weight. There were times when they’d say, “I’ve tried that and it just doesn’t work for me.” I didn’t argue about that statement, but I would inform them that I once felt that way, too.

On occasion I would be asked a question that made me feel a little uncomfortable. One neighbor, who was morbidly obese, wanted to know if I was losing weight because I had some form of weight-loss surgery. I explained to her that “No, I didn’t attempt any form of surgery for one basic reason: When I looked at a brochure about this surgery many years ago, the first page of the pamphlet included the words RISK OF DEATH. I threw the pamphlet in the garbage can immediately!”

Why would I risk losing my life when I have so much to live for, especially watching my three children grow up? No thank you, I would rather find another method to lose my weight, which obviously I did.

But sadly, this wasn’t what my neighbor decided to do. She kept her pamphlet.

A Family’s Loss

She made the decision to help end her obesity. The very last time I spoke to her in 2008, she wanted me to give her advice. She explained that even though she had lost a significant amount of weight with the procedure that was performed on her, she just couldn’t lose those “last 30 pounds of excess weight” and wanted to know what I thought she should do about it. I invited her to walk with me in our neighborhood. But she never did. And now, she never will…

Complications occurred, and my neighbor sadly passed away. I look at her home, which has felt empty for three years now. The hardest part is remembering the fact that she wasn’t there for her daughter’s graduation in May 2009… the same day that I watched my son graduated from the same school.

That pamphlet included those words for a reason. I can’t make the claim that she’d be here today if she had chosen to walk with me instead of the decision she made to lose her excess weight.

But I CAN make the claim that I’m here because I made the choice to walk every day.

Photo credit: Shanghai Cowgirl

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