Never take for granted your wonderful neighbors

  • Written by Claudia Parker


the jarretts photo 9-8


Neal and Jessica Jarrett



Keeping up with the Joneses is an expression of comparison to one's neighbor used to figuratively measure social class or the accrual of material goods.

In this case, the Joneses are the Jarretts, as in Neal and Jessica Jarrett of Evergreen Park. They’ve lived smackdab next door to my husband, Don, and me since we moved on this block back in 2005. A local builder demolished a modest house sitting on a large lot and built two, medium sized, newly constructed homes. The Jarretts snatched one and we swiped the other.

During the time our offers were accepted, both houses were in their infancy stages of being built. Therefore, we were able to customize certain aspects. Each of us found ourselves often visiting the construction sites. With each encounter, we’d discover more about one another.

I said to Don, “What’s the likelihood we have this much in common? Neal and Jessica’s birthdays are the same month as mine, our wedding anniversaries are one day apart, and they dated four years prior to marriage -- just like us!”

Similarities began to manifest in our home selections as well. Once we moved in – them in September of 2005 and us on December -- I noticed we even had parallels in décor. I honestly couldn’t distinguish if we were influencing each other’s purchases or if we were just that much alike?

After living next door a few years, our differences became quite obvious. For starters, no matter how hard we tried, our lawn wasn’t ever quite as nice as theirs. “Don, Honey, did you try that new fertilizer we discussed?” While gazing out an upstairs bedroom window I whined, “Neal and Jessica’s grass just looks so much greener.”

Have you heard the saying, ‘this house doesn’t look lived in?” as in, it’s so clean and beautifully arranged people couldn’t possibly dwell there? Yeah, that’s the Jarretts' house. And, when anything within their home needed to be repaired, you didn’t witness a handyman pulling into their driveway. Neal, a licensed tradesman, could fix anything. When things malfunctioned in our home my frequent statement was, “Babe, can you call Neal?”

Never mind keeping up with the Jarretts, sometime you have to recognize when a person’s skill set or abilities supersede yours. Instead of competing with them, employ them!

I can’t recall one instance Neal didn’t come when Don and I needed him, except last November. Don had had a medical procedure that required him to stay in the hospital a few days. I wanted to surprise him by taking a few ‘honey-do-list’ items off his plate. Having just returned home from visiting Don, I saw Jessica pulling into her driveway simultaneously. Because of our sisterly friendship I knew she didn't mind me asking Neal for favors. But out of respect I’d never asked him directly. I found it more appropriate to go through her. “Hey Jess, do you think Neal might be able to come by and do a few things for us," I asked? "Don’s in the hospital.”

   I didn’t expect her response.

   “Sorry to hear that, but Neal is in the hospital also,” she replied. As generous at heart as she is, she followed with, “What kind of work is it? Maybe you and I can do it?”

There was no chance of that, I know my gifts and carpentry isn’t one of them.

Jessica and I spent the next several minutes going on about our husband’s ailments, finding yet another commonalty in life’s journey. Neal’s recovery didn’t go as expected. He's spent the last several months being checked in and out of hospitals -- fighting valiantly for his life. Tragically, on Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 2:30 p.m., he surrendered this life and transitioned to the next.

Neal was 49 years old and leaves to cherish his wife Jessica of 16 years; four children, Brandon, 25; Myrisha, 25; Shannon, 21; and Jasmine, 15. He also has a 4-year-old grandbaby named Mariah, who called him, ‘Papa’.

Over the previous 11 years I’ve watched the Jarretts work hard for what they have, give generously to those in need and go out of their way to help others. I’ve admired their playful love for one another and the dedication they’ve put into parenting their children and even children they didn’t birth. I’ve been there during birthdays, proms and graduation celebrations. And I’ve been there when they’ve mourned loved ones who’ve gone before them. First we were neighbors, then we became friends, now we’re family.

Please keep the entire Jarrett family in your prayers during this difficult time. And, allow me to encourage you to do something kind for your neighbor today. It could be the last time you see them.