The Old House Next Door

by Melannie Svoboda SND on September 24, 2012

This past week they tore down the old house next door. It was a dilapidated white house that hadn’t been lived in for at least thirty years, maybe more. Although some people came faithfully every week to mow the lawn, the house itself was not taken care of. A few years ago, the roof began to sag. This past year, a whole section of the roof caved in.

Last week a couple of men in pickup trucks stopped by. They looked important. They began walking around the house, inspecting it, and conferring with each other. At one point they opened the outside trap door that leads to the basement and peered down into the darkness. One man even ventured into the basement. I know I wouldn’t have gone down there for anything. After thirty years, who knows what kind of animals were down there? Mice? Raccoons? Skunks? Snakes? Alligators? (I have a vivid imagination!)

Then last Thursday about 8:00 in the morning, a huge piece of equipment arrived. I called it a “steam shovel” (thus revealing my age!), but I know now it was an excavator. One man stood inside the big shovel. The operator lifted him up so he could cut the two wires that were still connected to the house. (It reminded me of cutting an umbilical cord!) With minutes the large excavator began to demolish the house. It moved jerkily like a dinosaur as it attacked the roof first. The shovel with its steel “teeth” devoured the roof in minutes. Then the machine pushed the sides of the house in–effortlessly. I saw and heard the windows shatter. I had to leave that morning, but when I got home in the afternoon the whole house was just a pile of rubble. The next day, trucks came and carried the debris away while the excavator filled in the hole where the basement had been. Then the workers planted grass, spreading straw over it.

I had several thoughts as I observed the demolition of this house. First, demolition work is certainly quicker than construction work. With a house as well as other endeavors, it’s easier to tear down than to build. Secondly, when I saw the huge boulders in the basement, I wondered: “Who brought those boulders there—and how—and when?” Most of the houses in our part of town are century homes. Our house, for example, was built in 1848. How much hard work went into building that house? How many harsh Chardon winters had it withstood?

The demolition crew found a bicycle in the basement. This made me wonder about the people who had called that house “home.” How many families had lived in it? Who were they? Where were they now?

Grass will soon sprout where the house once stood, a visible reminder to me of the transitoriness of all things. Old houses are demolished. Trees are chopped down to build shopping malls. Small mountains are moved to create highways. And I writing this reflection am transitory too. And so are you reading it. Life is fleeting, ever changing. That fact makes our lives here on earth all the more precious. The truth is, we don’t have all the time in the world. We have only the time our Good God has given us.

What are you doing with your transitory and precious life?


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellen Svette Huntsman September 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

Very thought provoking! I know I have been doing a lot more to enhance my spiritual and personal life these last 4 yrs.

My hope is that everyone realizes the importance of a healthy balance, before something life altering happens.

Yes, our life here is so short.

Peace my Sister!

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Melannie Svoboda SND September 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Dear Ellen, I like the phrase “healthy balance”…Thanks again for responding! Melannie

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Kathy Hassink September 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm

While I too consider the spiritual aspect of this short time on earth that God has given us, I feel in my heart the memories of growing up in my parent’s home on Brainard Rd. in Solon. When the day came to lock the door for the last time and hand the keys over to the new owner, I cried. I left a “time capsule” in the basement in a plastic container near the electrical breaker box… to tell the story of my dad building the house many years before and of all the love shared there by the members of my family. I wished that the new residents found happiness there too…

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Melannie Svoboda SND September 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Dear Kathy, I loved your idea of leaving the time capsule in the house your father built. And your prayers for the new residents. I have many fond memories from that house too since we frequently visited Aunt Helen and Uncle Marty and your family…Thank you for your insights! Your cousin, Melannie

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maggie moore ssj September 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm

DEAR MELANNIE,
ONCE AGAIN,YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD…NOTHING LASTS FOREVER. IF WE LIVE LONG ENOUGH WE ALL FIND THIS OUT!
I GREW UP IN ST. CLAIR, PA. A SMALL COAL MINING TOWN AND IT WAS WONDERFUL! ST. MARY’S SCHOOL AND CONVENT WERE ACROSS THE STREET FROM WHERE I LIVED. THEN COMES DEMOLITION TIME! NOW ST. MARYS CONVENT AND SCHOOL IS JUST A BIG PARKING LOT FOR THE FEW WHO CAN MAKE IT TO CHURCH. IN PLACE OF OUR OLD HOMESTEAD, NOW STANDS A GARAGE. FUNNY HOW THE “OLD” GOES AND “NEW” IS ALWAYS READY TO TAKE ITS PLACE. A LESSON WE ALL WILL EXPERIENCE….SO LIVE TODAY! EVERY DAY IS A GIFT.
THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT “THE PRESENT”. MAGGIE

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Melannie Svoboda SND September 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Dear Maggie, How many of us have seen our church, school, or family home being demolished? In 1980 my parental home was taken down to make way for an expanding airport. My elementary school (James A. Garfield School in Willoughby Hills, OH) met the wrecking ball a couple of years ago. My high school (Regina in South Euclid) closed recently. And my parish from my childhood (St. Felicitas) merged with another parish and received a new name: St. John of the Cross. Yes, we have no lasting home here below…Can we embrace the new? Thanks for writing! Melannie

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Betty Nagel September 26, 2012 at 10:52 am

Melannie, Every week, I look forward to your blog and your unique insight into the gift of life in all its aspects. On June 30th, a friend of 42 years died after a very short battle with cancer. I miss her more than I can say, but she is missed by so many. Her life impacted a very large circle of people, right down to the servers and maintenance staff at McDonald’s, where we frequently hung out for coffee after morning Mass during the week. My friend (Ginny) reminds me of a quote by Mother Teresa: “Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.” Ginny was faithful in little things and set an example to everyone who knew her.
Melannie, thank you for your faithfulness in your blog and in your writing and in ALL that you do to serve the Lord.

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Melannie Svoboda SND September 27, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Dear Betty,
My sympathy to you on the death of your dear friend, Ginny. And thank you for sharing the quote by Mother Teresa…May we all like Ginny be faithful in the little things of daily living….Melannie

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