My dear friend and longtime next door neighbor died September 19. I just heard this news almost by accident yesterday. Chuck Lee was a retired college professor, an atheist and a nudist. And he was easily the best neighbor I ever had. When we first moved to Carson, he was my friendly welcome to the neighborhood. Early in our relationship he came to the door in the buff and acted as though nothing was amiss. When I returned home and reported what had just happened, my daughter freaked out. She never went to his house the whole time she lived with us until the day she married.
Chuck had planted his yard to resemble a mountain meadow as much as possible in the city. Over the years his trees grew very tall, and only recently he consented to cut down the trees in the front yard. All the other neighbors had their bids for house beautiful with neatly trimmed and varying shades of green lawn. Not Chuck. Thanks to his landscaping, his yard was a veritable forest, intruding itself into this city block like something out of another dimension. His back yard included a grotto with a bench for meditation. Two white rabbits populated this yard until a hawk snatched one of them.
He didn't have a mail box. He only took his mail from a rented box at the post office. Measuring all the junk mail we received over the 26 years we shared on Jay St.I'm not sure but what he had the better idea.
Barbara enjoyed his HO model railroad that actually tunneled through walls of his upstairs bedrooms. He had created little stations that were supposed to represent early renditions of actual depots of early California.
He never used his stove. The manufacturer's cardboard sheet was still at the bottom of the oven when I saw it.
When he disclosed to me that he was an atheist, I, of course, believed God moved me there for the purpose of witnessing to him. I'm afraid I didn't do it enough, or cleverly enough, and yes, I believe God was in control even of our relationship. But now that he has died it doesn't leave me feeling very good about it. Once he told me that his daughter fell in with the wrong crowd and became a born again Christian. He said that her IQ fell by 50 points after that. She went to New Guinea as a missionary for New Tribes Missions. I could see God's irony at work here, but Chuck only saw her wasting her life.
Once I got him to came to our church when we were showing a series of films about the Christian response to Darwinism, and he was quite unimpressed. But if he needed a plumber or an auto mechanic, he always asked me if I knew of a Christian tradesman to do the job. Is that transparent or what?
He borrowed the book, "Born Again" because he was interested in the autobiography of Chuck Colson. We prayed that God would move his heart, but he returned the book in an astonishing few days. He said he skipped all the "religious" stuff.
He was always courteous and considerate. Even when we were talking about God our conversations (though far too brief) were always conducted politely. He trusted me with the key to his front door, "just in case water is flowing out of my garage while I am away" and even after we moved he insisted we keep the key "just in case."
He was not at all overweight as many of us contemporaries are. In fact he walked frequently, and at length all over Carson. He was seldom sick, and I think his death was quite sudden. He was just a year older than I, and God has given me another reminder that I should enjoy each day I spend with Him and with my wife.