A Death in the Neighborhood

Melih Rustu CALIKOGL… [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Melih Rustu CALIKOGL… [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We never met him. We did not know his name. He lived in our neighborhood but we had no idea where his house was. We knew nothing about him, but he was an icon in our area. I learned a passing motorist struck and killed him in the early morning hours of August 26, 2016. His death dealt a blow not only to me and my family but also to the residents in our immediate area.

I later learned through news reports that people knew him as “Gary.” Gary, you see, was either totally blind or nearly blind. It took several years for our family to realize that he was visually impaired. However, that made him appealing to us.

I would see Gary walking several times a day, mostly alone but occasionally with his wife. If they were together, he would have one hand on her shoulder and they would walk side-by-side. Gary was a tall, lanky fellow and his wife was much shorter than he was. I am sure she slowed his pace but they seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Other times he would be walking ahead of her by several yards.

In these fifteen years of seeing Gary on the road, we came-up with our own theories about him. We believed him to be Asian Indian; he was in his late 60’s-early 70’s; he was married; physically fit; and he enjoyed his walks. The news reports confirmed almost all of our beliefs. One other thing I learned about Gary was that he was of the Sikh faith.

When word of his death spread, the residents of the area was in shock and saddened. They, like my family, seemed to know him only as the man that walked every day. They could not believe that he died doing what he faithfully did on a daily basis. The neighbors immediately created a sign and memorial of flowers adjacent to where the accident occurred. Just the other evening, days after the accident, I saw a group of women standing near the memorial.

What struck me the most is that probably 99.9% of the residents here did not know Gary, but at the same time, we all “knew” him. Gary touched all of us just by his presence. There was a familiarity, a comfort, perhaps a joy in seeing him every day. I think that is why his death touched us all so deeply. Gary’s death brought a neighborhood together.

Instances such as this one are good times to teach our children, and remind ourselves, that every person is important and is a gift, whether we know them by name or not. People touch us whether we realize it or not. WE touch other people in the same way.

No one around here cares what race, ethnicity, or religion Gary was. We just know that we lost an icon, a familiar sight, our BROTHER!

Copyright 2016, Michael T Carrillo


About Author

Michael Carrillo is a retired police officer from a large California metropolitan police department. He is married to Vicki and they have five adult children between them. He is an unabashed fan of Jesuit education, though he regrets not obtaining one himself. Day hikes and walks give him opportunities and inspirations to look for and find God.


  1. Because of similar circumstances this year (2016 has been a year of too many funerals), I too have been spending time reflecting on or actively grieving. It has made me wonder much about why we hear so little about the Apostles and early believers going through all the stages of grief.
    Yet, like them and others, we live our lives now partly because of lives that have gone before. And in particular, for Christ’s sacrifice for us. This we pass on to our children. And yet, it is not grief that we take on, but grace and mercy from suffering: the counter-intuitive message of Christianity.

  2. A few days ago, a roadside memorial popped up around the corner, with a “happy birthday” balloon attached. The only traffic fatality I can think of at that location occurred this spring, when a man stabbed his wife as she drove down the highway. That memorial breaks my heart. I didn’t know her; she wasn’t from around here; they were passing through. Yet she is a person, worthy of grief and of prayers for the repose of her soul.

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.