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Thanks for sharing this Charlotte. I'm so sorry for your, and our collective community's loss. I never got the chance to meet John, but I'm grateful for the compassion and companionship you offered him. That's the essence of community.

We planted a sour cherry tree from Michigan in our backyard in Chicago a couple years after we moved in. For ten years, every July was met with the joys of picking, pitting can putting up those sweet tart morsels so we'd have them year round. Then the tree got some sort of blister rot, and I systematically had to prune it back until by the time we left Chicago for Livingston, there wasn't much left for the new owners to do but cut it down. I could wax on about the metaphor for how the tree's life mirrored the changes in our life in Chicago and how it telegraphed our departure, but the reality is that it got sick and died. And our time in Chicago was up and we knew it.

I still miss those late July evenings pitting cherries and thinking about how I'd use them. I pulled the last jars down before we moved and baked my last pie, celebrating the chapter that was closing and the next one that was just getting started.

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Oh what a lovely story Brooks! There's a feral grove on C street where the Body Shop parking lot is -- so if you want some cherries next summer, I'll give you neighborhood cover!

John was such a prince of a guy that it was a privilege and a treat to get to spend that time with him. I got out of the habit during the pandemic, and so I only saw him a few times since, but even when he didn't know who any of us were, he was truly glad to see us, happy for the company, and unerringly kind. May we all navigate the ravages of age with his same sweetness and grace.

(PS -- what part of Chicago did you guys move here from? I mostly grew up in Lake Forest, my dad was from Evanston and my mother's family were Parker School people from LIncoln Park)

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I grew up on the North Shore (Northbrook), went to Loyola for high school but when we decided on a place to settle down we found a wonderful community in Jefferson Park on the northwest side of the city. We had a beautiful brick bungalow and our son was able to go to school three blocks from the house from preschool all the way through eighth grade, then took the blue line down to St Ignatius for high school.

When Michelle and I first moved to Chicago after college, we lived in Evanston for our first seven years together, one the south side near St Francis. We absolutely loved our time there, Evanston had yet to fully transform into what it is now and still felt like a little bastion of wierd/funky/local/artsy. It's still there in pockets if you know where to look. Livingston in many ways reminds us of that.

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We'd come down to Evanston when I was in high school for the cool/weird/funk. Blind Faith cafe and that little strip with the record store. I couldn't live in LF -- but I do kind of keep an eye on Evanston/Rogers Park ... if everything went belly up, one of those nice apartment buildings by the lake wouldn't be a bad place to be elderly.

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And until your pie cherries flourish, you are welcome to pick all you want from my tree, which I planted some 20 years ago. Lovely essay; thank you.

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Hi Linda! I planted 3 after that frost -- and they're now producing -- but thanks so much. John was one of a kind ... we're all going to miss him (although the bittersweet nature of an Alzheimer's death -- we've been missing him for a while).

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Dec 20, 2023Liked by Charlotte Freeman

Sadly I know this missing the person that is still here all too well, nonetheless, my condolences. Thank you for sharing this essay with us.

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It's so heartbreaking, isn't it? Also lost the woman who was like a 2nd mother to me of the same thing a year ago.

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