Remembering Neil on His Birthday

Yesterday was someone's birthday who I hold dear to my heart but is no longer with us. Yesterday was Neil Allen's birthday. It has taken me a while to write about Neil and I will admit that writing this has been a challenge for me since his passing more then two years ago. For those who did not know Neil, he was an amazing person with a big heart who cared more about others than himself. When my Great Grandmother passed away back in January of 2001 it was Neil who stepped in to take care of myself and my younger brother and sister. I mentioned this in my Mother's Day Eve post a few months ago but didn't go into too much detail about it until now. My family has known Neil for many wonderful years. I remember the first time I met him. I was in the third grade, super shy, and confused as to whom this white guy was that was in my house. I remember him being very nice and I will admit that I was a little jealous of my brother Shawn that he got to hang out with Neil once a week. Neil worked for a non-profit organization called Friends of the Children and I am blessed and honored to be an employee of such a fine organization today. Every once in a while Neil would take the four of us out for ice cream or to dinner in order to get to know us better. Our favorite thing to do with Neil was to go to Old Country Buffet. He always insisted that we drink a glass of milk before drinking soda pop or digging into sweets first. Whenever we were with Neil we always had a great time and over the years we made lots and lots of wonderful memories like going to Fort Vancouver every 4th of July or going to the Oregon coast for a day long trip even though it was raining pretty much every time we went to the beach. After my grandmother passed away, Neil went from being a friend/mentor to a parental figure which was a huge adjustment for me and my siblings. We had our fair share of arguments and disagreements but ultimately we worked through them and figured them out in the end.

Neil worked extremely hard trying to raise two teenagers and a pre-teen on his own and I know it wasn't easy for him. There were many nights when he wasn't at home because he worked three jobs to provide for all of us. At the time, I didn't appreciate it or understand just how hard he worked to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table. And on top of working multiple jobs, Neil suffered from an illness called Ulcerative Colitis. Colitis is an inflammatory disorder that causes the large intestine and colon to swell. There were many days (even weeks) when Neil was out of commission due to his illness and it was my job to take care of my two younger siblings while he nursed himself back to health. He never let his illness defeat him though. He always found a way to overcome it. He was one of the strongest people that I have ever known. He was always there for us even when our own family members weren't. He made sacrifice after sacrifice to make sure that Shawn had all the equipment he needed to play football, that Sheila participated in competitive cheerleading, and that I played competitive fast-pitch. He never stopped encouraging us to be successful both on the field (when it came to our talents) and off it when it came to academics. It was Neil who believed in every single one of us. He empowered us, challenged us, and was proud of us no matter what. He made sure to tell us that every single day and I will never forget the conversation that we had the day I graduated from The Evergreen State College. In all honesty, I think Neil was more proud that I had graduated with my degree than I was. He always saw the good in people even when people couldn't always see it themselves. He constantly reminded us that he was proud of us and that he loved us.

When he told us that he had cancer the first time, we all took it pretty hard in our own ways. He managed to overcome the cancer and carried on with his life. I will never forget the phone call from him after Amari was born when he told me that the cancer had returned but he had a lot of faith that he would overcome it for the second time. Unfortunately, his health started to deteriorate and by June he was in the hospital. There were many times when I wanted to drop everything and go home to be there for him but Neil told me not to worry about him and to focus on taking care of my newborn son. It was what he wanted. He was always thinking about everyone else's needs before his own. Neil ended up passing away on July 17, 2010. He was thirty-six years old. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him. There are times when I find myself starting to dial his old number in hopes to talk or get guidance from him and I remember that he is no longer with us. He is truly missed and loved by those who knew him and I am thankful, blessed, and honored to have known such an amazing and wonderful kind-hearted man. He may not have been related to us by blood but I know that all of my siblings considered Neil family. He made Christmas' and birthdays special and remember-able. He never missed one of our sporting events, parent-teacher conferences, or appointments. He was always there for us even for his last days on earth and I know that he loved us and we loved him.

Happy 38th Birthday Neil Eugene Allen! 
We miss and love you. 
Rest in Peace.

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