Neighbors can be like family

Stephanie Ziebarth

Good neighbors are such a gift.

When we moved 1100 miles away from family to settle in Greencastle years ago, our children were aged four and two. As wonderful as their grandparents are, they were now quite far away. We prayed for God to provide us with grandparent-type friends in our children's lives to have that special kind of influence.

One way God answered that prayer was through our neighbor, Helen Donaldson. Helen lived next door to us for many years before her health declined to the point that she needed to move into assisted living near her children in Virginia. It wasn't long after our move to Greencastle that Helen became near and dear to our family.

Unfortunately, in the midst of all the drama surrounding Blizzard 2016, Helen fell (unrelated to the snow), and shortly afterward passed from this world to the next.

What a loss.

In the days following Helen's passing, I was in more frequent touch with Helen's daughters than usual. Thanks to Facebook, we've been able to keep in touch through the years, and now they were asking my family to be involved with Helen's service.

They asked two things:

1) To make some of Helen's trademark cookies to serve at the luncheon.

2) For me to share some comments and read some Scripture at the service.

We were incredibly honored by both requests.

What a privilege to have neighbors who become like family!

My husband was out of town during the midst of this, but my children and I reminisced about Helen quite a bit during the days between her death and the funeral. The kids had so many special memories of her, ranging from my son Josiah calling her Mrs. McDonaldson, to Helen making cookies for us so frequently, to her shoveling snow with a dustpan when her children took away her shovels (not wanting her to strain herself).

We had serious memories too, such as long talks on back porches and in family rooms. We could talk with Helen about anything.

An overarching blessing during this time of reminiscing and preparing for the funeral was simply the knowledge that close relationships with neighbors are not to be taken for granted. Some people don't even know their neighbors. To be able to walk with neighbors during such a significant time is a true blessing, and it indicates that the bonds of friendship have grown strong through the years. Every moment taken to chat with a neighbor was worthwhile, because that investment led to an enduring relationship.

So, Helen, we miss you. In your honor, we share your special cookie recipe with Echo Pilot readers:

Helen's Molasses Cookies


¾ c. shortening

1 c. packed brown sugar

1 egg

¼ c. molasses

Mix thoroughly.

Then, stir in:

2 1/4 c. flour (sifted)

2 t. baking soda

¼ t. salt

½ t. cloves

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. ginger

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar. Place three inches apart on greased baking sheet, sugar-side up. To create crackled surface, sprinkle each cookie with 2-3 drops water.

Bake at 375 degrees 10-12 minutes until set but not hard.