La La How The Life Goes On

In Memory of Bill

Posted on: November 25, 2015

This week the world lost a beacon of light. His name is Bill and he is my friend. I cannot immediately bring myself to speak of him in the past tense, so enduring is the light he brought to his far too short time on earth. All of us who love him are standing broken-hearted, staring into the giant void in the universe where Bill used to be. It does not seem possible that this planet should turn on its axis, that the stars should remain in the firmament, or that the sun and moon should rise without him here.

While trying to comprehend our loss of this beautiful man, I want to shout his name, sing his praises, and dance in the light that he brought to our lives. I want to tell this world that Bill may be physically gone but all of the unique and loveable things that made him so special are not. No matter what happens on this physical plane, Bill is and shall be forever. His spirit, his courage, his humor, his generosity, his faith, his decency, his love for his wife and daughters:  All of these are now and will be forever.

Bill and I met in Spanish class in 1991. We all had to pick a Spanish name, and he and I commiserated that we couldn’t come up with anything more creative than Ester and Guillermo. In that first class, Bill let out a laugh that everyone who knows him can identify from 50,000 feet: Part guffaw, part shout, part pure joy radiating from the solar plexus. I heard it and instantly decided I wanted to hang out with any guy who could bring that kind of hilarity to the table. Thank God for that laugh, because it drew me to such a true and good friend. Thank God for that laugh, because it still echoes in my head and in my heart. Thank God for that laugh, because anyone who has been lucky enough to hear it will never be without it. Bill’s laugh will be forever.

We spent our spring break in Appalachia building homes for in-need families. We slept on army cots in a church auditorium, ate donated food from the local Roy Rogers, and showered at the YMCA. One classmate on the trip was not down with the spartan accommodations. She complained loudly and rudely about how the food was terrible, the beds were uncomfortable and the showers inadequate. She loudly harrumphed about the inconveniences she was enduring for charity. Bill was not having it, and he very pointedly illuminated for her all the ways in which she was being an ungracious guest and a terrible ambassador for our school. He did not raise his voice or use one profanity, but he made it clear that her reign of terror was over. Thank God for that sense of decency and good faith, because it called Bill to action when others stayed uncomfortably silent. Thank God for that sense of decency and good faith, because it maintained the dignity of the people we were helping. Thank God for that sense of decency and good faith, because it called on those of us bystanding to do better next time. Bill’s decency will be forever.

I remember complaining one day about something a friend had done or said or whatever perceived fault it was that I can no longer recall. I called Bill to share my latest Airing of Grievances and he stopped me cold. He flatly told me to get over it. Were these my friends or weren’t they? Did the friendship matter more than my irritation? Was I really going to waste an afternoon on this? He told me to chalk these things up to the cost of having friends. Friends will disappoint, but in turn they will love you when you are the one doing the disappointing.  Thank God for that generosity of spirit, because it encouraged me to be a better friend. Thank God for that generosity of spirit because it made me want to disappoint Bill less. Thank God for that generosity of spirit, because I later realized that Bill had been showing that generosity to me. Bill’s generosity will be forever.

When I was very sick in 2007, praying I’d live long enough to get my stem cell transplant, Bill flew in to visit me. We talked about all the dreaded what ifs. What if I died? What if my daughter never remembered me? What if I didn’t actually die but never got better? Bill had the courage to walk with me through all of those dark places because Bill himself had been there. Thank God for that courage, because it carried Bill through multiple surgeries and procedures. Thank God for that courage, because it carried everyone who loved him through those surgeries and procedures. Thank God for that courage, because Bill taught every single one of us every single day over many, many years the true meaning of the word. Bill’s courage will be forever.

In Judaism we have a saying: “May his memory be for a blessing.”  It utters the hope that the good our loved ones did in life will live on long after they are gone. That the memory of that person will spur someone to do a good deed, and that good deed will inspire another and another, creating a wave of blessings rippling out from the loved one’s existence via all the people who remember him.

This is how I know beyond any doubt that Bill will be forever. Because even as we stand here staring into this incomprehensible void, those ripples are already forming.

The ripple of joyous laughter.

The ripple of uncommon decency.

The ripple of pure generosity .

The ripple of quiet courage.

The ripple of tender kindness.

The ripple of genuine honesty.

The ripple of fierce love.

Every time a person who loved him continues his legacy through actions great and small–it means Bill will be forever. Every action that creates a ripple that strengthens into a current that coalesces into a wave–means that Bill will be forever.

These waves that will create goodness, inspire kindness, and offer support for all that is right in our world. These waves that will lovingly carry, today and into the future, his precious wife and daughters who Bill loved with such devotion.

These waves: Of laughter. Of kindness. Of decency. Of love. These waves, powered by the eternal love of Bill’s friends and family, will crash onto the shores of our mortal world and declare defiantly that today and always–Bill will be forever.

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5 Responses to "In Memory of Bill"

Awesome tribute E.

Unbelievably well written. Thank you for capturing your thoughts and sharing them.

What an awesome tribute…beautifully said!

I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t know you, or Bill, but came across this thanks to a mutual friend’s Facebook post. He sounds like a wonderful person who surely will be missed. And as importantly, his memory/legacy as you’ve captured it here is a great reminder for all of us to embrace laughter, kindness, decency and love. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thank you for this beautiful tribute.

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