Yesterday Bill died. Bill, our friend. The Bill with a smirk, always a wonderful smirk on his face. The mischievous tinkle. The face I always looked forward to seeing, I’d search for Bill across the crowded Sunday Morning service. Worried he’d someday be gone.
What will the world be like without Bill? Our kind-hearted friend. The guy always with time to listen. Who loved to see me. The smile he’d get when he saw our kids. The stories he and Ted shared, standing out in the church parking lot, unhurried – they would talk. A car where they were standing needed to back out, they would move to one side, and keep talking. They’d have to move again. And still, so much to say. Never too busy to share another story, he and Ted could talk about anything at all. Bill holding onto his stick (“It’s not a cane”, he’d say) – his son had carved it for him. He’d tell about the trips across the states. All about the adventures. About the wind at one of the rest stops so strong someone had to help him to the restroom. Into his 90’s, he was still on the go. He’d tell about his flying days. He was a flight instructor during WWII. Ted and Bill both loved airplanes, they had that in common. Ted knows which planes he flew. I can never remember.
Bill would come along on church campouts. He’d join the kids for the campout bike parades. He’d decorate his bike up fancy too. And always the twinkle, the smirk.
Bill, such a thoughtful guy. I remember telling him one Sunday that Marty, our son, who he was fond of, had graduated from H.S. I invited him to the graduation party. I really didn’t expect him to make it. His wife had passed away and doubted he was getting out much. He came walking up, a bit unsteady on his feet even then, but came to congratulate Marty.
Losing his wife I think was so hard on him. He’d tear up anytime he talked about her. The wife he’d spent a lifetime with, raising so many children that at her funeral I lost track of the count. Their children, birth children and foster kids. A lifetime of giving love to each other, and to their many kids and friends. Grace had a stroke and for years Bill took care of her, bringing her to church in the wheelchair, his patient easy-going ways. It was definitely true love.
Bill would steal purses. You’d be chatting with him, and get distracted. A few minutes later you’d realize your purse was gone. After scrambling, you’d notice across the room, your purse and a few others hanging from Bills shoulder. He did this enough times that the church finally presented him with his own purse, which he faithfully wore with his Sunday best.
This story, it happens everyday. Good people are born, live, then they die. He was 96, after all. And still, I can’t make it OK in my head that it will work for Bill to be missing. I suppose that would be due to the significant lack of Bill’s in this world. The eyes that see you from across the room. The sideways smile. The twinkle. The dry jokes. The smirk. The trust to share a story. Taking the time to do so. The interest in others. The caring questions. The lifetime of giving and loving. A man whose choices benefited so many.
I suppose he stole things other than purses. Like hearts. It’s a habit. Whenever I find my seat in church, I hunt for the site of Bill. Bill died yesterday. Finally with Grace again. The twinkle. The smirk. Though he’s gone from us, he’s where he’s been headed all along. A little support through the windy patch, and he’s arrived.
All I Ask
by Gordon Jenkins
Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me
Lingering sunsets, stay a little longer with the lonely sea
Children everywhere, when you shoot at bad men, shoot at me
Take me to that strange, enchanted land grown-ups seldom understand
Wandering rainbows, leave a bit of color for my heart to own