(Originally posted on May 2, 2007)
He died about a month ago
While winter filled the air
And though I cried I was so proud
To love a man so rare.
He’s somewhere on the ocean now,
That’s where he ought to be
With one hand on the starboard rail
He’s waving back at me.
– Jimmy Buffett, The Captain and the Kid
Bill’s memorial service was Sunday (I have some photos but not tons; other people were taking some also and with any luck some of theirs will filter my way and I’ll be happy to share).
We got to Aunt Gay and Uncle Joe’s around noon, but Mike and Sharon and Barbara had beat us there by about an hour and there wasn’t much setting up to do. So I put my goodies in the oven (cheese & artichoke dip, and a cheese/pineapple/cracker concoction that sounds disgusting, looks like dog barf, and tastes like the best thing you’ve ever had the luck to put in your mouth) and had some wine with Uncle Joe.
As more people got there, we gathered in the living room. There was live music. There was singing. There were stories—oh, the stories! Bill had touched, had influenced, had guided, had saved so many people, so many lives. He was the type of person who would just give. And give. And give. Without asking, without expectation; it was just in his nature to give of himself whatever he could. And so many people said so. Me? I just cried. I cried, and cried, and cried. I sat in the back corner and I knit and I listened to all the love and I cried. I couldn’t tell any stories. I wanted to—oh my god I have SO many stories of Bill. But if I had opened my mouth a number of things could have happened. I might have started sobbing and been unable to stop. I might have frozen and been unable to speak. Or I might have started talking and been unable to stop. How could I tell a story just of Bill? Almost every story I have of Bill is also a story of my father, is a story of myself. I would have to have talked about my whole life! My lord, we would have run out of time!
And while I was crying for the loss of Bill, I was also crying because there was so much love in the room. I hope that he knew it. I hope that he knew how many people he had touched. How many people loved him so very much. How many people are who they are, or got where they are, or got out of something that was killing them, in part because of Bill’s gentle patience and willingness to give. He was, as the song says, a man so rare.
Edited to add: I have uploaded some photos from that day here.