I woke up this morning and my email contained a touch of sad news.
One of the parishioners at our church passed away yesterday. His name was Bill, and he was a good old man.
He and his wife Carmen were smiling beacons of kindness in the congregation, and they welcomed us lovingly when we joined.
Bill was a Marine, you could tell. He carried himself with a stern dignity that was somehow softened not just by his age and experience but by the hand of God. He always talked to Jessica, asking her about school and her college search. And while she was away, he asked us about how she was doing. He loved that she was studying languages and linguistics, because the world gets smaller every year and it is good that people know how to communicate.
Bill and Carmen were a lovely couple together, I loved to watch them talk, and interact with others. I took this picture in 2009 at our annual historical reenactment service, where our pastor dresses as George Whitefield. Carmen is wearing some sort of 18th century little hat thingie, most of the women in the church (and some men) dress up for the event. Bill didn't. Obviously.
Last year, Bill was struck down with cancer. He ended up in the hospital, had most of his intestines removed, fought hard, worked hard to beat it. I went to a job interview one day and drove past his rehab facility. I decided to drop in and visit. Boy, the smile on his face when I walked in.... I will never forget it. He and I had a good hour and a half to ourselves and we chatted about kids, raising them, working hard, being unemployed... his wife didn't drive so people would bring her to the rehab, and she came in with the folks who brought her that day and we had another hour together of laughing and visiting.
It's a day I will never forget.
Unfortunately, it is pretty much the last day I ever saw him. He got released from the rehab and went home, and everyone thought he was on the mend. In the fall, he got the news that the cancer had spread.
This past March he decided he'd had enough fighting, and stopped all treatment. He found it stupid and futile to keep poisoning himself when it wasn't doing any good.
He went out on his own terms.
Our pastor visited with him almost daily. I made plans to visit this week after we got back because I wanted to take Jessica to see him. Carmen told me that it was a really nice idea, but that she didn't think he'd make it and not to be surprised or let down.
Well, I am not surprised or let down. I am actually disappointed in myself for not going over sooner, without Jess.
Bill was a great guy, with a smile that could light up a room and a laugh that you could not help but join in with. I will miss him dearly.
Rest well, Marine. You've served honorably, you've lived righteously, you died on your own terms. It's all any of us can ask for, really.