Bill C., a good friend of mine, went into the hospital last week. He was admitted for a bleeding ulcer, and spent a couple of days in ICU. After they were satisfied that he was on the mend, they cleared him for transfer to the ward, and as soon as his wife sent me the hospital and room number around 4 PM, Friday, I gave him a call.
The news of his hospitalization had given several of us a good scare, but I was immediately relieved to hear his voice. He sounded good… shaken, perhaps, as might be expected… none of us enjoy being reminded of our mortality. At 65, it certainly came as no surprise to him that his health was a little more fragile than when he was in his teens, though. He admitted it had worried him a little too, and considered it a wake-up call. We joked about his wife having dosed his meal with ground glass (a long-running joke around his household), and he asked me to please call the missus, and tell her to get off the phone, so he could call her.
That was around 4:30 pm on Friday, and right after we hung up, I called Barb at the house, and she sounded as relieved at his improvement as one might expect. Having recently celebrated their 31st anniversary, episodes like that can really shake folks up. Barb told me that she was snowed in, and still recovering from a bout of food poisoning, courtesy of the local fried chicken franchise, and that she still didn’t have any idea when the doctors would send Bill home. We visited a bit, and I promised to call again, soon.
I went to a couple of forums that Bill and I frequent together, and let his friends have the good news that I had spoken with Irishgodfather, and that he sounded good, which generated some relieved replies. Bill generously helped people square away their computer problems for years, and made a lot of friends in the process. His sense of humor endeared him to many, so a lot of people were anxious to hear that he was up and around again.
Just after 10 PM that night, I heard from Barb again, with the news that her beloved Bill had just passed away. It was as though someone had kicked me in the gut! I had just spoken to him, and he sounded great!
After gathering my thoughts, I made the rounds of the forums again, this time to share much sadder news. I wanted to call Barb again, but I figured she needed a little time to herself. I was concerned because she had no family in the area, though, and promised myself to call her on Sunday.
Why do I go into all this? For a lot of reasons, I suppose. Partly to pay tribute to a good friend, that I not only liked a lot, but also respected tremendously. Bill was kind of a character, but he was painfully honest, and for all his gruff exterior, he had a heart bigger than Texas. Pushing 60 myself, I’ve had occasion to bid farewell to too many of my contemporaries. Some of them were acquaintances, some were friends, some were family … but short of my own parents, none of them struck me such a blow as the passing of Irishgodfather.
Maybe it’s partly to remind myself of my own mortality, too. It never hurts to keep things in perspective.
And partly to remind each of you, that every day has the potential of being our last, so we should never miss an opportunity to enjoy life. We only get to go around once, and we need to make the best of it.
Bill lived his life to the utmost, and he left some deep tracks wherever he walked. He readily helped those that were willing to try to help themselves. He loved his country and his flag, and would be the first to pounce on anyone that failed to stand at attention when the flag passed. He will be missed for more reasons than I can list here.
Perhaps most importantly, he called Barb again about an hour before he died, just to tell her he loved her. I’m really glad for both of them, that he had the opportunity to do that.
When I spoke to Barb on Sunday, she informed me that there would be a big Irish-style BBQ in July, in Bill’s honor. He wanted no funeral, no crying, no sadness… he wanted a party! I really hope I can make it back there for that one. It promises to be a good one, with a lot of great memories being shared.
R.I.P., my friend.