it is 10 pm Monday, December 27, 2016
I met Bill about three years ago. He joined our writing group after being diagnosed with ALS because, he, like all of us, had something to say. He is sitting on the left in the picture below.
Bill’s writings are on his blog called Movie Journeys/Travel & the Movies . If you like history, or will be traveling abroad, or just need a sampling of movies from around the globe, many free on YouTube, check it out.
I am going to write here what I learned through knowing Bill and seeing him every Wednesday right up until he came to group from Hospice in November.
Always have a project, it gives you something to wake up for and a goal for the day. When he was diagnosed, his wife told him, “Write your book,” and that is what he did. Every week he arrived with part of his story, complete with a beautiful picture to capture the essence of the wonderful place featured that evening. Bill wrote and showed up weekly as he lost his ability to drive, his ability to walk, and as his illness took more and more of his body.
I learned all I ever want to about ALS. ALS gobbles you up…pass the pink juice to me when the oxygen containers come out, no matter what I get. I asked Bill if this depressed him, this illness. He said something like “No, depression just isn’t my thing.” Wow, I thought, unbelievable.
But his illness depressed me. I told my husband in Summer 2014 that I couldn’t take it, seeing Bill like this…the deterioration. Ram told me to buck up, and rightly so, I wasn’t sick and if Bill had the courage to come to the group, my issue with his illness could be managed. It was my call on how to manage it. I continued to attend .
I learned about my writing: its strengths and weaknesses. Bill had a way of telescoping right into what I read and making a comment to uniquely sum it up. He always left me feeling that if I wrote with my heart and stayed true to the tale, no matter how wacky, it would give people “a slice of life.” He couched his critiques in a way that was loving and kind, not condescending.
I learned the sadness of “No.” Bill asked me in Fall 2013 if I wanted to examine some of his notes on life and do something with them. I had to decline but I never really did…he made the offer but I didn’t say yes, or no. He later told me he envied my work with a professor in the last year of his life. But I have my own notes and stories and that is where these lessons trail off.
I learned through Bill that time, especially for writers, is of the essence…it waits for none of us. We all, I am learning, will leave work unfinished. Will My Rural Broadband Journey be it, my lasting contribution to the archives of humanity, or do I want to write another tome? Do I have a goal, or want one! for my writing, my life?
It’s been raining since I heard the news 3 hours ago. Bill has been gone for 24 hours now. Its a harsh rain, whipping around, inconsistent: hard, soft, pellets on a cold winter night. “What are you doing here, he’d say right now: I’m not sure if it is a poem, an essay, a lament: what?”
I would reply, not sure, but I needed to say…it is as if this rain & wind have come to carry you away. Adios Bill! You will be dearly missed.
it is 10:31…the rain paused