Tuesday I arrived home willing the snow to fall faster and thicker because I was in no mood to go back to work on Wednesday. It wasn't that I didn't want to deal with something in particular so much as I just felt exhausted. I had a full day of church and work on Sunday, and I had stayed late nearly every evening the week before. Feeling out of sync, I hoped that the inch of snow would at least pile in front of our door and keep me in. Gratefully, it didn't.
As I worked up a batch of chocolate chip cookies after dinner, the phone rang. The caller id gave me no help to know who it was, so I was quite surprised to hear Tom's friend JW on the line. I haven't seen him in 18 months, so with a happy surprise, I passed the phone off to Tom. As I stirred in the chocolate chips, I realized that there was probably only bad news on the end of that line. JW's dad was diagnosed with ALS a while back, the fast moving kind. Indeed, Bill went to be with his creator on January 19th. I never met Bill, though the stories paint a lovely image of a faith-filled man who lived and loved with all his heart, all his soul, and all his mind. The funeral was Wednesday at 1 pm, so without delay we both spoke to our bosses, who both understood the need for the time off.
Driving to Santa Fe, Thomas filled me in on even more stories and wisdom from Bill. He leaves behind a wife and four children, the oldest being Tom's friend JW, They've been friends since middle school, and Rosalie affectionately called Tom a son, too. The church was packed, but we found a seat up near the front. The service was beautiful and stirring. The reception might not have ended for us, had we not had Granny's birthday party to get to in Miami. As we entered the church and up to our leaving, Tom pointed out old friends from back in the day. This is a side I have yet to see of Tom's past, and surrounded by friends, he talked and talked and talked.
Though I never met him, I can tell by the legacy he leaves in his family what a familiar man he would have been had we met. After our wedding in 2010, JW and his wife Stephanie and their three boys stopped by Miami on their way back to Ithaca, New York for work. I hadn't seen them since, and yet I was clutched tight by JW's family as if they knew me back in middle school, too. His brother Dave hugged me and said how great it was to meet me and all the good things he had heard about me. He remembered how much fun his nephews had visiting us 18 months earlier. His mom held me as tight as a daughter and kissed my cheek and looked into my spirit with such fierce recognition that I knew her amazing capacity to love. JW's sisters are much younger, but even they seemed to know who I was. It felt good to belong in a place where I was still very much a stranger.
I wish I had the occasion to meet Bill. I am grateful Tom carries his spirit with him.
"When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul." from the card we found and also the first verse to one of the songs we sang...