Friday, July 16, 2010

Requiem æternam

The phone woke me at 7:42 this morning and I learned of the passing of one of the truest gentlemen it had ever been my pleasure to know. This was his "throne" at home and I took this picture of his empty chair only a week ago, after I visited him at the hospital for the very last time, said my goodbye, and kissed him tenderly.

When I first came to Bill's home two years ago as a house guest I was a total stranger to him. By the time I was leaving he asked when I'd be coming back and told me that I was always welcome, and each time I visited after that he'd ask the same question and extend the very same graciousness.

I lost my first hero, my grandfather, a few days before I turned 12. In many ways, 35 years later, knowing Bill was a little like having him back with me for a while.

Bill was a lawyer and until he was stricken ill two months ago he was still going to the office every day at age 86 with as much of a spring in his step as he could muster. And, oh! Could he tell a story! When he amused us with tales from his past we never knew when the line between reality and bull was crossed and the trained twinkle in his lawyer's eyes never gave him away. It didn't matter if the stories had actually played out as he told them, because it wasn't the words themselves that mattered, but simply that we listened.

In some ways my life is going to change hugely in that after he is laid to rest and his estate is settled I'll never again be a guest in the magnificent home it had been my great pleasure to visit. But more than that, I won't hear ever again about how he once dated the Queen of England, or bailed from a plane without a parachute. I won't again get to deliver to him his morning cup of coffee or help him to put on his shoes on his way out the door to work. I won't get to hear him ever again ask, "What do you know, Joe?" for me to come back with, "I don't know nothing about nothing."

As John Donne knew so well, the passage of any man from this life into the next diminishes those of us who are left behind. I will miss Bill terribly even as I hope his reunion with his beloved wife this morning was one of the most joyful occasions heaven has seen in a while.

May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome you
and take you into the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.
May choirs of angels welcome you
and lead you to the bosom of Abraham;
and where Lazarus is poor no longer may you find eternal rest.

Rest in peace, Bill, and thank you for being a highlight of my life whom I'll never forget.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Once again, dear Joseph, you prove yourself a wonderful wordsmith. But above that, you prove that you love deeply and fully those who are worthy of your love.

Thank you for the beautiful words about Mr. Kimmel. He will be missed by more people than we know!