His name was Billy, not William. He was a great friend. I had hoped we’d grow old together, but he left earth too soon. These are the words I shared at his memorial service yesterday:
I met Billy almost 20 years ago in the early days of Bellevue Community Church, now Hope Park. I came in late to the church’s tiny office where Billy was painting. He heard my accent and thought I was the tile man. That’s before he realized I have absolutely zero handy man skills.
We became great and unlikely friends. We travelled together, served together, even owned a business together. Billy and I were opposites in many ways, but our differences made our friendship more interesting and fun.
He could design and build just about anything. I was always amazed by his talent and skill. He loved beauty and both my home and office have Billy’s touch.
He had impeccable comedic timing. And I loved laughing at his jokes, even the ones I’ve heard repeatedly for as long as I’ve known him. They never got old. Well, they did, but Billy said them with such enthusiasm that you couldn’t help but laugh, again. There are so many Billyisms, but two stick out over the years:
When the subject of vegetarianism would come up, Billy would say: “If God didn’t want us to eat the animals, He wouldn’t have made them out of meat.”
When someone would get on him for not returning a phone call, instead of apologizing, Billy said: “Love me for who I am; not who you want me to be.”
He loved God. We talked so often about faith, our journey, and God’s plan for our lives. He was a deep thinker and could be very introspective, even in the midst of cutting up.
He loved people. A few minutes with the man and you felt you just met your best friend. He even hated letting people down. When the economy tumbled and we needed to downsize our cabinet business, he called me in. He introduced me as “the evil foreign investor.” And as I told some of the guys we couldn’t keep them anymore, Billy cried. Some of the men who were losing their jobs, ended up consoling him.
He hated the sun, sand, and water, which made it interesting for some of our beach vacations. I would be out for about 8 hours and Billy would join me for 30 minutes under an umbrella before giving it up for the air-conditioned condo.
He loved me. I never once questioned Billy’s motives and his unwavering friendship. I know I could count on him for anything at anytime. Whether it was helping me do stuff around the house that I couldn’t do—which happens to be anything more skilled than taking out the trash, or listening to my plans on a major career move, Billy was there for me.
I already miss him like crazy. But I know that because of him, I am a better man and that I have a better life. His impact on me and my memories of life with Billy will stay with me until I see him again in heaven.
Right now I want to text him, as I often did: “answer the damn phone” and as always, see him text back “love me for who I am.”
Billy, we have always loved you for who you are, and always will. I know that in your moments of absolute clarity you knew it.