If ever there was a William who truly is a Bill, this is it. Bill Gilbert, my neighbour and friend, died a few days ago. He was, and is, an immense human being. How many of us look every visitor in the eyes and send the wordless message “I’m glad you’re here. Tell me all about your life”? Precious few, I suspect, but this was thoroughly Bill.
I went to the great man’s funeral today. Clearly, he was universally loved. Bill’s daughter Stephanie had the courage to speak about her dad. Or maybe it didn’t take courage – just a loving daughter revering a loving father, the fellow who held her tiny hand decades ago, who walked her down the aisle, who gratefully accepted her hand in the days before his death.
Throughout her life, Stephanie heard Dad say “You can do anything.” Clearly, that included giving his eulogy. It wasn’t “Dad did this … Dad did that.” It was “Dad loved here … Dad loved there.” I chuckled at what a committed environmentalist Bill was, years before it was popular, with multiple bins in the garage for all sorts of recyclables. And how sweet that as he neared death, he wanted to make sure that the expired batteries from some device would be recycled.
As Stephanie said, she had a front row seat for the beauty and kindness of Bill Gilbert. What a privilege. And she gets to say to her kids, “You won’t see grandpa, but you will feel him.” Yes. Those young ones will become 30-somethings and then 60-somethings and they’ll still sense grandpa beside them, cheering them on.
As Stephanie spoke, her son Devon sat nearby, facing Bill’s family and friends. He was clearly torn up at losing someone he deeply loves. I was touched by his courage, with tears close by, and him fully visible to all. Then he stood and recited beautifully a poem which I believe Stephanie created for her grandpa. So perfect for honouring Bill.
Towards the end of the service, Pastor Art said something about Bill, or something about what’s important in life (I can’t remember!). I nodded in agreement, and just as I did, the electric candelabras on either side of the sanctuary flickered. They too were saying yes, to a fine human being, and to the rightness of loving and being loved.
Well done, Bill
Look what you’ve created
It shines in your family’s eyes