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

4 thoughts on “Bill

  1. Bruce that was a beautiful tribute to Stephanie’s Dad. I feel so sad that I just learned of Bill’s death last night. Years ago when Ted was at London Life, Stephanie and her husband Ken worked with him. They were very dear friends and I have loved hearing about their lives and their kids through another dear friend. I am so impressed with her young son reading the poem. So sad for that beautiful family losing their precious Dad and Grandpa. I loved hearing more about him through you! My heart is with them, thank you for sharing Bruce.

  2. You’re most welcome, Chris. Bill touched so many lives. And Devon touched us by reading the poem that fit his grandpa so well.

    May we all deeply see the beautiful people around us.

  3. Thank you for your lovely words Bruce. I was blessed to have this sweet, kind, selfless and gentle man as my father and I don’t take that blessing for granted. I couldn’t have asked for a better father. He was with me that morning in the sanctuary as I delivered his eulogy, providing me with the strength I needed, I know he was. Later when I sat down and Pastor Art was speaking, I too noticed the candelabra flicker at a perfect moment. I caught my breath and smiled. I’m glad someone else noticed it too:)

    • What a privilege, Stephanie, to have Bill standing beside you in life, even after death. May you grieve in the way and in the time that’s right for you.

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