Several years ago, when I was first starting out in business, I got a call from a guy named Bill who was a lawyer and needed a really simple logo drawn for his firm. His mom had referred me. We never met in person, and did all the revisions over the phone. I was struck by how full of life and funny he was.
Fast forward to about two years ago when a random Facebook interaction led to a random conversation which led me to suggesting he check out a book, Blue Like Jazz. He bought the book and promised he would read it. A couple months later I get a phone call from Bill, who is literally in tears. He had read through half the book while on vacation, immediately gave it to his cousin who he know would love it. She read it in one sitting, and woke him up in the middle of the night to talk about what it had meant to her, so he was calling me first thing the next day to thank me for the recommendation.
It turns out this would not be an uncommon interaction.
That was the first of many tear-filled phone calls I would receive from Bill. Some, like this one, were tears of gratitude over something he saw God doing in his life and just wanted to share. Others were tears of grief for circumstances he didn’t understand, so he would call and ask for prayer. Each time he apologized for crying, and each time I told him I would think it strange if he didn’t cry at least once each phone call. To be fair, he didn’t cry every time he called, but because our conversations were not at all frequent, he typically only called when he had something important to talk about.
This past February I was in an airport on my way to a conference in Las Vegas when I heard the news that Bill had – quite unexpectedly – passed away. I felt like the air had been sucked right out of my lungs. I was angry, confused, and sad. And I found it strange that I should be so upset over someone who didn’t know (relatively) all that well.
Bill’s Facebook page is still active. And by active I mean, people post on it regularly, even after these several months. It is obvious I was not the only person affected by Bill’s big personality, big laugh, big love for God, big love of art, big love of friends and family, and his incessant, contagious encouragement. I think of him nearly every day for one reason or another.
The last phone call I got from Bill was about a week before he died. He was dreaming – he was always dreaming – but this time it was about work on his house that he wanted to talk with my husband about, and dreaming about a future with his amazing girlfriend Amy. While I only had the opportunity to meet Amy once or twice, I know without a doubt that she is a most incredible woman to warrant such high esteem and affection from a man that was so incredible himself.
A year before he passed away, Bill asked if I would design him a little business card with the number 41 on it. He wanted it as a reminder to live with a heart fully engaged with God, and fully alive. I’m not sure if it’s true that only the good die young. But I do know that Bill lived and loved so well, and so hard, and so fully that it is possible that he lived more in his 41 years than the rest of us do if we make it twice as long. And so for me, every time I think of Bill (which is often), his life reminds me to live and love with all my might.