Two year ago today – I lost a hero, my boys lost an uncle they adored, my nieces lost their Dad and my parents lost their first born son – my big brother Billy – in a snowmobile accident. Rather than mourn his loss, we celebrate his life. What he meant to me is best captured in the words that I spoke, through a steady stream of tears, during his eulogy. I feel the same way today, as does the rest of our family. His memory and generosity are alive and well. We miss you Billy!
A Eulogy – February 2011
We lost a special person Friday. I think that Billy’s passing is best explained by something that Felicia said when I spoke with the girls Friday night. She said that God just couldn’t wait any longer – that He needed Billy now. I think that must be the case – it’s the only way to explain this. That’s how I’m thinking of this – that Billy was so important to God’s work that He couldn’t wait 40 years for Billy. I’m guessing that God has some special project that requires the skills and generosity that only Billy possesses. Felicia – thank you for recognizing that.
Billy has so many amazing qualities as people described him last night. He’s smart, funny, adventurous, loyal, caring, creative, sensitive, thoughtful and hard working. It’s a phrase often used but Billy really lived life to the fullest – with his big smile and shiny eyes he lit up every room that he walked into. Above all, though, I think the quality that most people use when talking about Billy is generosity. He gave his time so freely and willingly, and wanted to do it – it made him happy.
Because of Billy’s extraordinary generosity – it’s easy to feel badly that we didn’t do enough, that we should have said yes more often – he wouldn’t want that. He would want us to support each other, help each other and help others. That’s what made him happy.
Billy was an amazing big brother – I looked up to him so much and I know that Bobby did too. About 20 years ago Billy and I were driving down the road and he told me he was proud of me – for trying new things, moving around the country, going where my passion took me; and I told him that it was I that was proud of him – for being adventurous and prioritizing his family. Billy went for it, and he invited everyone to join him in the fun. He was one of my heroes and someone I’ll always look up to. Not only did he teach us how to fish, love music, ride our bikes and fix our cars, he taught Bobby and me how to be great dads. He taught us that our children should be our top priority. He and Donna raised 4 beautiful girls that he loved more than anything and he showed that every day in his actions. I see Billy in every one of you girls. He’s a piece of each of you and he’s a piece of me – I think he’s a piece of all of us who were lucky enough to spend time with him. He constantly invited Bobby and our mom and dad on weekend trips with his family – he absolutely loved family. I see Billy in his little girls and in my boys Zack and Lucas.
Billy is leaving us with an incredible gift – the gift of memories. We can take our best memories of Billy and think about those memories every day. If we want to take that gift just a bit further – we can share the gift of what Billy taught us about generosity, particularly with his time, and apply those learnings and all be just a bit more generous everyday and, that way, Billy lives on forever, through us.
I have one short story to tell – In the winter of 1980 John Lennon of the Beatles was taken from us. I was 12 and Billy was 17. I remember that I knocked on Billy’s door and he invited me in. He was listening to the Beatles “Let it Be”. We were lying on our bellies, chin in our hands, on the brown shag carpet just chilling and listening quietly. He started to cry so I asked what was wrong. He told me that John was taken from us that day. Like a goofy 12 year old I asked “why are you crying, you didn’t know him, did you”? and he said through his tears “no Michael – I didn’t know him but he was a great person loved by many and tons of people are gonna miss him”. Well, Billy – you may not have met John Lennon but I do think you knew him. Like John, you knew that life is about being kind and generous and like John; you are loved by many and will me missed forever.
As Felicia, Ashley, Jilly and April pointed out, you were needed now – for your will, abilities, passion and generosity. We know that you’re with Meme and Pepe, Nanna, Uncle Richie, Aunt Dot and Uncle Stash and everyone else who knew you whom have passed. Billy, you are, and through our memories will continue to be, an amazing father, son, brother, husband, uncle, cousin, nephew, friend and colleague. We all love you and will miss you more than words can describe, until we see you again.
God bless you big brother Billy.