I’ve known Pat and Ute for years and I only met Billy maybe a dozen times. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why his death hit me so hard.
Whenever I met Bill he was always unfailingly polite. He was always interested in what you were doing and you became the center of his attention. In fact Bill was always interested in everything – literature, history, politics, neighborhoods, puns, food, drink, the list was endless. He could talk intelligently about anything and make you feel that you had contributed something to the conversation even when you spent most of the time just trying desperately to follow him.
I think now that his death hit me hard because I’ve only met a few people who’ve lived life at warp speed. Bill seemed to go full tilt at anything he did. I’ve been reading about another writer who approached life like Bill, George Bernard Shaw. This is from a letter he wrote to a friend about “The True Job of Life”. I’ve edited it slightly and reformatted it:
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the
Whole community and as long as I live it is my
Privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,
For the harder I work the more I live.
I rejoice in life for its own sake;
Life is no brief candle to me,
It is a sort of splendid torch
Which I have got hold of for the moment
And I want to make it burn as brightly
As possible before handing it on
To future generations.
That’s how I’ll always remember Bill – burning brightly.
On November 4th, the annual Day of the Dead will be celebrated at Pickleweed Community Center in San Rafael in Marin County. Pickleweed is in the mainly Hispanic Canal neighborhood. Groups and individuals create altars to friends and loved ones who have died. It follows a parade through the neighborhood, music and dancing. Pat and Ute have been involved in the past; it’s the kind of celebration that Bill loved and would have participated in.
I’m not an artist but if anyone wants to work with me on creating an altar for Billy – if you have ideas, photos, anything you want to contribute, please feel free to contact me.