I got a call from a neighbor this morning. Bill died last night. It was not a surprise. I knew he’d been moved from hospital to hospice on Monday. His wife had signed the DNR paperwork. She said he’d had a comfortable night on Monday. He passed away Wednesday night about 11:30. His wife was with him.
Bill wasn’t a close friend; more an acquaintance really; a friend of friends. I’d met him and his wife shortly after moving to Phoenix. They attended a party at our neighbors’ home. Also, Bill and his wife lived next door to a couple we know socially. Our connection, then, was that they knew our neighbors and we knew theirs. We didn’t socialize with them often. We’d see them when our neighbors had a party. We’d see them at their neighbors’ annual Christmas party. They always brought their son to our neighborhood’s Halloween party. They’d been in our home a few times. I think I was in theirs once. They did not entertain much.
Bill and his wife are…were… a nice couple. They were easy to talk to and both have…had…good-natured, infectious laughs. He was a Mexican immigrant. She is from the deep south, Alabama I believe. She and I compare notes about our Baptist roots. She is still religious. I am glad for her. I imagine it helps her now.
They have a special-needs son they care for at home. Their son is approaching middle age but he is still a child. She runs her own business out of her home. She makes gift baskets. We are customers.
Bill and his family have had a rough year. In addition to the ongoing needs of their son and Bill’s poor health, his wife has had serious illnesses. On a couple of occasions they were both in hospital at the same. I had not seen him in several months. The last time was when we visited his wife in the hospital. Bill’s health had been deteriorating for some time. He had been in the hospital for several weeks in this last stay before moving to hospice.
His death touches me in an odd way. Bill and I were not close. The loss is not really mine to share. He was loved but he was not a loved-one of mine. John Donne wrote; “Every man’s death diminishes me”. Maybe it is that simple. My heart goes out to his family certainly. They have endured much in recent months and there is a lot to face for the wife and son he’s left behind.
The musical Evita begins with the announcement of the title character’s death. A movie theater manager interrupts a film to say that Eva Peron has “entered immortality…”. I always thought that was a nice turn of phrase. It is quaint and colloquial. It acknowledges the commonly held belief that death is a transition and it presents it as a beginning and not an ending. But I don’t think I will hear that phrase the same way in the future. Bill came to this country, learned the language and built a life for himself and his family. He spent 41 years married to a woman he loved and who loved him. They celebrated their anniversary a couple of weeks ago in the hospital. With his wife, he loved and cared for their son who, I’m sure, gave them greater love and greater challenges than I can imagine. What I remember most about Bill was his distinctive laugh and one of the biggest, warmest smiles I have ever seen. Bill died at 11:30 last night but I think he ‘entered immortality’ a long time ago.