Early this morning, my sister's father-in-law passed away after a long battle with rectal cancer. While this for many may be an extended family they barely know, the closeness of my siblings and I and the integration of both sides of the family at parties and gatherings meant that Big Bill, as he was known, is someone we're all grieving for.
Big Bill worked hard all his life, scrimping and saving for retirement and to provide for his wife and 4 kids. The day after his early retirement, he had a colonoscopy. The following week he was diagnosed.
No one expected him to live as long as he did. Rectal cancer is nasty, and typically the prognosis isn't a good one. But live he did, fighting recurrance after recurrance of the cancer for almost 6 years. In that time he saw an additional 6 grandchildren born to his 4 living grandchildren (one of his grandchildren died of cancer before he turned two, to the family's lasting grief).
Big Bill was one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever had the gift of meeting. And he was a fighter, someone whose will to live outlasted every doctor's expectation. I'm going to miss him terribly.
His death is the first of the generation above mine to have hit home, and that too causes me grief. I am not prepared to lose my parent's generation. Not even a little.
Big Bill's diagnosis and years of fighting have taught me something - while saving for the future is important, so is making sure you live now, enjoy now. None of us know when our time will be up, only that someday, at some point, that we'll end up somewhere other than here. And that we'll leave behind people we love deeply.
I hope when it's my time I can go towards my death with as much grace as Big Bill. And I hope I can enjoy my life as he did too.
Here's to you, Bill. We miss you.