Posted by: David Weimer | April 20, 2012

Under the Surface, Shining On

Image

I saw my friend in the wind-gentled sun’s reflection of the river as I sat on the concrete pier.

A goose honked from a creek’s mouth downstream.

I watched it fly, briefly, while poisoning myself with my next breath.

Finding this paper in my wallet, I started to write my eulogy.

Are you in the sky, or down there, I thought.

I knew the answer.

Hello, I thought to my friend, whose final battle with life I’d been honored enough to witness.

He was so calm.  So shocked into silence.

“No Swimming and No Alcohol,” said a sign facing the water from a banded-together stand of treated timber.

Bill swam and drank—a lot.

I imagined the days of his years on a boat in the waves.

In the pages of his final chapter, he sequestered himself in his block house second floor apartment to “find Ultimate Truth,” he said.

You never could tell if he was joking;

his amused expression never told you the truth.

“I found Ultimate Truth in January,” he said, “while under anesthesia for my broken ankle.”

“Well,” I asked, “what is it?”

“I can’t tell you,” he said.  “You have to find it out for yourself.”

I pause in writing this.

A passing fishing boat has sent rows of waves toward me, rocking Bill’s reflection, dividing it into many.

The wind picks up, then slacks.

Bill’s shining light coalesces back into a single place on the calming surface of the water.

My page is filled.

I will read this to other friends, I think,

but first, I will poison myself one more time… for Bill; for me.

Goodbye.

He’s smiling down there, in the bubbles.

And shining.

In Memoriam:

Meeting of the Minds (M&M) Philosophy group regular, William R. Gates, 67, of Moundsville, West Virginia, has graduated from the school of life.  He attended our Tuesday evening meetings during these past six years at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling.  He is a friend, and honored us—those of us who remain—by dying a week ago on Tuesday.  I imagine that he made his exit while we watched and discussed another friend’s recent documentary, Meetings with Remarkable Women in the “board room” meeting place in the library’s basement.

I wish we had known.

I wrote this eulogy exactly where I said I did, at Heritage Port, in Wheeling, the same afternoon I’d heard of his departure.  I haven’t changed it.  That day, I went down to the water and burned tobacco in remembrance of Bill.  He’d told me once of years he’d spent in Southern Florida on a boat.  Bill has a talent for unbelievable tales and always seems mildly amused by something.

Down at the river last Tuesday, I wondered about him, and where he might be now that he’s gone—then I looked down at the sun shining up from the surface of the river in front of my dangling feet.  There.  Here.

Later, three of us regulars ended up our meeting early, drove to the river at sunset and raised our makeshift glasses to a departed friend on the path.

Farewell, Bill.

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