On Losing a Bright Star

We lost a dear friend yesterday. I hardly have the words to write the sadness that is in my heart, the collective agony of loss in the countless people whose lives he touched. 

From the first night I met Bill, I knew he had a heart that was bigger than his ample chest could contain. His spirit echoed in the sonorous baritone boom of his voice. He was at once both fierce and soft, kind and firm, gruff but warm. Although we never worked the same shift, I know he was fantastic at his job. I know the kids we worked with knew he cared. I know the staff who worked his shifts respected and trusted him. We all did. And we all miss him more than there are words for. 

Bill gave me a baby shower present shortly before I left on maternity leave last summer. He knew I love Harry Potter, and he knew I planned to read to Beasty; he also knew I had left my books in California. So he brought me a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I don’t know if he was familiar with Order of the Phoenix or the series as a whole or not, but he certainly knew how to pick them. 

Early in the story, Harry discovers that he can now see skeletal, horse-like flesh-beings called thestrals, creatures only visible to those who had seen death. Luna Lovegood helps Harry see that the thestrals are not to be feared or hated; that they’re misunderstood because of their association with tragedy; that, despite their strange appearance and unfortunate reasons for being seen, there are beautiful and good qualities to be found in the thestrals. Bill had a similar way of seeing the good in a kid, of caring about even our most challenging kids, no matter how the kid presented him- or herself. Like Luna and the thestrals she saw because of unfortunate circumstances, Bill could look at a kid and see past the unfortunate circumstances that brought the kid before him. 

At the end of Order of the Phoenix, Harry loses his godfather; he watches Sirius fall through an archway and slip under the veil hanging there. Harry waits for him to stand back up, half-expecting Sirius to pop through the veil with a wicked grin on his face and the flash of a fight shining bright in his eyes. But it doesn’t happen. And the reality hits: this man, who has stood in in Harry’s father’s stead, who has selflessly supported and loved Harry without condition, is gone. We have waited for a healthy Bill to return to us, but that is no longer to be. And the reality of his absence cannot be dismissed. I still catch myself expecting to hear his laugh booming from the CM office, still half-hope his obnoxiously large chair will be in front of our desk.

Bill, you are so very missed. You have touched so many lives, so many more than I think you realize. The emotions I saw today from our coworkers, from the kids who knew you, scream to the stars that you have been here, that you made a difference to so very many of us. You are so very loved, and our hearts ache as we feel your absence. 

To my EYC family, I love you all. And I feel with you our great loss. We will do right by his memory.

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