“Arguing whether or not a God exists is like fleas arguing whether or not the dog exists. Arguing over the correct name of God is like fleas arguing over the name of the dog. And arguing over whose notion of God is correct is like fleas arguing over who owns the dog.” – Robert Fulghum
I can’t think of another soul with more passion for life than Billy, a guy with his eyes always set on the next adventure. Billy cycled, ran and swam, and went the distance in every event he tackled. We hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail together, cycled centuries, capped our excursions with lots of beer and laughter. Billy loved to prepare food, and then eat it; and man could he eat. He enjoyed Guinness, good wine and expensive cigars. As kids we hung on a corner in northeast Philly, formed a bond forged from time spent in bars and behind bars.
A friend’s wife called last Sunday morning and told me that Billy lost his battle with cancer. The moment I hung up the phone I changed into my running gear and took a long run on the Wissahickon Trail. I felt close to Billy, like he was sweating alongside of me. My compulsion to run when I heard the news about Billy’s passing was instinctive, like it was what he wanted me to do. Billy didn’t have time for grieving, or anyone feeling sorry for him. I knew he’d be pissed if I wasted a second grieving, even though I shed a few tears along the trail. I could hear him breaking my balls for crying, in his usual wiseass way.
Billy was so full of life it doesn’t seem possible he is no longer here. He’d frown if I wrote a sad, melancholy piece about his passing, and then he’d shrug his shoulders and go grind some coffee beans, or make a Bloody Mary.
We were out to dinner a couple of months ago and he asked how I was doing. I went on this long tirade about my hip injury; that I hadn’t run in months, had to duck out of my first ultra marathon. Billy said, “That sucks,” and then I realized I was complaining about a stupid injury to my buddy who was battling stage-four lung cancer. I felt like an idiot, but Billy couldn’t have cared less. There was another course to be served, wine to be consumed, and Limoncello in the freezer.
There are few people who pass through our lives who never leave us when they are gone; they merely move on to another dimension. Billy was one of them. As I write these words I feel his smile, hear his laugh, am filled with his optimism, and am hopeful for the future. Billy will be with me on every run until we are reunited, alongside me whenever I chow down, or hoist a Guinness.
Billy will forever be with me.