Smiles Through the Clouds

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. “ – Ian MaclarenBilly, Jr

Perspective gives life context—like thinking about the sun shining on the other side of clouds during a week-long storm, or all of the good times on the worst day imaginable. Yet regardless how strong and optimistic you think you are, sometimes a blow comes so vicious that it knocks you out of your orbit and into the abyss.

Sunday morning I was riding high after my buddy’s son’s wedding, my head still in the clouds with my forth grandchild’s birth the week earlier, when the phone rang. It was a call that you wish you were sitting for, otherwise you’d wind up on the floor.

Nothing is more devastating to a parent than the loss of a child. But the loss of my buddy’s smiling, gregarious son was compounded by his own death five months earlier. Father and son—mirror images—gone in the matter of months. No words exist in the English language to describe the depth of the loss and the pain.

I wrote about Billy in a May post titled Forever—his passion for life, the outdoors, food, good times. Young Billy, a collegiate basketball player and avid sport’s fan was a mirror image of his dad.  He loved spending time with his family and friends, and down the shore in Wildwood, NJ. I never saw him without a smile on his face, or heard a word come from his lips that wasn’t light-hearted or witty. He had a glimmer in his eye, just like his father.

Billy, Sr. was fifty-nine years young when he left us in May. Billy, Jr. was thirty-three. A picture of Billy, Sr. from a time we hiked the Appalachian Trail, an irrepressible smile on his face, sits on my desk. It’s the way I remember him. Billy, Jr had his father’s smile, his good nature. I can see them smiling together now.Billy Solo - Hawk Mt

Hug your kids today, everyday. Hug those you love, every single one of them. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

May Billy and young Billy rest in peace, together.

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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13 Responses to Smiles Through the Clouds

  1. What a heart wrenching post. Thanks for sharing with us…My prayers go out to you and your family.

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  2. LB says:

    Jim, I am so sorry for the loss of another friend. I do remember you writing about Billy Sr and can’t imagine your sorrow hearing about Billy Jr.
    How devastating.
    Thoughts are with you

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  3. Oh Jim, I’m so sorry. I was stopping by to check up on you this morning and grab a link to one of your posts for a friend. She has been a walker for a few years and has shed many pounds one at a time and walked the BIX last summer. I caught her a the top of the hill that is a decline for the finish. She was one of the last and walking alone and shouted to me; “Hooray, I’m not a runner, but I’m a finisher by God!” It sounds like your friends were both similar to this one that I’ve made – she doesn’t just start every day fresh, she reboots on an hourly basis. You and the family of your friends are in my prayers. They are blessed to have you mourning along side them as we start the month of All Souls…tough timing. Hang in there….yours, Kate

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Kate, Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughtful comment about young Billy and your friend, who obviously has a wonderfully contagious personality herself. The priest who said young Billy’s funeral Mass told a story about how our stories keep those who have passed alive and it is so true. My friends and I tell stories about Big Billy who passed in May all of the time and it puts him right in our midst. It’s a beautiful thing.
      Again, thanks Kate. You are a true and caring friend.
      jim

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  4. Such a beautiful and thoughtful tribute to these two wonderful men, Jim. Loss of anyone we were close to is so difficult, isn’t it. And, telling others about the difference they made in your life and the world they lived in as you did in this tender post ,helps them to live on in the minds and hearts of others like myself who never knew them. Thank you my friend. ~ Rick

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Thank you, Rick, for your kind and thoughtful words about Billy Sr and Billy Jr. They were two special smiling, gregarious men we will all miss, yet in a way they will always be with us.
      jim

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  5. Natalie (Kelly) Russo says:

    That was beautiful, I grew up with Billy and was so shocked to learn the news of his passing. He was really one of a kind and one of the funniest people I have ever known.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Thanks Natalie. I grew up with Billy, Sr. and man, did they both have great smiles. The world needs more like them.
      jim

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      • Natalie Russo says:

        Yes Bill’s smile could light up a room. And all us girls had crushes on Mr. Holubec growing up lol. Still just can’t believe they are both gone.

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        • Jim Brennan says:

          Yes he could, father and son. That’s funny about big Billy. He was a good looking guy, and not in a George Costanza kind of way. It is hard to believe, and they are both missed. Keep them alive in your stories.

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