It’s taken me a few days to really put this into words. It might be too soon even now.
A very close friend of mine died on June 11th, while he was in Texas to receive medical treatment. I found out about it Thursday morning, minutes before leaving for work. While he had changed his name to Roger a few years ago, he has always been Bill to me. Part of me thought he might live forever. Even after he tested positive for hiv/aids a few years ago, I don’t think I was ready to believe he was mortal.
Bill was my Merlin.
Only eight years older than me, he took me under his wing, shared his wisdom and compassion, and helped to make me a better person. Bill was a shaman in the Native American tradition, and ordained as a minister in the Progressive Universal Life Church. Back in Durango where I grew up, he was the only person to help me make sense of the greater spiritual world. When my son Phillip was born, he was the only person I wanted to be his godfather.
Bill was larger than life, even as he got sicker and thinner, he possessed a spirit that could not be diminished. It is no small wonder that in all the things that I’ve written over the years, Bill has turned up as a character more than anyone else I’ve ever met — two stories and a screenplay, to be exact. In my stories he has been, in turn, a confidant, a ghost-hunting shaman, and an accidental murderer (sorry about that one, Bill.)
I had not been a very good friend to him the past year. The last time I saw him was at my son’s graduation, May of ’09. Though we talked a few times after that, I always found it difficult. Quite naturally, the subject kept getting turned back to his health, or regrets about people I didn’t know. I should have been a better listener, a better confidant, a better friend. But I just couldn’t do it. And now it’s too late.
So I’ll honor him in my heart, remembering him honestly — both his good and bad qualities. And I’ll light a candle, pour a drink, spark some incense, and hope that it is enough to guide him to wherever he is going next.