In the space of a breath
I’m posting tonight in honor of my friend, William Hamilton. Bill (aka, “Ham”) lost his years’ long battle with COPD a few hours ago. I didn’t know Bill all that long—only ten years or so—but it is a relationship I will treasure for the rest of my life. Bill kept me honest and was the best non-biological big brother a girl could ever hope for.
We met in 2004 at our local bowling center when the alley’s Tuesday night winter league was forming. Bill was a “walk-on” because he signed up after the league reached capacity, but he was assigned to our team due to no-shows, etc. It was the best thing that ever happened to our team. Bill truly was our anchor. He understood the art and science of bowling and did his best with every ball he rolled. He was a competitor and wanted to win in the worst way, but he also realized that his teammates were not competition–grade bowlers. He accepted that and, despite the fact that our team rarely won, he thoroughly enjoyed our weekly bowling matches. Art and I quit after a couple of years—Art because of bowling-aggravated aches and pains and I because it ran too late for my 3:50 a.m. wake-up call. But Bill kept on, effortlessly fitting himself into whatever team had a vacancy, continuing until only a couple of years ago despite the shortness of breath and other problems associated with advancing COPD.
I happened to mention to Bill in 2012 during one of his all-too-frequent hospital stays that I blogged. Coincidentally, Bill’s wife Stephanie had been encouraging him to blog about his COPD. I offered a hint or two shortly after Bill launched his Dealing with COPD site, but it wasn’t long before he had a well-established blog with many enthusiastic and supportive followers—due in big part to his dedication to responding to each and every comment anyone ever left.
True to its title, Bill focused most of his posts on the consequences and difficulties of COPD, but he also celebrated his family—wife Stephanie, daughter Allison, son-in-law Stu, his precious granddaughter, Cari, and from time to time, with memories of his early years. Whatever the subject matter, Bill delivered his message with his own unique combination of humor, common sense, dignity, grace, love, and, often, music du jour. It is no exaggeration to say that Bill bestowed a virtual hug on anyone who ever read his blog—quite simply, you felt better for having visited than if you hadn’t.
Just a few weeks ago, Bill was invited to contribute to the Health Central blog, a site where patients and experts share health-related experiences and information. Bill’s first, and unfortunately only, post on the site dealt with the difficulties associated with supplemental oxygen. Bill used supplemental oxygen on a 24/7/365 basis following complications after heart bypass surgery. At home, he had a length of tube sufficient to reach every part of the house and as far as the mailbox in the front of the house and the pool in the backyard.
Bill didn’t let his oxygen-dependence slow him down—he was always ready for a dinner out, cards with friends, and other adventures. His enthusiasm for life encouraged family and friends alike to enjoy life despite his limitations, even though we all realized that Bill’s life would end long before he was done with life. I will always miss him.