Monday, September 1, 2008

Watching Bill - July 1995

I recently found this journal page about my dear beloved & departed friend Bill Kreidler when we were roommates at a large Quaker conference.  His death with AIDS in 2000 brought me the largest grief I have known.  This journal was the beginning of loving him against the rush of time and illness, and feeling the lush joy of loving someone so completely.

Watching Bill- July 1995


He slept until the alarm rang and took a large handful of pills after breakfast.  His clothes and things were scattered all around the room.  He always said goodnight before putting his earplugs in and went to sleep on his side.  It was never longer than two minutes before his breathing was deep and slow.  There were all sorts of people who wanted to have the pleasure of his company, to be with him and feel his smile, his quick wit, his generous humanity.  He never took a mouthful of food before praying and he only said wickedly funny things about people when he was with one good friend or a few select ones.  He understood that messages and leadings came at any time and in many ways.  Some part of him was always listening for the next ideas the Divine would send him.  He danced with a four year old in the dance contest on Friday night.  She felt confident and beautiful the way only children awash with care and comfort can.  I wept as I watched them, wondering how in the world had I been so fortunate to have this dear friend so many years in my life and how many more would I have this outrageous luxury.  All that was good and tender about him showed in the careful way he held her hand and led her in a simple tap dance.  It was the respect and joy that we wish and pray for each child.  It was the peaceable kingdom revealed in a fun little dance.  He dressed up in my new silk pants and kimono and strode down the hall to the full-length mirror flowing and rippling like the delighted child he was.  He is more beautiful now than at any time in his life- and in all ways.  Can that be?  Is all life so?  Does everyone, or everyone who's trying, make their life so much better that by and by it has a glow to it?  There were times when I watched him just for the joy of feeling all my love for him.  Can it be only sixteen years that I have known him?  There isn't anyone in my family that I know as well.  His long lean body is more toned now than ever.  And his love of the irreverent and of sexuality has only grown deeper.  From our dormitory window, we watched a young man tending the grounds.  As his muscles heaved the wood chips from the cart to the evergreens, Bill was clear that we were witnessing one of the many cathedrals God had made.  We watched a long time with the breathy appreciation of young girls and made the comments to each other of not-young men beyond the reach of such beauty laughing at themselves.  He talked about his love of sex outdoors with the same passion that he talked about his revelations during prayer.  He loved laughing more than most things and good stories or sharp one-liners delighted more than words can say.  He could talk about people and their lives with care and mercy even, or maybe especially, if they had hurt him.  His understanding of forgiveness was large and articulate.  He saw it as the crux to resolving conflict and to making life worth living, particularly for the wounded.  He felt a duty to share what he knew that took him beyond comfort and into tasks of great work.  He spent the time before bed telling me what he had seen and heard that day while he set certain things in place for the next day- his papers and bible, his clock, his briefcase, his AIDS pills.  He wore his regular sort of Land's End/ LL Bean-ish kind of outfits and never looked unready.