Thank you, Bill, You Taught Us Well!
I was recently reminded of how the Bethany Hill Place community shows its commitment to mercy, compassion and self-sacrifice after we came together to mourn the passing of a longtime resident, dear friend and neighbor William ‘Bill’ Blake. Bill lived at Bethany Hill Place for over two decades. He and his late partner, Kathleen, blended their families, raising children together and instilling in them the values so prominent in this community – love, kindness, respect and interdependence. With great pride and love Bill watched all of his children grow into adulthood, establishing careers and growing families. He beamed when showing pictures of his granddaughter, or sharing news about his children’s accomplishments. He was an eloquent speaker, a fixture on the Education Advisory Committee, a regular at our Lug-a-Mugs, and an active participant in our seminars. Most memorably, Bill was devoted to sharing with and supporting his neighbors as he felt he had been supported.
A week after his funeral, we at Bethany Hill came together to remember him and celebrate his life. The room was filled. Longtime friends, newer residents and children who knew him only for a year, former residents, former staff, and, amazingly, three of Bill’s children, Courtney, Duane and Drew, came to share the evening with us. I felt that they were honoring their father’s memory, respectfully taking part in a community that was such an important part of their father’s life. I was wrong.
After many residents shared their stories of Bill, each of Bill’s children spoke of what this community meant not just to Bill, but also to each of them. Amid tears, there were funny stories of growing up and getting into trouble at Bethany Hill; of Bill and Kathleen’s resolutely egalitarian approach to raising each other’s children; of not realizing what this community did for them until they had left. More residents described their memories: Bill emphasizing the rules to a mother with a child riding her two-wheeler down the hall while she did laundry then watching the child play safely on her bike while Mom finished with the clothes; his compassion, encouragement and support of a neighbor before and after hospitalizations; his understanding and enjoyment of a staff member’s fanatical obsession with Red Sox statistics.
Many in the room were old friends, but all of us felt that way, recognizing we were unified in our understanding of this very meaningful loss. In the middle of all of these voices I understood how comforted his children were to hear our tales of Bill’s doing for others, the love, respect and admiration his neighbors had for him, and, in turn, how proud this community was of his grown children. Bill would undoubtedly delight in the love and compassion he inspired, voiced by the people he cared so deeply about.
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