16 May 2011

My Friend Bill Died

One of the onerous tasks of the aging traveler returning home is finding out who among his friends has died while he has been away. My wife woke me from my afternoon nap today with the news that Bill McNamer had died some time last week while we were having a good time in Albuquerque and Phoenix.

He apparently had another fall, and developed yet another episode of the "old man's friend"—Sir William Osler actually called it the "friend of the aged"—and just couldn't get up the strength for another round.

I've been watching him now for some years, glad to discuss things with him as a friend, but also as a physician noting his gradual decline as he advanced unsteadily into his 90th decade, feeling fairly sure there wasn't much that I or any medical person could usefully do for him. I had lunch with him a few weeks ago at a little restaurant near his home, but still too far to walk for him. He seemed very tired but fairly serene as we discussed the local and national items in the news.

I learned a lot from him: for example, the importance and goodness of frequent naps during the day, and how to narrow the search for something good to read as one aged, and the usefulness of writing letters to one's children in later life.

I enjoyed our short time together. I said good-bye a few weeks ago but I was thinking requiescat in pace my dear friend. We had some time ago discussed the correct order of the words. Bill decided and persuaded me that it didn't make much difference.

He gathered some letters to his children together in the form of a book a few years ago: Keep The Faith he called it. I saw it on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, next to a book by his loving wife Elizabeth.

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