I met Bill when I took a position at his uncle's insurance firm, The Glatfelter Insurance Group. It did not take long for our paths to cross, and I will admit that he was a character. He looked me up and down, making his own personal assessment. I had played college football and it did not take long for the two of us to discover that we had many of the same interests and that we shared a similar sense of humor.
To me, Billy seemed like the Prince of a royal family, with Uncle Art as the king of the Glatfelter Empire. We had a beautiful place to work; Uncle Art made sure of that.
Billy definitely had a certain style and I guess you could call it a swagger. The way he walked through the office, well, it just made me smile. As we got to know one another, he invited me to his home and I thought "This guy has it all: A beautiful home, a great job in his uncle's company, a great wife and two wonderful children. What else could a man want or need?"
As it would and will happen -- to all of us -- things changed. I went through a difficult time in my marriage, and it was Billy who stood by me and offered encouragement and even made it known to his Uncle Art that I was having a tough time and that I could use some help. And I did get help. It was a blessing at the time. No one ever stood up for me like that and it meant the world to me.
It was about a year ago that I got to see my old friend Bill. The thought that ran through my mind was, "What happened to my friend? Where did he go?"
The light that once was shining and the spirit that lifted others seemed to have all but gone out. In my own way, I tried to bring that flame back, to re-ignite that fire that made Bill such a special person. But I did not feel equal to the task, that I was strong enough or even equipped for the job.
Perhaps there are those that may feel guilt or pain or regret over what might have happened, how we might have changed things, or could we have done more?
Billy has left this world, but he left behind a wealth of memories and he touched many lives, including mine. The last time I spoke to Bill was the morning of March 23 as I drove to work.
I told him, "Billy I love you buddy." He said, "I love you too, Frank." Then I said, "Bill, as much as I love you and care about you, it is like a drop in the ocean compared to how much God loves you." And I asked him, "Do you know that?" He simply said "Yes."
Those were the last words we spoke to one another.
Not one of us here today will escape death. And if there is a situation in your life where there are bad feelings, family troubles, envy or jealousy, do not think you have all the time in the world. If there is someone who you have hurt, or someone who has hurt you, now is the time to forgive or ask for forgiveness. This is the time to make amends, to ask for healing, to put aside differences and to let your own light shine. Guard your flame, as the world will seek to extinguish it. That flame is called Hope. That fire is called Love.
We must not act as if time is on our side; it is not. For every one of us, time is running out. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. So for today, tell someone that you love them, smile at a stranger, be kind and gracious -- even to those that least deserve it.
Billy was lucky in that he got to live a life that included being a real football hero. Not many ever know what it is like to hear a cheering crowd, to run for 132 yards a game, or score almost two touchdowns a game. But fewer still know how quiet it is when the crowd no longer cheers and the next game is never.
I think it was hard for Billy to get used to a life where there were no more touchdowns to run for and no more cheering crowds. But the real glory is in knowing that the final victory is now won, and that Billy has gone on to meet his biggest fan.
I just hope God has a place for him where he can run again, where he can play practical jokes on teammates and smile that boyish smile; because God knows, no one's perfect. And God knows there's something special about heroes.