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billyWe stood by his graveside, under a deep blue Alberta sky on a bitterly cold December afternoon. Billy was laid to rest like he had lived his sixty-four years – surrounded by caregivers stung by the coldness of life’s unfairness.

There were eleven of us – myself, two funeral directors family members, caregivers and friends of William S. or “Billy” as he was known.  The biting cold we felt paled in comparison to the endless winter he had lived through.

In Honor Of Billy

I met Billy when he started to attend North Pointe Church. His caregivers brought him most every Sunday.

Front row, right was his preferred place to sit – close to the action. Rarely did a Sunday go by that Billy didn’t meet me after the service just to say “Hi” or to ask for prayer for him and his “friends.”

Faith was important to Billy. More important than I ever realized.

Five Days Old

When Billy was born, his mother abandoned him to his three-year old sister. As best as a three-year old could, she kept him alive. On day five of life his desperate cries finally alerted neighbors to their crisis.

Emergency responders found Billy malnourished and in critical condition.

His body recovered but his brain did not. Billy was left intellectually impaired. His dad did the best he could to care for him but eventually Billy was institutionalized at the infamous Michener Centre in Red Deer, Alberta.

A Special Hell

Dr. Claudia Malacrida termed the Michener Centre, A Special Hell. Her book by the same title threw the doors open on an era of the past that many would prefer to keep closed. Her subtitle Institutional Life in Alberta’s Eugenic Years says it all.

The Michener became home for Billy. Twice a year he rejoined his family for a few days of visiting. michenerAlberta institutions were going through a shake-up in the 80’s and Billy landed on the streets of Edmonton. The streets can be a coldly, cruel place to live.

Through a series of events, Billy ended up in Vancouver. Once again he found himself on the streets, this time with prostitutes and drug dealers.

A Place Of Goodness

In 1999 Billy’s brother brought him back to Alberta to be cared for by Independent Counseling Enterprises (ICE). There he was empowered to be fully involved in planning daily living and community activities.

Billy loved living at ICE.

He and his roommate were best buds. His caregivers were good at their roles.

Free From The Struggle

At his funeral, everyone said that Billy always had a smile.  He was surprisingly good-natured, considering the hand he was dealt.

In October 2016 Billy was diagnosed with a brain tumor and two months later his life was over.

His brother summed up Billy’s life in two sentences: “Life was a struggle for Billy. He’s finally free.”

What You Should Know About Billy

His favorite music was by ABBA.
Christmas was his favorite time of the year.
His favorite possession was a handmade cross necklace.

The cross necklace was very important to Billy. The necklace is a gift we give to people at North Pointe on the day of their water baptism. Billy asked me for his own cross after witnessing a baptism.

Billy’s Cross

The cross became his most cherished possession.

I stood by his casket before it was closed.

His Bible lay next to his hands. The cross around his neck, rested on his chest.

Rest in peace, Billy.2016-12-07 13.33.12

APPLICATION: What does Billy’s story say to you? Please leave a comment below.

I write to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

One Comment

  • Carole Schlachta says:

    What an incredible eulogy!
    I must admit I ran through a number of emotions reading this.
    From anger to sadness to frustration to thankfulness to joy and then to the peace of God’s.
    If we could see our future, I wonder how we would do. As well as Billy?
    It truely shows that it is faith that has the ability to see through darkness.
    Walking with our hand in God’s not only protects us but also lead us in the path of others that need our help.
    God with us and through us.
    Safe in the arms of Jesus, Billy.

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