This is most of what I read at Bill's memorial on June 23rd...........
Because of Bill's incarceration and limited contact with family and friends, I’m sure there are questions about his diagnosis and passing. I hope to clarify that for you and then share some tidbits of his life in the last couple of years.
On May 19th while Roger and I were having lunch, I got a call from a doctor here in Indy. He said Bill had been diagnosed with Leukemia and needed permission to do a bone marrow biopsy. I immediately started contacting family, and Eva and I went down to the hospital to see him.
He had been at Westville Correctional Center and had been feeling sick. He had passed out and fallen, gashing his head. I believe he had also ruptured his spleen. When the doctors realized his condition, he was transferred to Indy for treatment. Apparently, my having been contacted by the doctor a breach in protocol, and the guards who were with him were not expecting us. This threw them into a bit of a bind and they were having to figure out how to handle the situation. They allowed us a brief visit with Bill, but we were told that he would otherwise not be allowed visitors and that we would not hear any news of his condition until or unless the medical staff advised the Department of Correction to call in the family. Unsatisfied with that, I contacted the commissioner’s office to request special arrangements. I was given a point of contact for daily medical updates but he was still not allowed visitors. The news was about the same each day, that he was in serious condition, but otherwise not much change to report. In the first week of June, it was determined that he would have an extended stay in the hospital and the DOC decided to allow 2 visits per week. All of the potential visitors’ names had to be submitted to the DOC for background checks. That week Jessica visited, John and Eva visited, and a special arrangement was made for a 3rd visit so that Dad and Mom could see him Saturday the 7th. I began lining up the visitors for the following week. Roger and I went to see him on Tuesday the 10..th When we arrived, Bill was discussing with the doctors his wishes to quit treatment and transition to hospice. He had had a very rough go with the chemo and had contracted an infection. He had complications in his lungs, spleen, kidneys. He was tired, beaten down, and in a lot of pain. The doctors preferred that he give it a few more days but said his decision was very reasonable. Roger and I sat with him for a short time and he told me “They want me to wait, but I’m not going to.”
The hospital staff began making arrangements to transfer him back to prison for hospice. I started making phone calls and scheduling visitors to see him at the prison over the next couple of days, but those visits never happened. Due to the prison not having the needed IV meds to manage his pain, he was delayed in returning to the prison and passed away in the hospital about 26 hours later on June 11th. Some of the last conversations we had were about his concern over taking pain meds, expressing concern for both of his children and their mothers, and expressions of love to the family. He also looked at me and referring to Christ, said, “He suffered more than this.”
Reflecting on his time in prison, I know that Bill did a good bit of soul searching. He spent a lot of time reading and listening to K-LOVE on his little radio. He told me anecdotes of daily life behind bars like how to slip into the chow hall lines to get served lunch twice, how he mouthed off to a guard and got sent to discipline committee, and how a group of guys had given a unsuspecting inmate a shake made with a laxative. We discussed questions like should a Christian fight back when he was attacked and robbed and if Christians should take anti-depressants. He called me for prayer when he was having a particularly difficult days resisting the urge to do drugs, when he was put into protective custody over an incident, and when a guard found contraband outside of his window ledge. *(Apparently, he had recently been moved to a new cell and was sitting on his bunk reading when a guard came in and went straight to the window. He opened it and found a shank on the outside. Bill had called me asking me to pray about that situation. He had said, "Aside from actually using it, being caught in possession was one of the most serious offenses." He said he thought that the guard believed him that it wasn't his because it looked weathered, like it had been there a long time, and the guard did not haul him off for questioning.)
*These details were omitted during my reading at the memorial.
I’d like to read some selections from Bill’s letters so that his voice be heard today as well.
9/1/12 From Wayne County Jail: “I have taken the steps to get right with God again. I know it seems like the only time I ever care about what God wants in my life is AFTER I get in trouble. Almost as if God is saying, ‘Have a seat for awhile, I have things to teach you.’ …..I have asked God to forgive me, acknowledged to him that I am weak, and that all I am is a sinner, unworthy of his grace. He is teaching me many things, I am reading the Word for long lengths of time, asking to be taught, asking for the wisdom to understand....I get discouraged a lot in here when I think of how many times I have let God down, how many times He has had to punish me, and how many times I have done what I wanted, and not what he wanted me to do. I feel that I have let him down, and disappointed him, but then I read where it says, ‘I’ve known you since before you were born…’ I’ve realized that He has known all along that this was going to happen to me. He knew I would be here right now, and from that I can know with certainty that he has plans for my life. That was a big problem that I had before I came in here; I didn’t know who I was. I know that despite being a sinner, and an addict, and a thief, I am, above all else, more than a conqueror, because he has given me strength. I rely on that every single day because I know for a fact that if you knock on the Devil’s door long enough sooner or later someone’s going to answer it. Thankfully, either I was knocking at the wrong address, or God answered the door that day…..Please pray that I can continue to fight against temptations and my addictions. I really don’t care who you tell about any of this stuff, because I need the prayer, and if my testimony and my problems can discourage or keep someone else off those drugs, then please share my story.”
10/14 /12 From Wayne County Jail: “I’m learning a lot about my life, mainly that it really isn’t mine, but God’s, and I need to be open, and willing to let Him take it and make it what he wants it to be. I’m learning, finally lol. Please keep me in your prayers…Can you send me some more songs? I’d like that Kutlass song I told you about, and a couple more song lyrics if you can.
‘I Can Only Imagine’ and that Michael Card song ‘El Shaddai.’ For some reason those songs have been running through my mind and I can’t remember hardly any of the words.”
*For those who are not familiar with the song El Shaddai, the title refers to a Hebrew name for God which means the “all sufficient one” and is often translated in English as “God Almighty” or the “Almighty God.” The song is a worshipful song that also utilizes other Hebrew names for God which identify Him as “sovereign” or “ruler over all,” and as one’s personal Lord. You will be invited to join us in singing this song near the close of the service.
6/27/13 From Plainfield Correctional Center: “I had been caught up in my own self and my own views…and had this combative ‘them against me’ attitude that I didn’t show much interest in the family. I realize now that besides Jesus, my family is really all that I have. I want to repair the damage that I’ve caused and rebuild the bridges that I’ve burned. I know that to rebuild any amount of trust will take not only a lot of time, but also a lot of proof that my life has been changed and I really am a different person…To be honest, if I were released tomorrow, I can’t really say what would happen to me. I’d like to say I wouldn’t go back to how I was before, but I’m scared that I’m not strong enough yet. I pray every day, more than once actually, for God to give me the strength to stay clean, to take the urge of my addiction away from me….I don’t want to be the disappointment or the embarrassment of the family. I want to and need to be a better Christian, a better son, a better father, and a better brother. I don’t want to go back to my old way of thinking, I am a New Creation…”
4/2/14 From Westville Correctional Center: “They transferred me out of Plainfield last Thursday and brought me all the way up here. This place is about 3 times as big as Plainfield and has a lot more people here too. Lots and lots of gang members of all colors and races. I’m not going to pretend and say that it doesn’t unnerve me a bit, but I really think that this is what God means when He says to trust in Him and to completely rely on Him for everything. Pray for God’s protection though please. It’s amazing how He can send His messages to me when I continue and keep reading my Bible. I just got done reading the book of John right before I got moved, and after reading through the book and the other Gospels and what they say about the pain and suffering and the mental abuse and humiliation that He went through for me even though He didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t deserve any of what He went through. I do deserve to be where I am and anything that happens to me while I’m in here still couldn’t compare to what He went through just for me. It puts that whole “I can do all things through Christ” in a whole new light I think. I can do this through His grace and mercy. I am standing on that promise. As I sit here writing this it’s very sunny, breezy, and I can see and hear the seagulls from Lake Michigan outside. If I close my eyes I can almost pretend that I’m on the beach out there, almost. lol. I’ll write more about my impressions later as they come to me. Can you remember to ask Roger to change my address for the Hot Rod? Thank you, I love that magazine. I’m sure that you’ve told the family where I am, send my love to them as well, and let them know that I’ll write them as soon as I can get some more stamps and envelopes...Oh yeah, can you find and send the lyrics to that song Alive by Natalie Grant? I really like that song. Thanks. P.S. I think I’m going to use the next few years and learn some Spanish. I think I could use it here and when I get out. Something useful to know I think.”