Six months before we moved to Pennsylvania, a good friend and colleague at the Kelley School of Business was diagnosed with mesothelioma. I have started this four or five times, only to digitally tear it up and toss it away then begin again; this time, I’m going to sludge on, knowing that I cannot do him the credit he deserves, only what I can manage in my current state.
His name was Bill Littlefield.
I have pictures of Bill, just not here, so you’ll need to bear with me (also, this keyboard is dying, and there’s that morphine fog effect, so please from now on, try to put up with my typos). Bill was bit younger than i, so he would have been 52 had he lived. Lank and lean, gruff and quick to insert any jab that would offend the politically correct, in a premature grey flattop, he exhaled the presence of a redneck programmer. He was one of the few you’d find bearing LISP and NRA stickers — and images of wolves, which he loved for their freedom and their ferocity.
I can’t help but think I’m not doing Bill justice, writing in the wounded state I am, but I need to remember Bill. I need to let you know just a little about Bill, as I knew him.
I have very close friends at Kelley. Most followed me there. Bill was there when I began. At first, I found Bill itimidating as most do, but something between us clicked somewhere. I found a great deal to respect, and when Bill raked me over the coals (a talent in which few surpassed Bill), I deserved it, I knew it, and I strove to do better for it.
Not, mind, that we had an adversarial relationship. Far from it. I found Bill medicinal, even refreshing. He was gruff, certainly, and he had a razor sharp sense of humor — often masked by those who did not see past that hardbitten outer self.
But beneath all of that, there was a gentle man, who loved his country, loved his family, and loved his God (and for Fr John’s enlightenment, Bill was another Hoosier Campbellite). I often sought out Bill’s advice and company. Bill’s candid honesty, his unerring moral compass, more than once was he of great aid and comfort to me.
I was pained and mystified at his funeral. I was pained because I had lost a friend whose counsel I would never have again, a friend for whom I felt a great brotherhood, and whom I understood on such a deep level. I was mystified because so many others apparently never saw the deeply religous man who loved Christ as I did, and I found that mystery as painful as losing my friend.
Now that I am in more or less the same position as Bill, I cannot help but wonder. How do people see me? Do they take me as superficially as they did Bill? Will they be as mystified by my love of Christ as they were by Bill’s?
I can only pray not.
I am not doing as poorly as Bill, particularly after they removed his lung. Yet I saw in Bill, though all that blinding pain, a peace and a love of God that others, apparently, missed. I also have over the last five years, felt even closer to Bill, and missed him ever more. I miss his strength, his humanity, his compassion, and I hope and pray that my priests, my deacons, and my fellow Christians can help me pass into the repose as peacefully as Bill, who went to his rest in Christ’s embrace.
Bill, I miss you. I will be glad to see you once again in the shining glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!