Oniontown Pastoral: I Mean to be Like Bill

Oniontown Pastoral: I Mean to be Like Bill

A dining room I left behind

Have you ever moved out of a home you loved? Before closing the door, you walked through the empty rooms. Your footsteps echoed. You could hear yourself breathe. Floating from space to space, you knew that you would never leave. Part of you must abide under the ceiling you stared at before getting up each morning and beside the wall you slid down to sit on the floor, crying over terrible news.

You finally drove away, though the weeks were off kilter until new walls became home again.

I find myself on such a road right now. In fact, I’m not going anywhere. St. John’s in Oniontown will be my pastoral perch for years to come—God willing and the creek don’t rise. A small house in Erie will remain the Coleman’s nest.

No, I’m talking about change. Hemispheres of my world are like the hollow home I once stood in, letting all it held and witnessed work joy and sorrow in me by turns.

It’s impossible to explain why certain passings bring on tears while others drift by like wispy clouds. Maybe the best we can do is acknowledge this reality and listen to each other.

Godspeed, Onslow.

What I want to tell you first is trivial to the universe. The blonde horse I named Onslow is missing in action. For a few years he occupied a yard along Route 19 all by his lonesome. He shared space with a comrade named Sandy for a while, then suddenly was gone, along with eight or ten other horses in an adjoining pasture. Two horses still roam the field, but Onslow and the others belonged to a person who took them to another location.

The fenced-in half acre or so my friend haunted is forlorn, especially in March, when the landscape sleeps. I visited him once and couldn’t get him to come close. Will I ever run my hand between his eyes and down his nose? Probably not.

At the same time Onslow departed, a parishioner died, leaving a deserted room in many Oniontown hearts. His name was Bill, and he was my buddy. I’ve never met a man who had such a huge presence and yet expected so little attention or recognition. He liked my “Report from Oniontown” and even watched for Onslow when his travels took him down Route 19. He said Onslow out of the corner of his mouth, then busted out that great smile. His belly laugh, it was the best sauce ever.

But the last thing Bill would want me to do is pace the bare floors, my footfall a sad tick tock. He was about moving on in good time and taking hold of each day’s possibilities.

Bill’s wife Connie passed in 2017 after a long illness. He grieved as his St. John’s family expected, but kept active. “The evenings are tough,” he told me.

“Well, sure, Bill,” I said. The house was quiet.

Then one afternoon he showed up at church and told me that he had a lady friend. I was overjoyed. As anybody who has lost a beloved and found another knows, it wasn’t that Bill was forgetting about Connie. He just had more living to do.

“Her name is Tye,” he said, “and she’s a great lady.”

What a joy it was to watch St. John’s and Bill’s family welcome Tye into the fold.

Those two did everything together, but as I learned after Bill’s death, they were cleared eyed. He was 80 and had all kinds of systems breaking down.

“I was hoping for a year, but we got a year and a half,” Tye said with a smile. It wasn’t enough, though. It never is.

Early on, Bill told her, “I don’t know how long we have, but we’re gonna give ‘er hell.”

I trust God knew what he meant. What they got was 18 months of heaven.

May God rest you, Bill. (Credit: Sherry Lesnett)

When I go by Bill’s house on Mercer Road, I remember that he’ll never again show up at my office for some chin wagging.

He would tell me not to fuss, so I’ll move on. None of us knows what will happen tomorrow, especially given how the world is spinning today. Onslow sure didn’t receive notice of his relocation.

So I mean to be like Bill, to give ‘er hell until the last moment, to close the door of the empty house behind me and light out for a new one, my spirit of good cheer and heart ready for more portions of love.

3 thoughts on “Oniontown Pastoral: I Mean to be Like Bill

  1. And “Spring has come again in spite of all of us”… We totally agree with Bill’s take on living every day! Thank you for sharing Pastor.

  2. Thank you for sharing “I mean to be like Bill”. I enjoyed it Immensely. I don’t think it was an accident that I saw this. Sherry shared it and I got on Facebook at the perfect time. I think it’s what I needed to read right now! I go along ways back with Sherry and Mom& Dad Lesnett. Sherry and I were best friends throughout out high school days and I spent a lot of time at there house. What an awesome family. I moved back to my home town a few years after we graduated and I didn’t take the time when we would return to Greenville for a visit. I was about to say that I didn’t get the chance too but that’s not true. I could of if I tried hard enough! However when i did get the opportunity to see them it was like it was just yesterday that a I saw them last. I was sadden when Connie passed and was hear broken when I heard that Bill went home and is now with Mom Lesnett. My heart aches for Sherry & Terry but especially for Sherry. She’s going to be lost. But what I wanted to say mostly is this. Dad Lesnett was still able to give me a message through your Oniontown message “I mean to be like Bill” that is an area that I struggle in very much. I definitely need to live more like Dad Lesnett and I thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about him. And for Sherry sharing your story about her Dad. This brought back a lot of lovely memories. It brought tears of joy and of sorrow at the same time. Again I would like to Thank you and the Lord for bringing this little story to my heart ♥️ . May God continue to Bless you in your Ministry. And could you do me a favor and give Sherry a hug from me 😇.
    Denise K Baker ♥️

    • Hi, Denise,
      I’m glad you liked “I mean to be like Bill.” He was one of a kind, wasn’t he? Sherry, too. You know, she has some very close friends. I’ll be she’ll soldier on. Meanwhile, I’ll give her that hug for you. Peace, John

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