On 16 May 2011 our trip came to an abrupt end when Bill was hit by a car on Highway 16 outside of Searcy, AR and killed. It was in the early afternoon not long after Bill, Hannah and I stopped on the roadside to admire a summer tanager perched on a wire. We continued along, went for a cold swim in the blue and beautiful Little Red River, met up with Sam who had found a ride to Little Rock where he got a new wheel, and just before we entered Searcy, our destination for lunch, Bill was hit from behind and we are sure that he didn't feel a thing. He died under a willow tree. He was taken to the White County hospital, and two days later Sam, Hannah, and I were picked up by Hannah's parents and driven back to Tivoli, where we are now.
There will be a ceremony for Bill at Blithewood (located on Bard Campus) at 2:00pm on Saturday the 28th. Anybody is welcome. There we will be planting a Flowering Dogwood, one of Bill's favorite trees, in his honor.
Bill's parents Sue and Whitney are setting up a memorial fund to support an under-resourced library in Washington D.C. called the Ballou Library. Coincidentally (or karmically), Bill's middle name was Ballou, and it is his mother Sue's last name. Bill loved books, and I think it's a wonderful thing for us to do in his honor, to help create a place for people to read. There is some information here:
Memorials can also be sent to Whitney Cranshaw, 1400 West Lake Street, Fort Collins, CO 80521.
We're missing Bill so much. It really hurts, and it feels like the only thing to do is to be together, and to try to love each other the way Bill loved us. We talk about him and think about him constantly, and I think we're in the process of realizing that even though he's not here, we won't ever lose him.
Our time on the road with him was life-changing. And Bill was a better example of that than any of us. Throughout the whole trip we all felt we were having this incredible privilege of watching Bill find peace with himself, with every single person that we met, every single person who had been in his life whom he loved--so many--, and with every space that he inhabited as we moved along. I often watched him and thought to myself that as he rode his bike, he seemed to be in the middle of this bizarre and beautiful sustained meditation. I'm so sad when I think about Bill not being here, but I'm so glad that when I do think about all the time I spent with him in the last few months, he was as happy as I've ever seen him.
I look forward to being with so many of the people who loved Bill on Saturday. Until then we're hiding out in Leora's cottage in Tivoli, keeping close, and sending our love and our thanks for all the kindnesses we have been receiving.
P.S. Since the ceremony will be relatively short, we've been thinking that it would be nice to collect written memories of Bill, for us all to have and read (everybody/anybody is welcome to contribute). For me, there are very specific moments and conversations and stories that keep coming to my mind since the accident. Really all of us who are here having been sharing stories endlessly. Sometimes they make me laugh so hard, and sometimes they make me sad, but in a way that is good. So we thought it would be good to have some compilation of the things the people who loved Bill and who Bill loved have been remembering. It could be a sentence. It could be a novel. A photograph. Whatever it is we would love it. You can email to email@example.com.