Like most of us in Houston, he came from somewhere else. In his case, home was New York. Now retired, he worked part-time as a sacker at our neighborhood Randall’s supermarket, an age-indifferent job which places high school students side by side with white-haired retirees. Dependent largely on tips, they share an abundance of energy, enthusiasm and usually good cheer.
“Mr. Bill,” everyone called him. Although our suburb of Katy constitutes the western edge of metropolitan Houston, it still retains the feel and the friendliness of a smaller town. Mr. Bill fitted this place, and his merriment was uncontained. I have attended the store frequently for a dozen years, and Mr. Bill’s pleasant greeting has been a welcomed constant on each visit. I missed him for a day or two, then my wife showed me his picture in the community paper. Heart attack, the paper said. He was 72. I entered the store to find a standing floral wreath. On it were an enlarged copy of the obituary and a color photograph of Mr. Bill and his wife of many years. Suddenly and to my surprise, I wept, and the tears continued as I drove away.
Indeed, death is certain. And we all will give account to our Maker for how we used the time and talents and opportunities he entrusted to us during our earthly sojourn. Mr. Bill was ready for that. I could not attend his memorial service at First Baptist Church in Katy, but I am confident that it was full of gospel hope. Still, he is gone. The vacancy left by his passing will remind me daily of my own mortality and will motivate me to redeem the time God has given me. What comfort to know that we are in God’s strong hands, so that we may say with the Psalmist: “The LORD will accomplish what concerns me. Thy lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting. Do not forsake the works of Thy hands” (Psalm 138:8).