- Can we do anything for you?
- Can we bring anything?
- Billy, is there anything you'd like for us to get for you?
Billy seldom asks for anything. He likes to do things for others. I think he has a hard time asking for himself. The answers to those most common questions have been:
- I don't think so.
- I don't think we need anything.
- I can't think of anything.
So we've been paying attention, trying to notice the unspoken needs and wants.
The visits from family and friends have been incredible. I often ask Billy about his high and his low for the day--and most of his highs have been visits from family and friends.
Sometime in October, I asked Billy if there was anyone else he wanted to see. The answer didn't surprise me at all. He named three men, three of this best friends. But getting those friends here has been somewhere near impossible. Two are currently deployed. The other (Jason) was stationed in Hawaii; he had just arrived there in September, and couldn't take any leave time.
So we were stuck.
Billy has a group of seven men--I think of them as the Magnificent Seven--who he holds close to his heart. Four of them have come to visit--from places as far away as Kuwait and Germany. The last three have have been unable to come.
However, things changed about a week ago. Jason (stationed in Hawaii) was coming to TX to visit his family for Christmas. A plane ticket to D.C. to visit Billy seemed impossible, so he was planning to drive--sometime just after Christmas--to see Billy.
I got to work. I contacted an organization in Indiana. The connection was somewhat random. (Billy has an army buddy (Steven) who is dating a woman (Lauren) who has a friend (Billie) who knows the man who works for this organization.) The organization grants wishes for soldiers. Until now, when they've asked if there are any wishes they can grant, I haven't had an answer. But with Jason on leave from the army, maybe we could do something!
So I called the organization, and the woman with whom I spoke was so moved by the story, she personally took on the case. (From what I understand, wishes are usually assigned to aides, and it can take a while to get everything approved. However, with the nature of Billy's case, and with Christmas approaching fast, she took it on to make sure the wish would be granted.) Within 36 hours of my wish submission, the organization (Wish For Our Heroes) had purchased a plane ticket for Jason to come visit Billy.
Once the ticket was booked, I couldn't wait for Jason to arrive! Once he finally got here, I met him in the lobby of hospital, and we walked up to Billy's room. I had Jason wait in the hall, and I went to introduce Billy's "Christmas gift."
"Okay, Billy," I said. "I have your Christmas gift in the hallway. It's a bit too big to wrap, though. I hope you don't mind."
"Aright," he said, a bit puzzled. I could tell by the look on his face that he knew something was up. I went to get Jason.
He walked into the room, a big grin on his face. "Hey, Will!" he said.
Billy's face lit up! "I knew it was someone," he said.
"Did you know it was Jason?" I wanted to know.
"No," he said. "I knew it was someone, but I never expected it would be Jason."
Success! I love surprising Billy! It's tough to do (though tons of us want to be able to do it, because he's such an amazing brother, son, and friend).
Jason has been here the past few days, and he'll be here a few more, thanks to Wish For Our Heroes. It was one of the best Christmas gifts we could have given Billy. It has also been an amazing gift to our family. Jason has a great sense of humor, and he has brought a lot of laughter and fun to all of us. We are so glad to have him here!
Working on Adrienne's puzzle...(clockwise, from bottom left)... Jason, Bobby, Danny, Sarah (Jason's girlfriend and a new friend of ours), and Jill (our mom). [Many thanks Adrienne! It's a tough puzzle!]
Family and friends came in over the weekend to be with Billy... Back, from left: Bobby, Jason, Chris, Danny, Dustin. Front, from left: Blair, Jill (Mom), Sarah, Michelle. Our dad (Ken) arrived late Sunday night and is not in the picture.
So, How is Billy?
There was some urgency to the "wish request" for Jason to visit Billy. I am sad to say that Billy's condition has worsened significantly, and we're not sure how much longer we'll have him around. I wanted to Jason to be able to see Billy, and I wasn't sure if after Christmas would be too late. Jason got to see Billy on Saturday. There has been a significant decline since then.
Billy's liver is starting to fail as his pain level continues to rise. His dose of dilaudid keeps increasing. There's not much else the medical team can do, other than try to make him as comfortable as possible.
We're working on one more wish for Billy. He never said it out loud, but everyone who has seen Billy and Buddy together know that Buddy is very special to him.
So we're working with Sam (Buddy's current caretaker and a new found friend) and Wish For Our Heroes to get Buddy to D.C. to see Billy. We've been working on it since last week, and the details are falling into place. My mom and I shared the plan with Billy this morning, and he grinned. It would be a very special Christmas present, so lease pray that everything would work out!
We have a few more prayer requests for now:
- Pain Management. There's a tricky balance between management of pain and excessive sleepiness. Billy's pain has jumped up a lot (even in the past few hours), and the doctors are trying to do what is best.
- Selling Billy's Jeep. He had planned to sell it while he was in Miami (on leave from the army, between his departure from Ft. Rucker and his arrival in Hawaii). We've posted the Jeep at cars.com. Please pray that the Jeep would sell (and feel free to spread the word!)
- Care for Billy. Please pray that we would know what Billy needs, even when he doesn't or can't tell us what that is.
- Christmas. It could be tough. Pray for grace and peace in our family, and creativity as we try to celebrate this year.
Thanks so much for everything. We could not do this without all of you!