This Thanksgiving I am grateful to God for a very, very special Lakes Region friend - Bill Tierney.
Bill lived with his wife, Esther, in Standish. He was one of the most committed Christians I have ever met. He and I were close as companions in the Lord, as were our wives. So when we four went out together, it was genuinely a festive occasion.
I thank God for Bill's appreciation for nature - the Lord's environmental gift to those who have eyes to see.
"I'm going to pick you two up on Saturday morning at 10. Be ready. Don't ask any questions. Just plan on it being a whole day's affair."
Bill handed us the invitation. We waited till Saturday knowing that it would end up to a rare, treasured gift from a dear friend who cared about making us happy.
Bill knew more nooks and crannies in Southern Maine than anyone else I know. No doubt that is because he grew up here. So it was that we would be on our ways, Bill driving of course, to take in scenes we had never explored before. I was born and grew up in Maryland. Priscilla was born and grew up in Nova Scotia. Therefore, to be escorted around this impressive state was indeed a royal treat.
Bill's God was real to him. Therefore, when he saw a mountain that he filed away in his favorite memory bank, Bill called out to the rest of us: "Now see that over that! Did you ever take in a scene like that before in your whole life? What a God we serve!"
If we did not immediately stop talking, look where he pointed, Bill refused to be ignored. His invite was repeated in a slightly louder volume until we got the message. Because we knew Bill was crafting the day's excursion for our pleasure, we obliged quickly. With that, we were never disappointed.
Then around the next turn on some far-out country road, Bill pointed out an old barn that fit into his special memory bank. Or it would be a running brook or meadow or a roadside where he and Esther had come upon some deer. There were also those dirt roads where wild turkeys impeded his travel, such detailed as no hindrance at all. "There were three dozen of them!"
Bill adored God's world. Bill loved to share God's world with others. He was caught up in the Lord's handiwork more than anything else that surrounded him. The Creator's nature offering to mankind was definitely a prime jewel box in Bill's life.
Then when Bill became ill, it was our turn to pick him up for a Saturday drive to the hinterlands. We never planned the route for we could never choose that which would match up to Bill's unique agenda. So while we provided the chauffeuring, Bill charted the course.
I recall driving up Douglas Mountain to an apple orchard. What a time we had in meeting the new young owners. Bill fell right in line to specify for them the history of their fresh environs. Then of course we drove off with some choice apples for eating along the way.
How I miss Bill so very much, particularly during autumn. It was in this season especially that Bill scouted out the most colorful, peaceful hideaways. Sometimes we four took a picnic lunch. At other times Bill knew the restaurant perfect for our noontime meal. He was always on target.
As his days became more bleak on this turf, his travels outside his home were more precious to him. He was bored inside the house. So a return gift to Bill was to stop by his place, help him into the van, and then drive off somewhere. I knew that just getting out of the house was indeed a boon, let alone the surprises he had already arranged for our pastimes that day.
Then one day God took Bill home to the Forever Scene. That was a glorious moment for Bill. But it was a very down time for the rest of us.
However, it's Thanksgiving again.
And with this year's prayers, I thank God once again for the memories. They will never fade. And the ones Bill handed me are some of the richest. One of these moments I will see him again. And when I do, I will be sure to thank him for sharing his nature thanks to God with two close friends.
J. Grant Swank Jr.