Goodbye, Too Soon
by Jonathan Sullivan
(Vergennes, VT, USA)
Thank you for being here today.
I want to quickly thank everyone in our large, loving community who have helped us in so many ways over the past weeks. Your help, your conversation, your laughs, and your hugs have kept our family strong during this time of grief.
William Joseph Sullivan. What did you call him? Dad? Brother? Papa? Uncle Bill? Billy? Farmer Bill, Wild Bill? Slick Willy? Something else? He was called so many things by so many people. I was lucky enough to be his nephew and he was UNCLE BILL to me and my many cousins.
The void created by the sudden death of someone as beloved as Uncle Bill is still hard to grasp. He was someone we took for granted would be around for much longer. His laughs, his yelling, his help … I can still see his smile and thumbs up.
Uncle Bill was born to my grandparents Kenneth and Mary Sullivan, multi-generational Vermont farmers, and he grew up down the road in Panton on that same dairy farm. Uncle Bill was raised like many earlier Vermont families. The middle-child of five, he had 2 older brothers (my uncles) Mike and Jim at the helm steering him and 2 younger siblings in training, brother John and sister Kathy (my father and my aunt).
Alongside his immediate siblings, Uncle Bill forged lifelong friendships with numerous cousins as they traveled up from Connecticut for the summers and helped on the farm in Panton. Summertime with cousins Cal, Brian, Craig and Paul and many others were rife with adventure.
I was lucky enough to be born into this fun, exciting, close-knit family and I quickly learned why cousins and family are the fabric of life. Uncle Bill was keenly aware that close family, when given a chance to explore and create together, will forge special bonds FOR LIFE. He adored us all and encouraged this constantly. From deer camp to duck camp, from ice-fishing to boating on the lake, from shooting guns to driving 4 wheelers, he always took us along and shared what he knew. This was where we learned from him, out in the fields, streams and woods of Vermont.
He understood the importance of being outdoors and passing on knowledge from the land. All you had to do was show some interest and his face would light up and he would start talking your head off.
Even a daily, seemingly mundane topic was something he could discuss at length until you found yourself 30 minutes late for whatever it is you were doing. “Thanks! But I really gotta run now!” These interactions were valued equally by Uncle Bill. He sincerely wanted to know how your day was going and if he could help in any way.
This is uncommon in our “busy-busy” culture nowadays, but he knew these moments were the gold nuggets of life.
Uncle Bill - The Caregiver
- Father of two kids: Kenny, Kevin, and 10 boats.
- Grandpapa to Mac, Meghen, Kenny, Eagan, Kaelin
- Father to Lynne’s kids: Justin, Dannon, Zach
- Husband to Lynne and Jo-anne
Always catered to his brothers
- Mike - daily schemes - for example: giant yard sale of collected free stuff
- Jim - made sure the last visits to deer camp were memorable
- John - he’d help him with whatever
He looked after my Grandmother, before and after her stroke.
Did you know? He had a secret medical degree.
He could fix any cut with electrical or duct tape.
He would always question every doctor, every nurse, and any diagnosis for you.
Uncle Bill - The Teacher
- How to fix something
- How to love the mundane
- How to live in the moment
- How to have fun doing anything with a smile
- How to not worry about the consequences
- How to swear (He was really good at that.)
We miss him.
Because he’s not there to care for us.
Because he’s not there to teach us.
Because he’s not there to be in the outdoors with.
Because he’s not there to argue with.
Because he’s not there to share a drink.
Because he’s not there to laugh with.
Because he’s not there…..
No, now he’s somewhere else, with his mom, his dad, his brothers. And now they get to laugh and argue with him. And say “Well, that’s Bill for you!”