Normally these blog posts are to talk about Pilates or GYROTONIC or good healthy living. Today I need to talk about Bill, a man who has significantly changed my life for the better. And isn’t that part of the Body Mind Spirit that the Pilates Method teaches us to strive for?
It is with a heavy and sad heart that I announce the sudden passing away of one of my longest-term clients and my very close friend, Bill Jones. Bill died on Friday 13 November, just 6 days after his 33rd birthday. His funeral will be on Thursday 26 November 10.30am at Karrakatta. His wake will be happening afterward noon-4pm at The Oxford Hotel, Mt Hawthorn (just up from the studio).
I was one of the last people to see him on the day he died. He came as usual for his Friday morning session but only stayed 30 minutes before needing to take off for home. He and I worked hard to develop our relationship and though I wanted him to stay longer, he was ultimately in control of his life. It was important for me to let him ‘make the calls’ as to when he came or left. When he left that day, I had no idea it would be the last time I would see him or chat with him.
Everyone Knows Bill
Everyone at Revolution (and most of my family and friends outside the studio) knows Bill. He was a constant presence in our studio, coming 2-3x per week for over 11 years. His persistence in working to recover from his injury was remarkable and though at times he was frustrated with his progress, he kept pushing his limits with a cheeky yet serious approach.
You always knew when he was in the studio. His laugh was epic. His sense of humour was incredible, but you had to get comfortable with his liberal use of the ‘f’ word. Training in the studio when Bill was there was always good fun. And when I confronted him for his over-zealous use of colourful language, he always apologised to the entire room. Not that he ever stopped using that language, but we knew he was trying. At the least, we realised it was as much a part of his persona as his need to ask everyone their name and to give you a hug if you needed it.
His Own Man
He was the epitome of the ‘rough diamond’, a real gentleman that missed being able to muck around on shark boats or at his previous jobs up North at the mines. He made a brief entry into the world of university this year, but I think his heart was only ever going to be full if he was allowed to be strong and physical and sweaty.
He had a pretty tough series of disabilities that made him dependant on a motorised wheelchair and the help of an assisted living situation. But he did everything possible to be independent. He used to cook for the other tenants at the Brightwater facility, and helped tend a garden full of vegetables there. He loved going to the annual Big Day Out concerts with a carer to help him. He was a movie addict and used to attend the cinema with his mum Ann most weeks. He would regularly get in trouble for taking off from Brightwater to go shopping, even planning his cab trips for his Pilates sessions to happen at least an hour earlier than necessary so he had time to travel around the Mt Hawthorn area, flirting shamelessly with the ladies at the shops.
Part of that need for independence spilled over into occasional altercations with carers and his family. I think everyone understood that he was just showing his frustration and needed to be his own man. I’m sure it wasn’t always pleasant to be the recipient of that anger. Saying that, Bill never EVER yelled or cussed at me and always treated me with the utmost respect. Oh, we had a few words over times I thought he’d overstepped our boundaries but we always left those conversations knowing that we both cared deeply for each other. He used to say that he loved having me as his ‘gay friend’ and used to laugh that I had magical fairy powers to help him with his Pilates. From someone else, I might find that insulting but from Bill it was high praise. In fact, I think he was one of the most tolerant people I have ever met.
We loved each other very much. I know he knew that.
Deep Laughter. Deep Sadness.
Bill was always full of laughter, finding humour in just about any situation. His laugh was deep and infectious. He didn’t suffer people being sad all of the time. “Toughen up, buttercup” was heard from him alot. One of his Saturday morning traditions was to ask his teacher Sandra Botica or myself what witty, silly, cheeky thing he would say as he wheeled himself through the middle of the Group Class taking place in the back of the studio after his session. We’d wind him up like a toy and then send him barrelling through the class…then wait to hear the peals of laughter from the students coming through the glass doors.
With that deep sense of humor, though, came a very deep sadness. Bill missed his dad, his grandpop and his uncle very terribly. His dad died extremely suddenly but they all passed away close in time to each other. This left a massive hole in his heart and I think he struggled to fill it. He also struggled with the reality of being in his wheelchair. Unless you’ve lived that life, it’s hard to imagine how hard this can be. I have been fortunate to work with folks with disabilities and every one of them deals with their life in a different way. In Bill’s case, his disabilities came later in his life, a life that he constantly referred to with longing. He agreed that he was a better person now; confronting his current life meant he had to change the way he had been. It forced him to be more tolerant, more understanding, more patient. But no one can really say that it was a reasonable trade off or the only way this could have been achieved. It was his reality and we all tried to help him make that journey better.
But it was tough, even for a man as brave and strong as Bill was.
I lost my brother, Grant, in August to suicide. It was completely unexpected and shocking on all levels. I will be processing this over the rest of my life. Bill’s passing has had a similar effect on me. I am angry, sad, confused, lonely…so many emotions passing through me. I know I will not just remember the happy memories of Grant and Bill. I also have many sad and upsetting memories that haunt me.
And it’s ok. They are humans and I will not try and pretend that their beauty comes only from the ‘happy’ parts of who they are. Like us all they were flawed, desperately glorious humans. I honor Bill by talking about the fullness of him, to try and understand him and to use that knowledge to help me with my relationships and my own struggles. If you knew Bill, please pass your story on to others.
Depression & Beyond Blue
In particular, my wish is that we all understand more about depression. To that end, I have put a link into the newsletter of this post to Beyond Blue for anyone to learn more about depression, maybe to help anyone reading this that might be suffering, and to encourage you to donate to this organisation on behalf of Bill, to possibly help those in need.
Here’s that link again: Donate to Beyond Blue In Memory of Bill Jones.
I miss you, Bill. Please be happy with your Dad and find time to come to the studio and give us all a hug any time.
Postscript 29 Nov 2015
I got this emailed to me by one of our long-term staff, Sandra, who worked with Bill privately on Saturday’s the past year. She was as devastated as the rest of us at the time of hearing the bad news. Since then, she’s been trying to understand what this means to her and to us at Revolution. Here is her way of making sense of it. Thank you, Sandra. He loved his “Bogan Pilates teacher” and I feel so lucky to have you and all of our amazing team here.
Just thought I would reawaken the memory of our dear friend, Bill.
Do you know how many years I spent watching you, in awe, as you lifted Bill onto the reformer, adjusting him, padding him carefully onto the cadillac, pulling up his tracksuit pants, taking off his shoes and money belt, checking and changing his urine bag, brushing off the crumbs from his t-shirt and trousers, adjusting his bag, belt and backside in that insane chair of his. These are the things you just did for a friend whom you loved dearly. Only to have the cheeky shit mouth a few foul phrases, laugh from the happiest depths of his heart and shake uncontrollably from the hysteria that you both created in the studio with your crazy conversations.
Sharing your critique of movies, you with your in depth analysis and Bill with his open, honest and raw conclusions about his weekly entertainment. Drawing in our beautiful clientele into the conversation so that each member felt the need to share their ‘two bob’ about the movie. Then there were the ‘inappropriate’ comments that often left many gobsmacked and confronted as the cheeky git forgot to turn his ‘in the presence of focused client’ radar on. You cleverly guiding conversations into a more wicked train of thought. Yes, you did! These are some of the things that made your friendship with Bill so special. How much did he love you, this he said often and I know you loved him!
What the hell are we gonna do without him. Just far too tender to really look you in the eye and let you know how much this hurts, as I know your heart would be broken!
How much do you know, I dare not ask, as he certainly did allude to some harsh memories and he always had the intention of leaving us.
That alone was not the burden, we can’t imagine what it is like to wait out the front of a studio, even when he rammed the door by accident, just so he could enter his home, Revolution Pilates Studio, your business! With its sassy gals, snazzy blokes, eclectic and unique members. This club is one worth being part of and I hope that it continues to grow in its reputation as ‘THE PILATES’ studio in Perth.
You gave me a lifeline of motivation this year by allowing me to work with Bill, that I will be forever grateful for. Pilates is my passion and your studio is where this love and knowledge has grown.
What perspective we can gain from such beautiful and fragile humans, like Bill.
My heart would pound at the thought of him waiting for someone to lift him in and out of bed, dressing, showering, finding worthwhile things to do with the oodles of time that each day provides.
Oh, how you would get grumpy in winter and hand me a brush for his wheels. The wave through the carpet as he accelerated to and fro, doing what we called ‘brogies’ and ‘donuts’ in your studio. I’ll educate you about a bogan’s life. Just wish he and I had left a few tyre tread marks in your car park. This was our plan.
How he gave love so freely. Not a care for who you are, what you do, where you go. Just pure unadulterated care for others.
Dribbling coffee down his beard, giggling, trying to drag your hand next to his face so he could rub his beard against your hand, scary!
I love Bill, HEAPS, that you know and I love working in your studio. My oath to Bill, may he rest in peace is to continue the work I love. I hope you also continue to see the excellence you inspire with your knowledge and skills as a pilates instructor and as a friend to so many.
Kick some ass, nobbo!