Bill was a popular news commentator for a prominent Philadelphia radio station in the 1960s. For a number of years Fran and I began our day with Bill as a welcomed visitor in our home.
The radio alarm would sound and there was Bill’s magnificent voice broadcasting the morning news. He was the first to inform us of the daily litany of disasters, atrocities and celebrations of life. Sometimes he turned our world upside down with the news of the day. We still vividly remember his emotion-filled broadcast of the assassination of Robert Kennedy.
Some years later I was introduced to Bill. It was a delight to meet this warm and personable celebrity. We were brought together as Laity in the United Methodist Church to work on a special project for the Bishop of our Conference. This was a volunteer assignment but we met often and got to know each other quite well. We became close friends and enjoyed sharing our dreams and our view of life. So many of our values and attitudes about life were in common that we bonded very naturally.
After a couple of years of working on the Bishop’s project Bill announced that his career was taking him to New England. Before moving to his new assignment he called and asked if he could stop by some Saturday. I was delighted that he considered me for a farewell visit. In anticipation of our meeting I arranged for all of our children to be occupied with activities. My wife, Fran, also discreetly found something to do so Bill and I could have an uninterrupted visit.
It was a remarkably warm and sunny spring day. Bill arrived carrying something in a brown paper bag that he handled with great respect. We retired to my front porch whereupon he carefully placed the brown bag on the coffee table in front of him. Slowly, almost ritualistically, he opened the bag and produced two small glasses followed by a sizable brown jug. Bill ceremoniously hefted the jug and poured a tiny portion of a golden nectar into each of the glasses. He handed me a glass. We clicked our glasses and toasted life and friendship.
I took my first sip of honey wine.
Thus began a journey of many hours and many sips. We deliberated the problems and opportunities of humanity. We were bold and expansive in our thinking. We sipped. Our design for life on planet earth became outright utopian. We cursed the wicked and blessed the righteous, and took another sip.
We lamented disappointments of the past and expressed our fears over uncertainties of the future. But, we also delighted in exploring the possibilities and potential of what may unfold in our lifetime. We shared personal aspirations for our lives and careers. Optimism prevailed over pessimism. We decried all that is evil and unholy and celebrated all that is righteous and virtuous in this world. We lifted our classes for another sip.
I remember that we wrestled mightily with profound questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Can there really be a just and fair existence? Does God really care? The sips of honey wine emboldened us as we explored vast questions of the human experience.
God played heavily in our deliberations. We expressed sentiments about the Creator that ranged from magnificent awe to heated anger and back to awe. In a moment of quiet introspection there would be another sip of honey wine.
We celebrated the beauty and abundance that God has provided. We marveled at the gifts of God’s Grace, love, family, honest work and all manner of wondrous things. And yes, we celebrated the gift of honey wine.
Bill averred that honey wine has been a favorite of many cultures since the time of the ancients. Jesus elected to perform his first public miracle, the turning of water into wine, at the wedding feast in Cana. Bill assured me with great certainty and a wink that Jesus must have produced honey wine.
Before our clarity of thought began to slip away we concluded that life is like a sip of honey wine. At its best life is a celebration of warmth, sweetness and joy. Sipping the golden elixir of honey wine celebrates what is best in life.
We pledged to pay more homage to what really counts in our lives – God, our loves, friendships, smiles, songs, the smell of roses, sunshine, fresh spring rains, risks and adventures.
We talked and sipped as the morning gave way to afternoon. Seeking to discover the possibilities and potential of the human spirit is exhilarating yet exhausting, especially under the mystical influence of honey wine. After many hours of intense and far-reaching explorations we enjoyed our last sip of the remarkable elixir. The jug was dry. Without voicing it, we both knew that our visit was complete. We said our “good byes” and Bill drove away. I never saw him in person again.
We corresponded for a few years but we both got caught up in the frenzy of life and eventually lost touch. It is my sincere hope that Bill has celebrated life fully and experienced many joys and blessings as sweet as honey wine.
I thank Bill for sharing a remarkable day of questing and searching for truth. We may have sold our logic and rationality to the honey wine that beautiful spring day, but our souls were richer for it. The experience was absolutely cathartic. I still remember it vividly some 40 years later.
And now and then I take a sip of honey wine and toast Bill and that truly memorable day of so long ago.