A Thank-You Letter to the Town of Davidson
My father, Bill Williams, or Doctor Bill as he was widely known in Davidson, passed away early in the morning on Monday, March 15. He had been diagnosed with Stage IV ampullary cancer in December. Family and friends were unable to visit him in the hospital, because of protocol during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we all stayed in touch with him over the phone. On one of my calls with him, he told me that he did not want me to travel during the pandemic. This made sense from a public health and personal safety perspective, and we agreed this is what I would do. We all understood the magnitude of his diagnosis, that ultimately no one overcomes this cancer at this stage, but it was in keeping with ethical pandemic practices to handle things this way. As anyone who knew him is aware, one of my father’s greatest strengths was his sense of medical ethics, and he also did not want to worry about his son and daughter-in-law, Sun, traveling during a pandemic.
Our choice proved harder as the days went on. For the first weeks and months, Sun and I were able to keep in touch with my dad directly, but his energy for speaking on the phone waned, and after a while we were mainly speaking to my mom, Margo, my brother, Dan, or our sister-in-law, Brittany, with the occasional word or two from my dad. But, from everything they told us, we understood that he and my mom were in good hands. The rest of our family was with him, which included daily attention to him and my mom from Dan, Brittany, and my aunt and uncle, Harriet and Steve Kessler, and on top of that, it felt like the entire town of Davidson showed up to care for both of my parents.
Every time I spoke with someone there, I heard accounts of neighbors and friends showing up with food, helping out with chores and tasks, or stopping by to check in. And everyone was cognizant and aware of the pandemic, and did an excellent job of navigating the additional social distancing and safety challenges COVID-19 had imposed on all of us. This incredible support from the community started in 2020, while my dad was in the hospital, and is still going strong in the wake of his passing. This has contributed immeasurably to mine and Sun’s peace of mind, thousands of miles away. It was easier to accept the circumstances and cope with my father’s passing knowing that the town and the friendships my parents had forged were there for my family in his final days. I hope everyone knows that I will be grateful for that for the rest of my life. I will never forget this time and what the love of the community for my mom and dad has meant to me, and to everyone close to him.
I also wish to extend my gratitude for the professionalism and excellent care provided by Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Area, where my father finished out his career in medicine. And to Pam and Steve Mange, who went above and beyond as friends and medical colleagues, to supplement his hospice care and look after my mom.
A book by Hillary Clinton, and the US political discourse it sparked in the 1990s, popularized an African proverb that says, “it takes a village to raise a child.” That saying always resonated with me, but I do not believe the village’s role ends at childhood. The village is with us our whole lives, helping us thrive, and when each of us reaches the end of our journey, it takes a village to say goodbye. My parents’ village participated when it came to raising me and my brother as children. It provided my parents opportunities for a lifetime of happiness together after my brother and I left home, and it rose to the occasion, once more, to help my mother bid farewell to my father. I’m glad my parents made the choice over 40 years ago to live in Davidson, and I hope Davidsonians are proud of the community they have built and sustained together.