William “Bill” Froelich believed in me before I knew what I was going to do.
I met Bill at a five-day retreat, where there were designated silent periods: during meals, the transition time between sessions and evenings through to dawn. These were the windows of space to meditate, observe, bring awareness to the simple acts of breathing, walking.
Walking at that time, however, was no simple act. It was before my diagnosis but well after symptoms had appeared. I was not on any meds. My pace was slow; my fears – of falling, of what was happening in my body – were high. Each step took all of my attention as I focused on the movement and the dips in the ground beneath me. When I learned that walking meditation involves just that, I found it oddly delightful to be surrounded by so many people taking as much effort to walk.
Bill had noticed. He’d also witnessed as I silently negotiated my way through a salad. I remember the challenge posed by trying to stab a cherry tomato.
Bill approached me afterward in a non-silent space. His pale blue eyes danced in deep crow’s feet. “You have such determination,” he said. “You’ll be okay.” With that, I burst into tears. He stood there in the hallway crying with me as people passed between the cafeteria and the bookstore. We introduced ourselves, starting to talk in low tones. We talked again later and again after that. We even resorted to scribbling on napkins, passing notes at lunch.
Bill championed my venture into yoga and studying to be an instructor. I could hear him beaming over the phone when my yoga book came out. His emails were always short, but always filled with his enthusiasm.
Bill passed away this spring. I miss him, his raspy voice his cheerful messages.
Thank you, Bill, for believing in me.