In Memoriam: William Harold Yates (1962-2011)

Christmas 2010 @ First Baptist, Marion, Arkansas
Christmas 2010 @ First Baptist, Marion, Arkansas | Source

WHY

Dear Billy,

Tonight,

A late night train blew through

And I remembered Casey Jones—and you.

“Mr. Yates, I presume,” I had said when we met;

“Indeed, Ms. Green.” Oh, I’ll never forget.

White squirrels of Kenton and Crockett’s mother’s grave.

Mel Brooks and Birmingham and the great levee save.

There was only one man in that barbershop quartet

Who with one gentle kiss could make me forget.

You know the answer to the question now

And at least I do in part--

You were put here on this earth for me--

To mend my broken heart.

--C.H. Green @ November 7, 2011

Memphis Flood 2011

His Friends Called Him "Bull"

I met Billy Yates on October 9, 2010. Our first date was lunch at Olive Garden, and then we took a tour of the Casey Jones Museum. October 9th was the anniversary of my father's death, who was a railroad foreman for the Illinois Central. Of course, Billy didn't know that, but I found it very fitting that we were touring a train museum on the day of my dad's death. During that tour we happened to meet a gentleman who remembered my father and had worked with him at one time. So, from that very first day I knew Billy was going to be someone special in my life. It was like a nod from my daddy of sorts. And indeed, Mr. Yates, you were and continue to be a special person in my life. I called him "Baby." My son called him, "Billy Joe." His friends called him "Bull." And God called him home.

Billy Yates was my fiance. We got engaged shortly before Christmas in 2010. Having only known him a few months when we got engaged, I felt we were moving too fast; so I gave him his ring back until I was ready to move forward. He told me I could have it back at any time, that there was no rush...that he loved me and would wait. That was in February 2011. It was not a bad breakup. In fact, it didn't feel like a breakup at all. If he harbored any ill will, I never knew it. He was patient and understanding of where I had come from and the heartbreak I was healing from, and we continued to see each other. Billy lived 92 miles from me, so I did not have the luxury of seeing him every day, or even every weekend. But we made the most of our time together making sweet memories, and I would like to think that his last year on earth was full of good ones.

There was no question in my mind of Billy's love for me. He had kissed away my tears on more than one occasion. His quirky sense of humor brought me much needed laughter. It was good to love again and be loved. I will never forget that laugh of his...or that beautiful singing voice. Our road trip to Birmingham to meet his son was spent singing his favorite gospel songs and my reading my novel to him. (How he had to have suffered from that).

Billy worked at the St. Francis Levee District in West Memphis, Arkansas. In May of 2011, there was so much flooding along the Mighty Mississippi that everyone was worried about the levees holding. See Youtube video to the right. Billy was confident that the levees would hold and every day would give me updates on the water levels. It was a flood of historical proportions and comparable to the great flood of 1927, with the water level just a mere foot below the 48.7 feet it was in 1927. He survived the great flood of 2011, but sadly was taken from us a few short months later.

Our last road trip was with my son the weekend before school started back. We visited the home of the white squirrels in Kenton, Tennessee--traveled a little farther north to see one of Davey Crockett's homes in Rutherford, Tennessee, and then traveled up to Martin, Tennessee to have dinner at The Hearth. That was a very good day.

Billy died suddenly and tragically of what was thought to be a heart attack at his home sometime the weekend of October 15, 2011. His neighbors found the weekend papers in the drive and called the landlord. Billy was gone. What a shock to me, as I had spoken to him that Friday night. "Take care," I had said. So many other things left hanging in mid air...no thought that this might be the last conversation. So many questions...Why did it happen? When did it happen? Was it instant? Did he suffer? Why hadn't I just married him? What was I scared of? I can't answer all those questions. But I know the answer to one. I know why, in part, you were put on this earth, and that was to show me that there is life after a broken heart, that love comes unexpectedly, that laughter is the best medicine--and that music of the soul heals many wounds.

I will miss you William Harold Yates. I will miss your kind eyes and sweet words. I will miss your "Hello Beautiful..." I know that you suffered with your diabetes and those awful migraines. I know that your suffering has ended and you are at peace. The birds sang the day of your funeral, and I couldn't help but think that your song in heaven was so much sweeter than these songbirds on earth. Indeed, heaven's sounding sweeter all the time.

Heaven's Sounding Sweeter--Jimmy Swaggart

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