“I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”
— Chuang Tse
I remember meeting William on our first production read-through rehearsal for the show in Branson. That seems like light years ago, 20-ish to be exact.
I remember learning who he was and laughing and drinking Orang-o-Tangs at McGuffey’s after the show with him.
I remember nearly peeing my pants when he decided to black out his two front teeth as his time to serenade an audience member came about, turning his head first to us girls singing background vocals for him for the song “Hello Darlin’” and grinning from ear-to- ear.
I also remember sitting at my computer on September 11 catching up on Facebook and reading the post his partner had put up earlier that day as he broken-heartedly offered up the sad news of William’s passing. I was stunned…William was my age. He had struggled beyond what many of us wanted to believe about him. His life was a roller coaster but we all enjoyed our time spent with him and felt loved when he was around, I know I did.
Those days at Silver Dollar City in Branson were some of my favorite ones to date. The idea that I was getting paid to sing professionally and to be alongside cast mates that accepted me for everything I was was a gift that I have never taken lightly. I believe we all dreamed of being sensational country music artists, touring the world and making music on a larger scale than just the Echo Hollow Ampitheatre. But in the end, we all went our ways and diversified our futures in ways we simply didn’t know about at the young ages of our 20-somethings.
I drove around in a daze for the remainder of the day after finding out about William. Six months later, I still think of him almost daily and have a mix of emotions. We had talked on social media but hadn’t seen one another face-to-face in years. I knew, however, that if I had phoned him at 3 AM to help me bury a body, he’d have been there with no questions asked.
William’s passing left such a huge ripple in an ocean of lives. It taught me a good deal about how temporary things can be but how permanent we can make them. The day I decided I was through with pursuing music full-time was as fleeting as his leaving. Something so permanent was quickly moved in me in close to an instant, I just knew it was time. I can’t explain it any other way than to justify I felt a need to move that piece of myself to the sidelines. My choices and life experiences to that point had certainly changed me.
But I still sing in the car. And I do karaoke. And I can’t wait to take my youngest daughter out to sing with me (maybe we would be the next Judd’s duo!). And I still reminisce about my opportunities in Branson and then in Nashville. And I won’t lie, I’d still jump at the chance to perform full time at age 44 even after sidelining the full-time musical gig. There’s definitely a freedom that music allots a person.
And William, you are greatly missed.