My friend, Bill Meiggs, is in the middle of this photo. At the left is Josh Lyman and at the far right is Dan Nokes. I took this picture in 2010 while all four of us were attending one of the very first Virginia Comic Con 2-day shows they ever held.

Today, I just learned Bill lost his long fought battle with cancer and it’s hit me a lot harder than I expected.

Bill and I met a year before this picture was taken and, like many other artists that are already making Facebook and Twitter posts about him, we met in Artist Alley at a previous one day Virginia Comic Con show. It was one of those meetings where you knew you’d have a friend for life. And, even though Bill and I only saw one another at various conventions in artists alleys throughout the years, it was always like time didn’t matter.

Bill always, always ALWAYS had a huge smile on his face – even when many of his fellow artists, like myself – knew about his battles with cancer. Whenever we were going to be at the same show together, once I got my table set up, Bill would  always be one of the first people I sought out when I started walking around the convention floor. It didn’t really seem like a true convention until I had a chance to be greeted by Bill’s big, mustached grin.

Bill was a terrific inker and artist in his own right but when he wasn’t doing conventions, he was saving lives as a Chesapeake Fireman. That is pretty dang heroic in itself but the way Bill fought such a valiant and courageous fight with cancer – always with a smile on his face – that was probably even more incredibly heroic. It was f-you-know-what heroic to me, any way.

Dan Nokes mention on his Facebook wall that as long as he’s known Bill – and he knew Bill a few years longer than I – Bill had always battled cancer. As I said, the picture above was taken in 2010 and even though Bill hadn’t known me for all that long, that weekend, he shared with me some of the things he had dealt with. I believe his cancer was in remission at the time and it was good to hear such a positive story. But then, as the years progressed, it slowly returned. Bill shared a lot of his struggles on Facebook… his chemo treatments, his medical checkups, his ups, his downs… but he almost always ended all of his posts with some kind of upbeat, positive vibe. And then you’d see him sitting behind a table in an artist alley and you’d just silently appreciate that you got one more chance to say hello or, in our case, hug one another and share one more great laugh.

And now… I’m left realizing, whenever I go back to a show that Bill and I both tabled at… all of those shows will now seem just a little sadder, a little lonelier, a little less cheerful because I won’t ever get the chance again to share a smile, a hug or a laugh with my good friend, Bill Meiggs.