By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Last month, Wili, a 12-year-old terrier mix, and his master, Father Bill Miller, left from New Orleans, Louisiana headed for Las Vegas, Nevada, and other stops including Oklahoma City for what is called “The Last Howlelujah Tour – Wili’s ‘Barket’ List – or more commonly known as a bucket list of last wishes. Fr. Bill will share stories from the Gospel According to Sam, Sinbad, Lili & Wili, all furry companions of the Episcopal priest.
Wili and Fr. Bill will appear at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 127 NW 7th Street in Oklahoma City on Sunday, July 9. Fr. Bill, as he’s affectionately called by friends, will preach at two services – at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. An informal chat and book signing will take place at 10:15 a.m. in the reception area in front of the church bookstore. Coffee and finger food will be provided.
Wili has been the four-legged companion of humorist author Fr. Bill for the past 11 years.
Last November, Wili, whose proper name is Nawiliwili Nelson (a combination of Miller’s affection for Hawaii, where he lived for 10 years, and his home state of Texas, i.e. Willie Nelson) was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma and given only three months to live.
Seven months later, after surgery, chemotherapy and holistic medicine, Wili is still active. Together they will take this last trip as a way of spending as much quality time as possible, says Miller.
“I remember the day he got sick and was diagnosed with cancer,” Miller said. “I broke down and sobbed because Wili and I have this unbelievable bond. The purpose of this tour is to enjoy and appreciate the time we have to together and help others ponder the gift of life, the gift of God and the gift of Dog, which I believe is God’s greatest gift.”
The leader of a large congregation in Covington, LA, a suburb of New Orleans. Fr. Bill has authored two books, “The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul” and “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God: The Whole and Holy Truth About Lager, Loving and Living.”
Those books and Miller’s desire to spend quality time with Wili have inspired this last tour for them together.
“Wili loves to travel, and the moment he sees a suitcase he just assumes he’s going somewhere,” Fr. Bill said. “I know my time with Wili is limited, so I thought the two of us would make one more trip. I had planned to travel this summer for book signings, so I just incorporated Wili into my planning, which currently includes stops and events in 16 different cities.”
On the tour the pair will visit Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico, ending their endeavor in Las Vegas, Wili’s second favorite city in the U.S., according to Bill.
For this special tour, Fr. Bill has been invited by churches, bookstores, and one brewery to host talks and book signings.
Miller’s first book, “The Gospel According to Sam,” is a collection of thirty animal stories which is dedicated to Fr. Bill’s Airedale, Sam, a lovable, “wounded healer.” Sam survived a house fire that burned off his ears but “couldn’t extinguish his spirit.”
Although there are some thought-provoking reflections in the book, the chapters will have you laughing out loud, says Bill. Among them are: Dog Spelled Backwards, Bite Me and A Lighter Shade of Tail.
Fr. Bill’s humor continues in his book, “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God” which includes chapters’ titled: Brewed Over Me and Distill Me, O Lord, Chicken Soup for the Hooters Girl’s Soul and WWJD: What Would Jesus Drink? Wili is featured in the Beer Drinker’s Guide as his “adventures and inadvertent spiritual insights”, are revealed in a story devoted entirely to him, titled, “My Wili.”
The tour will include a barbecue at each stop (Wili’s favorite) and will also allow both Bill and Wili to meet with special people and their furry companions along the way.
Fr. Bill and Wili also hope to raise awareness about animal rescue. Some of Fr. Bill’s talks will incorporate fundraising for animal rescue organizations in the city they are visiting. In Oklahoma City, the rescue will be Central Oklahoma Humane Society.
To learn more about Fr. Bill and follow the Wili tour visit Fr. Bill’s Facebook page.