I wanted to share with you what I wrote, and spoke at my older brother's Memorial in September. I think of him often with some days being harder than others. I didn't expect to get choked up on Mother's Day in church; but, I did and that's how grief rolls in. Thank you for journeying with me.
Welcome everyone. I’m Kamille, Willy’s sister. I wanted to thank you on behalf of my family for coming today to honor and celebrate Willy’s life. Today we come here with a mix of emotions and reflection on Willy’s life and death. Please know tears of sadness and joy are welcome here. Each and everyone of you have your own “Willy” stories. These memories & moments of him are unique and pockets of promise we often see in a rainbow. I personally feel honored to know Willy played a part in your story, and you in his. We would love to hear how Willy uniquely touched your life after the service.
In the meantime, I want to share with you some of my memories with my older brother Willy to get us started. All of my first memories include Willy. He was both my hero and my biggest nuisance. I mean, really, he wasn’t all glitz and glamour; because, I AM the little sister--perfect breeding ground for an older brother to pick on (smile). He was the master at knowing how to push just the right button to make me yell, “MOOOOMMM! Willy’s bothering me!!”
Growing up in Yuma, we had plenty of dry evenings calling out for us to play soccer in the front yard. Willy was often heard asking, “Kamille, you wanna go and play soccer in the front yard with me?” “No,” I would reply. “C’mon. It’ll be fun,” he’d say. “You always cheat! It’s no fun, because you end up slide tackling me and then pushing me out of the way to score the goal,” I would protest.
Willy was smart, so he convincingly said, “I promise I won’t do that. I’ll even let you and Andrew be on a team together. You’ll probably beat me. C’mon!” So what did I do? I obliged with a glimmer of hope. We would set up the orange cones and begin play to be ended with Willy side tackling and pulling Andrew and myself out of the way to score a goal.
Because let’s face it, a competitive spirit is not easily broken.
This transferred over in playing cards with him or board games. It’s why I liked playing War, because it was more on luck of the draw than actual strategy, so my chances of beating him were a bit higher.
And still, even though he was competitive and I longed for the day to beat my older brother at something, there was a comfort I took in it. It was knowing he was stronger and smarter than me, and would be able to look out for me. I still remember the day we were at the Yuma Territorial Prison with our church, and we got our parents to let us ride the trolley down to the historical building, which was right next to our family friend’s the Boeck’s house. We rode with Gerritt & Joe Boeck, Amber Doerr and us. We promised our parents to not get off the trolley. We would break that promise, because Willy assured me it was going to be okay. After what was only 30 minutes I was freaking out feeling like it was 5 hours and we would soon need to take up residence down by the bank of the Colorado River creating our very own Swiss Family Robinson. Not to mention the Boeck’s house was at the trolley drop off site or the trolley ran every 30 minutes. oh the life and imagination of a kid. We would board and come safely home.
But it was having Willy there, knowing he wouldn’t let any harm come to me. He would go to bat for me, take a punch in the face (quite literally) and always be present for me through life’s momentous events. He was the big brother who could somehow be what tales like Paul Bunyan are spun; because, somehow in my mind Willy could run faster than anyone, memorize and recite Scripture with ease and was the smartest person I knew--it just came so naturally to him.
And, it wasn’t just his “superhuman” feats. It was his heart. I would witness in youth group how there would be other guys who were less “cool” or the outcast, and Willy never used his status as a ticket for superiority. There was a socially awkward and clumsy kid we grew up with at Valley Baptist and all the youth guys would play basketball; but, not this guy. Willy would go out of his way to include him in game and sit with him. That’s just who Willy was--he was caring, loving, and compassionate. I’ll miss him something fierce, and wish we were here today celebrating his birthday with him present.
In the midst of his beautiful heart, he struggled with the broken song we often find in our daily steps in this world. Sometimes I think of how hard it was for him. It reminds me of JRR Tolkien’s Return of the King when Frodo with his innocence was battered by the evil of the ring. I’d like to read the dialogue between Frodo and his faithful friend Sam.
And so, we are left with Willy’s memory, and today we get to celebrate him through this humble offering of words and songs.