The world lost a hero today. Did you hear about it?
Why would you? He wasn’t famous. He didn’t have a ton of money. He wasn’t on anything you would watch or listen to. He was just a guy.
His name was Wil.
Wil was my friend. I loved him very much. The kind of love that is borne out of time spent together, talking through the ups and downs of life. The kind of love that your heart reserves for those few people in life that affect you in profound ways. The kind of love that makes you a better person.
I met Wil several years ago at a local coffee shop. We were part of the same network and decided we should meet up and get to know each other. I remember walking in and shaking hands with this dude. Little did I realize or understand how he would help shape me into the person I am today.
Wil was a generous man. He laughed often and loved to talk about his wife and kids. He was incredibly fun. You couldn’t be around Wil very long and not laugh. Even if times were tough Wil knew how to brighten your day. He was just that guy.
People loved him. There’s no other way to put it. He was a people magnet. He was a youth minister and his teens loved him. And not just because he could kick your butt in PS3—which he could—but because they knew that he genuinely loved them right back. I can’t tell you how many times he talked to me about one of his teens. He would talk about wondering if he said the right thing or if he should have done something differently. They were always on his heart.
His children loved him. How could they not? Wil was a get down on the floor and wrestle dad. You know the ones. Maybe your dad was that way or you knew someone’s dad that was that way. Wil was that dad. He loved them fiercely. He would do anything and everything for his kids including telling them “No”.
He understood that parenting isn’t always about fun but about raising children into loving responsible adults. His face would light up and he would grin from ear to ear as he talked about what they had down that week or as he showed me pictures of some new adventure. He was a natural at it and it showed.
And oh how he loved his wife. I’m not sure I know how to put into words how he loved his wife. She was his sun and moon. She was the first to hear of new thoughts or ideas. She was his sounding board and most trusted advisor. He leaned on her first and listened to her best. She had his heart, ear, and mind. He often told me how blessed he felt to have her as his wife. He would go on and on and on. It was enough to make you sick! But he couldn’t help it, he was a man that was hopelessly in love and there was nothing to be done. He loved his wife and it showed.
And as amazing as all of those things are, and they are amazing, it’s not necessarily what made him a hero. He was a hero because he left this earth better than when he got here. This place is better because he was here! He didn’t just stroll through life, he rocked it! People’s lives are changed for the better because they crossed paths with Wil.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that he started something called Love Out Loud. Each summer Wil would take volunteers from all over the Midwest and go to sections of St. Louis, MO that needed help. Wil would set up work projects for the volunteers and by the end of that work week that section of St. Louis was transformed. What was once run down was now built up. He saw a need and he did something about it.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that Wil spent countless hours pouring into the lives of families all over St. Charles County. Students are alive today because Wil took the time to listen and then take action. Entire families are together because Wil was there for them when they needed him.
Wil was Superman to me. I know that he was just a regular guy. And I know that he messed up just like everyone else, he got mad at dumb stuff, he said dumb things to people and did dumb stuff just like you or me. But he was different.
Have you ever met someone like that? You couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was, but you intrinsically knew that something was different about that person. That was Wil. I knew that I could go to him with anything and he would listen, without judgment, and tell me the thing I needed (not always wanted) to hear. Many times he would offer advice saturated with wisdom beyond his years. He has guided me to better decisions than almost anyone on this planet.
Wil died suddenly today (November 1, 2012). And because he was such a hero to so many, the news shook us to our core. He has left a gaping wound in our hearts and lives. We are different people because we were graced with this man’s presence and now that presence is gone.
Here yesterday and gone today.
Life is fleeting. Hug your children and tell them you love them. Kiss your husband, wife or significant other often and let them know how you truly feel. Tell your friends how much you honestly need them. Do not let another second go by before you make amends or reach out or forgive or whatever it is you need to do. Please don’t waste another breath on something you will regret.
Wil was a hero to so many people. He was also a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and a teacher. Wil took those roles seriously and lived them to their fullest. But when I think back on my time with Wil there is only one word that comes to mind:
I love you brother. I’ll see you again, no doubt.