There has been such an overwhelming outpouring of support from so many, that on behalf of my family, I want to say, “Thank You!” Though each experience is unique, those of you who have suffered through something like this, a loss of a loved one, especially under senseless and tragic circumstances, understand what Kim, Hannah, Emily and I, along with Wil’s wife, Maria, are going through. The support, the expressions of sympathy and empathy, and the faith you’ve shared are appreciated. I sincerely mean that.
Wil has a unique story and had a unique journey.
At the age of five, at least on two occasions that we know of, Wil was taken to an open-air market in Guatemala and abandoned by his birth mother. Yes, at the age of five. But each time, Wil found his way back home. Clearly unwanted by his birth mother for some unfathomable reason, Wil had scars from cigarette burns, had boiling water poured onto his back, and had a scar on the crown of his left foot because it was stepped on by someone with a stiletto heel. The reports from the adoption agency stated that his birth mother was an alcoholic, drug abusing, prostitute. One night Wil overheard a lawyer speaking to his birth mother about how she might earn some money if she placed one or more of her children up for adoption. Wil volunteered. Yes, seriously. He volunteered.
Wil was supposed to arrive in time for Kim’s and my wedding, but paperwork moves slowly, and our government and then the Guatemalan government put up a hurdle or two, so he didn’t make it in time. A year later on November 11th, Kim gave birth to Hannah. One month and one day later on December 12th, I flew to Guatemala to get Wil to bring him home. So there Kim and I were suddenly with two children: a one month old and a seven year old, neither speaking English, and our Spanish was really bad. So we became tri-lingual of sorts: English, Spanish, and Charades. A lot of charades, but it worked for us.
Wil overcame a language barrier. He had no formal education before coming to us and was illiterate in his native Spanish. He couldn’t write or read, but that never stopped him.
When we spoke to him in Spanish, he would try to answer in English. We tried to encourage him to keep his Spanish, but he stated later in life that it reminded him too much of the past. He wanted to put it behind him.
Persistent. Very persistent.
Wil overcame a learning disability. What took other kids a short time to do, Wil spent hours doing.
I remember one story from his special education case carrier. One day in his resource class, there were kids not working and just screwing around as some students might do. The teacher was working with another student at the time and had asked the couple of kids to stop and get to work. They didn’t, so Wil took it into his own hands. From what the teacher told us, Wil lost his temper and told those students about his background, that he had to work for everything he received and that these couple of students were wasting his and the teacher’s time. He told them to be quiet and get busy or leave the room, actually standing up as he told them this. The students stopped what they were doing and got to work. From that point on, if those students got out of hand, Wil would stop what he was doing, stare at them, and they would get to work.
Earlier this week, I received a message from one of Wil’s English teachers, Cindy. She relayed the story of Wil’s report on the novel, Catcher In The Rye. Wil didn’t particularly care for the book, and liked the main character, Holden Caulfield, even less. Wil referred to him as a “whiner.” Hmmm . . . from Wil’s perspective, I can see where he was coming from.
You know, it isn’t easy being the ‘Principal’s Kid’. To a greater or lesser degree, Wil, Hannah, and Emily have it somewhat harder than some. In some eyes, anything one of them might earn, it was because they were the ‘Principal’s Kid’. Hannah was actually told once by a teacher that she “can’t get by on her cutesy smile, because her daddy wasn’t going to be around forever . . .” Nice, huh? Emily was told by some kids at school that she is a starter on the varsity soccer team because she is the ‘Principal’s Kid’. Just great, huh?
To Wil’s, Hannah’s, and Emily’s credit, they have never ever played the ‘Principal’s Kid’ card. What they earned, they did it on their own, and in their own unique way.
Wil, very much so. He struggled. But Wil persisted and overcame. He set a wonderful example for both Hannah and Emily, which is why they are and forever will be, close. Always!
Wil overcame a language barrier and graduated from high school. He graduated from college. The week he was shot and killed, Wil was offered a full-time job and was so excited about it.
On July 11th, Kim and I celebrated our twenty-second wedding anniversary. Wil called to wish us a happy anniversary, and we could tell he was so excited about his new job.
Then one day later, on the afternoon of July 12th, Wil was shot and killed. As I wrote last week, senseless. Tragic. Heartbreaking.
But I would like to leave you with this, because it is important for me, for Wil, and for my family that I do so:
Wil might not be of this earth any longer, but he is still with us and always will be. Wil’s life is like a pebble one throws into water: the ripples extend outward and beyond causing other ripples. I have faith to believe that Wil is with my God, with my dad and my mom, with my two sisters: Donna and Joanne, with Kim's sister, Deanne, with four of his cousins: Jackie, Jared, Sue and Jared.
Mostly, Wil lives in my heart. I still have conversations with him. I know Kim, Hannah and Emily do, too. I’m sure his wife, Maria, does. Mostly, we love him dearly. Always will. Always.
Wil’s life was too large, too big, for it to end and for him to be gone. His accomplishments too meaningful. Wil accomplished much in his twenty-eight years, and I believe he would have accomplished even more had this tragedy not occurred.
As I stated in my last post, please use this tragedy, this loss, as a reminder to live in the moment. Wil certainly did. Use this tragedy to remind yourself that you cannot, must not, take life for granted. Use this tragedy to remind yourself that you must, absolutely must, let those who are near and dear to you, those who are important to you, that you love them, that they are indeed important to you. You must do this and not put it off any longer. It has to be done daily, often during each day.
And lastly, from Our Family, To You, thank you! Sincerely, thank you.