There are a select few that can cut through the bullshit of this world and show everyone around them what is truly important.
Willie was one of those people. I was 11 when they found the tumor in Willie’s brain.
We’ve all lost people to cancer. But I honestly cannot imagine what that must have felt like, how scary it must have been. Instead of using pretty words to describe that which I know nothing about, I will tell you what I do know, because few realize just how much kids pay attention to. Instead of feelings of betrayal, anger, and despair, this diagnosis brought together an already close group of friends into an air-tight community. More than that, Willie and his family’s struggles brought those people to God.
Before Willie got sick, religion was not a common topic of conversation at get-togethers. Afterwards, people started to pray, to read the Bible, and go to church; and not to keep up appearances either. Through this adversity I saw faith spread through our community faster than any cancer would ever dare to. That faith, that courage that Willie, Michelle, Colton, and the whole family have upheld throughout the years has been an inspiration and beacon for countless people.
And though I am prone to exaggeration, countless is accurate. Just me personally, when I was at school, and would be told that Willie was going to have a surgery, I would ask my friends to pray for him; and I went to a university that some classes started with prayer, so then more people are touched by the fight with cancer, it spreads to the prayer groups & bible studies; and then a couple of days later, a person that I’ve never talked to comes up to ask about Willie, tells me they’ve been praying for him. Hundreds of people were praying, were having a conversation with God, because of Willie; and that’s just from my prayer requests, when you start to think about all of Willie’s loved ones (and there are tons) that were like me, asking for prayers, it is mind blowing the number of conversations with The Almighty that Willie instigated.
Willie fought cancer for 13 years. There is something beautiful in the fact that he was allowed to reach his 52nd birthday, which was yesterday. He was a warrior, God’s warrior. I have been told that as children of God, if we bring a single person to know God and the power of prayer, then we will have accomplished great wonders in the eyes of our Creator. God isn’t surprised, He knows all and planned all before we were a reality…but I like to think that Willie’s impact on this world exceeded even God’s expectations.
Take away the countless people that Willie brought to prayer. Take away how big Camas’ Relay for Life got after people started seeing this big group of fun & rowdy people; making everyone want a big team of their own to have fun while fighting cancer. Take away the amount of people that Willie’s cancer was the reason they started going back to church. Take away everything I have been desperately trying to convey through my babbling. And you are left with a man, and his family, who were humble under the will of God, and had unfailing faith, strength, and courage in the midst of something that would have crushed most.
Praise God for Willie and his family. There is no doubt in my mind that they have saved hundreds, if not thousands of souls. I have two wishes as an outcome to this heartbreaking loss, which let’s be honest, I have no right to claim wishes, but I’m going to do it anyway…
I wish that even a fraction of us that have been effected by this wonderful family can find a way to serve them in a respectful way, to let them know the depth and breadth of our love for them. My second wish, is that all of us, no matter our situation, strive to be God’s warriors, as Willie was, beacons of faith and love, and have that fire of the fighting spirit, through the way in which we live, that makes people turn their heads and say, “What is keeping them going with such fight?”
I would never wish death upon anyone, because I know all too well the scar it leaves on the living. But then again, I was struck by the thought of the affect of Willie’s badass musicianship on heaven’s choir and orchestra. So, if you hear angelic music in a moment of profound prayer, and find it a bit more classic-rock-y than you were expecting…well, you know who to thank now. A man who was so spectacular, he is beyond the patronage of fluffy words, Willie.