My legs shook as if under a hundred times more weight than normal. My mother’s hand felt cold, lifeless, like a dried flower crumbling in the wind. As I let go of her, I turned to face my destination. Thirty feet, then up four steps, then another ten feet to the left. I looked down at the carpet. It was the same color it's always been, and yet today, it seemed monochrome. Up the steps, looking, I saw familiar faces, but I found no ease; no comfort. I turned left, glancing out the glass door at the line of cars. I stopped, attempted to take a breath, but the air eluded me. Looking up, two thousand eyes fixed their gaze on me. I felt their penetrating, tear-filled stare. An eon passed in a matter of seconds. I found air. Blood rushed to my head. I felt a heartbeat in my throat. I pulled out my phone, fumbling to open the words I spent hours crafting. The screen came to life, and I began to read.
August 9th 2016, at around four PM, I received a phone call from my father. I answered the call to find my father in an emotional state. He said, choking on every other syllable, "I think Wesley is dead." From that second, my entire world was flipped upside-down. Screaming, crying, shock, and disconnection make up most of my memory of the days following. Standing for five hours as friends, family, and other loved ones passed by to pay their respects. Guarding my mother from those trying to pry with unwanted questions and concerns. People coming in and out of the house wanting nothing but to help. Keeping the Kleenex company in business, we prepared ourselves for the upcoming service. I was asked to prepare the eulogy to honor Wesley’s life. I’m a frequent offender in the crime of procrastination, so I found myself on my bed the night before the funeral staring at a blank screen, waiting for words to form. How do you summarize a life? Especially when you shared almost every significant event of that life. What details are important? I gave up on trying to summarize the life and began to summarize the soul.
My mouth opened, but my vocal chords clenched shut. I begged for help in this task that I should never have had to been given. And then, as if time had stopped, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked to find no one there. I felt something. Something so familiar. Like the smell of your house after a long trip. Or the feel of the water from the first swim of spring. Or how an old song long forgotten warms your heart with its familiar melody. My brother was there. I relaxed and took a deep breath.
“Friends, loved ones, and family. I stand here today full of humility. I have been humbled by the task I was given to honor my brother. My prayer is that you will come to see Wes as I see him,” I fought my entire being to hold back the tears. “For those of you who don't know me, my name is Alex Simms. I'm Wesley's older brother. For 19 years, I've had the honor of holding that title of older brother and I learned a few things along the way.”
I look to see my mother who, for a moment, looked up and smiled like any supportive mother would. “David Wesley Simms was born March 17th, 1997 to my mother and father Noreen and Aaron. Since then, our family has grown to include so many wonderful people. From my step mom Maureen to her and my father’s wonderful children, my sisters, and brother, Sydney Lauren, and Wyatt. Then to my mom’s son and my brother, Jacob. Then the list goes on and on as so many amazing people have been there for Wesley and me. Our family is the single most important thing in our lives. We would be lost without them.” I look again to see our family they take up at least the first eight rows of the chapel. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that the people I love can be with me forever. I felt the floodgates of my eyes reaching maximum capacity. “From giant family gatherings where stories would be told and memories would be made. To the individual moments we shared together, Wesley had the ability to put a smile on your face and love in your heart. He followed closely the example of our savior, when Wessel walked into a family gathering he was instantly surrounded by the smiling faces of children and he loved and cared deeply for each and every one of them. He taught me by the way he cared for our family, to love my family and hold them close.”
“I had the opportunity to go through all of Wes's pictures and I was reminded of another lesson he taught me. Growing up we fought like cats and dogs but at the end of the day we were the only ones allowed to beat each other up. And if my back was against the wall Wesley was always there to either get me out of trouble or be in trouble with me. We laughed, explored, climbed, dreamed, played together. We fought aliens, zombies, monsters, and vampires together.” It was then I felt it a crack began to form on the outer wall of my self-composure. “And I knew as long as I had Wes, I'd be OK.” Tears began to stream down my face as every memory of our time spent together raced through my mind. I continued as best I could. “Wes went on to make friendships that will last through the eternities. No matter what you needed, if you called, he'd drop everything to be there for you. He was loyal to a fault and loved everyone he met. He was my best friend and he's taught me the power of friendship and love, he always loved his neighbor and that lesson I will never forget.”
“The next lesson I have yet to learn but his example has put me well on the way to understanding. The day Wesley stepped into the woods he fell in love. There was something about the way the air sounded blowing through the trees or the calm feeling that came with being on the water but he loved being outdoors. From sunup to sundown he terrorized anything that moved. From our slingshots in the back yard to his crossbow in a stand he loved to hunt. And some of my favorite memories of him are sitting on the bank waiting for a bite and somehow, he always seemed to catch the bigger fish. I also cherished his athletic ability though I still gave him a run for his money in the post. His athleticism was one of his best qualities. He was so smooth in everything he did. He had a cannon for an arm and he ran like the deer he tried to shoot. His love of the outdoors and sports led to many friendships and has taught me the importance of being true to one’s self.”
“The last lesson I would like to share with you is one I will hold dear the rest of my life. No matter who you were, no matter what you looked like, how you dressed or how you lived, Wesley Simms loved you. He had the heart of a lion and it was filled with love. His capacity to love had no bounds. He was always on the lookout for who he could help next. And it's in this love where we find the savior. Wes's favorite scripture is John 3:16. Wesley loved the savior and followed his example of love and understanding.”
“I will forever learn from his example, and it is my prayer that I can learn to live my life in a way that will honor him. He will be remembered through the love and lives he's left behind.” I finally look down at a large wooden box, one of polished red oak. Elk antlers adorned the sides. A beautiful array of flowers and feathers sit on top. I pause as I stare, still wondering when he was going to walk through the door and tell us it was all a joke. But that never happened. I looked out on all the people there and realized how loved he was. Choking on my words, I finished my thoughts. “And I know this isn't goodbye, this is only for now. As we prepare ourselves to return home one day, we will cross that road and look up to see our friend, son, grandson, nephew, cousin, brother; Our Wesley and we'll rejoice and be separated no more. Until that day let us remember his love and the wonderful times we shared. This is my prayer in Jesus name Amen.”
I pressed the button and the screen on my phone went dark. I took a deep breath and began to retrace my steps. My feet were heavy with exhaustion. Four days without sleep had left me drained. Down the steps and across the rows of pews, I found my seat, took my mother’s hand, and closed my eyes.
When I am, home I visit him often. Telling him all about my life. It’s kind of nice, actually. He doesn’t say much but he’s a really good listener. I am by brother’s keeper. I will always care for his memories. I will always share his story. I will always remember.