Funeral Eulogy Wesley B. Willis
November 8, 2012 by Rick Gillespie- Mobley
The year was 1951. The United States of America was in the middle of the Korean War and things were not looking for the country. But God in heaven was still concerned about a family in Dublin, Ga there on Columbia Street. Louise Willis gave birth to the last of her thirteen children and into the world came a little boy by the name of Wesley. Wesley came into this world and served in a number of roles and relationships.
He was, a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, a father, an uncle, a nephew, a singer, a comic, and a fisherman. He was born, he lived, he died, he went home to a place prepared for him. We all go through that cycle of birth, life, and death because its automatic. Yet it takes a willful decision on our part to go home to place prepared for us. Jesus put it this way. Let not your hearts be troubled, For you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s House are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
For those who remain on this side of death, the Bible tells us, there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. A time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to hope and a time to give up, a time for joy and a time for pain, a time to be born and a time to die. Every moment of the day somebody is being born and somebody is dying. Death is going to happen to every one of us here this afternoon , unless Jesus comes first and takes us directly to heaven in the rapture.
The Scriptures tell us that there is a way that seems right to a person, but at the end of it is death. It’s okay to dream great dreams for our lives, and to make terrific plans, and to set some awesome goals, so long as those dreams, those plans, and those goals include the knowledge of knowing, one day I will stand before God and give an account of the life He gave to me. It is in that knowledge, that we keep in mind what’s really important as we go through life.
If we are all living in order that we might some day die, it should be of utmost importance that we live in such way that in the end our lives would not have been lived in vain. When Death arrives, we take none of the gold or silver or money in the bank which we accumalated in life. We do not take any cars or houses or good looks with us. We do not take our educational degrees, or the titles and positions we had in the area of employment. We can only take our souls and the memories of what we have done in this life with us. For naked we came into this world, and naked we go out.
We come into this world not to hold on to things but to give them away. No person dies happily with clenched fists. The only thing that we can take out of this world is what we have given away. For that is how Jesus said to lay up treasures in heaven. If we do not know Jesus, and have not loved and have not given then our living has been in vain.
Death is closer to all of us than we think it is. If you had to meet it today and your life would be over this afternoon, would you be happy with the life you have lived. Would you be ready to go with no regrets? Have you said you were sorry to those you hurt and granted forgiveness to those who hurt you? Would you be as certain as being in heaven tomorrow as you are of sitting in this church today. The good news is that it is still possible for you to be certain.
God gave us Wesley Willis for a purpose. I spoke with several of us to try to get a picture of who Wesley was in life. God gives us all a talent to use to enrich the lives of others. Everybody agreed that Wesley was endowed with the gift of comedy. He knew how to get a laugh out of people and how to use laughter to turn a bad situation into something funny. Regina said that once she was upset and looking sad and Wesley asked her what was wrong. She said look at this grade I got on my report card. I can’t believe I did this badly. Wesley looked at it and said, I’m surprised you shocked at just now getting that grade. I thought you had always been dumb. Regina said, I thought about it and burst out laughing.
Wesley being the last of 13 kids, got the special baby treatment longer than he should have. It made him a little spoiled. His Mother would say, “that’s my baby and don’t nobody bother my baby.” As a he kid, he had a very vivid imagination. Living on Elm street in that big apartment building, he was convinced that he saw ghosts at night. His brothers didn’t want anything to do with his whining about ghosts so he would go and knock on Yvonne and Adlene’s door until they let him in and he would sleep in the middle of them. I guess he figured the ghost would grab one of them before getting to him. Wesley never did let those ghosts go, because he would later try to scare his great nieces with horror stories about ghosts.
For a while Adlene, Wesley and Yvonne were like the three musketeers as kids. They enjoyed playing house together and Wesley go to play the baby. Later it became Yvonne and Wesley together. They were more like sister and brother than niece and nephew. Wesley always had a humble personality and did not like violence. Thank God his niece, Yvonne was one of the toughest kids in Hornell. When Wesley got into trouble, he didn’t threaten to go get his big brothers, he threatened to go and get his niece. If you cheated Wesley out of something, you were going to have to deal with Yvonne. Wesley was the peacemaker, but Yvonne made things right.
As a teen, Wesley liked to look cool. He would put on his dark shades and grab him broom and start singing. He and Yvonne use to sing their duets together. If they could have gotten outside of Hornell, they would have been the next Peaches & Herb. Growing up at 140 Broadway in the café, with the juke box playing, he got to learn a lot of songs. If you were around Wesley, you would hear him singing a lot. Wesley liked to be a practical joker. He would be willing to try to pull some trick on you just about anytime he could.
I remember when I was 10 and he was 14, he did something there in the café on Broadway that I didn’t like. We were about to get into a fight. Mother, his mother, my grandmother, told me not to hit him, and I got so mad I ran out the café. I was going to run all the way back to my mom in Ga. I got all the way outside of North Hornell and was heading up the old Bath road. Robert Lee was coming from work, he saw me, grabbed me and took me back home. He said, “Louise look what I found headed down the Bath road.” I got the whipping of my life from grandmother. From then on, whenever I said or did something Wesley didn’t like, he would say, “Don’t let me send you back on the Bath road again.”
I can only remember one time when Wesley played in a softball game and that was when we were all adults. We were having one of our family reunions at Stony Brook park and the family and friends were divided into two teams. Wesley and I were on the same team. Wesley was playing second base, and he was standing next to the base. The other team had a player on first. The batter hit the ball to me, I grabbed the ball and went to throw it to Wesley at second only to see that Wesley, had forgotten which team he was on and he was running to 3rd base. We fell out laughing on the field as he tried to play it by saying he just wanted to add some fun to the game.
Wesley was the kind of guy that was just easy to get along with. He was a peacemaker. He loved his family. He was very proud of his daughter and his son. He was a man who didn’t hesitate to say “I love you.” His one real draw back was that he fell in love with drinking. It ended up robbing him of so much of the good things that God blessed him with in life. His sister Helen, whom he often viewed as a mother and went to her for advice and encouragement, would say “Wesley is a good boy, he just needs to stop drinking.” Who knows, what could have happened if alcohol had not been such a dominant force in his life?
Wesley recognized that he needed a change in his life. He made the decision to surrender his heart to Jesus Christ. He became a part of the body of Christ. He was known for two songs in the church. “People get ready, there’s a train that’s coming, you don’t need no ticket, you just get on board,” and “I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.” We rejoiced at the change that God did in his heart. I remember being with him once when he was active in the church. I don’t know what happened, but a year or two later, Wesley took a drink again and found himself seduced by it’s power. It became a spiritual, emotional and physical battle that raged inside of him.
We often think that when a person backslides, that’s the end of their relationship to God. Know simply because a person turns from God, does not mean that God turns from them or even that God gives up on them. The same God who loved them to repentance in the first place, is the God who goes after them to bring that person back home. For the bible tells us, what can separate us from the love of God.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[l]37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[m] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not even alcohol can cut us off from God.
God can use the most difficult of circumstances to bring us back into a right relationship with him. Things we see as tragedies, are things God may use as opportunities to display God’s grace. Wesley suffered a lot these past few years. But he used that time to make his way back to the Lord. There was a time when the doctors told Rosemary, you know there is nothing else we can do. Wesley was having seizure after seizure and it was ravaging his body. The Doctor said “Maybe it’s time to put him into a medically induced coma.” Rosemary said, “give me the weekend to think it over.” All God needed was a weekend, because when the weekend was over, the seizures had stopped and Wesley began to be able to smile and laugh again. Thank God for Rosemary. I’m glad she didn’t make an instant decision.
God had given him a second chance to regain a chance at life. He got to feel, Shawn, his son placing his grandson, Jaylee on his stomach as he lay in bed. He got the chance to have tears fills his eyes, when he heard that his Helen his sister who had been like his mother and his mother had gone home to be with the Lord. He got the chance to smile and to laugh again when you reminded him of some joke he had played on you in the past. He got the chance to try to muffle out the words I love you once again.
But more importantly, when Madeline asked him, if he was still saved he nodded yes. When asked if he was on his way to heaven, he smiled yes. When asked did he still love Jesus, he could say yes. These many years of suffering had not been in vain. Wesley wasn’t fighting for his life by himself. He had the power of God giving him strength day after day as the saints of God prayed for Him. The devil was a liar, and the power of God proved to be stronger than the power of alcohol in his life. He made it back home before it was too late
Sure we would have all liked to have seen Wesley, get up and walk out of that nursing home. Sure we would have wanted to see him get a chance to know and watch his grandkids grow up. Sure we would have wanted to see him working hard in the church for Christ. But can’t we glad, that for Wesley, there are no more limitations on his movements. Can’t we be glad that he can sing and the words aren’t muffled. Can’t we be glad that, he made it back home to the Lord. Can’t we be glad, that if we know Jesus, we’re going to be with him once again.
Death is significant only because it marks the end of our opportunity to have an affect upon others for the sake of Jesus Christ. For as I said before, the Scriptures tell us that there is a time for everything under the the sun. A time to be born and a time to die. The mere fact of being born is a guarantee that we shall one day die. A lifetime in eternity hangs upon the balance of the choices we make during the brief interval that we call life.
Have you ever wondered how good do you have to be to go to heaven and meet God. Most of us would consider ourselves a good person. The truth is, none of us could ever be good enough to go to heaven. It’s worthless to even try it. Because going to heaven isn’t about how good or how bad we have been. It’s a matter of, " do we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior by having made a decision to follow Him with our lives."
Jesus has gone forth to prepare a place for each of us. But like Wesley and all the others who have gone on before him, we must make a choice. You see none of us know the day nor the hour when we shall leave this world. Christ has died on our behalf that we might have life. It’s as simple as admitting the wrong we have done in our lives, asking God for forgiveness, and then letting Jesus Christ determine how we live from this day forward. For in the end, the only decision that will matter is what did we do with Christ. For only what’s done for Christ will last is going to matter a thousand years from today.
The joy of dying in Christ is that goodbye is never goodbye. For the word of God clearly states, " Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men and women who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own words, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left at the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down form heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left, will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. Our God is faithful.