Celebrating the Natural Loving Presence in a Special Young Man
Will Nash, died last year as the pandemic shutdowns were beginning. He was 2months from college graduation. He had co-started a business in college (@semiaquatics) and was extraordinary in more ways than can be expressed here. Fearless, open-hearted & happy are words friends used to describe him.
Will was my brother’s son. He and my sister-in-law's journey through this has been and continues to be inspiring. Will’s twin brother, Drew, has experienced a devastation that few of us could ever know, and Will’s younger sister Cate’s pain is rooted in how she has been permanently and beautifully shaped by her time with Will. Will’s friends all spoke of being inspired by him – to live life with joy.
The Nashes created a bench for him … under a tree … at the top of a hill of a beautiful grassy cemetery – with trees all around. It is where several hiking trails converge. Will would have loved that.
They released some of his ashes further up the trail on Will’s favorite ridge – with a great view. Will would definitely love that.
And the bench. I think Will would just adore that bench – at that spot – a place to hang out - and he’d probably find humor in it, no question about that. By now, Will’s having a party. He was good at enjoying life.
Will’s mom & sister released a bird back into nature as part in honor of Will – how perfect. It landed & stayed in the tree above after taking flight. Will was hanging around – to stay near those he loved.
Will was a young man who inspired all who knew him to enjoy each moment, to love unabashedly, to laugh a lot, and to try new things. Now, he was also notorious for wanting to do a back-flip jump off of… just about anything. He rarely landed it, I’m told, but that did not keep him from enjoying the process of learning how to do it – and he did often accomplish that back-flip before finding some other vault to do.
Will's pole-vaulting coach spoke of how inspired he was by Will and his extraordinary determination, equanimity and positive outlook (even after breaking both arms attempting a silly leap that involved a chair and a basketball hoop) when he came back to be first-runner up in the big pole-vaulting championship - a moment his coach said was unlike any in his career.
But Will Nash was also fun and present and knew how to love.
You want to be around people like that. Many did.
Those people are hurting deeply right now – as a star has gone out. But knowing the closeness of their particular family, I cannot begin to imagine the brutal rip that they have, and continue to, experience. It pains my heart so. And to lose one’s child …. an incomprehensible pain … beyond any grief those of us who haven't experienced that can imagine.
Due to pandemic shutdowns, this past weekend is when the Nash family was finally able to have Will’s “Celebration of Life” – and that, indeed it was. It was undoubtedly a different event than would have happened a year ago right after Will died. It was extraordinary. I’ve never been to anything like that in my life – the layers and levels in which it was healing, inspiring, fun, moving – forever etched on the minds of so many, I can only think.
And those two grieving parents created it. For the love of their son, their family, and all their connections to others in this life. I’ve never been so inspired … or grateful. I was grateful to be there and support them in whatever tiny way I can. … I cry as I write this. They are like heroes to me. Tragic heroes, yes, but filled with such grace, I am humbled and inspired – by them and by the extraordinary young man to whom they have had to say goodbye, a young man who inspired everyone he met to live in the present moment with joy and love and a beautiful sense of play.
In my writing this, I wanted to share their love – and their grief – but mostly I wanted to share the inspiration that one young life can make on so many. This gathering drew over 200 people from all over the country – many young people from his college & his childhood, his coach, and childhood friends of my brother – they all came. They all loved. They were all moved. They all appreciated. And all were inspired in some way by how Will lived his short life. We need these examples of presence & joy more now than ever.
Thank you, Will.