This is a guest post from my brother, Sam. This is the remembrance he wrote to share at the Celebration of Life service last Friday. Please know that we are all still available to talk about anything you may have questions about. Also know that the memorial fund established in his name is still accepting donations that will go to three different ministries where his legacy as camp counselor, handyman, and mentor will live on and touch youth with the message of hope in Christ.
When I left for Michigan to go to college, William was my kid brother. He was still very much a boy. The boy that he was, in many ways, is everything I hope my children to be. Energetic, trusting, hard working, problem solving, up for anything that was William as a boy. Subconsciously, I think that is who he will always be to me.
The boy that jumped in the back of the car and wrongly trusted me to drive him down the road to feed the cattle.
The boy who took my love for building tree houses to a whole new level (figuratively and literally).
The boy with whom I spent hours of scaring cityfolk at the state fair with the famed spider.
Great stories of our youth aside, today I would much rather tell you about the moments that assured this protective older brother that William was heeding my mother’s daily petition to “remember who we are and who we represent.” That is to say that he was acutely aware of his legacy as Nichols’ and more importantly our individual and collective identity in Christ.
One such moment was evident in the way he dealt with a bad situation and subsequent football suspension. Instead of watching from the stands, William decided to practice his 9th grade season knowing that he would not play a down. His character grew so greatly through that experience as did his willingness, or even desire to hit opposing players and even referees really really hard. More importantly, his teammates would forever be altered by the strong, quiet leader that emerged from that adversity.
The following year, William visited me in Michigan to attend a Fellowship of Christian Athletes football camp. While there, he found himself as the one white Iowa boy in a bible study of inner city football players. On the ride home, we spent three hours discussing the opportunities William had throughout the camp to share his faith through the avenue of football. This experience noticeably softened his heart to the needs of others while helping him put sports in proper perspective with life and faith.
Later in high school, William’s ability to lead on the field and on the wrestling mat converged with his faith as he built a cabin on our back 40. I remember William excitedly calling to share how the cabin served as a place where his teammates and friends have clean fun. William felt so blessed by God to be able to use his natural gifts of building, leading, and getting stuff for free as a means of living out his faith.
As William’s world widened so did his desire to “remember who he was and who he represented.” During our bi-monthly road talks, I remember being humbled by his desire to know how my wife and I did everything from devotions to finances. He desired with all of his heart to be Godly husband that Grace needed and deserved and I have always been in awe of his willingness to serve her so selflessly.
That said, what I treasure most about those conversations is the openness with which William was willing to share his struggles and his heart for the people around him. William knew, better than anyone, that he was a sinner in need of a savior; an imperfect vessel that God was using to do his work. He believed wholeheartedly in the truth of the gospel and that his hope was in Christ alone. It is that same hope that enables me to stand here both missing my brother and rejoicing that he now present with and praising our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.