In Memory of a Dear Friend

joe —  Sun 30-Jan-11 — 21 Comments
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Dear Friends,

I write this column with a very heavy heart as yesterday I learned that the most gentle, kindest friend I have ever known took his life.

Candle.jpgI can’t pretend to comprehend how such a thing could happen to such an incredibly smart man except to note that life is beyond the grasp of intelligence.

I can’t comprehend how someone so kind to life could have life be so unkind to him except to discover that the Beatles were wrong and that we aren’t guaranteed to receive all that we give.

I can’t comprehend how someone that sought with all that he was to rediscover his faith would ultimately lose faith in himself.

Life cannot be described any better than what you believe in. We all believe in something, even if it is that life has no meaning. It is in that belief that forms all of our hopes or anguish.

My friend struggled with his Christian faith with the same story that was written by many of us. He grew up in a Christian home and as he got older discovered that the Christian story is very difficult to grasp. It was much easier to accept the science than the faith. However as he got older he realized that the science left him unfulfilled as well and sought to rediscover what he left behind.

We had met privately for a couple of years to have deep discussions about how hard it is to believe. When he joined our bible study at work I saw him start to put the pieces of a puzzle together. Slowly, very slowly things started to fit.

Then yesterday came.

How is it possible that a God who loves us very much would allow someone to take their life at a point that they were starting to reconnect?

I do not have that answer and to pretend so would put me in a stratosphere occupied by the greatest theologians to walk this fair planet. But I do have a worldview that allows me to cope with it.

God has a plan for us; but he also gave us free will. He wants us to love him with all of our heart but with a love that can only come freely from within us. Unfortunately in that free will is the chance that we may choose our own plan rather than the one he has for us.

It is kind of ironic that we were given all of this free will yet when the world comes to bear on us with all of its weight we appear not to have any options in our choice.

It is one of the greatest evils in the world that makes us believe we do not have options.

That may not be the answer that you would get from the greatest theologians, your pastor, or even a highly educated Christian friend, but it is where I am now. For like my friend I am in a constant state of trying to tune my beliefs and become stronger tomorrow than today.

I just wish he would have believed that he still had a choice and that he could have become stronger today than yesterday.

God bless you my friend. This world has lost a great man.
Bryan Williams copy.jpg

Donations on behalf of Bryan Williams can be made to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or World Vision.

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  • Uma Kandaswamy

    Oh That is very sad :( to hear about your friend Joe. May he Rest in peace. God bless him..

  • Pelion Centaur

    about 2 years ago I found myself in a dark place; I felt I did not have options and started questioning myself and everything around me. in my haze I chose to reach out to a few people, including Pat and Bryan. I am grateful that they were there for me to tell me that things get better and I have a choice to believe that and indeed the dark time is now behind me. Bryan not only helped me become a great engineer but also helped me find a healthy balance between work and life.

    It’s ironic that the person that helped me find my way lost his. I will miss him and I am very grateful that he was there for me. I hope at least he found the peace he was looking for even if he chose this path. Rest in peace Bryan.

  • Tim

    I have known Bryan since we were freshmen at the University of Georgia, and he has been one of my best friends for all that time. We shared a dorm room as sophomores, and got to know each other well. I do not understand why Bryan finally felt he had no choice but to end his life. So I will restrict myself to what I do know.

    Bryan’s whole life was a quest: a quest for understanding, for truth, for meaning. When we were in college, we often stayed up late at night debating aspects of life and philosophy. We would spend hours hashing out subtle shades of logic and meaning, working our ways toward a consistent and complete philosophy of life. We both knew that this was a search that could never end, but found much joy and enlightenment in the pursuit.

    Bryan was a debating team all by himself. He would work to establish one particular line of reasoning, one specific interpretation of The Way Things Are (or The Way Things Ought To Be), and then turn around and attack that position with as much effort as he had spent in building it. To me, one defining aspect of Bryan was that he never really finally made up his mind about anything. There was always some doubt even about the things he was most sure of. He used to joke that he held the World Record for “Most Fences Straddled.” I used to tease him that his degree would be in whatever he happened to be majoring in when he accumulated enough hours to graduate. It was all in good fun, and we learned a lot from each other.

    I came to love the way we debated our different philosophies: we each did so not in the effort to persuade the other that “I am right and you are wrong,” but as a joint quest to attain a better understanding. I also acquired a deep appreciation for Bryan’s intellect, honesty, and kindness.

    Bryan was never satisfied in his search for meaning and understanding. I do not know why he finally decided to abandon his quest. I do know he must have suffered greatly to have reached that decision. Unfortunately, now there is nothing more that any of us can do for Bryan. It is unfortunate that it takes the death of someone close to us to remind us of how precious, and how fragile, life is. The one thing we can do that Bryan would appreciate is to live.

    We each have our own unique viewpoint on the world. This perspective is a result of our particular place in the universe, and our experience within it. I am at the center of a universe I observe and live in, as are each of you. And because my universe includes each of you (and vice versa) we are all enriched by each other. When someone dies, their individual perspective, their unique universe and all they brought to it, is also lost. So in a certain sense, an entire universe ceases to exist with each passing. We are much poorer today for the loss of Bryan and all he gave to each of us.

    • Joe Kleinwaechter

      Thank you Tim. I would love to use this column to help share the great stories and life of Bryan. You have a perspective that few got to know.

      • Tim

        Joe, feel free to use what I have written. I’m sure many of us have stories to share. I hope we can help each other deal with this.

    • Georgen N. Williams

      Tim, May I add your eulogy to our Family Tree for Bryan. George Williams, Bryan’s father.

  • Ivy

    And yet, the act of turning, just a step, halting though it may be, is enough. We make missteps constantly as we seek God’s will for our lives. Sometimes the pain is so blinding that all we can do is turn, hoping for the God of the universe to see and hear and catch us. Bryan was turning, learning to walk, although it must have felt like broken glass under his feet. In that turning, God rushes to our aid, depite choices that sadden the hearts of those who love us most, and even the heart of God. As our pain is so fresh and will alter the lives of all who knew and loved him–as all of life will be divided by some into Before the Tragedy and After the Tragedy–God will be showing us new things about ourselves, about Himself, about how we can turn this for good, somehow. But, perhaps, not yet. There is much work to be done, much grieving and anger and confusion to work through and overcome. We have one another. We have friends and experiences and memories that we would have never had without Bryan. He has taught us kindness and love and friendship and vulnerability. He has shown us how a man may humble himself and seek to make the religion of his childhood that he accepted as a child his own as he put away childish things. In one sad and disastrous moment, he cut short his time and promise with us. The sadness, and yes, perhaps even the anger that we may feel at being deserted and bereft of his frienship will pass and hopefully not leave lasting bitterness in its wake. In the end, let his legacy be one of warmth, of friendships brought about because we are friends of Bryan, and so friends of one another. God did not fail him, nor will He fail us. And no matter what evil causes us to be blind to it at times, the fact is that love never ends. Never. Love is eternal and life is immortal because God is in all things. Change does not mean ultimate destruction. All things are not yet as they ultimately will be. And at the end of all things, when we at last see clearly the way things truly are and always have been, we will see that love has been there all along, supporting and guiding and making us complete. And, at the end, we will find all we have loved in the One who has loved and created us. For now, we must struggle and grieve. But not always. Not always. We have one another. Let us love each other and honor Bryan’s memory and with kindness and patience bear one another up as only fellow wounded ones can. Peace to you all for this day and all the days before you.

  • Paul

    I am saddened that this intelligent gentle man is gone but very grateful I had the privilege of working with him.
    Today I happened to turn on the tv and watched Dr. Robert Stanley’s sermon (something I’m not sure I’ve ever done before). He spoke of when we go into life’s valleys and it can seem so unfair, but that God wants us to learn in such times so that we may reach higher peaks from there. Bryan may have been in a terribly dark valley but perhaps he is now on a peak or has at least made a great many people not take their own journey for granted. I know I won’t. RIP my friend.

  • Allen

    We will miss his presence, he added something to every life he touched. I wish I had known him better.

  • Nageldr78

    Stirring. Thanks for writing

  • Joe Kleinwaechter

    Bryan Williams Services Info

    Memorial Service Tuesday 6-8 PM,
    Funeral – Wednesday 11:00 AM

    Bill Head Funeral Home
    6101 Hwy 29
    Tucker, GA

    All are welcome.

  • Carley Asberry

    “It is one of the greatest evils in the world that makes us believe we do not have options.”–This is when we listen to satan’s prompting as he knows his time for spiritual warfare is short & he makes good use of his time left with his lies using them to seek, kill, & destroy anyone that he thinks may be finding the right path. Satan may have won the earthly war here, but if Bryan really ever accepted Jesus as his Lord & Savior he was protected even though he chose to shorten his life. God may have seen more ahead for him that would have made it more difficult to stay with his decision of making Jesus his choice so He didn’t intervene to stop his plan to take his own life. May God bless everyone that knew & loved Bryan & I’m hoping & praying that he’s in a better place & free from all the spiritual warfare, oppression, depression, pain, sadness, sorrow, & tears that we know while traveling & fulfilling our mission that God created each of us to do.

  • Tim

    Here’s another memory: one of Bryan’s favorite songs was Don McLean’s “Vincent” (also known as “Starry, Starry Night”). He often used to sing this song, never suspecting that one day he would arrive at his own starry, starry night. I can still hear his voice and guitar on these lyrics:

    And when no hope was left in sight
    On that starry, starry night,
    You took your life, as lovers often do.
    But I could have told you, Vincent,
    This world was never meant for one
    As beautiful as you.

    • Joe Kleinwaechter

      Eerily enough that was the first song that came to mind when I got the word of Bryan’s passing.

  • Bobby

    Having just a professional relationship with Bryan was simply impossible. His warm and friendly disposition immediately drew you to him. You simply had to like him. A lot. You had no choice. The more I got to know Bryan the more I realized what a truly wonderful person he was. He was, and will always be, special.

    But what made him special? He was an amazing engineer who was passionate about the projects we worked on. But that is not what made him special.

    What made Bryan special was much simpler and more profound than that. What made him special is that he was always excited about who he was working with. What made him special is that he always made you feel important and welcomed. What made him special was that he obviously cared about us and he always had time for us. What made him special was he was always engaging; it didn’t matter if the topic was of the deepest import or simple conversation. What made him special was that he often began conversations with an insightful question or ingenious observation (and his trademark smile.) In all circumstances he was always kind and generous.

    I’d sometimes find Bryan in the office late playing his guitar passionately and with great beauty. He loved discussing technique and how it applied to the aesthetic of performance. Even now I can see his bright cheerful expression. These are memories that will forever stay with me.

    The sad truth is we can only partially know anyone. Sometimes we might not even fully know ourselves. Never underestimate the importance of sharing what is in your heart. So the question is: when is the right time to tell someone how import they are? The answer is obvious. The answer is “now.”

    Goodbye my friend

  • David LeBlanc

    Brian was one of the kindest and smartest people I’ve ever worked with. I remember when ISS had just gotten started, and Brian would come in and work evenings. One day, I’d hired Tim, and the two of them were startled to find each other working in the same place.

    I never knew anyone who had anything bad to say about Brian, and that’s a really short list to be on. Nearly everyone manages to annoy someone, but that wasn’t true of anyone that Brian and I had in common.

    It’s a shame he felt like suicide was his best option. My beliefs teach compassion, and the most compassionate way I can consider this is that perhaps he felt like the kindest thing he could do was to leave now. I don’t agree with that, but knowing Brian, it is the only way I can see him justifying it.

  • Russ Greer

    Like Tim, I knew Bryan from our days at the University of Georgia. I lived across the hall from him in the Hill Hall dormitory our sophomore and junior years, and in our senior year we roomed together in an apartment. Like Tim, I spent many nights up late talking philosophy and listening to him play his guitar. I admired his humanity, his fine mind, his gentle spirit.

    After we graduated we stayed in touch for many years, and I visited him in New England when he and Linda moved there. I have so many wonderful memories. I remember clowning around in our apartment, taking pictures on campus just before we graduated, having a surprise birthday party together, laughing at so many lunches and dinners, his warm congratulations when I graduated with my PhD from Georgia.

    Bryan was one of the finest people I have ever known. God rest his soul.

  • George N. Williams

    May I add your eulogy to our Family Tree for Bryan? George Williams, Bryan’s father.

    • Joe Kleinwaechter

      Sir – it would be an honor. Thank you the gift you gave all of us.

      • Georgen N. Williams

        Thank you Joe.
        You honored Bryan with your eulogy. I appreciate that very much. Bryan will be greatly missed by all his many friends and family. If he had only realized, perhaps he would have stayed with us. It is comforting to know that we will see him again.

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