I often found myself amazed by the layers of Wesley’s character and personality, even after our wedding I constantly found myself saying to him incredulously, “How did I not KNOW that?” Never one to brag or elevate himself above others he quietly just assumed his accomplishments were in his words, “no big deal.” Like being a National Merit Semi-Finalist in high school; the first and possibly only person to be both the editor in chief of his high school newspaper AND yearbook; having a editorial column “Wes’s World” in his college newspaper, which he was editor of his senior year, that was so popular he annually rode in the Homecoming parade and was recognized on campus; winning a prestigious law school award at Emory…the list went on and on. He would just shrug his broad shoulders and say, “Katherine, honestly, it is no big deal” But to me it was. It is. I was so very terribly proud of him and his successes. His perseverance and tenacity was a marvel to see and the joy with which he tackled a challenge, his dark brown eyes intent on the puzzle at hand was inspiring. Not only with work, where it was terribly evident as he studied and studied a legal case to find the nugget of gold to help his client and persuade the judge as he stood confidently in front of them but his strong will was pervasive in most areas of his life.
I smile to remember him taking such delight in assembling our nieces and nephews bright gifts at birthdays and Christmas and of course putting together our Julia’s many singing, whirring, blinking plastic toys. He loved the feeling of a screwdriver in his hand and seeing something come together. I invariably would try to do it myself and give up halfway through tossing a mangled conglomeration of silver screws and wadded up instructions at him saying, “Here! You do it!” which would make him smile as he silently completed my discarded task. Wesley loved the tools he had at his disposal both physical and mental to figure something out for himself. I see that drive in Julia, his inquisitive mind working through her small hands and furrowed brow as she works on a puzzle or building with the wooden blocks Wesley insisted she needed lest Julia think the only things she had to play with were baby dolls and tea sets. He could not bear the thought that she might not know she could do anything, ANYTHING she wanted. She has so much of Wesley in her little personality that I know he would love to see as she grows and changes. My heart hammering in my chest both aches and hitches with sadness and swells with pride because in a moment there it is. The adage of Wesley living on through Julia is in front of my eyes as she creates something with her hands, blonde bangs in her eyes and brow creased.
I fear I never told Wesley how proud I was of him, for who he was and what strengths and assets he brought out in me. Through his eyes I because more confident because he believed in me wholeheartedly, even when the prospect of success was slim. I became more caring because of the selflessness he showed to me even when I was a complete brat ordering him around. I learned to not take him for granted, but that lesson I fear came too late. He loved being needed and I desperately needed him. I have said so many times both before and after Wesley died that I did not want to just get married, I wanted to marry Wesley Cline. He was not ever “some guy I’m dating” because even in the early days I was proud of him and cared for him in a way that transcends words and knew this was different. We were different.
There is a funny story that Wesley loved to tell of when he first summoned the courage to say “I Love You” to me. I was eating fried okra at Sonny’s BBQ and replied, slapping my hand on the table,”You know what? I LOVE OKRA!” because I was not listening, a common theme in our relationship. But Wesley just laughed and laughed because he knew I loved him. He did not need to hear the words repeated to him, he just knew it.
Now I would give anything to tell him how proud I am, how much I love him, how much I miss everything about him and how sad I am that he is missing everything now too. I’m proud of not what he did, but who he was. At the core of his most basic level Wesley was kind and compassionate and loved others so deeply. In his absence, I’m left feeling completely split, jagged and broken with the best parts of me gone. The person who I lovingly gazed upon, my eyes warm and full of love is not here. And those pretty eyes that gazed back, slyly winking when he thought nobody could see, they are not there either. The pride lingers, though the man does not.