Living On

I’ve never seen an obituary quite like this one. WiLL Wise was a remarkable and accomplished human being, with an impressive resume. But the folks who loved him chose to remember him for his questions, not for his achievements. WiLL’s obituary invites us to explore three of his favorite questions and how our responses might liberate us to live like he did: with expansive love.

Living On:
An Obituary for WiLL Wise

Are you ready for your life to change?

WiLL asked this question to thousands of students on the first day he met them over the years. If your answer was “no”, he was happy to show you the door. Most people might ease into a question like that. WiLL’s shocking directness was one of his many gifts to the planet.

Now it’s our turn to be direct: William Samuel Wise has died.

He passed early in the morning on November 12, 2021, at home with his loving and loyal wife, Heather House, asleep on the floor next to him. Before he died, they caught the last episode of Ted Lasso and (much) more importantly one final, deep hug where Heather felt WiLL say—not in words—”the way that we love each other is all that matters.” He is finally at peace. And achieving peace was one of his life’s deepest desires.

And as WiLL would remind us:

“You are what your deepest desire is.

As is your desire, so is your intention.

As is your intention, so is your will.

As is your will, so is your deed.

As is your deed, so is your destiny.”

It’s not possible to capture who WiLL was using the English language. His dyslexia would probably agree. But the real reason that words won’t be nearly enough is because he focused much of his effort on who he was being—and less on what he was doing. No matter the circumstance, he was adamant about being present. Being happy. Being the best listener most of us ever met. And being curious. Whether you were a student, a friend, son, daughter, or wife to WiLL, you experienced him being curious. He’d want his being to continue.

Just before bed on the night WiLL passed away, his son Sylvan made a beautiful observation of how their daddy’s being will continue to live on. Sylvan noted that “Cypress got dad’s curiosity, Fern got daddy’s ability to love, and I got daddy’s playfulness.”

Continuing the impossible attempt of capturing who he was, below are three of his favorite questions.

And continuing his life’s work of asking powerful questions and creating conversations that matter, we—and he—would encourage you to spend at least 60 seconds of silence with each of the questions below.

What brings you joy?

[Enjoy your 60 seconds of silence with this question before you read on.]

WiLL saw this question as a gateway to creating your future. On the day WiLL died, his oldest son, Cypress, pulled out a fortune cookie out of a box that Will kept on his desk to remind people to create their future rather than leaving it up to a cookie. Cypress’s fortune read something like, “every moment is a golden one to the person who recognizes it.” Cypress then looked out at a small group of family and friends and said, “Dad realized this. He truly did.”

Being a master of turning each moment into one worth remembering, WiLL was known for pulling a bouncy ball—seemingly out of thin air—and tossing it out to an unsuspecting recipient. At the beginning of a class or in the middle of the mall, he’d reach into his pocket—the true permanent home of the bouncy ball—and infuse play into the space. Play was WiLL’s greatest teacher. He was committed to it and the joy and learnings that came along with it. Even in pain, he would find a way to play. He would love for you to move toward joy in each choice you make.

Second question…

What is this moment teaching you right now?

[Silence was one of WiLL’s favorite ingredients to a conversation that matters. That means that it is time to pause again.]

While WiLL was one of the best teachers, he knew that he was no match for Experience, the ultimate teacher. Right up until his last days even while he was struggling to utter each word, he was trying to share how to approach life even while you are dying. He used to say that “the moment you stop learning is the moment you start dying.”

Please, on WiLL’s behalf, keep learning. Keep living.

And the final of WiLL’s favorite three questions…

What is a crossroads you are at?

The outdoor educator and nontraditional school principal in WiLL, loved seeing lessons in nature. Climbing rocks was just a meeting with Fear. Canoeing down the river was a one-to-one mentoring session with Control. Traveling into a cave was your chance to go stare Darkness head on in order to understand your light more clearly.

WiLL understood that in each moment he had a choice. Listen to understand or listen to win. Openness or the need to be right. Learning or knowing. Exploring possibilities or making assumptions.

Perhaps the crossroads that WiLL most commonly encountered was the choice to be driven by fear or living to love. He often faced fear, but rarely—if ever—did he ever choose it.

In fact, he chose expansive love.

Over and over again.

And you can too. He’d like it if you did.

Celebration of Life

In addition to his wife of 11 years, Will leaves behind three children, Cypress (10), Sylvan (8) and Fern (8). He is survived by his mother, Linda, and brothers, Ken (aka “Joe”) and Donny Wise. We held what Cypress dubbed a “departing party” for close family and friends on the day of his passing.

Fern specifically asked, “Can we still celebrate dad’s birthday?” Yes! On May 14, 2022, there will be a celebration of life. Mark your calendars. More details to follow.

In lieu of flowers, consider making a donation to The Ronald McDonald House in Danville: or simply walk outside and hug a tree.

This obituary was originally published by the Central Pennsylvania Cremation Society

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