It’s official! You’re a Willison, kid!


Thirty years ago Peter Willison would have experienced his first month of life. He would have come home from the hospital to what would become known as “Willison Central”. He was exposed to the craziness of being a Willison, with eight other Willisons frantically running around him. I can just image him thinking “what the Hell?”, then “what’s (s)he doing, what’s going on now, why?”, and then finally “this is awesome, I can’t wait until I’m old enough to be a part of all of this!”.

Peter Willison came into Amy Willison Collyer’s life on July 8th, 1984. She is his oldest sister. She is taking this opportunity to tell part of Peter’s story.


“Grief never ends…but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…it is the price of love”   – Unknown

“Growing up in New York, most families I knew typically had 2-4 children; my parents had 9.  Members of large families like ours often experience—as I did—the feeling of almost two families (two different generations) being raised by the same parents in the same home, so unfortunately I do not share many “growing up” memories with my younger siblings.  So on July 8th ,1984 when my third brother, and the 7th child in our family was born, I don’t remember anything extraordinary about Peter Willison’s birth.  How was I to know back then how truly important and special this individual would be in my life, what a tremendous impact he would have, and how my life would be so profoundly changed just by knowing him?  The simplest things are what made Peter so special to me: his laugh, his contagious unique laugh.  Being able to pick up the phone, call him and talk to him about ANYTHING—literally anything. He had a way of always making me feel important and making time for me.  If I could change anything, if I could go back to July 8th, 1984 I would explain to my 9 year old self the tremendous blessing that I had been given that day—that I was allowed to experience the wonderfully extraordinary love of Peter Willison.  I would make my 9 year old self understand the importance of drinking in every moment with him, enjoying every laugh, every ounce of Peter Willison.  I would make myself understand the importance of making memories with him and I would encourage my younger self to grow close to him, closer than you think necessary…I would explain, “because he will be gone from your life far too early — before you are ready for him to be gone”.  Growing up with Peter I look back and I wish that I had written down memories we shared, his stories, and basically our life experiences together.  Because if I had I would be able to share them, and remember these experiences through Peter’s eyes, which is a far better view than any other I have experienced.  When Peter was around things were just happier, life was better.   Throughout his life Peter had the opportunity to live in a few different places, and I always noticed how wherever he lived, people always tended to gravitate to him; often it began because of his contagious laugh and anecdotes, and then they would stay and become friends because of who he was.  He was a genuine, kind and giving person, often putting the needs of others before his own.  He was never afraid of hard work, he loved his family and fought like Hell for who and what he loved.  He was an optimist, always seeing the glass as half full.  He took tremendous joy in the simple things, finding a great bargain,  working hard at his job and on his house, having a couple of friends over for some poker and drinks, winning $10 on a $1 scratch off ticket.  He was the best brother anyone could ask for — he shared his love unconditionally.  He meant so much to me, more than words could ever express, for my soul aches daily at his absence.  I regret not telling him more often how much I loved him.  I regret not making more time for him to call him more often, so that he would know that I would always be there for him.  He was a tremendously compassionate person who loved kids.  Peter was 13 years old when I had my first child—a son, Collin. Collin grew up with Peter and saw him almost as an older brother.  My girls grew up being adored by Uncle Peter and they idolized him.  Out of anyone in my family Peter was the one person that I always knew loved me—unconditionally—our relationship was not overly complicated or stressful. Whenever Peter visited he usually stayed at my house, and it was during these times when some of my favorite memories with Peter were created.  Staying up for hours talking about everything; my kids never could get enough of him. When it was time to leave it was sad and we missed him, we would immediately start planning for his next visit, but now he is gone…for what seems like forever and the sadness is a lot harder and the pain is a lot deeper.  In writing this I kept asking myself how do you sum up a person’s life—but not just anybody’s life—this amazingly loved, extraordinary, one of a kind person’s life?  Do we sum up the value of his life by those he left behind? Or by those who were touched by his kindness?  Or by the lives he made better just by being in them?  Well, what if that is not enough? I loved my brother more than I will ever be able to express. Part of me died the day that he died and every day since I have felt the devastation left behind by his death. Peter was wonderful. There is no one like him—nor will there ever be. He was a dreamer who loved life, and was always making big plans for the future.  He loved life so much that he always saw the good in it.  And THAT is how I choose to see his life, by the good that Peter found in life, how in tough situations he searched for the good.  In death we are left with questions and regrets, but what Peter truly left for us was GOODNESSS—HIS GOODNESS.   He did good wherever he went, he was a good person, and he saw the good in others.  Peter inspired me to be a better person while he was alive. Now my brother is gone, he left this world too soon.  His death has changed me, it has scarred me and has created a constant ache, a void or hole in my heart that will never be healed.  If I could go back to July 8th, 1984 and talk to my 9 year old self I would say be grateful.  Be grateful that you are blessed with the privilege of being able to call this extraordinary person your brother and family.  Be grateful for the lessons Peter will teach you, and soak up every moment you can with him because 29 years will not be long enough.”

– Amy Willison Collyer


3 thoughts on “It’s official! You’re a Willison, kid!

  1. Thank you for sharing these beautiful yet heartbreaking thoughts. Brought me to tears! Each life has a purpose & impacts our lives often more than we realize. God does have a plan for us if we could only comprehend his infinite love for each of us and how very special we are to him. We need to think of others in that same way no matter what the circumstances. Love & prayers to you and all the Willison families.

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