A symphony. The perfect blend of sounds conglomerating together to greet your ears with just the right tune. The baton goes up and down and side to side as the conductor waves his small, tiny instrument of wooden fiber to beckon a myriad of noise to come together to create beauty. The blare of the horns. The trill of the flutes. The vibrato of the violins. It all speaks to the listener and calls him to feel emotion. Pain. Sorrow. Despair. Hope. Courage. Love. Each part of the symphony delivers its own unique message and each one plays off the last and comes together to create a masterpiece of sound. The life of my dear friend Brian Weil is like that. A masterpiece of sound. With so many different parts that have delivered their own unique message that come together as a whole. There have been times the tune has been sad; minor keys, a slow time signature, soft and quiet. And there have been times the tune has been joyful; crashes of symbols, runs of melody and upbeat sound all over the page. And everything inbetween. All this coming together to create the song, the story, the masterpiece, of Brian Weil.
Brian’s song began on November 13th, 1970 in Chicago, IL on the West side of Chicago. Brian had an older sister, Lorraine and also was born as a twin with his sister Brenda, who was just five minutes older than him. Brian, always the kind of a guy to crack a joke, likes to say that on that day they closed down the hospital and the Dr. quit his joy. I like to think that on that day God smiled and knew a wonderful symphony had just begun.
A few years later, Brian and his family moved to Berwyn. Brian was a unique and special child, full of life and energy. And maybe a little bit of trouble to go with that too. “I was Dennis the Menace,” laughed Brian. “I did anything and everything.” Throughout Brian’s education, he had experienced kids picking on him and giving him trouble. This made things really hard for Brian as he went through school.
A common theme in the symphony of Brian’s life has been his relationship with his father. Brian’s father, George Weil, was a well-respected man who had served in the military for several years. However, George and Brian’s relationship was very harmful to Brian. “To my father, I was nothing but a moron,” said Weil. Brian faced constant verbal abuse from his father during his time under the same roof as him. And so whether he was at school or at home, Brian faced hard times and verbal lashings that he didn’t deserve in any way. This made for a very sorrowful symphony as Brian went through his growing up years.
The symphony picked up while Brian was in high school. He decided to find a healthy outlet for all the verbal abuse he was taking. And so Brian took up weight lifting. Part way through jr. high Brian had been lifting weights and now in high school he was lifting consistently. To this day, Brian spends time just about every single day at the gym. I’ve received many tips from Brian on how to work out and the man really is an expert.
After graduating high school, Brian worked at a newsstand for three years. The hours were long and early. Brian would be at the newsstand some days as early as 4:30 in the morning but enjoyed it. Following the newsstand job, Brian enlisted into the navy and went into special training and was selected to be a part of the high caliber and high demanding Navy Seals. Brian was great at what he did. He was a good swimmer. He was great at calisthenics. He was in the best shape of his life. Simply put, Brian was cut out to be a Navy Seal. About two months after Brian’s enlistment, he graduated from his training program and was scheduled to ship out to California the following morning. Upon reacting to the exciting news, Brian accidently fell off a stair landing from the second floor and ended up breaking his right leg in eight different places. Brian’s plans of California, in a moment, had changed drastically. “I was angry,” said Weil, desiring so badly to continue on, being the tough, determined man that he is. “I said that I was young and strong and the leg would heal up.” Unfortunately, Brian would have to be discharged due to his injury and he was sent home.
The transition back home for Brian was hard. He was back with his father who caused him emotional and physical harm. Brian explained to me multiple occasions where they violently fought in their home and the police were forced to come. Brian would eventually find a job at a Courtyard Marriot as a dishwasher in 1990. But the belittling from his father continued and he eventually kicked Brian out of his home. Brian, homeless and with a heavy heart, decided that he couldn’t continue to live his life. One night, when he got off work he rode his bike in front of an oncoming car. The blow was terrible. Brian was rushed to the hospital and put on life support. However, his symphony was not finished. Brian ended up staying in the hospital for a month and was then was transferred to a facility on the north side of Chicago where he recuperated. During this time on one winter day, as Brian slipped and fell in an icy Wal Green’s parking lot, he would meet his soon to be girlfriend Carola. Carola meant the world to Brian. They instantly became close and were insperable for six weeks. Six weeks after they met, however, Carola was hit by a car on a business trip and died. It was a terrible ordeal for Brian. “I was devastated, said Brian. “I cracked.” Despairing, down, and depressed, Brian was homeless once again for a short while before going into a center for help.
Brian would eventually move in to the YMCA on Chicago Avenue in the spring of 1995. During this time he met Sandra. Sandra would turn out to be a constant companion for Brian and they came to share a deep love for one another and they later became engaged. However, in 2002, Sandra started making poor choices and involved herself with negative influences and drug use. Brian had to break things off. It was another tough blow on Brian’s heart. Four years later, another blow would follow. George Weil, Brian’s father would pass away from a poor liver. The man had drank all these years and finally it took his life in the same house that Brian had grown up in and faced ordeal after ordeal with his father. The man who had caused Brian so much pain was now gone, but the pain, sorrow, and suffering from all those years was still there in his heart.
And so, at this point, Brian’s symphony was one that evoked much sorrow, remorse, and pain. However, there is beauty in the suffering. And in order to appreciate the peaks, one must go through valleys. In order to journey through the light, exciting melodies, the major keys, and the upbeat time signatures, one must take in and wade through the murky marshes of the slow, heavy, dark notes. It is a journey. It is a masterpiece. It is a symphony.
Imagine a stained glass window in an old cathedral. Full of broken glass. Random pieces that just seem pointless by themselves. Haphazard colors. No order, rhyme or reason supposedly. But shine the light on it. Let the golden beams of the sun be cast on it and what do you see? Beauty. Signifcance. Meaning. And that is what comes next in Brian’s life. The light is shone on the brokenness and out of it we find a masterpiece.
Brian was determined to pick up the broken pieces of his life. He enrolled himself in cooking school, fulfilling a promise that he had made to his dad earlier in life. As a kid, Brian wasn’t happy with the burnt eggs that his dad would serve up for breakfast and so he decided to do something about it and make his own eggs. The six year old was onto something. Burnt-less eggs were just the beginning. And now, a few years into his culinary schooling and a student at Kendall college, Brian is a incredible cook. In fact, for my 22nd birthday Brian gave me the best present I could ask for: a party catered by Mr. Weil himself. Ribs, pot roast, potato salad, greek salad. What more could a guy ask for?
In the Spring of 2010, Brian joined Chicago’s Beloved, a group that spends time with dear friends on the streets of downtown Chicago. Brian has played a vital role in the group, handing out sandwiches and blankets and building deep relationships with those involved. He has meant so much to that group in so many ways. In the Fall of 2010, Brian also joined a church community in Wicker Park called Missio Dei. During this time, God became more and more real to Brian. Light was shining on the broken places. “God gave me direction,” says Brian. “He gave me help.”
Brian’s dream is to finish school, become a personal chef in Chicago and start his own feeding program. There, those on the street could come in for a free meal and a Bible study and know that they are loved. I can’t think of a more wonderful dream.
I can’t even begin to describe the blessing that Brian Weil is in my life. I met Brian two years ago in the dining room of the YMCA one Fall evening. Little did I know what God had in store. Cups of coffee in Starbucks, time on the street with our friends, services at Missio Dei, meals full of laughter and stories. We have had so many good times over these past couple years. Words truly do fall short to describe how deeply I admire and appreciate the man and how much I cherish our friendship.
Ludwig Von Bethoven. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Frederic Chopin. George Frideric Handel. All brought a group of instruments, a mishmash of metal and wood, together to produce a beautiful sound as they conducted and coerced refrain, harmony and tune out of each one. And all that simply with a wave of a baton. God, the ultimate Conductor and Composer Himself has unleashed a beautiful symphony as well. Far more beautiful than even Bethoven himself could muster up. Far more beautiful. Every part, every instrument, every sound in His complete and total control. With the wave of a baton He is able to create a complete masterpiece that transcends words. Brian Weil is that masterpiece.