Eulogy

Chase and McCrae sitting in the local airport after a day of fishing and beaching on Anegada.January 29th 1998 – September 12th 2017

Although McCrae’s life was cut tragically short, it was a life well-lived and one full of incredible experiences.

McCrae touched many people’s lives in 19 years. On September 16th, over 2000 people paid their respects at George Doherty & Sons Funeral Home in Wellesley. The line stretched over a half mile to Wellesley Center with most people waiting three hours. Services were held the following day at the First Parish Church of Weston. The Church, its overflow rooms and Chapel were packed as was the Church playground where 400 or so attendees watched the service live via monitors. The family held a private interment at Weston’s Linwood Cemetery. McCrae’s resting site is peaceful as it abuts the woods next to his elementary school Woodland Elementary. It’s comforting to hear the laughter and the playfulness of the children when outdoors.

Our family deeply appreciates the overwhelming support of family, friends and the communities of Weston and Noble & Greenough School as well as many Lacrosse teams and organizations, all of which were impacted by McCrae’s life.


Here are the readings and eulogies from McCrae’s service.

Miss Libby – Nobles English Teacher reading “The Blue Ribbon”, a story by McCrae

Scene 1: Our cab pulled into the driveway as I looked around and all I saw was my family’s eyes glued to the glass of the windows. My body was still jet lagged from the long flight overseas and I could feel the weakness in my legs as they trembled in nervousness of this new place I was to call home. It was almost movie like when the cab suddenly stopped and all our doors opened simultaneously. We embarked up the steps to our new home, bags in hand, as my family gazed at the house. My head couldn’t keep from looking beyond the house into the garden. Back home, we lived just outside of London for most of my childhood, we were accustomed to the suburban living of England. Your garden was your backyard and back home our garden was small, with a fence, and was 50 yards from the cities commuter rail which shook our home whenever it passed. But this was not like home. I looked further back into my new home’s garden and its endlessness strangled me. Although the sun peered through the trees and into my eyes this new garden was scary. I no longer felt safe, I missed my fence and my perimeters that limited our play. The yard overwhelmed me with the feeling of fear and I felt wrapped in the essence of vulnerability and without a fence to protect me, but I guess that feeling of vulnerability is just part of growing up.

Continue Reading the Blue Ribbon

Scene 2: Today was the day, the bus had just turned onto my street. My legs were short and I was subconsciously swinging them in the air to suppress the anxiety I had. I was pensive, worried about what was to come. Thinking about the embarkment that I was about to bravely endure. I put my head against the glass as we pulled up to my house, I started down the driveway regretting more and more every second I came closer to going out into those woods. I wanted to overcome my fear but going out there alone was something I had never done before. My mind was racing. Marching up the small hill to the woods, I started down the trail. I carried with me a spool of ribbon, which I tied around the trees every fifteen yards or so in order to get home. I

walked and walked, trudging down the path tying ribbon after ribbon. Time passed as I walked and I approached one of my ribbons, which I tied earlier and started for home. During the walk I was so focused on tying the ribbons that I hadn’t noticed the beauty that was around me. The trees were so tall, and their canopy engulfed and protected me from the outside world. Just an hour ago I was shaking in fear and anxiety, however the safety of the ribbons and the trees distracted me on my journey. Those distractions removed that feeling of vulnerability in order to overcome my fear.

Scene 3: I rolled out of bed, and made my way downstairs. My teenage body was exhausted even though it was noon. I headed downstairs and saw my dog, Cody, jumping up and down with excitement. Although I was tired I felt the urge to treat “my brother” with a walk at his favorite place: the woods. Cody dashes out the door with elation. We hop on the trail and head towards the conservation land, about 200 yards away. Embracing everything around me, I took a deep breath and savored the slightly cool fall air into my lungs. The wind whistled through the trees, which had already become their hazel and burgundy hues. Cody’s pale cream coat fluttered in the breeze but all of a sudden everything began to stand still; my mind trickled back like the stream beside us to when this odd place used to frighten me. Now it was inviting me deeper. My thoughts began to fade away, unconsciously following Cody further into the brush. We stopped and sat against one of the oak trees which split the path, but something felt different; this place didn’t seem as foreign and scary as I remember. I stretched my arms up into the air and noticed a blue strand straddling the tree across from us. It was the ribbon from years ago, majority of the ribbons had been taken down but this one remained. I untied the ribbon from its function and put it in my pocket which now served as a memory.

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Ramesh – A friend from Weston High School

I heard the news and all I could say was “are you serious?” I’ve always said I wouldn’t respond to tragic news that way, but I couldn’t help but want it to be a cruel joke. My mind went all sorts of directions, none of which came close to an immediate acceptance of the fact that I had just been told one of my best friends was gone. What? Was all I could think. Denial… then slowly, a feeling that I knew began to rise. The way a kettle warms slowly then boils all at once. My eyes glossed over, and I felt the emotional rush. It hit, and it hit hard. Then once it settled, just numbness. He was all I could think about, but I was involuntarily denying myself the emotional experience – fearing it’s violence. Days passed, but by the wake I could no longer deny myself the pain. But no tear brought me any closer to having him back.

Continue reading Ramesh's eulogy

I realize there are no words that can come close to conveying the person McCrae was, or his memory that will carry on. I can only attempt to share how I’ve felt, and hopefully, offer some peace.

I am in disbelief. Disbelief that McCrae is gone, and about how it happened. That a kid so loved left us, apparently alone and disregarded. I can’t help but feel like I can still pick up my phone and call him to tell him how my love life is going, or ask about his latest adventure.

I am baffled, asking why him? Why this way? Asking what could I have done. Wondering what led to this, and what led kids my age to turn away from someone so clearly in need?

I am angry. Because there is no explanation that will satisfy me. I am angry because this cruel world has taken away a person who had so much more to give – whose life was truly just beginning.

I am guilty because I know there have been times when I haven’t considered the fragility of life, and could have looked out better for a friend, and fearful because I know that these circumstances could have fallen upon any of us.

But more than any of these feelings, I am thankful. Thankful that I got to know McCrae. A kid that was so complex that he made me question my own uniqueness, but was so humble that he knew exactly how to make me feel exceptional.

I am thankful because who I am today is due largely in part to McCrae. When I got into the Academy, I hadn’t admitted to anyone that I was still unsure about whether or not I would go. McCrae was the only one I opened up to about it, and he made it simple for me. He said, you’re going. I wasn’t planning to wear my uniform today, because I feared it would be distracting.

But I also know that McCrae would want nothing more than to see me wearing it, knowing that he did his part to help me earn it.

I am grateful to the people who gave us McCrae. Dianne and Chris. Some kids grow in spite of their family, but we know McCrae became McCrae because of the loving family he proudly claimed. From your illustrious travel and relentless support at his games, to the importance placed on family dinners, your commitment to family was apparent to everyone in McCrae’s life.

No parent should ever have to say goodbye to their son, but no one could imagine you two to show the fortitude you have in the midst of this tragedy. Chris, you told me yesterday that McCrae used to stand in net and take shots, so right now you can take life as it comes at you. I know somewhere McCrae smiled when you said that.

Chase. I’ve told you before, and I will never stop reminding you how much McCrae loved and admired you. You showed him how to work hard for what he wanted, not only in lacrosse but in life, and to do so with an attitude that accepted nothing less than the best all while never let him forget how much you loved him.

To the Williams family as a whole, thank you for the chance to represent our community and honor McCrae. I can say nothing than I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve this, McCrae didn’t deserve this. But even after today as the rest of us inevitably return to our normal lives, the visits, cards, and calls decrease in frequency, and you can’t help but feel alone in your mourning, we will keep you in our hearts and always in our prayers. And remember that God tells us that “those who mourn, will be comforted.”

If the aftermath of McCrae’s death has shown us anything it is the true meaning of a friend, brother, and son. The power of a smile, a hello, an “I love you” to impact a life. The importance of reaching out, staying in touch, and keeping up. That nothing is more valuable than time, and the time we spend with those we love is what matters at the end of our lives. Tasks are forgotten, a good night of sleep replaced, but a good laugh always brings back the same feeling. That your best friend is the one who would drop everything just to be there for you, and your best friend is the one who will give you nothing but pure honesty. That real love reaches a point where we can’t explain the reasons why we feel the way we do, we just do. And that the experience of death and it’s pain is always juxtaposed by life and it’s joy, and our sorrow serves as a fierce reminder to appreciate who and what we have.

McCrae, thank you for showing me that friendships don’t have to end just because we go to different schools, and that all it takes to keep a friendship alive is to want it to, and act on that desire. Thank you for teaching me that no girl is out of my league, and that if I don’t go for it, then I am the only one to blame. You showed me that you can love yourself without ever coming across as prideful, and at end of the day what others think about me doesn’t mean much compared to how I feel about myself. Your artwork, your photography and film, and your designs were all testaments to the freakishly talented guy you were. Your smile and your charm had every one of us wondering if you were gonna steal our moms from our dads. You could get away with anything because everyone knew how good you were to the core. The heart that you didn’t reveal to just anyone was the most genuine, and introspective I have ever known. You played the least glamorous position on the field and somehow found a way to always be the flyest one out there. From your music, to your hidden dance talents, to your willingness to crash a sweet sixteen yourself, then invite more guests, to showing up at anyone’s door unannounced, you really thought you were Weston’s own gangsta. And I’d say you were right.

I was standing watch this past Thursday, and with McCrae on my mind, I looked down and stumbled upon a quote. It read: “When do you think people die? When they are shot through the heart? No. When they are ravaged by some disease? No. It’s when they are forgotten.”

Yesterday I looked out and saw thousands of people waiting to honor McCrae. And in the line that stretched out of sight down the street, as one friend put best, I could imagine McCrae running up and giving each person a big hug. It was proof of the constant flow of individuals realizing that the thanks for a gift, gesture, or experience they cherish belongs to McCrae. While we know that what McCrae still had to offer is unquantifiable, he has given each of us memories that we will never forget. And that, my friends, is a life well lived.

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Lily – A friend from Weston High School

McCrae, I went to our favorite place to write you this letter. It felt a lot different without you but everything will now. I sat where we used to on that white bench and thought about all our memories there together. It was through our conversations, that you showed me the way you saw the world like no one else. You would give me the best advice about boys, and I would give you advice about girls. And we coached each other throughout the 5 years I knew you. I’ll always think of these 5 years as the best of my life and will spend every day wishing that we could go back to Cat Rock. Tears roll down my face as I write this, because I know I’ll never meet someone as unique as you ever again.

When we met freshman year in history class, I knew someone incredibly special had come into my life. We got separated in that class more times than I can remember. I guess we were never laughing and talking as quietly as we thought. Whether it was in class, at lunch or in the hallways, we never ran out

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of a word to say to each other. We continued to build our friendship sophomore year and made more teachers mad. In the winter, you told me you were looking at other schools, and you promised me we would remain best friends. You were a man of your word and you made it your mission to stay close.

I was nervous when you left for Nobles, but watching you grow into yourself there was the privilege of my life. Nobles gave you the chance to find who you were, and I was so impressed with you each step of the way. Whether it was working hard in school, on the lacrosse field or anything you put your mind to, you never gave up. Lacrosse demonstrated your strong work ethic, but it was your fearlessness on and off the field that made you so captivating to watch. You were inspired by Chase and your Nobles boys, but you always seemed to look up to yourself. You always aimed to be your best, and I thank god every day you motivated me to try and do the same.

In my eyes, you were the most talented person I knew. I remember the first time you showed me your art work, I was blown away by your imagination and creativity. I was so lucky that you shared that side of yourself with me because not everyone got to see your portraits of ASAP Rocky.

From showing me your art, to our days walking around Cat Rock, each day was an adventure with you. When we hung out, you never wanted to sit around. I will miss exploring with you more than anything.

McCrae, no words could ever capture how much you meant to me and the impact you had on me. You tried so hard at everything you did and this is my chance to show you I’ll never stop trying for you. You were the kindness, most compassionate and loving friend. You loved as much as you felt and never failed to show me that. You made me appreciate the little things in life and I will always be grateful for that.

For the last 5 years I’ve been blessed to have you as my best friend. You were taken away from us way too soon and while I’ll never understand the unfairness of losing you, it brings me joy that I was able to spend so much time with you recently. But you should be here to go through the rest of life with, to get married, become a father and accomplish your dreams. You were happy, healthy, so handsome, and had everything going for you. You were my biggest role model. I will never forget your beautiful infectious smile that could light up any room. One of your favorite quotes was “The true test of a person’s character is how they treat the people in life that they don’t need.” You were just as kind to strangers as you were to me, and your legacy of kindness will last forever.

Since you’ve been gone a lot of people have been talking about being there for me. But no one has ever been there more than you. You made me laugh on the worst of days, and I wish you were here making me laugh now.

I want you to know that while you may not be here to listen to me vent anymore, your friends have welcomed me into the beautiful friend group that you created. We have been getting together each night, and sharing stories about all the good times you gave to us. Celebrating your life with them has gotten me through this week, and I know that you’ve been laughing along with us.

I have also spent these last few days with your mom, your dad and Chase. You would be so proud of their strength and poise. You loved your family more than any kid I knew, and McCrae, they love you dearly. I promise to keep them close in my life and build a friendship with Chase based off of the beautiful connection you gave us.

I got so lucky to have you as my best friend, nothing more, and never anything less. You were so interested in my life, that you made me more excited to live it. I miss you so terribly much and love you more than you’ll ever know. You’ll always have my heart, McCrae.

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Emre –  A friend from the Noble & Greenough High School

When I was thinking about what I wanted to say today, my mind rushed with memories hoping to find one which would fully embody McCrae’s character. It is most definitely not an easy task to fulfill given how amazing of a person he was. I thought to myself, should I discuss his countless instances of leadership, humor and humility as a teammate on both the varsity lacrosse team and the legendary 3rds basketball team? Or perhaps it would be better to discuss an example of his unrelenting work ethic as a classmate. It was not long before I realized that there simply isn’t a way to do McCrae justice; he was so much more than any description I can give, but I will certainly try my best to give some semblance of my best friend.

The first time I met McCrae my sophomore year at Nobles I knew immediately that we were going to be friends. As a new student of the school, McCrae carried himself with such confidence and welcoming poise that it was no surprise that he had established a solid friend group in such a short amount of time–after all who could ever resist his signature bright, ear to ear smile.

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Parents and other members of the school can attest to the close knit nature of our friend group, and McCrae was the glue that held it all together. Although he was a star athlete with many accolades under his belt, he was, above all, a true and loyal friend. He displayed the same passion that many saw in him on the field in the relationships with those who were close to him. McCrae was dependable, trustworthy and most of all, genuine; he was simply who he was and was never afraid to show it. One day while I was sitting in the senior alcoves with McCrae, I was wearing a shirt with a button down over it, but none of them were done. That was against school policy and passing teacher was quick to make note that I was breaking dress code. McCrae gave me one look and immediately undid his own buttons. For those of you who knew McCrae you know that he was not one for the rules. We spent the rest of the day walking around together purposefully looking like rebellious buffoons and had ourselves a day filled with laughter. This is a perfect example of the kind of friend McCrae was; he would place himself in trouble’s way just to help a friend and have a laugh in the process. While my time with McCrae was far too short, the lessons I learned from him in the few years we had together are indelible. He taught me to enjoy the day to day life, to find meaning in the little things you do. McCrae was very particular but in the most admirable way. If he started something, he made sure that it would be finished, on his own terms. He would spend countless hours working on his lacrosse skills, video edits and drawings. It was genuinely inspiring to see how he worked on each with deliberate care and detail. If he had nothing to do, which was rare, he would find ways to keep himself busy, completely consumed in whatever task he undertook. To give you a sense of the kind of competitor he was, he hung a poster of himself above his bed in the lacrosse net bracing for a shot. Why? Because he considered that game his worst performance and did not want to make the same mistakes again. One of the last memories I have with McCrae was when we frantically tried to find the proper glasses to view the solar eclipse. We were short on time and in our frenzy we called over 20 places ranging from the local CVS and Walgreens to every ophthalmologist office all to no avail. After many failed attempts our phone calls turned from serious inquiries to nothing more than prank calls; we always found a way to have fun. When we came to the realization that we were not going to find any of the glasses, I was ready to sit inside and watch TV. McCrae was not. He took it upon himself to make a pinhole camera device out of a cereal box and piece of paper. He was as determined as he was creative and I am so thankful that we were able to share that last memory of the eclipse. All because of him.
Anyone who knew McCrae knew how important family was to him. His love for his parents and brother transcended all else. He would often skip out on getting dinner with me and others because he knew he had a dinner waiting at home, with his family. A worldly traveler, McCrae would come back home from family vacations explaining his trip in vivid detail – I could tell that these excursions were when he was his happiest, with his family abroad satisfying his curiosity . I considered McCrae to be no less than a brother to me. Regardless of what I had in my mind, I knew that I could confide in him. Nothing I say right now can capture how much I loved McCrae, how much I miss him right now, and how much I wish I could convey to you all just how incredible and unique of a person he was. No words can do him right. There will never be a time when I don’t miss him. There will never be a time when I don’t wish for him to be a part of the future we should have shared together. There is no going back to normal, only adjusting to a new unfair normal. Whether you know it or not, all of you who have crossed McCrae’s path carry a part of him with you- the imprints he left on others were undeniable. For that very reason, I know that the loss we must endure will be lessened by the fact that many of you will forever carry on his legacy – in your own special way. I know McCrae is up there right now with his signature eye black looking down and watching over us with his infectious smile.

Thank you…….
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Matt Rowley- Noble & Greenough varsity lacrosse coach

I almost can’t picture McCrae without his Denna Strong shirt on.  I’ll always picture him coming over the hill onto the field past Casey’s bench.  These moments, these people and Nobles mattered to him greatly and the fact he had a huge impact on us means his life was special.

It was just cut too short.

McCrae Williams had big balls.  So big in fact that the sporting goods industry has yet to construct an athletic cup prodigious enough to contain them.  By my count McCrae participated in about 150 or so practice sessions with his Nobles teammates.  That comes out to about 300 hours on the Nobles practice field.  I’m willing to bet that nearly 50 of those hours were spent rolling in agony in and out of the crease after another blow to his genitals.

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Yeah, McCrae Williams definitely had big balls.

I’m told that on his Clams helmet he has scrawled a Psalm that reads:

I will not fear though tens of thousands that assail me on every side.

He loved the pressure of playing goal, of being the final line of defense and he loved playing in the biggest moments.  The opportunities we had to play against the likes of The Hill Academy, and Westminster, those were the moments he lived for.

I sat with the Williams family and a few friends in their backyard yesterday and we talked about McCrae as a player.  Chase explained that he hated lacrosse; I replied you played like you hated it.  Chase played with this furious edge that had made him one of the most feared defenders in the league while at Rivers.  McCrae absolutely loved lacrosse and played with an unbridled joy for the game and for the moment.  We started to talk of McCrae at the times ill-advised forays, far from the goal.

“How do you coach him?” Dianne asked.  I told him that you coach around him – you have to give players some license, some ownership for those moments.  It’s what keeps them engaged and sharp.  But with time to reflect it was more synergistic than that.  Really. I think it’s how the game is supposed to be played, not robotically, but with flair and passion.

In our lives we are all striving for moments in which we actually become what we visualize ourselves to be, what our best vision of our self might look like.  For some of us, it never comes.  We just keep striving.  For McCrae I believe I witnessed his moment as a lacrosse player.  Against Rivers, at Rivers in 2016 playing against a goalie that I know he measured himself against, against his club coach and in his hometown.  McCrae, and the team, played a game of near perfection.

Rivers used a zone defnese, and behind that zone sat a player many considered the best goalie in the league.  While we struggled to navigate the zone offensively in the 1st quarter we leaned hard on McCrae to hold the fort.  He had five or six saves in that 12 minutes that allowed us to keep it close.  In the 3rd quarter we started to figure things out, and there’s a moment caught on tape that I think tells you very much who McCrae was as a teammate and competitor.

After we scored our second goal, I sent out 8th grader John Dixon to take the next face-off against a player who may well have been six years his senior.  John hadn’t taken a face-off since early in the 1st and McCrae sprints up to him as he comes on the field and gives him a reassuring dap.  John wins the face-off and immediatly gets rag dolled by a Rivers player.

In the 3rd quarter we’ve got a one-gal lead and McCrae makes a save that I’ll never forget and that the team rallied behind.  Rivers, in transition, finds Matt Paul sneaking around the crease, unmarked.  He catches and shoots low.  McCrae goes to the ground to make the save.  The rebound goes directly back to Paul and with McCrae fully prone he wisely shoots high.  And McCrae, like a jackrabbit, bounds from the ground to make an unthinkable save.

It was a moment that perfectly illustrates who he was to me as a lacrosse player and really as a person.

In the biggest moment, he made the biggest play possible to bail out his team.  We rallied behind that save and scored the next seven goals.  Before just about every subsequent face-off taken by John Dixon or Jett there was McCrae to give him a reassuring dap.

McCrae burned bright that day.  And in his way he’s created a legacy for what it means to be a goalie, a player, a teammate – a human being – at Nobles.  I am more proud of McCrae for how he carried himself than I can really describe.

George Bernard Shaw wrote the words: “Life is no brief candle to me.  It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

I realize how difficult it is to understand the gravity of this for all of us.  Yet we have been able to rally around one another to find purpose in what we will continue to do with our lives, and as McCrae Williams’ teammates, his brothers.  As hard as it is, we have to find a way to be grateful for the life he experienced.  There’s no question that he lived an incredible life, and that included being a great friend and teammate to us.

Cherish the fact that he was simply a part of our experience.  It makes him a part of all of us forever.  Lean on one another, and be there for each other like he would in difficult times.  We have to find a way to embrace his eternal friendship and the lasting impact he’s going to have on all of us, because we that to McCrae.
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