That incredible smile — everyone talked about Dylan’s smile.
About 400 people — family, friends, teachers, classmates, coaches, church members, thespians, sports teams and others — packed the Church of the Nazarene in Brookings Monday to honor and celebrate the life of 15-year-old Dylan Anthony Speir, the boy with the incredible smile.
Speir died Aug. 1 when he fell from a cliff at the end of Tanbark Road after a morning of fishing with friends.
“We’re here because we recognize that Dylan has passed,” said Pastor Tim Lourash, “but we’re also here to celebrate a life that was far too short. We’re going to celebrate his life. Dylan is alive in Christ.”
Speir lived his life with enthusiasm.
“In (the theater production) Peter Pan, he and I flew through the air, and he always had us laughing backstage,” a note placed in a memorial basket for Speirs’ parents read. “He’s with Dori (Randall) now. I miss him already.”
Another note said Speir was a “sweet, sweet angel to everyone on Earth. God needed another angel in heaven. Dylan will be remembered greatly in all our hearts. He will continue to live on.”
Amidst tears, the crowd watched a video of Speir’s life, from the time he was an infant, through birthdays, Halloweens, Christmases. His time on the stage, his time up to bat, on the river with his parents Joe and Brandy and siblings Noah and Grace. There were photos of Speir baking, fishing, at a wedding and with friends.
Oh, the friends.
Tiffany VanMaren, who directed The Little Mermaid with the Brookings Harbor Community Theater, remembered him as the dependable actor, always on cue.
“He knew where he was supposed to be, every single time,” she said. “You’d go backstage looking for him and he’s all made up in yellow face paint and that big smile, like, ‘What are you worried about?’ What a loss to the whole community.”
Many spoke of his generosity and his thoughts of others.
Dominic Hendrix, a fellow thespian, recalled the time he was sitting alone at the theater, and Speir, always one to include others, sat with him and chatted.
A teacher of his who had just purchased a home with a “hideous” greenhouse she wanted removed received a message from Speir asking if he could have it. He wanted it for his mother for Mother’s Day.
“He gave me piggy-back rides, because he said that’s what friends do,” a young girl said. “He always did things for other people. He was a great friend.”
Some related the tale of a recent missionary trip the church took to Mexico, and an early-morning hike a group took to the 3,000-foot summit of a mountain they called Mt. Sinai. It was there, Pastor Rich Abblitt said, Speir had a spiritual mountaintop experience with God, and wanted to be baptized. He waited, however, so he could involve his family in the ritual.
“He was expressing that transaction in his heart that was taking place, Abblitt. “He wanted his family to know he was serious about the Lord — isn’t that cool? His baptism was an expression, visually, of what had already taken place on that mountain.”
Holly Pieper told the story of her son, Silas, who was intimidated by the rough kids on basketball season.
“They were rough, not fun,” she said. “But he said, ‘I like Dylan so much, I don’t want to let him down. And Dylan had that million-dollar smile the whole time.”
A former fellow employee from Vista Pub remembered Speir as the kid who was always cracking jokes; more than a few parents said they hoped their sons would grow up to be like Dylan — or that a boy like Speir would be the only kind they would let their daughter date.
“You see that boy there,” a man said, pointing to the portrait displayed on an oversize screen above the stage. “When someone knocks on your door to take your daughter on a date, that’s who you want on the other side of that door. He’s a good kid.”
“Dylan once came knocking on our door, asking for my 8-year-old daughter — it did take me by surprise,” a woman said. “I willingly handed my daughter to your son; they talked all the way to your house. He is probably one of the only guys I would’ve handed my 8-year-old over to. I hope one day a Dylan does come knocking on the door again.”
A couple people remembered Speir’s timidity in asking a girl to a dance — but they urged him on.
“I never met a young gentleman like him,” a woman said. “He mowed lawns, had a trailer attached to his bicycle, earned money to take Alli to that dance. I hope and pray my two sons will be like Dylan when they get older.
“I see him in Gracie, in Noah and Joe,” she continued. “He’s in all of us. It’s not a goodbye; it’s a ‘See you later.’”
“I will never forget that smile everyone talks about; he was such a happy child,” another woman said. “I hope one day my boys grow up to have his heart. He was an amazing kid.”
“Dyland’s young life pleased the Lord,” Abblitt said. “His life didn’t end; his life began in a place God has prepared for all of us. It is his reality and our inevitable hope.”
Abblitt also commented on Speir’s enthusiasm to go to Mexico — the youth was first in line with his money and registration form.
“He was the first to sign up, to lay down his investment for our Lord,” he said. “That’s the best investment that can ever be made, and now, it’s truly a life experience for eternity.”
Abblitt also spoke of the grief of those in the audience, but that Dylan wouldn’t want to return.
“We would want Dylan back, and he’d say, ‘What am I doing?’” Abblitt said. “I’m in the place I’ve been being perfected for!’ Though we are impressed by the works of Dylan, and of all the things with that smile on his face, with all those things, he was much more impressed with his eternal home and being united with his savior.”
That evening, an equal number of people filled the baseball field at Brookings-Harbor High School — where school officials had chalk-lined the baseball field and prominently displayed his number, 25, in left field, and released hundreds of balloons into the heavens.
With the American flag at half-staff fluttering in a light breeze, Brandy Speir reminded those gathered to hug each other often, to take care of the underdogs in society and always remember her son and his good deeds.
And for the first time that day, the fog thinned and the sun faintly shone through.
Everyone knew Dylan was smiling at them — that incredible smile — as he collected the colored orbs like he collected friends.