Dozens of friends, family and others touched over the years by Mauldin's Wesley Swilling gathered in Springfield Park Sunday afternoon to remember, through tears and laughter, the deep impact he left on them.
after he allegedly confronted and threatened a Greenville County Sheriff's deputy and a Greenville police officer in the LEC's parking lot.
During the late-night confrontation, the officers said they believed Swilling was approaching them armed with a gun and with malicious intent. That weapon, however, turned out to be a harmless, modified glue gun. Swilling was shot seven times in the confusion.
Friends and family alluded to Swilling's personal problems and internal demons on Sunday, but preferred instead to concentrate on the man they remembered as a great athlete from Mauldin High, a loving and harmless man who relished his relationships with family and friends, and a man who poured his heart into writing and producing often intensely personal music and poetry.
After listening to heartfelt recollections of Swilling, the 60 or so people who gathered lit candles in his honor before dispersing.
"Wes was a humble presence, he really was. He had so many talents, he was so gifted in so many ways, but he never let that show," said his close friend Logan Stewart after the ceremony, in which selections of his recorded music was played for the crowd.
"He made it his mission to take care of other people first," Stewart said. "That's what a coach or friend or teacher would tell you about him. He was just very loving and giving, and I think everybody here today would say the same kind of thing."
"I'd like to tell you who our son was," said Swilling's father, Kim Swilling. "He was gentle and kind and would never hurt a soul. He had a smile that was out of this world. He will live in our hearts and memories. He loved hard and he loved deeply. He could be loads of fun. He had a great personality. He wanted to fix the world.
I'm sure if you ask anyone here, if he was your friend, he was one of your best," his father continued. "He was for real. He loved children, and though he had no children of his own they all loved him as well. He loved dogs and animals, and he loved his family. God takes great things and hides them in common places, and when God looked at Wes he saw a beautiful man. A temple worthy of his spirit…. He had not only outer beauty, but inner beauty as well. He was the best son anyone could ever ask for.
Wes's pain was great over lots of things in his life," Swilling added. "We must remember he is in a place where there is no more sadness, no more sorrow, no more tears. Let's rejoice over life and remember the vibrant bighearted man he was. He no longer feels the pain he endured for his short 31 years…. But we can find comfort knowing he is at home [in heaven] and has all the answers to his questions now.
"Regardless of his brokenness, he was a model human. He was loved unconditionally. A wise man once told me, the most a person can say about his or her life was that I was here and that I mattered. And Wes mattered."