Bringing Wes Home

Jane and John Vose. Photo by Jakob Lewis

Intro from Jay Allison: This piece comes from the Transom Story Workshop Spring 2014. The students came from all over to spend two months with us on Cape Cod. Rob Rosenthal and Audrey Quinn led the class and were joined by all of us at Transom, plus Robert Krulwich, Nancy Updike, and a lot of other great producers who happened by. Check out their work. If these are beginners, look out.

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About “Bringing Wes Home”

What do you do when your radio radar zooms in on a sensitive story? “Bringing Wes Home” is about a family who lost their son Wes at 22 in a car accident. Rather than let the funeral home take their son’s body away they picked him up from the morgue. They washed his body, dressed him, built his casket, and buried him.

All of this was less than two years ago. It was fresh territory. Those who knew the story were nervous about my pursuing it. The brother vetted me on a morning walk. The mother, Jane, thought it over and agreed to talk to me. I told the family I was there to be with them in this, not to poke and prod. I also told them that if at any point there was something they didn’t want to talk about to just let me know. We would stop the interview or change subject. I cried at some point during most conversations on tape with them. Their son was so alive, so vibrant, and I felt that loss when I was with them.

During editing, I became exhausted. There was a point where I just couldn’t handle the emotion of the piece anymore. I went on a walk. Left it for the next day.

The piece played at a public listening event. Wes’ mom was there. You can imagine my nerves. People laughed and cried and stared at the floor. I had my eyes closed most of the time. When it was over I walked to the front of a silent room and asked if anyone had any questions. After an awkward silence Jane raised her hand. “I knew right away that I liked you.” To think I almost did a story on civil war re-enactors instead.

Jakob’s Sonic ID

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I met Cynthia Rose in a Catholic prayer garden in Woods Hole, MA. It is a beautiful space that she passionately takes care of. She’s not Catholic, but as you’ll hear she resonates with the Virgin Mary in a way only a mother can.

Listen to More Pieces from this Story Workshop Class

Jakob Lewis

About
Jakob Lewis

Jakob lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and two dogs. He hosts a show called Neighbors. He's passionate about developing a radio community in the mid-south and getting to know his neighbors. If you ask him out for coffee he will probably say yes. Don't be shy! You can find more of Jakob's work at PRX and at his website.

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  • Tara

    1.30.16

    Reply

    Love Wes’s brother Luke’s song at the end. Is it available anywhere?

  • Shelia Champion

    7.31.16

    Reply

    Great story. I live in Hazel Green, AL, and have just opened the first totally green (i.e., no hybrid) burial ground in the state. I’m also working on getting a group of volunteers together to teach them how to do home funerals so we can assist families that don’t know how to start. Your article is what I hope families will read/hear and learn from. I’ve also challenged Alabama’s law on casket sales and it has been changed. Hoping to hear soon that the law requiring the intrusion of an Alabama Licensed Funeral Director is changed as well. Thank you for the interview and yes, it was a good decision.

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