Songs trigger memories. People help create those memories. And sometimes, on special occasions, those songs and those people can move a person to the brink of tears. I’d like you to meet Byron Bryant. And what’s about to be said has truly been seven years in the making.
Yesterday marked the seven year anniversary of my friend Byron “B.J.” Bryant’s death. July 17, 2012, also signified Big K.R.I.T.’s “Yesterday” will forever stick to my ribs and remind me of a friend who personified what the true meaning of kindheartedness truly was. To make a long, painful and conflicting story much shorter, B.J. – a native of Houston – was killed in July 2005 after an argument with another Hampton University student from New York in a local restaurant. The conflict led outside and Byron was stabbed to death. To this day his killer remains free for a variety of reasons.
I wasn’t there the night he died, nor would there have been anything I could’ve probably done to prevent it. I was 19 at the time and still learning the ins and outs of college life. I had returned home for the summer working when a friend called me that night telling me the news. Having spoke to him only a few days earlier, B.J. was excited to be half done with college. Basically, he sounded how any 20 year old would with his entire life in front of him. I had met him a year earlier during my summer classes before my freshman fall semester at Hampton. Only my second day on campus, B.J. stopped me in the student center to introduce himself and inform me if I needed anything – a ride to Wal-Mart, info on a female, whatever – to give him a call. He did this out of the blue without knowing me from a can of paint and I always kept the gesture near and dear to my heart.
In a sense, he’s a large part of the reason I’ve continued to attempt to treat people how I desire to be treated. And throughout the years, my small collection of memories of B.J. have never ceased to sprint through my mind at random moments. We could never be considered “best friends,” but not everyone who leaves an impact on your life is someone who’d be in your wedding. K.R.I.T.’s “Yesterday” was more or less the audio version of a slideshow when I matriculated through one of the rawest transitions of my life – the comfort and routine of high school to the randomness that was college.
As much as I miss my friend, I’m always reminded a mother and father lost a son and his sister lost a brother. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet B.J.’s parents, but if I did, I’m not exactly sure what would be appropriate to say. “I’m sorry” would be too cliche. “Things will get better” is a cop out. My grandmother’s only son died in 1999 and I’ve seen how that affects her to this day. I’ve had friends pass and their parents were never the same. Time helps ease pain, but it rarely helps heal wounds. So if I am ever granted the opportunity to meet Mr. and Mrs. Bryant, honesty is probably the only reasonable option. Losing a friend at that point in my life hit like a ton of bricks. College was supposed to be an environment fostering progression, not depression. I went to college to escape incidents like this. Through it all, however, my pain paled in comparison to theirs.
The majority of 2012 has seen a favorable portion of my friends get married, have kids or both; something Byron was cheated out of experiencing. It’s a beautiful testament of bonds moving forward and outlooks on life graduating to another echelon. And to be completely honest, I couldn’t be more happier for each and every one of them. The fact still remains I see becoming a father as one of the scariest moments in life. Not because I don’t want any children; I do. But moreso because of the fact I’d never be able to truly protect them from the world, which, in and of itself, is an impossible task. I’m more petrified of losing a child than having one. And as backwards as the thought process may seem, it’s the only thing I could think of as K.R.I.T. preached throughout “Yesterday.”
There’s a chance my outlook on life changes if B.J. never gets killed. Then again, maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, these words are seven years in the making and I’m unsure this is how I wanted to truly express my appreciation for a guy who likely had no clue he left an impact on an 18-year-old kid’s life and always will. For that, I’d tell the Bryants thank you for allotting me a gift I only knew for a year and only they grasped for 20.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s legendary quote about success reads, “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child a garden patch or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
B.J. never had the opportunity dance with his mother at his wedding or watch another football game with his pops. Because of such, it’s a reminder life is not only defined by smiles, but how we overcome the dark patches which replace those smiles. Yet, possibly through the grace of God his family can find some sort of solace in the fact their son/brother embodied that quote from Emerson. My life is indeed better because of Byron Bryant.
“Just so you know, your lectures ain’t going in vain
Accepted that you’re gone but I deal with the pain
Weather the rain, just know I won’t be the same…”
R.I.P. B.J. I miss you like yesterday homie.
Big K.R.I.T. – “Yesterday”