I was fourteen when I met him.
The summer of 2002 was the summer that everyone went to the mall on Saturdays. Saturday afternoons in the mall were spent mingling with friends from various groups and meeting new ones.
He emitted such a positive energy and his smile lit up his whole face. He shook my hand and enthusiastically introduced himself as Bryan. There was something about him that made me long to be his friend. Right away, I was proud to walk through the mall beside him. Him, another friend and I walked through the mall listening to him speak. His voice was so lyrical - probably because he voiced a smile through every spoken word.
"Have you ever had Butter Pecan ice cream?" He looked at me. I shifted from foot to foot trying to avoid his stare. His eyes held such intensity that was enough to make my insides quiver. I shook my head and smiled. We made our way to the grocery store where we purchased a massive tub of Butter Pecan ice cream and a package of disposable spoons. We walked through the mall while Bryan passed out spoons to random friends, inviting them to try a spoonful of his favourite ice cream.
This day was the introduction of a great friendship. I spent almost everyday of that summer spending time with Bryan and his friends. We'd went to camp together that summer. I treasured every moment that I had with him because the moments truly impacted me. He was such a passionate person. Bryan told me that he had cystic fibrosis and was told by his family doctor that he was lucky to live as long as he did. Bryan had a twin brother, Brendan, who passed away at the age of five with CF. Bryan saw every day that he woke up as a gift and lived it to the fullest. He touched everyone who knew him in a tremendous way. He loved life, he loved his life, and he loved everyone in his life. He was always greeting people with hugs and smiles. Bryan expressed his feelings on his life, his disease, and his brother through his music. He was in a band called West Avenue, where he played guitar and sang. He was exploding with talent and was passionate about writing and singing his own music.
I remember a time in high school where a complete jackass (you know... those kinds of jackasses that hang out together in high school) was pushing Bryan around. Bry was wearing eyeliner and the jackass was muttering words like, "fag" at him. The jackass hit Bry's hat off of his head, shouting jackass comments at him in regards to the eyeliner. My stomach cringed while I watched, not knowing what to expect. Bryan smiled at him, "Everyone has their own opinions. I respect that." Bryan picked up his hat and walked away. This situation really showed Bryan's amazing character.
Friday. October 10th, 2003.
I was at a school dance when I found out that Bryan passed away. He'd been at the IWK hospital for a few weeks, but our prayers and hopes were high. My insides grew numb when I found out. My knees fell weak and I dropped to the floor. My stomach ached and I clenched my hands into fists by my side. I rocked back and forth, crying. My boyfriend held me and cried. I looked around while the terrible news diffused through the crowd. Tears, shouts... pain.
The following Monday at school was treacherous. Not a soul spoke. The silence held gut wrenching pain. Everyone's faces were expressionless. Nobody knew what to say. It was evident, then, how much Bryan had affected so many people.
Bryan loved his life and lived every minute that he had the very best that he could. I try to always think of Bryan when my life gets tough. He had a rough life and was battling against a disease in which the odds were against him... but it didn't stop him from celebrating life every day. I think it's important not to get caught up and stressed out about things in life when the situation can always be much much worse. I think it's important to celebrate life, rather than get upset about it.
Not only do I aim to celebrate my own life everyday, I aim to celebrate Bryan's.
Check out the Facebook page "Brystock" to learn a little bit more about how Bry's friends and family continue to celebrate his life, while benefitting others.