On Tuesday afternoon, the world lost one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known. Our precious friend Bryce lost his battle with brain cancer. I know many of you already know his story, but I cope with emotions through writing so I feel compelled to put my feelings into words.
Aidan and I first met Bryce almost five years ago. The YMCA was starting a new Arts program, including children’s theatre, and Bryce was in charge. He was only 21 when I met him. Aidan was one of only four kids who auditioned for “Lullaby for a Lonely Child”, so Bryce put out a plea looking for adults to help fill the roles. Since I was going to be at practice with Aidan anyway, I volunteered to be in it as well and the rest is history.
Bryce convinced our entire family to get involved in theatre again. The boys and I did “Wizard of Oz” with Bryce, and Tony ran the lights. Then, Tony and I had the amazing experience of being cast as two of ten people in the production of “Godspell” that Bryce was directing. Last summer, all five of us were on stage for “Cinderella”. Our family was brought together in a way we might not have otherwise been, and we have amazing memories together. We’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime. This summer, Bryce got sick a week before our rehearsals for “Seussical” were supposed to start.
Anyone who has been in theatre can tell you that your fellow cast members and crew quickly become your family. You spend late nights and weekends together. In our case, it was three entire summers and one winter. We were lucky enough to spend time with Bryce outside of the YMCA productions, too. When we were trying to share memories with Aidan on Tuesday evening, it struck me that I had lots of occasions of laughter with Bryce that were maybe not “child appropriate”.
We sent Bryce flowers when he first went into the hospital. This is the last time I “spoke” with him – it’s one text I’ll never delete because it makes me smile.
Bryce was so many things to so many people, and his life was cut much, much too short. I still can’t wrap my brain around what his loss means to me or to my kids. Aidan loved Bryce with his whole heart and he slept with me on Tuesday evening – we cried ourselves to sleep. We will both miss Bryce’s hugs. Bryce was always ready with a word of encouragement or joke to keep you from taking yourself too seriously. He encouraged me to sing solo – loud and proud – and always told me that my voice was just fine (even though we ALL know that’s not true!) I selfishly wonder how I will stay close to my newest theatre friends without a summer performance – and how Aidan and I will manage to step on to a stage again without crying.
Bryce was an amazing person with a huge heart. I know that I will carry his courage and spirit with me every time I step on a stage – whether it’s in front of a committee, my students, or an audience. I hope that I can channel his love, patience, and humor when I work with kids on the stage and off. I hope that Aidan (and Andrew and Sophie) carry a little piece of Bryce with them as they grow up.
Bryce leaves behind a legacy of friends and children whose lives he touched and didn’t even know it. At his memorial this evening, it was standing room only in the theatre. As I struggle with losing my friend, I know his family and those who have loved him far longer than I are struggling even more. Say some prayers for heaven’s newest angel – and for those of us mourning him. He leaves behind big shoes to fill, but many people to help fill them.
“When words fail, music speaks”