I am going to preface this post by stating that Bryon and I did meet through politics so politics plays a role in our story and it may come up from time to time. However, this is not a political blog. It’s a blog about grief, life, love and resilience. There will be no political commentary from me.
* * *
A seer sucker suit hanging in the closet.
A vintage briefcase bought at an estate sale.
A shelf of books.
A pair of size 13 Aldens in the closet.
A whole bunch of Brooks Brothers bow ties.
Bryon’s Albany Law Rugby sweatshirt with “Shrek” embroidered on the sleeve.
Several copies of Smithsonian Magazine and The Economist.
A lot of political memorabilia.
His coat hanging off the back of a dining room chair.
A six pack of beer in the back of the fridge, untouched after 14 months.
His laptop bag filled with a folder of travel documents from our last cruise 15 months before.
One voicemail I found in the deleted files on my phone.
This is a list of items that remain from Bryon. This is certainly not an exhaustive list. These items are reminders of who he was and the life he lived. The capture aspects of his personality and his passions. These very reminders sting whenever I look at them, but at the same time, I can’t get rid of them because they are all that remain. Every time I get rid of an item that belonged to Bryon, I feel like I am getting rid of a piece of him.
But so much more remains of Bryon’s memory than the items that clutter up my house.
This weekend I had the honor of co-presenting the first ever New York State Young Republican Bryon McKim Alumni Award. I was touched, but I wasn’t expecting to get as emotional as I did. Bryon and I hadn’t been actively involved in this organization for a couple of leadership cycles. There were several old friends but most of the faces in the crowd were new to me though they welcomed my daughter and I as if we were old friends. This organization had played a large role in our life for several years, both at the state and national level. I was reminded that this was our beginning. Our love story started at a New York State Young Republican Event. If it wasn’t for the Young Republicans, Bryon and I would never have met, fallen in love, gotten married or had our daughter. It was almost as if I was in the part and present at the same time. Being at that meeting brought up all those emotions because even though it had been years, once I was sitting down at that dinner, it almost felt like I was reliving those memories.
I just think about all the ways the people who knew Bryon have chosen to honor him. The Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party. The Bryon “Shrek” McKim Albany Law School Memorial Alumni Match and the Shrek award. The New York State Young Republican Bryon McKim alumni award. People don’t choose to honor your memory if you hadn’t made some sort of difference in their lives. Bryon touched so many lives and I appreciate that his memory being honored. So many people die and ultimately become forgotten and it is comforting to know that Bryon won’t be forgotten.
It means so much when the recipients of these awards say wonderful things about Bryon in their acceptance speeches, though as time passes, I expect that the recipients of these awards will remember Bryon decreases. Eventually they will only know about Bryon through his legacy that is passed down by others in the respective organization.
Everytime I go to an event that honors Bryon, it still hits me like the proverbial ton of bricks that I am attending a memorial event. Memorial events are to remember dead people. Bryon is dead. Gone. He is a memory. But I will show up because it is important for me to honor Bryon’s memory and honor those who choose to keep his memory alive.
Bryon has left behind a legacy of friendships. Bryon had built relationships with so many people from so many different areas of his life. But his legacy of friendships isn’t just with those he had relationships with, but also with all the people that have been brought together because of Bryon. Bryon was a really good mediator which was a talent that could be a headache for him at times, but he took the responsibility of this talent seriously. Many of my friendships are the result of the bridges that Bryon built between others.
Bryon was full of life and leaves behind so many stories, most of them hilarious. At Saturday’s event, I was talking to a good friend. Her father died when she was little and that she heard a lot of stories about her father through his friends and that she feels like she knew her father from these stories. She assured me that my daughter will know Bryon from all these stories. Many people have said this to me, but honestly, it was a sentiment that always felt hollow to me. One of those comments that is well-intentioned but feels like it was just said to me to try to comfort me. It meant so much more coming from someone who grew up in the same situation that my daughter will grow up in. But my friend is absolutely correct. Bryon has left behind a legacy filled with stories and those stories will ultimately be passed down to our daughter through his friends. And even though it’s painful to think that my daughter will not remember Bryon, I am thankful that Bryon left a legacy that includes all these stories and friends. Not every child who loses a parent has that legacy.
On my two hour drive home, I just kept thinking about Bryon and our early years. So I decided to end this post with pictures taken at various Young Republican events. We weren’t good about remembering to take photos so please remember to take photos! Someday they will be what remains of you.