All that remains

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.

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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.

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Young Republican National Federation Fall 2008 Board Meeting in Nasvhille. Bryon called this our High School Prom Picture because of the way we were posed.
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New York City Young Republican Club Holiday Party, 2008.
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New York State Young Republican Convention in Staten Island, 2009
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New York State Young Republican Day at the races, 2010
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Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis, 2009
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Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis, 2009.  Doing one of the things he did best.
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New York State Young Republican Convention in the Finger Lakes (wine country), 2011

First Annual Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party

I have two words to describe Derby Day 2017.  

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The first word is Epic.

We all came ready to celebrate the two most exciting minutes in sports.

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There were old friends enjoying each others company.  There were new friendships formed.  Lots of laughter, celebration and happiness were in the air.

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There were lovely ladies in dresses, hats and fascinators.  

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There were dapper men in seersucker suits.  

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Delicious food was served- bourbon meatballs, pulled pork sliders, mini Kentucky hot browns, mint julep chicken skewers and chicken and waffle skewers.  Because we all know that food tastes better when it is served on a stick.

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Makers Mark Mint Juleps were consumed in special Bryon McKim souvenir cups.  So many Mint Juleps were consumed that the bar ran out of Makers Mark two hours into the party.  Bryon would be particularly proud of that.  

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There was a silent auction full of amazing items that were generously donated from members of our community.  The silent auction was accompanied by friendly competition to outbid each other.

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The second word is Bittersweet.  

We were having a great time but we all knew that this party would not be happening if Bryon was still alive.  If Bryon were still alive, we would have been having our annual Kentucky Derby party in our backyard.  The backyard party would have been at a smaller scale but just as fun.

Ultimately Bryon had to die to bring us all together to have a good time.

As much fun as I had on Derby Day, I would have given it all back if it meant Bryon would still be here.  But I think I am reaching the point in my grieving process where I am beginning to accept Bryon’s death as it is.  I have days where I still ask “why” but I know that even if I can figure out the “why,” it doesn’t change anything.  Bryon will still be dead.  And there is nothing that can change that.

We can’t change the fact that Bryon is gone but instead we chose to take a horrible situation and make the best of it.  Many people die without leaving their mark (pun not intended) on this world but Bryon made his mark (okay, pun was intended this time) and we made the choice to keep his memory alive.  Derby Day had the potential to be a very sad day but instead, we chose to celebrate Bryon’s favorite day of the year.  And we celebrated in true Bryon McKim fashion.  I am grateful that I had so many amazing people to celebrate Bryon’s life with.  We all remember what a difference he made in this world. He helped so many people when he was alive and we chose to continue his legacy and help others in his memory.

I want to thank the Bryon C. McKim Derby Party Planning Committee: Vince Casale, Lynn Krogh, Danielle Grasso, Joseph Hanson, Jennifer Muthig, Mike Utzig, Nick Wilock, Jennifer Armstrong, Mike and Natalie Kosar, Sara Stein and everyone else who assisted in the planning process.  I am awe of your talent and you ran this event like a well oiled machine.  You could run a small nation.  Bryon would be proud.

I want to thank our sponsors for supporting the event and all the business who generously donated items for our silent auction.  My daughter and I are very lucky to be part of such a supportive community who looks after their own.

I want to thank Wolff’s Biergarten for all your hospitality and help putting on this event.  You were great to work with and made our experience enjoyable.

And I want to thank everyone who came out to support our event to celebrate Bryon’s life and keep his memory alive.  One of the biggest fears that a grieving person has is that their loved one will be forgotten.  Thank you for reminding me that while Bryon may be dead, he did live.

I look forward to celebrating with you again in 2018.

Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party

Derby Party 2013

Our first Derby Party was in the tiny townhouse apartment that we rented but that didn’t stop Bryon from wearing his seersucker suit.  We had some friends over and crowded into our little living room to watch the Derby on Bryon’s flat screen TV that was too large for our room.  We served bourbon meatballs, mini Kentucky hot browns and derby pie and Bryon made Makers Mark Mint Juleps.

Derby Party 2014 and 2015

The next year we had moved to our house and we were able to have a larger party.  We still made the bourbon meatballs, mini Kentucky hot browns and derby pie.  Bryon bought a little costume for our cat that had a jockey on the back.  Our cat hated that costume.  Bryon served Makers Mark Mint Juleps and bought an ice crusher that was from the 1980s.  I was always so worried he was going to lose a finger in that machine.

Derby Party 2016

Bryon was really excited.  He decided that he had had enough of that ice machine and was looking into renting a snow cone machine.  It would serve two purposes, make snow cones for the kids and he could use the crushed ice for his mint juleps.  He sent out his Facebook invites.

But the Derby Party of 2016 never happened.  Bryon was in the ICU.  I sat with him all day and watched the Derby coverage but by the time the Derby was on, Bryon was too tired to stay awake.  I was so sad that Bryon couldn’t enjoy his favorite day of the year but I told myself that it would be okay.  We’d be celebrating with our friends in 2017.

And now it’s 2017 and Bryon is not here.

But the party will go on.  Bryon wouldn’t have it any other way.

We will be dressed up.  There will be Maker’s Mark Mint Juleps.  There will be mini Kentucky Hot Browns and Bourbon meatballs.  There will even be chicken and waffle skewers.  There will be a silent auction for raise funds for the Bryon C. McKim Foundation and our daughter’s educational trust.

What is the Bryon C. McKim Foundation?

Our friends and I have been working hard to make sure that Bryon’s legacy will stay alive through the Bryon C. McKim Foundation. Bryon helped so many people when he was alive and he was never one to brag about it.  When he was in the hospital, people would visit and tell me stories of how he had helped him.  Even 8 months after his death, I am still hearing stories from people that he helped.

There is no reason that Bryon shouldn’t still be helping people even if he is no longer with us.   By helping people, Bryon’s spirit lives on when we help people.

Through the Bryon C. McKim Foundation, we will establishment scholarships to Siena College and Albany Law School.  Bryon was proud of his education and we hope to give that gift to others.

The Bryon C. McKim Foundation also plans to provide patient education to teach patients how to advocate for themselves.  However, some patients can’t advocate for themselves.  When Bryon went into the ICU, I had to advocate for him right away.  It was a scary place to be and I had to learn what to do quickly.  The Bryon C. McKim Foundation wants to give people the tools on how to advocate for their loved ones.

Tickets can be purchased at mckimderbyparty.com  You can also join the excitement on our Facebook event page.  We would appreciate your support in keeping Bryon’s legacy alive and ask that you purchase a ticket even if you are unable to attend.

We hope to see you on Saturday!

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