July 17, 2018….. It started out like any other day. Nothing out of the ordinary for all of us. There was work to be done, school for the kids, dinners to be eaten, television to be watched, lawns to be mowed. Little did we know that on a park bench in Vancouver, that our lives were about to change forever. It was the evening of July 18th, that my sister Denean called. I was my usual sarcastic self, when she told me the news. It didn’t sink in at first, but reality soon kicked in. Bryce was gone.
I immediately didn’t know what to do. I went upstairs to tell Jolene, and then called my daughter. To this day, it’s the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make. I remember saying to her if she was sitting down. She thought I was being a joker. Then I told her the news. I don’t recall talking to my parents. I don’t recall talking to Shannon, Bryce’s Mom. I just recall being cold. Not really knowing what to do being so far away. I felt lost. How could this be? What had happened? I started crying. I started playing music. I started thinking that I screwed up somehow. I knew I could find fault in something that I did wrong to cause this. But I didn’t.
I was 15-years old when Bryce was born. I remember when I found out Shannon was pregnant with Bryce, how excited I was. Then to find out, while at school, that he’d been born, I was over the top. After school, I immediately caught the bus to the shopping mall, to go buy him his first pair of Nikes. They were red with blue, green, yellow and white stripes on the bottom, and velcro straps. Bryce and I were going to be best buds. As a teenager, when other kids my age were going out partying, I was kicking my sister and Brent (Bryce’s Dad) out of the house so I could babysit him. I was addicted to being his uncle. I would take him everywhere I could. The hockey rink. The mall. The beach. The waterslides. Or just over to my house so we could play. He loved my big boy toys, and we loved to wrestle. Even as he grew older, I would still have him over to my house, so we could hang out. I could never get enough of him. But as time goes on, family, work and other priorities got in the way, and he was maturing. It was more important for him to hang out with his friends rather than Uncle Dave, which I fully understood. We still loved each other and were very close with one another.
As time went on, Bryce, in 2010, reached out for help once again. I jumped at the chance. Bryce had fallen into a crowd of people that weren’t so pleasant and asked me to help him get away from that life. You know who you are, if you’re reading this. Of course, I obliged and opened my door to him. We would sit down and talk for hours and he would tell me stories about what went on. Stories I would never repeat to my family, and to this day, will never. I never knew my nephew to be this person he was describing. I was stunned. But deep down I knew I had to help. I will go to my grave with some of the things he told me. But the door was open for him. However, the lure of the lifestyle choices were too much. The demons were stronger than what he really wanted.
Bryce wanted his family back. He wanted to feel the love of those around him. He wanted to settle down. He wanted to get his education. Maybe become a fire fighter or something that was physically demanding since he loved hard work. He wanted a life with a future. He wanted to eventually find a woman whom he could fall in love with, and have children of his own. Bryce loved kids. As an only child himself, Bryce loved his cousins more than anything. He was so proud of his cousins, and always made time for them. Bryce loved his family, and he knew how much we loved him back.
After staying for four months at my house, Bryce stopped coming home. He was back into the unhealthy routine that he knew. Eventually coming over to pick up his clothes, leaving everything else behind. I was pissed off. I didn’t say anything to him besides good luck. I reminded him this was his one and only opportunity to stay at my house to clean himself up. He knew that. I knew he needed tough love. It hurt. I didn’t talk to him for seven years………. Seven bloody years.
The last time I saw Bryce alive was at Christmas 2017. According to my Dad, Bryce was worried about coming over because he was afraid at what my reaction would be. When I saw him, I yelled, “STUUUUU”, which was my nickname for him. I walked over to him, as he was getting out of Grandpa’s vehicle, and we hugged. I had tears in my eyes. Looking back, as I write this, I realize that Bryce only met my son once. It was that Christmas. They played and wrestled. Colby even wanted to have a sleep over with Bryce, which, of course, was allowed.
The next time I would see him, would be in a coffin…………….
Up to the point of his ill-timed passing Bryce was in rehab. The past few years he had developed a liking for the drug Fentanyl. But he was determined to beat it. But the power of the drug was too much. It was calling his name. I can honestly say that I was ignorant of this drug. To me, I didn’t even know what it was. Now, I know too much of its affects. There’s no point in hiding it. This is how he died. Alone, on a picnic table in Vancouver’s John Hendry Park. Passers by saw him ‘sleeping’ there. They went to check on him, after a bit, and realized he was gone. Paramedics tried. But our boy had ventured off to the ‘other side’. He fell asleep…..
Look, I know we’re not the only family to lose a loved one to drugs, alcohol or anything else self-inflicted. We know the pain. It’s a pain that will never cease, especially for my parents, and most importantly, my sister. We do feel him. We do know when he’s around. He lets us know. For me, it’s dimes. I never carry change, but now, I find dimes, sometimes even in my pockets. It’s the little things we now have to lean on, knowing that as much as there’s sadness, anger, pain and guilt on our side, on his, it’s pure love and magic. He won, in the face of our loss.
I would do anything to have him back. Just one more time to say ‘I love you’. One more hug. One more time to laugh, and wrestle. One more time to yell ‘STUUUUU’ in his presence. One more time to just talk. One more time of everything. Picking up the pieces as a family has been hard. It’s been difficult. Sometimes there’s nothing to say. Sorry just doesn’t cut it. But looking back, we all did our best in the midst of our failure of losing Bryce. Fentanyl knows no love. It knows no soul. It knows no compassion. No friendship. No remorse. But Fentanyl may have won this battle, but it lost the war with our family. We’re stronger for it. And, when one of us is down, our team, our family, is there to pick us up.
Bryce, your a space bound rocket ship and your heart’s the moon. And I’m aiming right at you, STUUUUUU. Right at you!