Today I learned that my best friend from high school died Sunday. Classmates Facebooked me literally moments before my mom called.
Bryant Turbeville was a year older than I, and although we were separated by a grade, we were inseparable buddies. We weathered the stormy years of high school together, laughing all the way. In truth, I can’t recall too many moments being with Bryant that we weren’t irreverent or insane.
Though we’ve not kept up since college except for occasional phone calls, Carolyn ran into Bryant at the airport in Little Rock last fall after our move to Virginia. Their chance meeting provoked a long, enjoyable phone call in which we shared life and reflected on how God had led each of us.
I am still a little stunned by his death. He was visiting a friend, stood up and complained of a pain in his leg. It was an aneurysm which went straight to his heart and killed him instantly.
Such is the brevity of life.
Bryant blessed mine with such deep benefit in our friendship. Here are just some random memories:
- Singing all of Chicago 17’s songs from his tape deck in his white 300z at the top of our lungs on Friday nights while cruising Little Rock. I don’t recall our crooning ever successfully resulting in meeting chicks.
- A student council convention in which he, Tanya Siebert, Angie Harrison and myself represented Pulaski Academy in our bid for a state office. I dressed up as Superman and bounded out into the gathered assembly with the other three singing a song to the Superman theme tune:
Making a difference you can see
A great state council we want to be
When you vote… Pulaski Academy!
- Dozens of movies. In fact, since my folks were sticklers about rated R movies prior to my 17th birthday, I’m pretty sure it was Bryant that I saw Beverly Hills Cop with. It was my first theater R movie experience.
- Physics. We took it together, as I recall, and Dr. King was our teacher. He was a rather interesting character, and one day we were shooting rockets off from the high school football field. It was Bryant who had the idea of dropping grass blades down Dr. King’s exposed butt crack as he knelt sweatily over each rocket to light it. I always wondered if he ever worriedly informed a doctor that he had grass in his stool.
- In college, I found my freshman year that a friend who shall go unnamed (but rhymes with Hitch Lettuce) had a favorite pair of underwear. They were semi-bikinish and grossed out his roommate. I stole them over spring break, and Bryant and I drove all over Little Rock taking pictures of that pair of underwear lying on landmarks from the WWII memorial at the State Capitol to the Old Mill. We sent pictures (copies of which I still have; so Hitch, don’t consider revenge) as a ransom note.
- High school football and basketball games rooting on the Bruins.
- And so many more…
I also remember Bryant’s deep and abiding faith in Christ. He and his family attended First Baptist in Little Rock, while mine went to Immanuel Baptist. It was always a deep encouragement to know my friend shared my faith and love for Christ. Last fall as we visited on the phone, we both marveled at my role as a pastor. Bryant had such affirming and encouraging words for me.
Bryant wanted to be a doctor when we were in high school and pursued his dream with earnest. I too entered college with the idea of being a doctor but changed to communications after my freshman year. He was practicing with OrthoArkansas upon his death. (I’ve used their stock photo for the picture above because mine are all in storage.)
It’s a little surreal to lose a friend that you’ve not been good at keeping up with. However, his grace, joy and love will always be remembered. He was the kind of friend that lasts a lifetime – in spite of distance. I rejoice that I will see him again one day. I can’t help wondering if he’s tried to serenade the Lord with Chicago’s hit song, You’re the Inspiration.
Thank you, Bryant Turbeville. You are missed.
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