For those who were unable to attend, I wanted to recap Sunday's events:
Byron’s memorial celebration was held Sunday, July 30 at Mik-n-Mac’s Lounge in Coeur d’Alene
. Despite some stressful moments during the week of planning for the gathering, everything turned out truly beautiful. About 150 people filled the bar, which was decorated tastefully with white silk tablecloths and large flower arrangements on each table. All house lights in the place were dim, and dozens of lit candles created a somberly welcoming atmosphere. At the bottom of the stairs near the entry was a huge tree tied with envelopes to be filled with donations for the family to cover expenses. A large portrait of Byron sat on a table next to the tree, along with a framed newspaper clipping of his obituary and some handouts for the guests featuring his photo and a sentimental poem. A pool table had been covered in white silk and fresh flowers and became a makeshift shrine where everyone could put out the Byron photos they had brought. It was a bit surreal – the hushed voices and quiet music was a sharp contrast to the usual cacophony that fills this place when filled with so many people.
Once all the family and friends were gathered, the ceremony began with a few emotional words from Byron’s visibly choked-up friend Tobias, who eloquently summed up Byron’s many endearing qualities and reminded everyone of their huge loss. He handed the microphone over to Byron’s sister who lightened up the atmosphere for a moment with a funny story that she said would always stick with her: Every year her and Byron would try to come up with the most outrageous prank to pull on each other for April Fools Day. One year she was very pregnant and worked with him at Regis. So, she poured a puddle of water on the floor in the break room, crouched herself over it, and waited for Byron. When he walked in she calmly spoke: “Oh…I think my water broke.” Byron began panicking wildly: “What do we do? What do we do?” His sister yawned and shrugged and said “I dunno, whatever…” So he ran out and told the other stylists (who, of course, were all in on the joke) what was going on, just freaking out. They all yawned and shrugged and said “whatever” as well, like he was overreacting to nothing. The head stylist told him to tell his sister to get out on the floor and get to work, that it was too busy for her to leave. Of course, Byron’s jaw dropped in disbelief, and when he went back to the break room ready to kidnap his sister and take her to the ER, she told him he’d been “punked.” He told her that was it, that she had won the April Fools contest forever and that he would never be able to prank her as good.
That story cracked everyone up and really seemed to summarize Byron: his charming gullibility, and his willingness to drop everything and help someone in need. His sister then sang a folksy version of the rock chestnut “Freebird.” Her voice was really marvelous, and the lyrics took on a new meaning, leaving not a single dry eye in the house. Thankfully, Quincy ran up for more napkins, which we rapidly sniffled our way through. Once again, Tobias spoke, and read several well-written and quite religious poems before singing an acapella version of a spiritual song he had composed. Toby has an excellent soulful voice, and once again the tear ducts kicked into heavy flow action. Next up was a video presentation that Tobias had put together, which was projected onto a huge, floor-to-ceiling screen that had been set up on the dance floor. The photo montage was very well done and was put with an upbeat dance tune titled “Butterfly.” A few of the photos of Byron provided for some needed laughter, including some of his famous self-designed Halloween costumes, and a few shots if him in full drag. After a round of applause for the presentation, the audience was asked to come up and tell some good Byron stories. His ex-roomate Matt spoke for quite a while and had some really great things to say about Byron’s talent for hair, his love of the water, and the time some hag pushed him off the dance podium and he responded in kind by bumping her off with his dancing booty. Cindy came up and told about the time they went fishing together and how he had amazing luck, hooking a fish in seconds flat, while she caught nothing. Shawnya talked about how meticulous he was about doing hair, even pre-folding dozens of foil sheets saying “I just want everything to be perfect!” It was also Shawnya, god bless ‘er, who finally mentioned, in her words: “Those god-awful penny loafers he always wore,” to the laughter and applause of a better part of the audience. Oddly, none of the family spoke, preferring to remain a bit anonymous and mum. The main ceremony closed with the suggestion that we should spend the rest of the day celebrating Byron’s life how he would have wanted us to: dancing and drinking.
With that, the house lights came up and DJ Jason began an excellent set of dance music that would have kept Byron gyrating on the floor for hours. He loved dancing and he was one of the few white boys with any kind of dance flair. As everyone rushed for a cocktail, Christa began handing out helium balloons and markers for a memorial balloon release. After a moment of thought, I wrote “Byron – Make heaven sassy!” and everyone headed up to the parking lot. At the count of three we let the balloons go and watched as they floated up and away into the blue sky. It was an emotional moment as many in the crowd wept uncontrollably as the balloon disappeared from view. Even after they had long gone from view, people stood in silence and stared into the sky. Slowly, we began drifting back into the bar.
The celebration phase began with the christening of a new drink, the Penny Loafer (thanks, Tracy) which managed to combine Byron’s two favorites (Jolly Ranchers and Surfers of Acid) into a shot. The crowd began to relax and mingle a bit. Food wise, the usual suspects sat out on the buddy bar: Meat and cheese trays, Veggie trays, Albertsons cookies. Whoever brought the mini-quiches should have made a double batch – they were tasty and disappeared in seconds. Quincy won points with his home-made cherry cheesecake. It was good to see some folks I hadn’t talked to in ages, but it’s always too bad that it takes a tragedy to bring everyone together. The family drifted off, and the crowd dwindled down to the core party crowd. Great conversations and stiff drinks flowed, and a few of us decided to regroup at my house and get ready for the drag show later that night. Overall, it was a wonderful day, everyone in the place really seemed to be on the same emotional wavelength and it was therapeutic for people to get together to cry and laugh and send Byron out how he would have liked: with a bang.