It was Friday, July 1, 2016, when I last saw my son, Bryant, alive. We had a long talk while he stood at the end of my bed waiting for his friend to pick him up to go to a party. God allowed us time to talk, laugh and discuss his future plans for college. Bryant had just graduated from high school in May and was planning to attend Lamar University in August. He was so excited and could not wait to move into his dorm. We talked about dorm life, meeting new friends and graduating in four years. Bryant mentioned that he would be working and going to school, so I would not see him much during his first semester. Then, he gave me a kiss on the cheek before walking out of the room.
Bryant’s friend arrived to take him to the party, so he said goodbye and told me that he loved me. I told him I loved him too, and to have fun and be careful. “I’m always careful, Mama,” he replied.
The next day was my granddaughter, Kylee’s, second birthday party and Bryant had planned on coming to the party. On my way home from shopping for Kylee’s present, I saw a funeral procession going the opposite direction; something inside told me I needed to call Bryant. It was 2 p.m. and I had not heard from him since the night before. I attempted to call him several times but got his voicemail. I thought to myself that perhaps his cell phone ran out of battery and maybe he would be home when I got there.
Unfortunately, he was not.
It then occurred to me that he might be going straight to the party with his friend, but that thought was interrupted by a call from an unknown number. I typically would not answer a call from someone I don’t know, but something told me to pick up this call. The person on the other end asked, “Is this Bryant’s mother?” An overwhelming sense of panic came over me and I screamed, “What happened to my baby?!” “Ma’am, Bryant is dead. He was shot and killed at a friend’s house,” was the inconceivable response.
When I arrived at the scene, Bryant’s body had already been taken away by the coroner’s office. I remember asking the detectives if they were sure it was Bryant, but they assured me it was. My heart broke into pieces and my mind could not process all of what was going on. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t, so I just sat down while my sister and Bryant’s father sought answers.
My daughter Bryttnee got word that something happened to Bryant by social media while she was at my granddaughter’s birthday party. She had always been very protective of Bryant and it was heartbreaking to see her learn the horrifying truth that her little brother had been shot to death.
We learned later that day that there were unsecured guns in the home where Bryant and other teens had gathered that evening. One boy accessed a gun and discharged it, striking and killing Bryant instantly. His death was senseless and entirely preventable.
In an unusual turn of events, I also found out that day that Bryant had a baby on the way. Today, I am the proud grandmother of a baby boy—Bryant Demont Cavanaugh, III. He is perfect in every way—everything about him is just like Bryant. God called my son to his Heavenly home and sent an angel for us to love here on earth.
My son kissed me on the forehead or cheek whenever he greeted me: in the morning, on the way to school, after school, after work. I can still feel his presence. I know he is watching over our family and enjoying his time with his grandfathers in heaven, but he is truly missed here on earth.
I joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America because I want to help spread the word that more can and must be done to prevent senseless shootings like the one that took my son’s life. I am now training to present on Be SMART —a program designed to educate gun owners and non-gun-owners alike about responsible gun storage and other gun safety practices. I encourage parents to be vigilant over the holidays, since unintentional shootings by children spike at this time. I feel that is now my responsibility to help other parents avoid what was the worst day of my life. It is painful to talk about Bryant’s death, but if it will save even one life, it is well worth it.
This piece is by Toye Oglesby-Ward, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. If you have been personally affected by gun violence and would like to share your story with Moms Demand Action, please email [email protected]