Friends, my heart is heavy today. On last night, I couldn’t seem to avoid a story trending on Facebook. The story caught my attention and I initially saw it during choir rehearsal, so I didn’t read the story until I got home. Once I finally read the letter from the Crowley ISD Superintendent, I immediately recognized the name.
He was the son of one of my greatest friends in media, Monica Debbs of Big Mouth Radio. Over the last few years, SMG and Big Mouth Radio have worked several events and shared monumental experiences in the field together. It breaks my heart to see her deal with this tragic loss.
“The entire Crowley ISD community is incredibly saddened by this tragedy and the loss of this young life. We do not yet know what caused Kyrell’s passing, but our priority right now is to provide support and care to the family, friends and educators who knew and loved him.”Michael McFarland, Crowley ISD Superintendent
Last year at the Dove Awards, I had the opportunity to see Monica as not only a colleague, but a fellow parent. Following a day full of events leading up to the award ceremony, we found ourselves in a conversation about our children. She talked about Kyrell and I told her about Jailen. We had a few laughs about the plight of parenting in the 21st Century, it’s joys, challenges and our hopes for our children’s future.
Standing there in Lipscomb Arena, I can say that I made a true friend. Working on this side of the velvet rope, friendships are fleeting and are sometimes mere products and casualties of personal success. I worked alongside Monica and Big Mouth Radio a few times since and have enjoyed the friendship and corporate support of all her family and staff.
Last November, I was able to meet her entire family at a food Thanksgiving basket giveaway. It wasn’t long before I met Kyrell…he was flying around the parking lot gathering baskets and returning them to the corral. There he was, infectious, precocious and vivacious…Kyrell.
I spent that afternoon with Monica, her family and the Big Mouth Radio team helping out on the board (mixer) and got to know everyone while I was there. We worked together again at the Stellar Awards and regularly checked up on each other to help each other when we could, sometimes just making sure our team’s credentials requests were submitted in time. A few weeks ago, I dropped by a school supply drive where Big Mouth Radio was broadcasting remotely to catch the fun before it ended. “Uncle Trillion” was there and so was Kyrell. Myself and my children got there as the event ended but we hung around, catching up again. I saw another friend there (Ernest) and the three of us stood at the door catching up on old times and looked forward to what was to come. It was a rainy day and Kyrell and Jailen made the most of it, soaking up the rain like only boys can.
As I write this, I am perplexed- juxtaposed by my sadness for my friend, her husband and their family. Kyrell is no longer here, but my children are. Yesterday, I specifically prayed for my children and their school as if gun violence was the only threat. I didn’t even think to pray for surrounding schools, school districts and children.
Today was different. While I can’t change yesterday’s tragedy, I resolve to be more sensitive in my prayers for children, everywhere. There are already reports of violence against schools this school year and I’m careful enough to pray for safety, but never thought a child would lose their life on the football field as the school year began.
No parent ever wants to have to confront the tragedy of losing a child but for my friend and her family, this is their reality. I ask that you would join me in prayer for Monica and Robert Debbs, the Johnson family and all our friends at Big Mouth Radio.