BryanMy brother, Bryan David Blake, was an extremely hard worker. I always admired him for his work ethic. He was dependable, reliable, loyal, and respectful. Everyone he worked for knew he could be counted on in any given situation. He always rose to the top at each one of his positions. Even though his work hours were often long and tiresome, he never complained.

Not only was Bryan loyal to his employers through the years, but his dedication shone brightest in his musical accomplishments. He played numerous instruments and had a love for music. In high school, he was passionate about being a part of the show choir, Attache. Throughout his four years, the choir won a number of national awards. In addition, he spent many years as a Boy Scout, eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Bryan also had a talent and love for sports and playing sports. When he was focused on something, he fully dedicated himself to being the best.

Like my father, my brother was a gentleman just as he was raised to be. He also had a good sense of humor, which came out at every family gathering. Bryan would often tell stories, usually about something crazy I had done or about just me being me (for those of you who know me well). He found humor in things as often as he could.

I am sad this world has lost such a sweet guy who loved kids. He talked about how much he wanted children down the road and that he could not wait to be an uncle. He left me a few special voicemails that I still have to this day. Some include him sharing his joy for my first pregnancy for my identical twins, Angel and Joy. In another, he talks about his sadness when we lost them. He also left messages when I got pregnant with Ryan. While crying tears of joy, he proclaimed how he could not wait to be an uncle and who would have thought he would ever be one.

My brother had so many plans ready for Ryan for when they would spend time together – to teach him all about Star Wars and other things only an uncle could. I remember when we spoke on the phone for my birthday last year. The subject came up about how Chris and I named our son Ryan. Bryan kept saying to me, “Name him ‘Bryan,’ which is only one letter away from Ryan.” I am sorry Ryan will never get to meet his uncle Bryan or experience all the great times they were going to have together. Bryan could not wait to come up with my sister to meet Ryan after the birth and see where we live in Virginia Beach for the first time.

Bryan was also a very supportive brother. I have now written two cookbooks. I perform cooking demos on TV, as well as share my story with and cook in front of live audiences. Throughout the whole process, he would cheer me on and encourage me.  He also left messages on my phone sharing his excitement in how proud of me he was in all my accomplishments. We would talk semi-often on the phone, and he always wanted to hear about my story and to affirm how proud he was of me. He truly was one of my biggest cheerleaders. I will always remember he bought six of my first cookbooks. With much excitement, he gave them away to his friends. He never got to see my second book, but I know he would be just as excited and encouraging as he has always been.

One thing I loved most about him was the last thing you heard from him before you got off the phone or hugged goodbye were the words “I love you.” He made sure to say them throughout the last few years of his life. I loved my brother through the thick and thin of our relationship through the years and will always love and cherish the good memories we had. He picked on me more than anything it seemed, but the memories I have from that will always be some of my favorites. I cannot wait to share with Ryan all about his uncle Bryan!