Bryant My Son

(written by Chin Wee Tan)


Bryant needed much persuasion to come into this world on the 23rd March 1992.  Dr Abbott at Mills Memorial Hospital, San Mateo, California finally relieved his mum of thirty-three hours of labour, and there he was in my arms rolling his beautiful big eyes at me.  It was love at first sight.


We moved to Germany when Bryant was one and a half years old.  His mum and I always looked forward to our birthdays, for invariably there would be a hand-made card scrawled in his childish script with a flimsy pop-out section telling us he loved us.  These are among our most prized possessions.


We moved to London and Bryant took to karate from the age of five with intense seriousness, obtaining his black belt at twelve.  Bryant loved music.  He drew a very expressive, personal and mature sound from his violin, way beyond his age.  His favourite composer was Bach; his understanding of the unaccompanied solos was evident in his ability to draw out the subtle harmonies of that complex music in an emotionally fulfilling way.  His attempts at Sarasate were less successful.  Bryant was not one to dazzle, but his warmth came through in a quiet, sensitive and sincere way.


I thought I taught him to sail at the age of eight, but actually it was he who showed me true boatmanship.  During many happy hours on the Thames in our leaky plywood dinghy, he gave his parents the fright of their lives with tight tacks and wild gybes near the top of the weir at Marlow lock, ducking among the motor yachts shooting under the bridge nearby, without spilling us overboard.


My job required long periods away from home.  I spent less time with Bryant, but we always went camping whenever we could.  His sense of adventure must have been kindled by our desperate driving from village to village in a foreign country looking for a campsite before it got too dark to pitch a tent.  Ah, how I regret chiding him for missing a turn in the road while map-reading next to me.


Languages were a fascination to Bryant.  He learnt Mandarin, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Greek and Latin at various times in school and enjoyed speaking to native speakers on our forays into foreign parts.


Bryant’s young inquiring mind plunged headlong through a wide panoply of subjects and never hesitated to offer his insights: (an earlier blog with old posts still on the site)


By nature an independent thinker, Bryant co-founded the Sceptical Society (ScepSoc) with friends at St Paul’s, inviting speakers on such subjects as homeopathy, religion and philosophy and occasionally reducing them to tears with merciless questions.


Bryant learnt the value of work as a freelance programmer and website designer from a young age.  He spent his earnings on soldering irons and circuit boards and stuff that went bang occasionally with interesting smells.  But our house survived.


Bryant chose to go to Stanford, declining offers from Harvard and Corpus Christi, Cambridge.  He came home every Christmas to us in England and we took quiet walks in the lovely though somewhat wet and sunless countryside.  Last winter we caught a fine sunny day in Dovedale, Derbyshire where Bryant explored every cave there was, and we felt young again trying to catch up with him.


In his final year as an undergraduate he decided to try for his Master’s degree at the same time, which he did.  He has always loved challenges, and then quietly put aside his conquests to go looking for something harder to do, often without telling anyone what he has achieved.  We only discovered he had the Terman Award and a distinction in his bachelor degree on Commencement Day!


We little suspected the influence he had on people around him, until his untimely death.  We have of course always known Bryant as a polite, thoughtful person who did not impress immediately on first contact.  As his friends’ emails poured in spontaneously, we discovered a Bryant we had not known, one who was caring, compassionate, and looked up to by friends.


The love and appreciation that he inspired is a source of immense joy and comfort to us.  Bryant has worked very hard, we know, to earn his academic spurs.  But to know that his life has touched others in a positive way is, to us, the most precious thing he has left behind.  Like his music, which moves you only if you listen attentively, and which alas we shall hear no more, he glowed with an inner warmth that is generous and sincere, that all can feel who have been close to him.


And thus he lives on in those who loved him.




In Loving Memory Of My Dearest Bryant
(poem by Ee Meng Tan)


My journey through grief
Began when you left that day;
That hug you gave me
at the train station, that was the last.

I go through your drawers, your boxes,
Packed with slices of your life past
That all too soon have turned
Into memories that will last.

Ask me now, what my beloved son was like:
Well, he was the sparkling jewel of my life;
He turned dark nights into summer days
With just the hint of a smile.

He loved work; he loved fun just as much.
Ran around looking for problems

To solve, ideas to love, challenges to take on,
Friends to share adventures with.

They say memories fade with time;
But I say, not so! How could they
When he's still so much alive
In the deepest corners of my heart?