“My Gentle Giant”

Here is the video if you’d rather watch the interview.

Chasney was carrying the first born grandchild on both sides of the family. Everyone was excited about the baby that would be born. There was even more excitement when Chasney found out that she was carrying a boy. She knew that he would be involved in sports. Her ex-husband, Dewitt, said it would be basketball since his due date was March. March is college basketball finales known as March madness. On March 30, 1999, Tylan Andrew Rayford was born.

Tylan at one year old

I asked Chasney to describe Tylan as a baby. She begins to smile. With him being the first grandchild on both sides of his family, he was very spoiled. Whatever he wanted, he got. He was well loved all around. He made parenting easy because he didn’t require much. Even during her pregnancy, she had no issues with him. As a baby, he slept all during the night. He never gave her any problems. As he grew older, he was grateful and went with the flow.

Dewitt’s dream of Tylan playing basketball did come to pass. Around the age of eight, he started playing summer league basketball with a local church in Memphis. She recalls an incident that happened on the last game of the season. He went up for a dunk and broke his arm. Chasney can smile about it now, but it was not a laughing moment when it happened that day.

That same summer, Chasney and Dewitt got divorced. Chasney and Tylan moved from Memphis to Tupelo. Here, he joined a pee-wee football league at North Pontotoc around the age of eleven or twelve. Tylan fell in love with football. His basketball career was short lived. She thinks that it was because of the accident when he broke his arm and seeing all his cousins playing football. She and Dewitt were shocked that he remained committed to football instead of basketball. One of the reasons they were shocked was because of his height. Ty was 6’7″.

Sometimes, siblings do not along. There are even examples of this in the Bible, but that was not the case between Tylan and his sisters (Taylor and Jadeyn). Immediately after each girl was born, he took them under his wings. He was their protector. He was a role model. He took care of them and made sure they had everything they needed. Even tho the girls were younger, he was very hands on with his sisters. After the divorce, Chasney was a single mother. Ty did not mind stepping up to help his mom. After he got his car, he drove he and Taylor to school. Whatever they needed, he was always there.

Unfortunately, Ty’s football career did not last long either. July 31, 2017 began as a typical normal day. The kids went to school that morning, and Chasney went to work. That evening, everyone was doing their normal routine things. Tylan came in from football practice. He was his loving self. He came in the house and began playing with his sisters. He loved on Jadeyn and Taylor. After he played with his sisters, he went into his room and got on his phone; the things typical teenagers do. Chasney and Taylor were doing girl things. Jadeyn had her night bath, and the family was preparing for dinner. It was a regular evening. Later, the evening took a turn for the worse. Chasney called Ty’s name, but she didn’t get an answer. She walked in his room to see why he didn’t respond. There, she found her son in the bed. At that same moment, Charlotte, her cousin, was home. She was under her hair dryer and heard a scream. She ignored it and thought it was kids in the neighborhood were playing. She told herself that she would listen for it again. If she did, she said she’d investigate. Charlotte heard it again. This time, she decided to see what was going on. She went out the door and walked outside. The screaming was still happening. Charlotte describe it as a mother wailing. She recognized the voice as Chasney. She said with the scream she knew that it was something wrong with the kids, but she didn’t know which one. Shortly, Taylor walked outside with Jadeyn. That only left Tylan as to why Chasney would be screaming the way she was. Tylan’s heart had given out.

Charlotte recalls Chasney asking for help. Remember, Tylan was gentle giant. With her adrenaline going, Chasney was able to lift him out of the bed and began to perform CPR. Unfortunately, it was nothing that Chasney could do. Tylan died peacefully in his sleep.

The cause of Tylan’s death was cardiomyopathy, enlarged heart. It was hereditary. He and his father had the trait. It had never been detected. He received routine physicals playing football. Also, Tylan was following routine medical appointment and seeing physicians. It was not anything that anyone (parents or doctors) thought to specifically check because she nor her ex-husband have any indications of having heart problems. The doctors did say that his enlarged heart would have been an issue later on in life. With him playing sports, it brought the issue to surface.

Losing a child first goes against the circle of life. Children are supposed to bury parents. It is not supposed to be the other way around. One question I had for Chasney how was it to prepare for his funeral. Her response was “It is a tragedy within itself. It is something that you can’t fathom. You can’t prepare for. It’s something you can never prepare for. I was not ready then, and I’m not ready now. It is something I would never be ready for.” Chasney said this is a pain that she wouldn’t wish upon her own enemy. For her to process the funeral, she had to go into business mode. She set aside “parent role” and went into “business mode.” She knew there were things that had to be done. She made sure she was busy in order not to process what was going on. She had to make sure that everything he needed would be taken care of because she had his back no matter what happened in life.

Leading up to the day of the funeral is blurry in her mind. As that day drew near, she had support from her family and her ex-husband. Funeral homes will ask the family to come view the deceased body prior to the funeral. They want to make sure the body is presentable in the way the loved one wants it on the day of the funeral. Mentally, she was shutting down. This was not a task that Chasney was able to do. Charlotte and Dewitt were the ones that approved his body in the casket. The day of the funeral, she walked to the casket and viewed his body for the last time. Her seeing him laying in the casket took a toll on her mind. She had to process this is her son laying there. He is never coming back. It was an image and moment that she will never leave her mind. It is something “she will never forget. “

Through the tragedy, her faith was tested. She got to know God in a way that she hadn’t before his loss. Going through the divorce, it was a life changing event. She didn’t rely on God as much. After losing her oldest child, she and God have had a lot of conversations. She asked why her. She has already been through so much. Why put something else on me? Why take my child? Do You even love me? She got to know God in a closer way. There are days when she cries and wants to close off from everyone. She doesn’t want to go out of the house. She doesn’t want to go to work. There are times when she wants to give up, but God and Tylan give her strength to keep going. Those nights of crying, she expects to wake up with bags under her eyes. She laughs and says she will wake up and look ten years younger. Those days that she doesn’t want to get off that bathroom floor, God give her strength. She gets her girls ready for school and goes about her day at work. God took Tylan away, but He has made life easy. When she is having those moments, she isn’t expecting that push, but she knows it is her angel telling God that his momma needs it. He is telling to Give his momma extra help to make it through the day. The only way she is able to bounce back is with God.

A cliche’ statement is time heals all wounds, but this is not true. Life goes on, but it doesn’t heal the loss of a loved one. They have not adjusted to life without Tylan being around. They suppress their feelings in. There are times when she and Taylor have moments when they reflect on memories and process that Tylan is no longer here on earth. Jadeyn was younger when he passed away. She doesn’t have as many memories as Taylor does. Taylor had Tylan in her life for almost nine years. It wasn’t until after he passed that she told her mom Tylan would stop at the store and buy her breakfast before school. When those hard moments come, Chasney will wrap Taylor in her arms and let her know it is ok to have these moments. One thing that gives them all peace is that they know they have a personal angel looking down from heaven watching over them here on earth.

Losing a child is not normal. I asked Chasney what advice would she give to parents that has lost a child. These are her words. “It doesn’t get better. Time does not heal. It is a new normal. You have to take care of yourself. Your child is in God’s hands. So you have to take care of you and keep going. You can’t give up. Keep pushing through. Call on God.” Life is going to be tough. Grief will hit at different time. There will be times when you will reflect on memories. You’ll reflect more on birthdays, date of death, and other days, but you have to keep going and pushing through.

Chasney and Tylan experienced a lot of first moments together. He experienced her being a new mom, going through a divorce, relocating from Memphis to Tupelo, and more. When she looked at Tylan, he was her motivation. He gave her a push to keep going because she didn’t want to fail. She misses him fixing things around the house. She misses him looking out for his grandmother. She misses him telling Taylor “if you just do what momma says, you’ll get what you want. All you have to do is obey her.” He was loving and would asked her what was needed. I asked Chasney to name something she misses about Ty. Her response “everything.”

Published by Carman

I am a banker by day, but writing and photography have always been my passion. Writing is therapeutic for me. It gives me peace.

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