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When I first got the news, I was in a hotel room in Dallas. My first and immediate reaction was denial, which quickly turned into bargaining. I've always heard about the steps of grief, but I had no idea that I would react the same way most all other human beings do in response to the loss of a loved one. I lost people I cared about before, but this was different.

"No no no no no no...." That seemed to be about all I could manage saying for several minutes. I sat down on the bed with my iPhone in my hand, wondering who would play such a mean practical joke on Facebook. Sure, Bryon had been sick for a while, but he was going to pull through it. He had to. He had always done so before!

I sat there for several minutes, uncertain of what to do.

Then came the bargaining. It was shameless and I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it was there and it was real. It was a part of the process so I'm willing to share.

"Please tell me Facebook is wrong. Please. You have to be ok. Yes, I'll marry you. Just be ok."

Bryon had told me a few months ago that he wanted to move to California and buy a house for the two of us. He said he thought the two of us should end up together. We knew one another so well. We always did. We had, after all, known one another since the 6th grade. We were best friends even then, though he was dating Megan MacKenley at the time and my boyfriend was Allen Speakman.

In 2006 Bryon (as a Marine) was in Yuma, AZ and decided to drive up to Los Angeles to see me.

We went to Benihana for dinner during his visit to Los Angeles. His buddy had never been to one so the onion slice volcano blew the youngster away. Bryon laughed. I loved his laugh. It was infectious.

When we were in the 6th grade our class field trip was to Medieval Times in Anaheim CA. We wanted to relive that memory.... and so we did. There's a photo somewhere of Bryon and I standing with the princess of the realm that night. I miss that photo right now more than any other possession I ever owned. It was in the uhaul when it was stolen a few years ago. What I wouldn't do to have that one photo back. I never knew an 8x10 would mean that much to me.

As a special treat, we decided to go visit our old home of George AFB together. So many of the buildings were gone that I had a clear view of where his house was still standing from where the rubble of mine lay. Emotional, he began the walk to his old front porch. He was gone for some time, but when he returned he had a broad smile - and a slip of paper.

"Look at this," he shouted, visibly excited. He showed me the paper. "It's a work order to get something fixed, and it has my dads signature on it! I found it in a drawer upstairs."

That's how I remember him best - smiling and excited, happy to the point of being overjoyed by something as simple as a piece of paper. A military work order.

I remember the day he told me he was testing for the MENSA group - a group of super-geniuses... I was so proud, but far from surprised.

About six years ago Brian was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. He was given only a couple of weeks to live - but he fought like a Marine!!! He wasn't going out without a fight. Six long years, a few remission a and a few relapses later, Bryon told me that he believed we should be together. He saw us as having a future. We knew one another so well. We always had. He wanted to buy us a house. He said he loved me. I admitted that I had always loved him too. That had never changed. I planned to go visit him... but I just never made it.

Bryon died yesterday, on 6-11-13 and I know the world will never be the same. MY world will never be the same. There will be a deep, gaping hole in my heart, a place that only he could fill, and did, every single day. He was such a brave man. He was my friend. He was my family. He was my HERO. He was my Marine.

I went through the other stages of grief including anger - angry at the situation and guilt at not having been able to see him before he died, and anger at others for telling me not to feel guilt. I wanted to scream into the pillow - and did. I wanted to go for a run at top speed until I couldn't breathe - and I didn't. My breath was already forced and labored. I was in danger of hyperventilating. I wanted to hug someone - anyone. But there was nobody there. I was alone in Dallas in a strange hotel room with nothing but the four walls to bounce off of.

He was an amazing person. I know I won't ever forget him. He inspired me. He helped me. When he needed OTHERS most, he went out of his way to personally be there for others instead. He taught me what true strength and courage were.

I'm going to miss him. I can't keep my eyes dry yet. I've been up for over 24 hours and the only thing I see when I close my eyes is his face burned into my eye lids. I see him in Victorville holding that paper. I see him smiling with the princess. I see his glasses and thin frame in school way back when.... and I see him smiling at me, telling me he loves me... He's himself again, the strong Marine I knew him as. He's no longer hurting or sick or weak. He's powerful and tall and independent. And he's watching over all of us, telling each of us in his own way that he loves us.

Just this morning a man at the hotel stopped me on my way out. He told me "He wants you to know he loves you." That was all he said. He indicated upward. I knew........

I love you Bryon. I love you beyond life, beyond death and beyond the confines of the human imagination.

May God grant you peace in your eternal rest, my Friend. I miss you.

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