His good friends recall their memories of Lendon

From politics to music to art, his interests were wide ranging


Photo submitted

Junior Lendon Bryam stands in front of the speech and debate sign in Kelly Hall.

Andrew de las Alas, Reporter

Editor’s note: Senior Andrew de las Alas, a member of the speech and debate team and a good friend of junior Lendon Bryam, interviewed several of Lendon’s other close friends about their memories of Lendon, who died on May 1 in a car crash while on the way to the Hamilton Heights High School prom.

Dark bus. 7 in the morning. 30 degrees. Fundamental to the (in-person) speech and debate experience are the early mornings and warm, fuzzy blankets supplied by Assistant Coach Mrs. Christine Gray. While most students wander in with a few minutes to spare, there are always stragglers.

Junior Lendon Byram makes his appearance: tennis shoes, corduroy suit with elbow pads and hair exploding from his head. Armed with a Bang energy in one hand and a tie in the other, he strolls down the aisle, ignoring Coach Mrs. Jeanne Malone’s comments on his tardiness.

To those around him, Byram was cordial, kind and friendly.

But if you had the pleasure to experience Byram on a closer level, he was absolutist and stubborn. “One time he really got into Boris Johnson’s accent,” said his best friend and junior Hagan McClelland.

Junior Ashelyn Lucas, another best friend, quickly corrected, “No, it was any British accent.” Byram would repeatedly poke Lucas and “be like ‘do it, do it,’” she said. “He was a goofy guy,” said McClelland.

McClelland and Lucas gave a more intimate illustration of Byram’s life. “He didn’t always show it up front, but he was very caring,” said Lucas. Love for friends was self-evident.

Once at 2 a.m. Byram woke up Lucas with a phone call and a text that read “aaashy.” Reluctantly (given the hour), Lucas answered and listened. Laughing, she said, “He had a dream that I died and it ruined his whole day.”

McClelland said, “You knew he was having a good day if he’d just randomly ask you how your day was.” Byram and McClelland spent nearly every day together. “We would always talk about random history or just each other’s lives. We knew exactly what was going on with one another,” said McClelland.

In the Enlightenment Era, scientists, philosophers and historians joined together in salons, private areas open to discourse on any topic. While not quite a Parisian coffee shop, Buffalo Wild Wings was a frequent stop for the duo.

Byram and McClelland never ran out of material. It would vary, though. “He would go through phases. A lot,” said McClelland. An old standard between the two was politics and philosophy. Communism and leftist theories cropped up repeatedly. “I was more about Latin America and Africa, and he was more about European history,” said McClelland. Famously – or perhaps infamously — the two became known across the school for their discussions of Marx, Stalin and Lenin.

Mainstream thinkers (or rather, the ones most people have heard of) were just a warm-up. “I tried to get him into Kafka,” said McClelland. Existentialism was one of the most recent fields of interest for the boys, and so Camus and Neitzsche found places on Byram’s reading list (alongside Machiavelli, Sorel and Smith).

Aside from wealth redistribution and absurdism, the mechanisms of government ensnared Byram. Liberal democracies, democratic republics and other European governments’ led to monarchical systems, Zapotismo and a weird fascination with 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot. “It was typically pretty random, but you could see him progress from one to the other,” said McClelland.

When Byram stumbled on a Wikipedia rabbit hole, he burrowed down to the core and made sure to take his closest friends with him. For AP United States History, students were told to make a family tree. Byram, characteristically, traced his lineage back to his great-great-great grandparents and lectured Hagan on the history of Saipan, the Pacific Island of his heritage.

Lecturing on history was one of Byram’s pastimes, and although he would have profusely denied his love of speech and debate, he enjoyed it thoroughly. Competing in International Extemporaneous Speaking (IX), Byram’s Saturdays were saturated with research on geopolitical scenarios ranging from the future of Ethiopia to green policies in the European Union.

To Malone’s dismay, the seven-minute practice speeches could sometimes consist of five minutes on historical background that Byram insisted was important and not at all an overgrown tangent.

But Byram’s abilities netted him sixth place in the state for his event and a spot at the national tournament this June. This is, of course, on top of countless first- and second-place ribbons at speech meets across Central Indiana, and State qualifier and district semifinalist status his sophomore year.

For a guy so naturally inclined to arguments, World Schools Debate (WSD) seemed to be an obvious choice as a second event. But that didn’t stop Byram from moaning incessantly at the prospect of writing nearly a dozen speeches on top of serving as de facto leader to a team of freshmen.

There was never a dull moment with Lendon.”

— Freshman Bryce Hahn

Two of those freshmen, Bryce Hahn and Isha Tandon, noted one of the most authentic images of Byram to date. “He was not approachable at first,” said Tandon, and Hahn said, “To say the least, it was one of the most interesting experiences. There was never a dull moment with Lendon.”

“Even when you didn’t want him to be honest, he was honest,” said Tandon. Once during the virtual State debate meet, Byram double checked his mute and told Tandon to “talk better.”

Hahn said, “He had a way of looking at you like a disappointed parent that just made it worse.” Luckily, Byram’s critical gaze could quickly shift to his (actual) opponents. “He would yell at them silently while off camera,” said Hahn.

Despite this year marking Byram’s WSD debut, he was a natural. Hahn said, “The most impressive thing about Lendon was his ability to take one single line of illegible notes and make a seven-minute speech out of it.” Consistently, Byram would “always bash the competitors in the most professional way, basically use so many big words you didn’t notice he was insulting you,” said Tandon.

“It kind of made me mad when I was over there with three pages (of notes) and still going ‘um, um, um,” said Hahn.

As hard as Byram was on the freshmen, they believed it was a form of tough love. “He didn’t show an ounce of gratitude or sympathy for us, but he did like the team,” said Hahn.

It was no secret that Byram didn’t enjoy prepping for the State debate tournament, but “he stuck with it and gave it his all,” said Tandon.

In between rounds, Tandon remembered Byram standing at the front of debate space, a Loretto classroom, with diagrams drawn on the whiteboard explaining how to better organize, question and stump opponents in the future. As much as Byram liked winning, “he wanted us to get better,” said Tandon.

While probably needing to dial back the inner debater in him, Byram entertained the idea of instructing history at the university level one day. “He liked teaching people things,” said McClelland. Living as an academic appealed to Byram’s innate intellectual curiosity, and McClelland said Byram would likely want to publish his takes on history or philosophy.

“He actually read history books, with titles like ‘The Rise and Fall of’ or ‘A History of,’” said McClelland. But reality didn’t always have enough for Byram. Last year, he wrote an alternate history mock textbook complete with hand-drawn maps and “extensive, extremely well-researched” pages of canon based on a minute change in Spanish history.

But the what she termed the “political and weird stuff” were mostly confined to Byram and McClelland, said Lucas. The two bonded over art and music, and like all things Byram, the incredibly niche kind. “He really liked Romantic Era painting,” said Lucas. McClelland added, “He would talk about designing buildings in Baroque style, too.”

Byram’s artwork can be found in the program at his funeral and on a prayer card. “He was distinct in his art style,” said Lucas. From colorful recreations of Goku to sketches of Greek statues, “you could tell what was his,” she said.

As it turns out, the art followed inspiration. Byram sustained a deep love of comic books that later evolved into anime. “He was totally a weeb,” said Lucas. Adorning his bedroom were box sets of the complete manga of Fullmetal Alchemist, Dragon Ball Z, and his favorite, Bleach. “None of the spines are bent, and the pages are in pristine condition,” Lucas said.

While Byram surely could give you an impromptu lecture on the nuances of the principle of equal exchange and shōnen plot development, he appreciated an aesthetic that was uniquely, fiercely him. “He took a lot of walks at night. Sometimes he’d send me a picture of the White River or a tree just because he thought it was cool,” said McClelland.

Repeatedly, in speeches from Byram’s cousins, Aaron and Elliot Rodgers, or classmates reminiscing at the Mass that took place in his honor on May 5, Byram’s extreme music taste comes up. Asking Alexandria, Whitechapel, Pierce the Veil. Chelsea Grin, Periphery, Icarus the Owl. Metal, the kind that makes you long for a fork and blackboard, blasted through Byram’s headphones and out into the classroom, weight room or speech and debate prep room. “Dawg, just let me put it on,” he would say.

In his usual way, Byram’s overriding attitude toward his music was that it was “better than ours,” said Lucas. Even after Byram tried to put his friends on metal, McClelland said that although there was a mutual respect for the raw emotion in a seven-string guitar, McClelland’s music simply “wasn’t heavy enough” for his best friend.

But Byram wouldn’t be Byram without impressing some kind of order to the cacophony of sound. “He was very organized with it,” said Lucas. Songs were sorted by genre-based Spotify playlists topped off with proper cover photos. “Sometimes he put songs from the same album in different playlists,” said Lucas.

In-depth conversations about the qualities of genre versus another were frequent. For the uninitiated, metalcore, deathcore, hardcore, post-hardcore and skramz (just a few of Byram’s favorites) may sound similar, but after listening to a song for a “mere 10 seconds, he could tell what genre it belonged to,” said McClelland. Naturally, McClelland designated Whitechapel “groove metal, solely to annoy him,” he noted.

As deeply as Byram explored the parts of the world that interested him, there remained an insistence that people full on expose themselves to some hoarse screaming. Fittingly, Rick and Summer Byram waited until dozens of close friends and relatives had gathered at the family cemetery before unleashing a sample. Queuing up “Can You Feel My Heart,” the gritty, ripping voice of Bring Me the Horizon filled the Indiana countryside and nudged a few smiles amid the tears.

Admittedly, it was a lot lighter than the Slayer played by a few cars in the funeral procession.

Mark Knapp, the pastor at Byram’s Celebration of Life on May 8, was astounded by the intimidating titles and thickness of some of the books lining the shelves of Byram’s room. But even more incredible were the accompanying notebooks of commentary and criticisms that synthesized author’s ideas and offered new interpretations.

A conscientious side of Byram is accentuated even more by his relationship with his girlfriend, Kalen Hart, who also passed away on May 1. “He’d go on little benders talking about her,” said Lucas. Sometimes during FaceTime calls with Kalen, Byram would take a screenshot and send it to Lucas with the caption “look at her.”

“He was so proud of her,” said McClelland, and “he loved her so much,” said Lucas. Although the origin of their relationship is murky, once Byram started talking to her, he immediately shared with his friends. Lucas said, “He called me at an inhumanely late time and said, ‘I found her. She’s a mix of me and my best friends.’”

Hart and Byram kept away from the radical political theory, and instead focused on more serious things, like the three live action Scooby Doo movies and “geeking out over horror movies,” said Lucas. There was once a period of two weeks where the two saw each other every single day. “I think he would consider ditching me to hang out with her in a heartbeat,” said McClelland.

In the photos snapped of Byram and Hart pre-prom, you can see the happiness spilling out of Byram’s face in a wholesome, genuine way. For all of you that celebrated your own prom nights, stop and draw on the excitement and joy of the once-in-a-lifetime moment. That was Byram’s night. “He was happy. I can tell you all he was happy,” said Byram’s great-aunt on May 2 during a prayer service that took place in Byram’s honor.

Lendon is buried in a cherry coffin lacquered smoothly and adorned with curling woodwork in a beautiful section of land nestled back between fields and forests. We remember him in so many ways. Smirking scholar. Loyal friend. Loving boyfriend. Musical connoisseur. Quiet artist. Eccentric historian. Dedicated teammate. Beloved son, grandson, cousin and nephew.

To measure anyone by their absence is heart-wrenching. But with such a macroscopic view, we, as Lendon’s friends, family and school, are afforded a chance to recognize the impact of the people around us and to cherish them. Three times now, I have seen the words “tell your friends you love them” fill story after story on Instagram.

Go. Say the words. Because you do. And they do, too.