I went to bed this morning around 1:30 am. I woke up at 4:30 am and started my day and work week like many others. I got a call from my former roommate, Devin, informing me that our good friend Donnell passed away this morning from a heart attack.
I hate these phone calls.
Immediately my heart went out to his wife and three children. He was only thirty-one years old. I left my desk, called Devin back and the first thing I could say to him was “Fuck!” I couldn’t say that in my workspace; so I walked into the stairway and let that out because I had to. Donnell Tyler was my boy.
I’ve written about Donnell before. We became friends when I began to produce and manage he, Devin, and their friend, Dyquan’s gospel rap group. Once a month they would drive from Charleston, SC to Atlanta to record. It would be the four of us in Timile and my apartment for twelve hour studio sessions . Donnell and I clicked right away. As the married man, he was the only one of my friends who understood the arguments I would have with her. Many times my venting would end with Timile coming outside and in a confrontational tone exclaim “Are you talking about me?!” He would laugh and say “Go handle the breh.”
We really became friends after I moved from Atlanta and Timile passed away. We would talk two-to-three times a week because we had similar struggles. We were both minimally employed doing our best to take care of our families. A year ago to the week things changed. He finally found gainful employment and so did I. We both felt as if we had finally reached that light at the end of the tunnel that had seemed dim since 2010. We still spoke frequently.
Donnell was there for me through a lot. A lot of my relationship drama he would be the voice of reason to. There was a time when I didn’t have ten dollars to my name. My ex and I were starting to become friends again and she’d recently had surgery. He sent me $80 to buy her a decent get well soon gift and to take the train to see her. We spoke so much that his wife would say “That’s Chad again?!” We just understood each other.
Last Monday was the last time I spoke to Donnell. We had a running joke and our conversation ended with me saying in jest “Let’s be real: you’re not going anywhere, b.” We laughed and he had to go. It was fitting that such a lighthearted statement would be our last conversation.
I deal with death very intellectually. I talk so causally about friends, family, and loved ones after they leave earth so causally it freaks people out. For those of us who are fortunate, the older we get, the more we are going to find ourselves losing people. I don’t say this from a dark and cynical place; it’s logic. You never fully get over the losses. You cherish the time you were blessed to have them in your life and have to continue living yours. Sometimes it’s unexpected. Sometimes people live full lives. Sometimes people gradually go and we have time to process. With the exception of 2Pac and a select few, we never know…
Because of this I try my best to live my life as if tomorrow isn’t promised. For most people my age this is still theory and experience hasn’t made it fully applicable. I make sure I demonstrate and articulate how I feel to those I love. I have no regrets or wish there isn’t anything I haven’t said. My mission in the lives of said people is that whenever God calls me none of them can ever question or have any doubt they weren’t loved by me.
I blogged about T.R.O.Y. over a year ago. So I decided to go with Mr. Cheeks’ remade version that featured a reunited Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth. Mecca jumped on the third verse and once again paid tribute to fallen friend Trouble T-Roy of Heavy D and the Boyz. His verse was so heartfelt. He gave updates about people he mentioned in 1992 and mentions how they continue to live through him and song. My brother Donnell Tyler does as well…