“Hi Grandson, I started grief counseling today, I need to do this to help me with why you are not here, I yearn for you sooooooo much.”
“Hi Grandson, I know you said YaYa don’t cry, but I am crying Bryson because my heart hurts so much for you, I miss you like crazy, I am so sad that you are not here.”
“Hi Grandson, YaYa is fighting for you, because you did not deserve what has happened to you.”
Erica Colbert texts her grandson, Bryson Hudson, almost every day. She gives him updates about his mother, Katika Travis, and younger brother, Drake. She tells him how she talks about him to everybody. She tells him he is her “everything.”
The curious, rambunctious child was raised by his mother, his grandmother and great-grandmother, Colbert’s mother. When 19-year-old Travis learned she was pregnant with Bryson, her firstborn, the three generations of women were living under the same roof in Baltimore.
The moment she laid eyes on her grandson, Colbert said he changed her life.
She said they showered their outgoing boy with love and affection, instilled in him an infectious sense of humor, taught him and nurtured him from his birth to his senseless, violent death this year.
“He was very much the light of where he stepped,” Colbert said.
But now, Colbert spends her days trying to answer the “whys” surrounding her grandson’s killing, she said. She won’t see Bryson graduate from high school; she won’t see him have a girlfriend, wife, or children.
He will always be 16 years old, Colbert said.
On August 14, two months after his 16th birthday, Bryson was killed in the East Baltimore neighborhood where he grew up. He was two blocks from home when he was shot multiple times in broad daylight.
Bryson was pronounced dead roughly 11 minutes after arriving at the hospital, according to his grandmother.
His death came just two weeks before he would have started his junior year at Digital Harbor High School, a Baltimore City public college preparatory high school for students who desire to pursue a technology career. His mother had been planning to surprise him with driving lessons soon, Colbert said. Bryson had told his family he wanted to travel the country after graduation.
Christopher McLean, 28, was charged in September with first- and second-degree murder in Bryson’s killing and faces additional charges related to the shooting, including first-degree assault and attempted murder, state charging documents show. Robert D. Cole, an attorney for McLean, declined to comment on his client’s behalf when contacted by CNN.
A 28-year-old man was also wounded in the shooting, police said. It’s unclear whether Bryson was a bystander or targeted.
More about Bryson
Bryson is among at least 1,400 children and teens killed by a gun so far in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Firearms became the No. 1 killer of children and teens in America in 2020, surpassing motor vehicle accidents, which had long been the leading cause of death among America’s youth.
“He should be looking at my death certificate, not me looking at his death certificate that says he died from multiple gunshot wounds,” Colbert said through tears. “That should not be a reality.”
The grandmother winces every time she hears the phrase, “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Where was he supposed to be? Are all of us in the wrong place at the wrong time? He wasn’t in the wrong place. He was in his neighborhood,” she said.
Bryson loved to make jokes, his grandmother said, often causing belly-laughs just by being himself. His outgoing spirit and warmth helped even shyer children open up around him.
He also loved to dance, Colbert said, and they danced together often.
But she misses his deep, full-bodied laughter the most.
“I just want to hear him laugh. He had such a unique laugh and we used to have such a good time,” his grandmother said.
Bryson was also interested in fashion and liked to dress in his own way. He was known for his hair, Colbert said, so much so that his friends would tell her, “You know, YaYa, everybody wants to get their hair just like Bryson’s.”
But most of all, Bryson had a “heart of gold.”
Colbert laughed when she recalled his 15th birthday, when he asked her for a Louis Vuitton belt as a gift. Though it was expensive, she bought it for him anyway.
Then, one day, she noticed Bryson’s friend wearing a very similar belt.
“‘Your friend got a belt like yours?’” Colbert recalled asking Bryson at the time. “He said, ‘Oh no, YaYa, I just let him use it. We borrow each other’s things.’”
“Anything he did – if he had $10, he was going to give a friend five,” she said.
Bryson’s friends are devastated by his loss, Colbert said. They grew up together and never missed the chance to celebrate each other’s milestones. As kids, they played football. As teens, they rapped and made music videos.
“He was definitely the light. His friends, everyone came around him,” Colbert added. “I could see my daughter’s house was the house that all the kids migrated to.”
But no one came between Bryson and his 12-year-old brother, Drake. Colbert described them as “two peas in a pod,” constantly playing, bickering and teasing each other.
Drake misses his brother, and it shows, she said.
At the start of the school year, his mother bought Drake a new pair of shoes. But he chose to wear Bryson’s sneakers to school instead, even though they were a size too big.
“Anything he can still wear of Bryson’s, he’s wearing it,” Colbert said.
Along with his younger brother, Bryson was especially close to his great-grandmother. One of the hardest moments in his young life, Colbert recalled, was when his “Granny” died. Bryson was 13 at the time.
They had a special bond, communicating often and effortlessly, despite their wide age gap, Colbert said of her grandson and mother. When the family all came together, the pair were always laughing and whispering to each other, Colbert said.
“It would just be them wanting to get a reaction from you,” she said. “Because my mom was a jokester, she always wanted laughter. She always felt like something was funny to laugh at, so she definitely passed that on to him and he carried it well.”
In her texts now to her grandson, Colbert tells Bryson she often thinks about him reuniting with his Granny.
“I want you here, but I feel Granny has you in her arms, Bryson you are my heart and not having you here my heart is broken.”
“I miss you Grandson #1, wyd? Are you and Granny whispering?”