Players and coaches joined family and friends of Kyrell McBride-Johnson at midfield before a game in Crowley on Tuesday night to honor Kyrell, who died after collapsing at football practice on Aug. 22 at the age of 13.
A friend told Monica McBride-Debbs, Kyrell’s mother, that she wished Kyrell could be there.
McBride-Debbs replied, “He is here.”
Nobody besides her, her husband Robert Debbs, and Kyrell’s biological father, Dave Demerson, knew how true that was.
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Last weekend, McBride-Debbs received Kyrell’s cremated remains from the Tarrant County medical examiner.
On Tuesday, which happened to be her birthday, she and her husband placed Kyrell’s ashes in the silver Nike Jordan backpack Kyrell used for school.
Debbs wore the backpack onto the field at Panther Stadium near North Crowley High School as the eighth-grade teams from Mansfield T.A. Howard and Crowley Summer Creek middle schools said a prayer and observed a moment of silence to honor Kyrell. Kyrell was practicing to play for Summer Creek this year; he went to T.A. Howard in seventh grade.
“I just felt that I wanted him to be there,” said McBride-Debbs, who added it was her idea to bring his ashes to the ceremony.
In a video of the event, a stadium light shines a ray down onto the assembled players, coaches and family members as they pray.
“I felt a sense of release there,” McBride-Debbs said.
“Normally on a Wednesday, I have a bad day, because that’s the day Kyrell passed, on a Wednesday, but my soul lifted and I felt a release of that heavy burden of sadness.
“I really appreciated what those students put together. They did an awesome job,” she said.
McBride-Debbs still hasn’t been told what caused Kyrell’s death.
Carol Walker, spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office, said her office estimates the autopsy won’t be completed until around Nov. 23, which seems interminable to Kyrell’s family.
“It’s like, the feeling of just waiting for an answer, to find out what happened, it’s unbearable right now,” McBride-Debbs said.
Losing a child has been more devastating than any other kind of loss could be, she said.
“No one knows; it’s not the same as losing a parent or a grandparent,” she said. “It’s not the same. It’s a totally different feeling when you have a kid — he’s just 13, he’s just a baby.
“It’s hard every morning, because I have five other girls to get ready for school,” she said. “You know there’s somebody missing, because Kyrell was always the first one up.
“There’s an emptiness in the house, because he’s always been the life of the house. He was the life of our house, he kept us on our toes.”