March 8, 2019
It is with great sadness (and yet with great hope) that we inform you of the passing of long-time and much-loved Shelby family member, Bryan Lawton. Bryan moved from this life to the next on March 7, 2019. Bryan served Shelby customers faithfully for over 24 years. Many of you may have spoken with him on the phone in Support or met with him at Shelby’s annual conference. Bryan’s work and life were nothing short of miraculous.
Born with cystic fibrosis, Bryan managed the disease well for years, but in his 20s his condition worsened. He had a double-lung transplant in 1997.
Here is Bryan’s story in his own words:
“In May of 1997, I was having one of my usual coughing spells, but this one was much different than the others. I desperately tried to catch my breath as I placed the oxygen mask over my mouth. My thought: “Would this be the last time I would ever take a breath?” With my wife calling 911, I blacked out and minutes later the paramedics arrived. They were able to get me stabilized and placed in the ambulance. Shortly after, I flatlined for about 30 seconds and actually saw the paramedics working on my body as if I was floating near the ceiling watching myself from above. I felt as if I was riding a roller coaster with total freedom and no worry in the world. I then saw the “bright light” that so many people have reported seeing when faced with a near-death experience. When I awoke in the hospital and was told what had taken place, I knew that my life had taken on a new meaning and purpose. I can honestly say that after that experience I am not afraid to die. On Mother’s Day, I came off the respirator and was later added to the transplant list in June of 1997.”
“The second Friday in October (of that same year) was a day that I will remember forever. I could not have imagined that in God’s timing, not mine, I was about to be a part of one of His great miracles. In the afternoon of October 10th, I stopped by my doctor’s office and decided to call the transplant nurse to inquire about some medication. The news I received next was about to change the course of my life forever. I was told that a possible donor had been found, but they were waiting for further results before giving me a complete thumbs-up for the transplant. I anxiously drove back to work hoping and praying that this could be what I had been waiting for. When my pager went off just a short time later, the news was good. The six-hour transplant surgery was performed that evening and went without complication. Now I am preparing to compete in the US Transplant Games, and share the joy of my restored life with other recipients and donation advocates.”
The successful double-lung transplant extended Bryan’s life by over 20 years. He was able to watch his children grow up, meet and marry his wife Rhea, and serve others during those years. Bryan helped to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research by participating in Walk-A-Thons , Golf Tournaments and the Transplant Games of America. He was a tireless worker and spokesman for CF causes.
Bryan was known for being a fun-loving person and didn’t mind getting dressed up for a good laugh. Enjoy these pictures (below) of Bryan playing the part of “Jingles” bringing joy to those who attended the Shelby Christmas party. Other photos of some of our best memories of Bryan Lawton are included as well.
Here is what some of Bryan’s work colleagues and friends had to say about him:
“Bryan was a very passionate person that loved serving others. I can’t think of anyone that has had to suffer through the things he has had to deal with his whole life yet he was always upbeat and positive. A true inspiration to us all.”
Steve Pruitt – Shelby General Manager
“When I think of Bryan I always smile. We took a lot of jabs at each other, we had fun. Bryan and I shared a lot of the same interests, particularly playing golf and the Memphis Tigers. He was such a positive guy, could always find the sunshine, he had a bright outlook on things. Bryan loved life, I will always remember that about him. “
Mike Martin – Shelby Sales Consultant
“Bryan was my best friend since my freshman year of college, and he was the most optimistic person I knew. He was a master of making lemonade from all the lemons life gave him. He was also the toughest man I ever knew. Bryan came to work on several occasions to finish some issues he had been working on after the doctor had told him to go directly to the emergency room.”
Richard Anthony – Senior Programming Manager
“I am filled with gratitude that I got to know and work with Bryan Lawton for 24+ years. Philippians 2:15 says “You will shine among them like stars in the sky”. Thank you, Bryan, for shining your light reflecting God’s glory, whether it was speaking kind words, offering a helping hand, scattering smiles, engaging in meaningful conversations . . . so many ways to shine, and you did them all with so much grace and joy.”
Karen Bishop – Shelby Events Manager
“I met Bryan 23 years ago at Shelby Systems. Since then we’ve enjoyed raising families, traveling to Conference USA Basketball tournaments to pull for the Tigers, giving each other a hard time about the Detroit Lions, making ‘short’ jokes… I could go on and on. He was a great friend and coworker. To say he will be deeply missed is an understatement. We miss you Bryan, but know you are in a better place. Thank you God for the time we had with him.”
Chris Benson – Director of Customer Services
“I’m so thankful for my friend, Bryan. He is without a doubt the most resilient man I’ve ever known. We are all blessed to have witnessed his relentless pursuit of life and to see how one truly lives it to the fullest. He was a great man and I will miss him terribly.”
Randy Turner – Shelby Support Manager
Learn More About: Cystic Fibrosis