Byron Barr and his son were last together on a car ride to Lancaster, where family members would pick the toddler up and take him to Sumter to spend the Veterans Day weekend.
While in the car, the younger Byron Barr, who held an array of nicknames including “Duo,” “BJ” and “Beejus,” spoke words that on Saturday resonated with his father and quieted a church sanctuary. The boy, only 2, said: “Daddy, the sad man is coming. I’m going to die. The sad man is coming.”
“I know that didn’t come from him, it came through him,” Barr said on Saturday as he prepared to bury his son. “Without that foreknowledge, I would’ve been more of a broken man than what you see today. He said that for the sake of my soul.”
Byron Barr II died in Sumter on Nov. 11 after deputies say he wandered from his family and fell into a pond about 200 yards away from his grandparents’ home. His grandparents, an aunt and uncle were at the home when they realized the boy was missing. Within 30 minutes, deputies found the boy in the pond. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Sumter County Coroner Harvin Bullock said last week. Bullock ruled the boy’s drowning accidental. Charges will not be filed against any of the adults at the home after the Sumter County Solicitor’s Office reviewed the case and decided that criminal negligence was not at play in the case.
On Saturday, hundreds of family, friends and supporters filled every pew in the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ in Rock Hill for an afternoon memorial service. Byron Barr, a baritone opera singer, led the congregation in a rendition of “It Is Well With My Soul” through tears as he marched to his son’s white casket in the front of the sanctuary.
Richard Barr, Byron’s uncle, placed boxes of Captain Crunch and Alpha-Bits cereal on either side of the podium. Those were Byron’s favorites, he said, and the last brands of cereal he ate. His vocabulary was advanced, his uncle said. “He was extremely unique. He recognized the cross for some reason.”
Byron, he said, had a way of hiding, only to reappear moments later. While in Sumter with family, he came running down the hall and shouted, “Ricky, here I come.”
“Heaven, here he comes,” Richard Barr said.
A slide show displayed pictures of Byron as a newborn in the hospital; being held by his older sister, Camille; playing with his parents; napping; and holding an edition of Fortune magazine. Captions calling Byron a “man of many hats” were superimposed over pictures of the boy sporting fedoras, baseball caps, towels and even a candy bucket over his head. Another caption read that he was “the only 2-year-old in history to ask, ‘Can I watch the news?’”
Those pictures were “just the tip of the iceberg” of who Byron was, said his mother, Lakia Barr, who spoke from the podium, encouraging all in the congregation to “hold on to your children.”
“Love them,” she said. “Show them how much you love them every day.”
“You have no idea how much this hurts me, but I had to come up here in representation of my family and my little boy,” she said. “My baby is more than a lifeless cold body in a box. My baby is more than what you read in a newspaper. He is more than what you see on TV. He’s more than a little boy who drowned in a pond.
“We knew there was something on his life,” she said. “We knew what we had.”
Byron was born March 21, 2011, two years after the Barr couple mourned the passing of their first son, who died two hours after he was born.
“I felt that I lost ... my faith,” Lakia Barr said. “Then the Lord gave me BJ. It restored my hope; it restored my faith. And then, for some reason, God chose to take him away. Now, all I have left to do is use my strength in God.”
God “got us through” the death of their first son, Lakia Barr said. “We’re going to be strong. We have a daughter who is wonderful and we’re going to pour all our love in her. We’re not going to let this keep us from praying.”
“He was my hope, my progeny,” Byron Barr said. “He was supposed to put me in the ground. I was never supposed to put his name on an obituary.”
Byron Barr called his son “celestially oriented,” always pointing to “the Creator ... the Redeemer” as he “would constantly minister to us in our household.”
He made crosses out of blocks. He often would tell his parents they had “favor.”
“I can’t exactly explain what God sent to us because I’m not really sure,” Barr said. “I love that boy. He came here with a purpose. He came to tell us that our God is alive ... bravo, young man, bravo.”
“Duo” often ran around the house, proclaiming, “I want my Jesus!” his father said. “Boy, you got your Jesus.”
Bristow Marchant of The (Sumter) Item newspaper contributed.