Every time the Beeson family sit around their fire pit, Connor’s Lane, they remember all the good times they were able to spend with Connor. They can reminisce on the 19 years they got to share with him. They smile, they laugh, and sometimes, they cry.
It was Martin Luther King Day; Ryan Beeson had returned to East Carolina University for school after a nice weekend at home. His day started just as normal as any other. He went to Cookout for lunch, he was unaware that his family had been trying to reach him all day, but the calls weren’t going through. That afternoon Ryan got a knock on his door. It was his cousin, Sid.
His cousin sat him down. He told him there had been a death in the family. Ryan’s first thought was his dad. He never expected it to be his younger brother, his only sibling, his best friend. Ryan said, “I just remember crying and screaming.”
Connor was working on his truck, White Thunder. He was pumping air into his tires when one exploded, killing him instantly. He was just 19 years old. January 19, 2015, would be a day that changed the Beeson’s lives forever.
Ryan was about two years older than Connor. Some of Ryan’s favorite memories include playing with his younger brother every day after school. They played “Us Big”, which was a game they made up where they would pretend they were grownups in different time periods. He also remembers playing in the sandbox with his cousins at their grandparents until they were in high school.
Connor and Ryan’s rooms were beside each other, they had a bathroom that connected to the two rooms. Every night before they went to bed they would tell each other goodnight and that they loved each other.
Connor enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, hunting, working on his truck, and playing with his bluetick coonhounds, Dixie and Daisy. Ryan describes his younger brother as dedicated, loyal and loving.
He was a special person, taken too soon. One of Connor’s friends, Kyle Hollingsworth said, “Connor was a kind-hearted faithful friend. He always wore a beautiful smile on his face but was very unpretentious.”
The days, weeks, and months following his death were agonizing for the Beeson’s. They were on autopilot. Ryan said, “I look back at that time and I don’t know how I would sleep at night or how I ate.”
As terrible as the days that followed were, they had a wonderful support system. People were constantly at their house. People brought food, did their laundry for them, prayed with them, and read scripture with them.
The week after Connor passed, Ryan was told by family and friends that he needed to go back to school. People told him if he took too much time off, he would never go back. Despite the heartache Ryan was going through, he put on a brave face and returned to school.
About five or six weeks after being back at school, the pain took over, he had to walk out of one of his classes. It was unbearable, Ryan said, “you feel like the world has ended, but the world is still going on around you, how are these people just acting like everything’s normal, my brother is dead.” That day he called his parents and decided to withdraw until he was ready to go back.
The family needed ways to cope with the pain of losing their loved one, they knew they couldn’t just sit around and cry every day. They had to do something, so they decided to make a spot where they could all go to remember Connor. They made Connor’s Lane. They got chainsaws, cleared out all of the trees, and made an area for a fire pit.
They use the area to gather as a family and remember all the wonderful times they had with him. Ryan said, “it’s a weird thing, sometimes it feels so fresh like it was just yesterday, and sometimes it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve seen him.”
Ryan and Connor’s mom, Christine, prayed for a sign that her son was okay and with the Lord. Shortly after, a yellow butterfly appeared and kept circling her. The Beeson’s often see yellow butterflies and they believe it’s God’s way of sending a “hello” from Connor. Whether it’s at the lake, or Connor’s grave, when they see a yellow butterfly, they know that Connor is okay.
The family decided to create a scholarship in Connor’s memory. Connor loved cows and often played with toy cows when he was younger, this is how they came up with the acronym M.O.O. The M.O.O (making others outstanding) scholarship goes to one graduating senior at Randleman High School every year.
Connor’s family and girlfriend adopted a highway in his memory. They have a highway clean up four times a year, members of the community show up to help out. Ryan believes the clean-up is the communities way of remembering Connor. The Randleman Bojangles donates biscuits to feed those who come out to help.
November 20, 2019, would have been Connor’s 24th birthday. The community gathered to clean up the highway, but they also gathered to honor and celebrate Connor’s birthday, there was food, friends, and a cake.
Ryan wears a necklace that has Connor’s fingerprint on it. It makes him feel like a piece of Connor is with him every day. The Beeson’s still go through tough times, they had an exceptionally difficult time on the fifth anniversary of his death which was January 19 of this year. Ryan cried for about two hours, but then a happy memory came up and made him smile.
Ryan said, “it’s okay to hurt, you’re supposed to hurt, you would feel guilty if you didn’t.” As the Beeson family gather around the fire pit in Connor’s Lane, they remember him. They share stories, share laughs, and share tears.