A tribute to Wendy Bryan (religion)
By Chanel Bingham
Every great once in a while, you meet a person who forever changes your life. They capture your spirit with their kindness and inspire you in ways you did not think possible. They bring your hidden beauty into the light and cultivate it with genuine love and encouragement. Their joy overflows from a life well-lived, and their inner light shines so brightly that others cannot help but be drawn to them. Wendy Bryan was one such person.
Wendy, 50, of Thorsby, passed away Nov. 25 leaving behind her husband, Russ Bryan; sons, Evan and Parker Bryan; father, Dr. Steven K. Forrest of Thorsby; mother, Penny Erwin of Vestavia Hills; step-father, Dr. James Erwin of Vestavia Hills; brother, Kelly Forrest of Alabaster; sister-in-law, Cathy Forrest of Alabaster, Cindy Wyatt of Shelby; brother-in-law, Ricky Wyatt of Shelby; mother-in-law, Peggy Bryan of Clanton; nieces, Leah Wyatt, Alexa Forrest, Kacy Wyatt; nephews, Judd Wyatt, Wyatt Forrest; great-grandmother, Millie “Bobbie” Forrest.
Wendy was a teacher both by design and by choice. She began her teaching career in the fall of 1992. Over the years, Wendy poured her heart and soul into the lives of her students and inspired all those who knew her. Her teaching abilities extended beyond the classroom, and she served as a beautiful example to others of the impact one life can make when they dedicate themselves to loving others above all else.
I once read that love shows itself through the people we love, so I wanted to give those people who Mrs. Wendy so dearly loved an opportunity to share with you her legacy.
You will hear from friends, co-workers and former students who will all share of the amazing ways she planted seeds of love deep in their heart to be forever treasured as a precious jewel.
Here are their stories:
“I grew up down the street from Wendy. We went to the same church growing up, and our boys played ball together their whole lives. She was more than a friend; I loved her like a sister. We called her “weed,” because she loved to pull weeds and loved to work in her flower beds. She shared my love for photography, and we spent endless nights preparing slide shows for the baseball teams. She used to take pictures of all the players because she wanted every mom to have a picture of their child. She was so thoughtful like that and in so many other ways. Heaven gained a sweet soul, and I will truly miss her. I am looking forward to seeing her again one day! Love you Weed!” Tanya Maddox, friend
“Mrs. Wendy Bryan has been teaching me for most of my life. She was not only my school teacher, but she also became a role model and a friend to me. When I was a little girl, I looked up to her because of her beauty and kind heart. However, my admiration for her changed when she received her diagnosis. I began to look up to her for the unwavering strength and determination she showed throughout her battle. She supported me through everything I was involved in, and I wouldn’t have pushed myself without her. Mrs. Wendy continued to teach her students, far beyond their time in her class. Every teacher teaches their students lessons in the classroom, but Mrs. Wendy’s life lessons continue to impact me every single day. I am a better person because I was lucky enough to know her.” Laken Patterson, former student
“I will always remember Wendy Bryan and her contagious laugh, her untamed personality, and her absolute love for her Thorsby High School. She will always be in our hearts and will be a legacy at THS forever. I truly loved her.” Angie Barnett, co-worker and friend
“How do you choose a memory when you have been best friends for over 25 years? I guess one of my best memories would have to be all the Christmas Eve’s we spent together with all of our kids waiting for Santa to come. Wendy was and is still the best friend I ever had. She had such a way with people that can never be replaced from her co-workers to her students. She treated everyone the same. I visited Wendy every Wednesday afternoon; this became what we called our “Wendy Wednesday’s.” Wednesday’s will forever be “Wendy Wednesday’s”! Love and miss you my sweet BFF.” Teresa Barnett, co-worker and friend
“Mrs. Wendy taught me in the third grade and fifth grade. She was very caring and nurturing. She was personable by getting involved with our families. All through my time in school at Thorsby, she stayed involved in my life. She was my favorite elementary teacher, but our relationship grew as I got older. I had the privilege of becoming her high school helper 9 – 12 grade. I witnessed how much she loved to teach from a different perspective. Even while she was fighting cancer, she taught and loved her students. Her passion for teaching influenced my decision to become an elementary teacher. As I teach my first graders now, I am motivated each day to love my students and work hard to make their education fun because of her legacy. Her attitude and spunk is forever etched in my memory!” Jessica Ellison, former student
“Wendy was one of a kind. She was like a sister to me. There are so many memories we shared, lots of laughs and a few tears. But when I think about Wendy, one thing always comes to mind…passion. Wendy was passionate about life, educating children, helping others, her community, fighting for what she believed in, and most of all, her boys! Even when the cancer would return, Wendy was concerned about others more than herself. She would go out of her way to reach out and help you with your problems rather than worry about her own. Wendy Bryan leaves a huge legacy behind at THS and the community. She will be greatly missed and never forgotten!” Michelle McRae, co-worker and friend
“Wendy inspired me over the years with her strength, courage, love for her family and the students of Thorsby. I’m grateful for all the memories I have shared with my dear friend over the years and even the past few months. She loved to laugh, and her smile was infectious! I know that I am selfish in not wanting to let you go, but I keep reminding myself that you are no longer in pain and you are cancer free! Thanks Weed for being the person you were and for being my friend. You taught me to think of others and to cherish all the memories. I love you Weed!” Amy Daniel, friend
“Although there were many things I loved about Mrs. Wendy Bryan, I can remember her always cheering and being at our sporting events with a smile on her face. It didn’t matter who we were trying to defeat, she was always there to cheer us on and encouraged us as needed. Same with Bama games; we always tailgated and cheered on the Tide, win or lose, and wait to get autographs after the games. Another thing I loved about Mrs. Wendy Bryan was she measured me throughout my life. I would stand up against the wall in the computer room and she would measure me to see how much I had grown. She looked after me and treated me as if I were her own. She was like a second mother to me. Mrs. Wendy Bryan has been a big part of my life and I will never forget all the memories we have made.” Houston Daniel, family friend
“Wendy became my role model when I was 11 years old. I wanted to look and be just like our beautiful Peach Queen. When I turned 17, Wendy encouraged me to compete and helped me prepare for the pageant. Many years later, she was there to help my own daughter prepare for Peach. She was the most complete example of intelligence, beauty, poise and class. She has been my friend and mentor for the past almost 30 years. She has given me advice, encouragement and an endless supply of laughter. She has spent so much of her time doing for others and had a talent of making everyone feel special. Wendy loved life and was so energetic and full of enthusiasm. Even when I was picking her up for cancer treatments, she would sometimes have already been up early baking me chocolate chip cookies. She has lived every moment of her life to the fullest and given so much of herself to her friends and family. I am all the better for having known her and calling her my friend.” Tricia Patterson, friend
“Wendy Bryan has left us too soon, but the impact she had on the lives of so many in this community will never be forgotten. I will always remember the day she walked into my first classroom here at THS. She greeted me with a big beautiful smile and immediately wanted to help, and she did. She helped me in every facet of my life, well surpassing the classroom duties. She would stay at school with me planning lessons, creating props, making bulletin boards, and preparing for the kindergarten graduation. She was teaching me how to do all these things, but at the same time, she was teaching me so many life lessons. We would share so many laughs here at THS together.” Jennifer Woodall, co-worker and friend
As you can see, Wendy was loved not only by her adoring family, but also by so many others in our community. Her servant’s heart and innate ability to speak kindness into the lives of others will not soon be forgotten.
Though we are greatly saddened by her loss, Wendy Bryan’s legacy leaves us all with an amazing opportunity: to love one another deeply despite our differences, to fertilize the gifts of others through kind words spoken, to never lose hope and never, ever take one day for granted.
Thank you, Wendy, for teaching us all.
Chanel Bingham is a freelance writer, blogger and public speaker. She resides in Thorsby with her husband and four children. You can visit Chanel at www.thepolishedcanvas.com or on Facebook at “The Polished Canvas.” Her column publishes each Thursday.