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“My dad discovered he had a son less than a minute before he discovered he had lost his son.”

By Byron Auguste

I was born in London, but we moved when I was ten months old. My brother, Daryl, was born in the United States. He was five years younger than I was.

Whenever he got annoyed with me, Daryl would make the point that he could be president of the United States and I couldn’t. But he said that if I was nice to him, he would make me secretary of state.

This was Daryl at seven.

One weekend, my dad, Daryl, my cousin Steven, and I were walking to McDonald’s. It was maybe a few blocks from our house. A twenty-three-year-old drunk driver veered off the street and hit us.

My father and Daryl were hit directly. Eyewitnesses describe my brother actually sailing through the air. He died at the hospital later that day. My father was badly injured and in a coma for ten days. I had two broken legs.

A few days after my dad came out of the coma, he remembered he had a son named Byron. That’s when they had me come in to see him. While he was talking to me, he asked, “Where’s Daryl?”

My dad discovered he had a son less than a minute before he discovered he had lost his son. That was very hard.

My mother was in the caretaker mode, and yet she needed so much care. I was trying not to be an extra burden to her.

I believe you have to make meaning in your life. You have to decide what your life is going to mean.

I had a lot of friends from school in my hospital room all the time. At first everyone was so solemn. No one could smile until I made a joke. I didn’t want everybody to be so serious around me, so I focused on the things I was doing. Student body elections were coming up for the next year, so my hospital room became politics central. I got out of the hospital on crutches in time to be elected student body president.

I ended up going to grad school in Oxford, where I earned a master’s degree and a PhD in economics. I met my wife there. We named our oldest son Daryl after his uncle.

Over the next twenty years, I worked at McKinsey & Company, becoming the firm’s first African American senior partner. In 2013, President Obama named me deputy director of the White House National Economic Council. Today I run Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit I founded to empower one million Americans to get higher-paying jobs over the next ten years.

I believe you have to make meaning in your life. You have to decide what your life is going to mean.

I don’t worry about the things that people typically worry about at work, in business, or in government. People think, “What if we try this big thing and it doesn’t work?” And I think, “Okay, what if it doesn’t work? Is anyone going to die? Because if no one’s going to die, maybe we still have a problem, but we can figure it out.”

I think of the idea of Option B as putting to one side the tragedy you’ve had or the loss you’ve had. Your tragedy is Option A. Your plan is Option B.

Grief & Loss Children Finding meaning
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