By Ryan Schell, Expansion Consultant
There is a well-known fraternity cliché that I am sure the majority of people reading this have heard before. It is said that fraternity brothers will be the first to arrive at your wedding and the last to leave your funeral. While I have yet to attend a fraternity brother’s wedding, I plan on making an early appearance. Unfortunately, I cannot say so much for the latter.
Trent Taylor was the kind of guy that you couldn’t help but gravitate towards. Trent was our star intramural athlete, our head of recruitment, the chapter member who always had a sorority date night to attend, he was my pledge brother, and most importantly he was the first person to meet you with a smile as you entered the chapter house courtyard. At one point I remember thinking of Trent as the Florida Gamma “welcome mat.” He was always there, always with a greeting, and always prepared to dust you off after a long day. Trent made everyone feel comfortable. Trent made everyone feel at home.
On April 7th 2012, a fellow Phi, Trent Taylor was involved in an accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Over the next few days, the staff at Orlando’s Regional Medical Center struggled to find room for the influx of family, friends, and Phis that traveled to be with Trent and his family. We watched, waited, hoped, and prayed for Trent to improve. We cried, we joked, and we laughed at the many stories that Trent had been the center of.
On the evening of April 12th, hundreds of friends from the Florida State community gathered on campus to memorialize Trent. Some told stories, some said prayers, and others came simply to support our chapter. For many, this was their chance to say goodbye. Ian Trent Taylor passed away on April 12th as we gathered at Florida State’s Westcott Fountain to remember him.
In the year since Trent passed, I have tried to make some sense of his death and all of the experiences that surrounded such a tremendous loss. I am not sure that I will ever truly understand, but I have certainly learned a few things about Fraternity and Brotherhood.
Brotherhood is Support
As a leader in my chapter, I frequently felt that I was carrying my chapter through every situation no matter how small or large. I felt as if I was constantly supporting one of our one hundred forty members. I had a very different realization during Trent’s memorial service in Orlando. I sat in the second row behind Trent’s closest friend and roommates. I sat there to support them, as the same brothers were also some of my closest friends. What I noticed in that moment was the two hundred or more Phis who sat in the rows behind me, supporting me as I did my best to support those that sat in the row ahead. I believe this is an essence of Brotherhood that leaders frequently fail to realize. We do not support our brothers and carry their burdens because we are stronger or better suited to do so. We support them because while we struggle, there are always brothers behind us carrying a little bit of the weight.
Brotherhood is more than Friendship
As Brothers of Phi Delta Theta, we all recognize Friendship as one of our cardinal principles. But I believe that Brotherhood is more than the word friendship could ever explain. Friends share experiences and memories, as Brothers we share a bond that few outsiders will ever witness. We feel with one another through every success and every failure. We laugh and cry as much for each other as we do for ourselves. When Trent passed, I shed as many tears for my Brothers’ loss as I did for my own. We are connected by far more than Friendship. We are truly linked heart to heart.
Brotherhood is real
No one would argue that members of Phi Delta Theta are Brothers. We have defined our relationship as such. What I am talking about exists outside of our definition of our association. Common knowledge would suggest that as my chapter mourned the loss of Trent, we were one less member and therefore our Brotherhood had shrunk. In reality, it had soared to levels that I could have never imagined. Trent’s passing had ignited a flame in all of us. We may have been one less member, but our Brotherhood was stronger than ever. As we returned to Tallahassee for classes, exams, and eventually graduation, I could not help but feel stronger and closer to my Brothers than ever before.
As Brothers we are far more than the sum of our parts. We are more than chapter meetings, parties, and even the ritual that guides us. Brotherhood exists outside of the individuals that embody it. Trent will forever be a part of that Brotherhood.
As I travel the country growing our great Fraternity as an Expansion Consultant for Phi Delta Theta, I carry Trent’s memory and our story. Through our Brotherhood, he touches every campus, colony, and individual that I work with. Trent, and what he meant to my chapter, will always be a part of how I define Brotherhood and Fraternity. Brotherhood is the good and the bad, the smiles and the tears, the weddings and the funerals. But most of all it is real and it is lasting. And it has changed my life for the better. Though we are separated by distance, Mary Todd Taylor, Tanner Taylor, and the Florida Gamma Chapter will always be in my thoughts.
The Florida Gamma Chapter will be hosting the Inaugural Trent Taylor Memorial “Power Strut” 5k this weekend benefiting the Brain Injury Association of Florida.
If you enjoyed or related to this post in any way, please consider making a contribution in Trent’s memory at http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/trent-taylor-5k-power-strut-/49634