The Lessons Were His Gift To Me, A Legacy of Expression

I originally posted this piece on my personal blog on December 31, 2013, after the death of a dear friend. The lessons transcend time but are especially profound as we embrace the opportunities of a New Year.


It’s been just over 57 hours since learning the tragic news of the passing of my friend and jazz master bassist, Dwayne Burno. I know many, like me, have been going over memories of him in their minds, recalling conversations, performances, dinners, family gatherings, etc. We all have our experiences and memories with Dwayne. We’re all dealing with his passing in our own individual ways. There isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve. It just is. And that’s okay.

Talking through my own personal grief over Dwayne’s passing with my family and friends, I am able to process and come to a realization about who Dwayne was to me and the blessing he was in my life. And what his life taught me about life.

I don’t know about you, but I hear his voice in my heart and I see his face when I close my eyes, and I think of him when I am listening to jazz and I hear the bass line.

It’s amazing that I am experiencing all of these levels of remembrance, and I was only in his presence three times. But once you met him, he left an indelible mark on your spirit.

For a period of almost six years, I would check in on him. He’d faced various health issues, including a kidney transplant and heart problems. He was one of those people you just always kept tabs on every couple of weeks either by phone, text, or instant message. One thing that always amazed me about him and his love for jazz was that for years he traveled around the world, lugging all of his medical equipment while on dialysis. He didn’t go anywhere without it. And yet, he never let it stop him from living or making beautiful music.

That was Lesson #1: Don’t let obstacles get in your way of pursuing your passion and purpose. Keep at it, every day. No matter what the situation looks like.

Lesson #2: Never let time pass by without telling those loved ones in your life how much you love and appreciate them. You never know when your last conversation with them will be. I found out all too well this past week, when my final conversation with Dwayne was on Christmas Eve, and we exchanged Christmas wishes. I told him Merry Christmas and that I loved him much, to which he replied…

Love you too, CAT. Merry Christmas.

In May 2013, Dwayne posted this on his Facebook wall:

Dwayne Burno — May 30 via mobile

Seriously, y’all. Make, take, borrow and/or steal the time to let those you love know in life rather than posthumously exclaim and proclaim your adoration. Doesn’t mean s*it when you can hear or enjoy it.

He knew the importance of expressing love and appreciation to those people in his life who he loved. He did it freely and without obligation. He did it and he meant it. Every word. Every time. He wasn’t afraid of the words “I love you.” Because he meant them — genuinely, sincerely.

We, too, must not be afraid to say those three powerful words. They can change someone’s life. It doesn’t have to be a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend. If you care about someone, tell them. You may not ever get the chance again, so make the most of every opportunity. Time is short. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Dwayne understood this, I believe.

Dwayne Burno will not only be remembered as a master jazz musician, with his unmatched knowledge of and skill in the art of jazz, composition, history and technical ability. He will also be remembered for his passionate pursuit, dedication, and expression of humanity. He was the embodiment of Life, Love, and all things jazz.

Nothing stopped him from living or making his beautiful music. For me to embrace that in my own life would be the greatest acknowledgment of the gift he passed to me.