Lifelong friends of Jason ‘Bird’ Calloway gather to celebrate him with memories, tears, laughs and beer

Friends, most of whom have known Jason Calloway since they were kids, gathered around Jimmy Kissamitakis’ and his wife Belinda’s backyard pool in Little Elm for hours this past Sunday to share their love for Jason and some of their fondest, funniest, craziest and most heartfelt memories of him.

Under the sizzling North Texas sun, they cried, they laughed, they hugged, they cussed, they drank beer and mezcal, they ate delicious brisket, ribs and pulled pork cooked by Jimmy — and they missed the hell out of “Bird.” He was a guy who made friends everywhere he went, from birth in May 1974 to his passing in Littleton, Colorado, in late April, less than two weeks before his 48th birthday.

A photo from Jason’s wedding — I’m not sure of the year.

During Jason’s celebration of life, we all watched videos overflowing with a lifetime of photos of him with many of those friends who were there for him Sunday — and his big brother Kevin, who’s nine years older. We also watched an emotional video Jason recorded just a couple of months before he left this life. For me, at least, those few video moments listening to Jason pour his heart out were easily the most unforgettable and heart-rending of this memorable day.

I barely knew Jason, and Kay and I had never met any of his friends in attendance Sunday. For two years, he had dated and become soulmates with my niece Lew, the first of three children of my oldest birth family sibling, big brother Crys. Kay and I met Jason last June when he and Lew drove from the Denver area to Texas to visit Jimmy, his best friend since they were 4 years old, and we met L&J for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel in Arlington.

My niece Lew with Jason, her soulmate.

Then, last fall when Lew’s mom, Charlene, passed away, I traveled to Colorado to attend her funeral and spend time with as many of my beloved birth family relatives as I could, including Crys and Lew, sister Terry and her husband Rick, Lew’s brother Brad and his wife Kristin and their daughter Bevan.

During that trip, I also got to know Jason better, as we hung out at Crys’s and Lew’s apartment in Littleton and went out to eat a few times, and I learned what an unstoppably outgoing and passionate guy he was. Always interested in learning about others and what they’re going through — and have been through.

Jason packed a hell of a lot into his all-too-short life, deeply cherished all the people in his world, worked hard and got as much enjoyment out of every day as he could.

A group of Jason’s childhood friends, including host Jimmy Kissamitakis (second from right), gather for a group pic.

Jason grew up in the Dallas area but lived all over the U.S., building friendships through his diverse life experiences, which include restaurant ownership in Chicago and Denver (Rooster & Moon). When Jason and Lew met, they were working as managers at a Home Depot in the Denver area. He was a man of many talents, including his musicianship as a keyboard player and former band member.

To say Jason’s passing was a tragedy would be a massive understatement. From what we’ve heard, read and saw Sunday, it’s clear Bird was loved by a veritable army of friends, and his love for and bond with them was just as strong and unbreakable.

I actually don’t know the origin of Jason’s nickname, but we can all be sure he’s flying high now.

Before Kay and I left Jason’s celebration of life, we took this photo with my wonderful big brother Crys (Lew’s dad).

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