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“Do Work, Son”: Saying Goodbye to Christopher ‘Big Black’ Boykin

“It’s crazy and also beautiful; how complete strangers have affected our lives so much that it makes us sad to know that they can’t do it anymore.”

This is a 3:14 am instant message that I just received from my friend Adam, who lives all the way across the country yet routinely finds a few minutes to catch up with me as we both burn the midnight oil. Once I see it, it prompts my eyes to tear up in the way they did a few hours ago when I received the news that Christopher “Big Black” Boykin; star of the MTV show “Rob and Big” and a regular on “Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory” had passed away at the age of 45, succumbing a heart attack.

“Why is this hitting me like I just lost a good friend” I wondered, sifting through the many moments of watching Big entertain as I quickly found the answer to that question was simple.

At the tail end of 2008, I fell into a deep cocoon of depression, which was later attributed to extreme anxiety and the overwhelming loss I felt from my own real life stresses. Like many other people in the world dealing with depression, I found myself spending far too many days in bed or on the couch, often only leaving for work or a routine trip to the store. The rest of my available time was spent either writing or searching for any other kind of escape; an escape I was able to find in the adventures of Rob Dyrdek and Big Black.

Though I had seen a couple of episodes of “Rob & Big”, this period of my life was the moment I was hooked. I purchased the Seasons 1&2 DVD set and watched them about fifteen times through in a couple of month’s time, while also always being sure to watch any new or repeat episodes any time I was given the opportunity to do so on basic cable.

In Big Black, I found someone very much like myself that I could identify with. I too was a big man living with a friend and his crazy pets, often times being roped into strange and hilarious “hi-jinks” and situations as we navigated through our day-to-day existence. Many mornings after working our long night shifts, my friend (and former roommate) Joey and I would stay awake, sipping Bud Lights and having breakfast as we watched Rob and Big do everything from attempting to train a mini-horse all the way down to figuring out who threw a turd in their pool; always laughing and smiling like it was the first time we had seen each episode.

Through the rough days, watching Rob & Big made life feel livable again. I forgot my woes and heartbreak. I would lose myself in hours of skateboarding shenanigans and visits from “Uncle Jerry”. In possibly one of the worst periods of my life, I found a resurgence of sorts anytime I tuned in, relating to more than just the fun Rob & Big were constantly having.

In an episode where Rob attempts to get Big to lose weight, I saw a lot of my own struggle. In another, Big challenges Rob to don a fat suit and live as “Big Bob” to show him how difficult it can be for a bigger person to navigate through a world that was seemingly not built for those of us with a little extra girth. He taught us the importance of family, taking Rob to his hometown of Raleigh, MS and shared with him the tight-knit bond shared by the people who grew up in small communities. He taught us that you don’t need a time machine or “Sacred Geometry” to succeed; you merely need a good friend and a situation to make you laugh it off in order to continue on.

Above all else and most importantly, Christopher “Big Black” Boykin gave me a glimmer of hope in a time that felt so hopeless. He unknowingly reached through the television and helped save my life one thirty minute episode at a time and even though we were never acquainted, we never shook hands and we never even crossed paths; I feel a deep personal loss in his passing, as I am sure many of his fans do. Though his time was short on this planet, his impact was anything but. The world just lost an incredible person.

It fills me with a deep sadness knowing that I will never get to say these worlds in person, but thank you, Big Black. May you rest well for all eternity.

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