NASHVILLE - Nashvillians wept and mourned the death of Max Barry at a deeply emotional memorial service Tuesday for Nashville Mayor Megan Barry's late 22-year-old son, but celebrated the humor, kindness and easiness of someone who loved life and his friends and family.
The Barry family's closest friends, as well as admirers of the mayor and political associates, packed the Belcourt Theatre in Hillsboro Village just days after Max Barry on Saturday died from an apparent drug overdose outside Denver, Colo.
Barry and husband Bruce Barry watched the service from the front row of the main theater surrounded by friends. Afterward, they walked back to a nearby restaurant where friends and family gathered for lunch.
Screens inside the venue's other theaters were used as spillover viewing for the massive crowd.
Many in attendance broke into tears when Tommy Prine, a childhood friend of Max, likened Max to the mountains that his friend loved so much — "the heart that was the size of a mountain, a free spirit much like the animals that roam this world."
“All his friends have lost a brother and I’ve lost a part of myself,” Prine said crying.
“I may no longer have my brother next to me but I’ve gained one of the most special things that I will have as long as I breathe. I have gained a guardian and I know that he will be watching over me.”
Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dinkins, who coached Max Barry's basketball and baseball teams, remembered a boy who he joked wasn't the most coordinated athlete but loved playing and being with his friends.
“Max showed love throughout his life," Dinkins said. "He loved his family, he loved his parents, he loved his friends, he loved life… He loved the life he lived and he lived the life he loved.”
“Just remember him for the fun-loving kid he was," he said, in a message that was meant for Max's friends. 'For the tie-dyed t-shirts, for the Grateful Dead t-shirts."
The service was capped with an acoustic musical performance from songwriting legend John Prine, father of Tommy, who performed the song, "Souvenirs."
"Memories, they can't be boughten," Prine sang, finishing his song with four words: "We love you, Max."
Friends of Max read passages and poetry. Works included Walt Whitman's "Song from the Open Road," Lord Byron's "Apostrophe to the Ocean," and Wendell Berry's "Pieces of Wild Things."
There were performances from Nashville songwriter Will Kimbrough and Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway, who sang a powerful rendition of "Amazing Grace."
The Rev. Joseph Breen, pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church in Nashville, gave the service's closing remarks.
Though he wasn't listed on the original slate of speakers for the remembrance, Bruce Barry walked to the podium to share remarks about halfway through the service.
He threw on a baseball cap and wore it backwards — just like Max was known to do.
"We’ve been quite open about the circumstances," Bruce Barry said. "We think it’s important (to know) about the mistake he made… He made one you don’t walk away from.
"The point I really want to make is that the circumstances that happened last Saturday in Denver tell the circumstances about his death, not about his life.”
On Monday, thousands gathered at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University to pay their respects to Mayor Barry and her husband Bruce during visitation for their late son.
At the request of the Barry family, contributions in Max Barry's memory can be made to the Oasis Center or the Nashville Humane Association.