I’m not sure how or why but Ryan seemed to know how to be a good team player very early in her life. She always wanted to win and she was a strong competitor but her fastest times when swimming were always on a relay. I mention this because I want everyone to know she is still on your team, she’s got your back and she’s looking out for you. We are also still on her team and that is what motivates me to give my best effort everyday. I wouldn’t want Ryan to have to explain why I am poor example of a Mom or even a poor team player.
I’ve read some books about heaven in the last eleven months and I don’t claim to have it all figured out but there are a few things I believe pretty strongly. She can see us, she can hear us and she knows when we need her. Ryan is busy. She has a number of friends here on earth that she helps when needed but she has also made a great number of friends in heaven. I think she is writing more than ever and talking about how to improve her writing skills with famous authors whose works she admired. I’ve never met a person Ryan wouldn’t walk right up to and start a conversation with. Ryan is swimming with a new swim team, they are large, their colors are black and white and she swims with them in vast waters without fear. Ryan is working in her chosen field of public relations; she is helping people on earth feel the intangible, believe in the unseen and to trust in the unknown. Now, Ryan gets Starbucks coffee just by imagining she wants some, she doesn’t have to make it, she doesn’t have to clean up the mess and she never has to settle for an inferior cup of coffee.
I do not think Ryan is a saint but I think she is a damn good angel; she has a great work ethic, she loves whole-heartedly, deeply, she is a strong advocate for those who need her help, and she knows how to think out of the box to find previously undreamt-of solutions. Ryan always gives that little something extra; a correction to a young swimmer with a gentle squeeze for encouragement. It doesn’t matter where she is or what she is doing, I’m certain she is well-loved because it’s indisputable; you can’t be around Ryan and fail to love her, even when she has obviously consumed too much caffeine.
I know Ryan is aware of when I need her because she fills my heart with love whenever I’m running so low I can’t even form a cohesive thought. She helps me appreciate the intricate beauty of one perfect snowflake falling in a sky crowded with millions of flakes or one well designed butterfly that seems to like to hang out around me. She makes me aware of sounds as subtle as a wind chime barely moving in a light breeze or a bird that seems insistent on sharing information. She reminds me to really appreciate the smell of that perfect cup of coffee. She has even called my attention to the shape of a heart in the stone of her memory garden and she makes me consistently lose my breath over the clarity of the stars on a cloudless night. I am never as happy as when she chooses to be around me. It is true what my mom would say, “if you want people to like to be around you, be the kind of person people like to be around”. Ryan did this effortlessly all of her life, from the time she was an infant and she would cry, if you picked her up she would snuggle into your neck and give you a hug to make you so glad you picked her up.
Have you ever seen a group of grade school kids line up to be pick teams to play a sport? I have watched the kids choosing team members as well as the kids waiting to be chosen. Some are outwardly confident and secretly scared and some are obviously nervous. The happiness you feel when you get on the team you want, the acceptance you feel when your team mates welcome you is such a relief and profound sense of joy. The disappointment felt when you have to be on the team you didn’t choose, were you able to decide to make the best of the situation and give your best effort anyway? The process of team choosing only takes a few minutes but it can be excruciatingly emotional. I think we all have been part of this adolescent ritual and some of us can feel the angst again just thinking about it. Working hard to get on the team you want is what we do everyday, sometimes we feel the acceptance of others and sometimes we feel like we are all alone without the aid of our support system, definitely not on the team we wanted. Sometimes we have to keep giving our best effort even when our team isn’t made of the team mates we would have chosen, this is what indicates our true character. Ryan would say to “Ride your wave…That’s right you can’t change the way the wave breaks….just the way you ride it”.
People have said that I seem OK with the situation, the fact that Ryan has passed away…well it’s not like I can change it. Thankfully, God has helped me to accept things I can not change, a little at a time to help lessen the magnitude and incredibility of such a loss. The hole that has been left in my life by the absence of Ryan is immeasurable. However, there is one thing I know in spite of the depth of my sorrow, she is with God. What parent would take away the prize of heaven from their child? I have been asked if this makes me mad at God that he chose to take her to heaven. I have never been mad at God, if I were God; Ryan would definitely be the kid I would choose for my team, my first round draft choice. I want to live my life with character so that one day she will feel good about welcoming me onto that team.