Monday, April 8, 2013

The Guy I Knew: Remembering Ryan

Early this morning my friend Ryan went home to be with Jesus. For 2 years he fought cholangiocarcinoma, cancer of the liver bile duct. He may have passed on today but Ryan didn't spend 2 years dying from cancer, he spent 2 years living with it. You can read more about his journey on his blog.

When I was about 10 years old my family started vacationing with Ryan's family. Our parents were all in full-time camping ministry and had met at conferences. They forged a deep friendship and we went on Spring Break vacations together for about 10 years or so. My family has 3 girls and a boy, their family has 3 boys. We were matched in age almost exactly and it was quite a shock suddenly having brothers around. Especially these brothers. We traveled to Chicago, Florida, Texas, Tennessee and many other places (and museums) over the  years.

"The Boys" on the left and "The Girls" on the right, clearly separated by my cute little brother who desperately admired these older brother figures. Ryan is on the far left and I'm on the far right. 

Entering those awkward middle school years. I'm in the white tank while Ryan is rocking the blue Hawaiian print (not to be confused with his brother's yellow print.) 

Three years ago I took a job at the camp where Ryan's dad is still the President and Ryan was now the Marketing Director. For the last 3 years I've gotten to work alongside the boy that I grew up with.

This is from a conference we attended and was called The Brain Show. We competed with trivia and had to do dances. Ryan (in the front) was recovering from shoulder surgery and in a sling. He swears he was forced into doing this but he stole the show with his hip gyrations and one-armed flapping dance moves. I really wish this was a video. Oh, I should also mention that we advanced to the finals and were robbed of the trophy. Not bitter.

A few weeks ago we knew that Ryan's time on earth was growing short. I don't have all the answers and I don't know how to process something like a 27-year old man full of life and passion dying. So I wrote my memories, I wrote how I saw Ryan. One of Ryan's wishes was that his son Colton would know him and I want Colton to know the Ryan that I knew.

This is my tribute to my friend.

This is the boy that was my first crush. There, I finally said it out loud. The brother that teased me, farted and burped at me, fell asleep in the car and drooled on my shoulder. The boy who walked through endless museums complaining the entire time and grew up beside me. 

The boy who could rap all the words to "Jesus Freak" and loved the line about marmalade jelly. The one who tried to lead worship with his guitar and was frankly, awful. The boy who was scared of the Ferris wheel and roller coasters but loved the rodeo and stockyards of Fort Worth. The boy who got his swimming trunks ripped off in the indoor/outdoor pool during an intense game of keepaway. 

 The boy who went from basketball shorts and cutoffs to boots, belt buckles and bolero ties to suits and button ups. 

This is the man who when he met his high school sweetheart fell hard and never looked back, and we all knew this was it. Who beeped me on that annoying Nextel phone and showed up to welcome me to my new home and even painted part of a wall. The man who irritated me and was hard to get along with but in the same breath encouraged and built me up intentionally and regularly. 

The man who kissed my head at my wedding and told me how happy and proud he was of and for me. The man who would run into my office trying to convince me that "All The Kitchen Ladies" would be a great camp video and showing me countless stupid You-Tube videos. We never laughed at the same ones. 

The man who held me to a higher standard of accountability and believed in me. This is the man who was open and real on a tough journey. Who showed me walking in faithfulness. Who loved his girl... and his boy... to the end. The man who instigated nutso butt-ball in a staff meeting. Who thought it was hilarious to drink out of a toilet mug and threw a ball at his toddler son's head to encourage rough housing. 

This is my friend. My brother. I'm sure going to miss him. 

In all of this, the grief, pain, joy and confusion, I know that God is good and faithful. I trust him. One of my favorite grief songs right now is JJ Heller's, 'Who You Are'. I was able to share this with Ryan and Kendra during their last hospital stay.

"I'm praying, I don't know what you're doing, but I know who you are." 


  1. Thanks for writing this, Abby. It made me laugh and cry.

    Praying for the whole Grace Adventures family.

    Ryan challenged me and encouraged me so much when we were on staff together.

  2. Thanks for sharing your heart, sweet friend. That song is absolutely perfect. When everything hurts so bad, we have a perfect God to cling to and trust.

    Love you. Praying for you all.

  3. Thanks Abby for bringing Ryan's memory to life. He was one of kind and will definitely be missed. Beautiful tribute to him and to HIM!

  4. Thank you Abby.

  5. Absolutely beautiful and real- love you.

  6. I just read this again, and I am just blessed that you honored Ryan in this way!