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.
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."