This boy, oh this boy. Ryan was larger than life from day one as he entered this world at 9 lbs 15 oz. This boy taught me so much about “Life”!
Ryan was one of those kids that challenged the teachers, his parents, and anyone else who thought he should conform. He kicked at the walls that tried to pen him in and always asked, “But why?” As a young mom I made plenty of mistakes of saying, “Just because I said so!” He didn’t buy it.
I began to see my son through a different lens.
We decided to home school Ryan when he was in Jr. High. We never planned to do this, the opportunity just presented itself and it seemed the right thing to do. We knew he wasn’t doing well in a traditional school setting. Tom and I were always having those dreaded teacher conferences where we were coming up with a new game plan of how to get this kid to sit still in class, listen and not disrupt the other kiddos.
It wasn’t until I became his teacher that I saw what the problem was. It wasn’t that Ryan was ADD or ADHD or any of the other terms kids get labeled as; he was just plain SMART! As I began schooling him I would be reading a book to him for English and he would be hanging over the chair upside down playing with this or messing with that and I assumed he was not listening. When it got to answering the comprehension questions Ryan new them ALL! In fact, he remembered more of the book than I did, the one who was reading it! That’s when I began to see my son through a different lens.
Ryan wasn’t this little trouble maker who needed a good time out or grounding. He was a very bright kid that got bored easily. I began to trust his words more and answer his, “But why’s?” with a lot more patience.
Our Move To Colorado Springs
We were living in a small mountain town in California (Truckee) when Ryan was going to be a freshman in high school. We decided this might be a good time to move in order to provide Ryan with a more challenging high school experience. I was certain that I was no match for him academically and he needed someone other than Mom to challenge him. Luke was in 3rd grade at the time and so a move for him would not be too challenging. We still wanted to be in the mountains but within driving distance of Wisconsin since that is where all of our extended family lives. We chose Colorado Springs.
Ryan began his freshman year at Rampart High School in Colorado Springs. We have some regrets about moving Ryan when he was a freshman because he did not have that privilege of carry into high school a solid group of friends. This proved to be a challenge all through high school experience. He had MANY friends, we just didn’t know most of them because he was friends with everyone and didn’t have a small core we could trust, know, and have that parental assurance they were good kids.
We will never know if the personality Ryan developed in high school was one that was created out of this lack of core friends, or if it was simply who he was and would have been no matter what.
Ryan had developed a larger than life personality that others were drawn to. There has never been a shortage of Ryan stories. Stories of Ryan getting others to do things they never thought they would; like hop across the roofs of buildings, climb the sides of buildings, play with fire balls, hang out the car windows screaming songs as they drove down the mountain roads, and many other stories this mom just doesn’t need to know. He was fun, loving, smart, strong, and never afraid of a physical challenge. He actually would climb up the Incline of Pikes Peak with 10 lb weights on his ankles. But there was another side of Ryan.
Ryan Leaves for YWAM New Zealand
Ryan loved the Lord. No matter what shenanigans he was contemplating. He had a deep love for the Lord that I knew would always manifest itself in an amazing way as he matured, and it did! Ryan went to YWAM in New Zealand after graduating from high school.
We knew two weeks into his adventure that his love for Jesus met up with a more mature mindset and he was sold out! That doesn’t mean the shenanigans stopped. I doubt they ever would have. But his love for Jesus was at the forefront of his mind and he desired desperately to serve His Savior. When he came home after six months in New Zealand he was no longer a young kid that would keep me awake at night, but a handsome, strong, Godly man whom I had much respect for.
His love for Jesus met up with a more mature mindset and he was sold out!
Ryan came home in March of 2011 and our home was filled with people and worship and the life of this young man who lived so very big. It was simply, FUN! I no longer lay awake each night wondering where he was or what he was doing. I trusted that God had Ryan and that Ryan was his. It was so fun, as a parent, to watch this unfold.
Ryan was a climber. Everything he did had to do with being outdoors and challenging his body and his mind. He was a reader of C.S. Lewis and he was taking an Avalanche Class; both speak loudly of who he was.
Life Changes As We Know It
On April 7 of 2012, Ryan fell 100 ft and died in a climbing accident right here in Colorado Springs. I will always be grateful we did not have to fly to New Zealand or some other country to recover his body. God brought him home first and gave us just over a year of watching him live out his faith as a young man. We still do not know what happened. No equipment was in disrepair, no error was found to have been made. We believe God simply said, “It’s time Ryan. I can do more with your death now than I can your life. Come home.” As a mom who loves the Lord and loved her son to the moon and back, this thought process gives me much peace.
Oh, Oh, Choose me!
Ryan’s memorial and Ryan’s funeral were packed. People came from everywhere to celebrate this boy’s life. We, his parents, honestly had no idea how many lives he had impacted. It was such a blessing to learn. To learn through the pain and hear witness of his life. From day one God has been showing us that the extension of God’s Kingdom through our son’s life and death would be worth the pain.
Would I choose this pain? Would I choose my son’s death as the vehicle for others to come to know Jesus? NO! I’m too selfish for that. But I have absolutely no doubt that Ryan would have signed up for this job. He would have raised his hand and said, “Oh, Oh, choose me!” And God did.
The Blog Begins
This blog came as a result of my son’s death. I know my son and he would be appalled if I did not use every opportunity to use his life, his death and our experience to further the Kingdom. So as I work through my grief and figure out my new reality, I openly share my journey in hopes that others will see the HOPE that is within me and the HOPE that lived within Ryan.
In return, I pray you will find the HOPE that lies within you!
Artwork done by Shen Lewis at Ryan’s funeral.