He liked to drive (and wreck) cars. He had a knack for remembering specific things involving numbers. He enjoyed cutting wood...with a chainsaw. In fact, he had his very OWN chainsaw...that his wife may (or may not) have known about before he bought it. After his father had a stroke, he stepped in to take over the family business: A bakery. He went to Germany to apprentice in baking...and if he knew that his raisin danish was your favorite, then he made sure you got all the leftovers. He made countless wedding cakes for friends and family. As a small business owner, he always seemed to have position to fill at the same exact time someone in his life may have needed a job. Building relationships with his children was of paramount importance -- even if it meant he hardly got any sleep after working such long days. Bartering for goods and services in lieu of money was commonplace, and his word could be counted on. Period.
My favorite story was hearing about how his parents would put him in a playpen near the bakery's oven, and give him a stale loaf of french bread for a teething biscuit!!
There was also the time he crawled through Meri's parent's kitchen window when no one was home and fell asleep on the couch. You see, he was a hard worker, keeping long hours at the bakery, but he also wanted to spend as much time as possible with Meri. Breaking and entering, and then napping on the couch while waiting for the family to get home seemed like the most sensible solution to a lovestruck young man.
There was more than one mention about how many people were there. The church hadn't ever seen as many people in the chapel at once, and a dozen or more rows of chairs needed to be added for overflow seating.
Ryan was an amazing man. It was clear that everyone who knew him, loved him.
But no one loved him more than his devoted wife, Meri.
I won't lie. It was emotional...seeing her sitting there, in the front row. The boys shuffled down, so this one could sit beside her -- then a shuffle again, so that one could lean against her, under the comfort of his mother's embrace -- one shuffled to the end and traded places with another -- someone moved to sit between his mama and Aunt Lisa -- then someone else shuffled over to take up the empty spot.
Meri is the mama. Even during these most difficult moments -- sitting at her beloved husband's memorial service -- she was still the mama, and only her arms could comfort them.
I sat between Manny and Tracy. We laughed and cried at the stories shared. You couldn't help but to smile most of the time, even when your heart ached over the reality of why everyone was there.
I will not soon forget the image of Meri and her boys following Ryan's casket out of the chapel. This was, perhaps, the most emotional moment for me...it's hard to describe the stabbing pain in your heart when your eyes meet those of your friend as she fights to put one foot in front of the other, knowing that all of the tomorrows are waiting.
The tomorrows without Ryan.
I had been suddenly very emotional the morning that Ryan died. During the night, I got a message from Hallie that her husband had woken from sleep with chest pain...he was having a heart attack, and was whisked off to the cath lab faster than anyone could say "blocked artery".
After hearing that news, and spending quite a bit of time reflecting on Ryan and Meri...I just needed my husband -- wanted my husband -- to be close. It wasn't until a few hours later that I would learn of Ryan's passing. Almost immediately, and without knowing any details surrounding the arrangements, Mr. Rose began looking at travel options. He just knew. He knew I had to go. He said we'd make a road trip if we had to, but there was no way he would let me miss it. I love him for that. For understanding how genuine these friendships are.
Tracy called the next day, and it was decided. We would go together. In fact, Tracy's parents, Bev and Lance, generously paid for both of our airline tickets. They explained that normally they would send a spread of flowers...but they wanted to send Meri her friends instead...
It was a whirlwind trip, and I'm so grateful to April for taking us in. Her home is absolutely beautiful, and I felt as though I was nestled in a french villa when we woke up the next morning...rolling hills and a pasture of sheep...it was amazing. She thought of everything -- there were gluten-free muffins and cupcakes waiting, along with a fridge stocked with water and a big bowl of fruit. She was so welcoming and kind and gentle.
The DOC is full of such amazing people. In addition to Manny, Tracy, April and myself, many others them came from near and far...Sarah, Ivy, Susan, Ashley, and Beth pop into my mind immediately. April and Susan jumped into action, preparing salads for the luncheon and then staying to help clean up long after the family left to attend a private burial service. Tracy and I set off to catch our flight back to Phoenix immediately following lunch, but not before hugging these wonderful people first. What a blessing the DOC is.
Tom Karlya and his family sent a beautiful floral display. The Diabetes Advocates sent a plant to represent hope.
Thank you, everyone, for your continued prayers of support.
I know Meri could feel the love from all of you.
I know, because I felt it too.
Donations are still being collected in support of Meri and her boys HERE.