When your 36 you don’t have serious conversations of what you want after you die. You joke about it, because at 36 you don’t think it could actually happen… not to you. The one thing I knew for sure was that he wanted to be cremated (so do I, just for the record).
We lived our life all over the place. We lived for the experiences, for the adventures, and for the unknown. I will always carry this life style with me, and Hank already knows it. This is also how I will let Ryan go… all over the place. In places that were special to us, and special to him.
“what good is livin’ the life you’ve been given if all you do is stand in one place?”
– Lord Huron
They asked me if I wanted to see Ryan after his accident, at first, I didn’t know what to do, I thought I did, I’m glad I didn’t. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I didn’t want to remember him that way. I wanted to keep his memory a beautiful one and not be haunted by what I might have seen. Going to the medical examiner’s office to collect his things from the crash was one of the hardest days following his accident. It was one of the first times that it felt real. I knew he was there, in that building, somewhere, it was a terrible feeling. Being so close to him but forever so far away.
I went with one of my best friends (Mandy), Hank, and Ryan’s parents. We sat in an empty room, Mandy waited in the lobby with Hank. They brought in 3 plastic bags. I saw the bags, I saw what was in the bags, and I lost it. His hat covered in dirt. Ryan ALWAYS wore a hat. His wallet ripped and beaten up. His phone, twisted, broken, and damaged beyond repair. And his wedding ring, his black silicone wedding ring. He lost his original ring in the San Diego bay through a hole in his jeans pocket. So, I bought him a 20-dollar silicone ring and joked that he gets a new one once he proves that he won’t lose his cheap one. I now wear it on a chain around my neck. Holding the things, he last touched in my hands felt so surreal. This can’t be real, this can’t be my life.
They took him from the medical examiner’s office to the mortuary where he would be cremated. Signing that paper work… that was tough. Ugh.
A few days later they called me, it was around 4pm, I had just left to go get dinner. He was ready to get picked up, I told them I would be there tomorrow because my first thought was, I can’t do that alone, I can’t go get him alone. I hung up the phone and then I called them right back. “I’ll be there in 15 minutes.” I couldn’t stand the thought of not holding onto him for another day. It was just Hank and I, it was too late to ask someone to come with us, they closed at 5pm. I walked in, sat Hank on the couch, held Ryan in my hands, signed the papers, and walked out of there as quickly as I could. Ryan in one Hand, Hank in the other. I held it together, I sat Ryan on the ground to put Hank in his car seat and I talked to Ryan for the first time, I said “sorry babe” because I sat him on the ground, I kind of laughed. I got Hank situated and I put Ryan in the passenger seat. I walked around the car, got in, looked to my right, and I cried. There he was.
I just started driving, I wasn’t really sure where I was going. I ended up at Montgomery Field…. I sat in that parking lot so many times to watch him take off and to watch him land. Montgomery Field was the airport he used 99 percent of the time. I took Hank out of his car seat, brought him up front, and I held Ryan in my lap. We sat there for an hour, watching planes land. I cried… hard. Hank held onto me, he let me cry, he stayed quiet and just stared out the window. I held onto Ryan every night for the first month or so, I slept with the sheet he last slept in, and I cried harder than I have ever cried. I never wanted to him let go.
Haleakalā National Park
Maui - HI
“On top of a volcano, RIGHT?!” not some long speech followed by “will you marry me?” but uncontained excitement because he asked me to be his wife on top of a volcano and he thought it was the coolest thing ever, it was.
Maui held a very special place in Ryan’s heart, his grandma lives there. A big part of his childhood memories took place on Maui. A big part of our story took place on Maui. Maui was the first place that made sense, the first place I knew for sure I wanted part of him to be. The first place I let part of him go.
I held onto him for 20 minutes before I threw him into the wind, I was crying, I was shaking, and Hank was standing right next to me saying “mama LOOK!!! A GIANT CRATER!” A very nice man asked to take our photo, unaware of what I was doing, I think he caught on. He looked at me with kind eyes and gave me a pat on the shoulder when he handed my camera back to me. In the photo I’m holding Hank in one hand and Ryan in the other, in the very spot he asked me to marry him. After that I turned back around, I told him I loved him, I missed him, and I’m so sorry he can’t hold us the way he wants too and watch us grow the way he planned too. I promised to give Hank the very best life and to protect him the way I know he would have. I promised to guard my heart and make good choices on who I gave it too. Then it happened, I threw his ashes into the wind, and the wind threw them right back onto me! I was covered in Ryan, I laughed out loud and said, “you jerk!” it was so Ryan….
I threw 3 more handfuls. The wind took them all. For what it was, it was perfect.
Charlie Young Beach
Maui - HI
Every night at sunset Ryan and I would walk to Charlie Young Beach and swim in the water just as the sun was going down. I didn’t plan on leaving part of him there but watching Hank run and play in those waves I thought, this is a perfect spot, and so close to his grandma’s house. I held him in my hand, much easier to do this time, I walked out knee deep and just lowered my hand underwater. He floated all around me, I stood there and cried. I grabbed Hank and we walked back out and just sat in the water at sunset, watching the sun go down.
Maui - HI
Our favorite snorkeling and diving spot, it ALWAYS has sea turtles. Hank was taking a nap in the car, it was the perfect time to walk down on the lava rock and let part of him go into the ocean. Sea turtles on the beach behind me. I didn’t cry, I smiled. I felt like I could breathe a little lighter knowing that part of him would always be in Maui, in three of our favorite places.
If you are visiting Maui and you’re in Haleakala National park, or watching the sunset on Charlie Young beach, or swimming with sea turtles at Makena Landing, make sure you say Hi to Ryan, he’s there.
Charlie Young Beach