May and June, while full of many happy occasions, for me also come with many bittersweet memories. My Dad's birthday was May 9th, which fell on Mothers' Day this year. He would have turned 85 and has been gone for two years now. My mother came into the world and left the world in the month of June. She and I share the same birthday, which usually falls on or about Fathers' Day. So, you can see that for me May and June are sprinkled generously with a taste of both the sweet and the sorrowful. That is fine with me, because the sweet and the sorrowful are ingredients in each of our lives which we all must reconcile. I have come to accept this and am able to smile when I think of the twenty-three birthday cakes I was privileged to share with my mom. God blessed me a few years after she passed away with my favorite birthday gift of all.. a daughter born two hours after my twenty-sixth birthday. I get to share a cake again! The sorrowful sprinkled with a generous helping of sweet!
In the life of my dear girlfriend, Mary Ellen Barrett, she is also learning to reconcile the sorrowful with the sweet. Just a week after her beautiful daughter Kelli's First Communion, and two days after Mothers' Day, we tearfully mark what would have been Ryan's fifteenth birthday. Having had a few fifteen-year-olds myself, I know that this is an age when you begin to get a glimpse into what your baby will be like as an adult. As much as I miss Ryan, I know that the sadness I experience is but a sliver of what a mother who has lost a child must feel. One thing I do know, is that probably a mother's greatest worry after losing a child is that the rest of the world will go on and memories of that child will fade. For me, I don't feel that is the case. But just to make sure that my memories stay strong I am sharing fifteen of my fondest memories of Ryan.
If anyone reads this and would care to leave their own memories in the comments, please do. Ryan had a gift of giving us all some great ways to remember him.
So here, in no particular order, are fifteen memories of Ryan that make me smile:
1.his voice ...singing in my living room, whether accompanying himself on the keyboard or guitar. Hearing his voice above the din of a gaggle of little ones always warmed my heart.
2.piano... he loved to play our electric keyboard and always managed to find what we fondly called the "Phantom of the Opera" setting.
3.hugs... Man, I had to watch out for those bear hugs he would give!
4.guitar... remembering him sitting next to my husband and the two of them playing guitar together never fails to lift me up. They were guitar- playing buddies!
5.saying Mass... he loved to say Mass. Whenever I would be watching the Barrett children for Mary Ellen (most likely for an OB appointment :) ) Ryan would say Mass prompltly at twelve noon. At Commuinon time he would distribute Communion (usually Ritz crackers) to all the children, no matter if they were playing a game, or reading, they would obligingly stick out their tongue and say "Amen" to his "The Body of Christ". These memories are sacred to me.
6.teasing him... well, sometimes I got away with it. Usually I could break the ice with him, or snap him out of a mood with a lttle joke.He really had a nice sense of humor.
7. flirting... well not me personally... but I know my daughter Kate has memories of this. Ryan was jealous of her boyfriends. Fortunately she got engaged to a fellow named Matthew. Ryan immediately accepted Matt, who he insisted on always calling Matthew, because he shared a name with his favorite saint.
8. love of life... That kid did everything with gusto! I remember him swinging from the branches of the tree in my front yard the day he was leaving for camping. He was so happy!
9. love of God... well, those who knew The Little Priest need no explanation here. But he had to be the most reverent kid I'll ever meet!
10. playing guitar for the twins... one time I was watching the Barrett kids and I had the twins contained in the baby swings in their backyard. Ryan grabbed his guitar and put on a show for them for at least an hour. And they loved it! I remember laughing because they were the only two who appreciated his renditions of the Wiggles songs
11.doing his chores... I always wanted to get Mary Elln's secret for how she got Ryan to be so faithful about his household chores. His main job was taking out the kitchen trash. I can vouch for the fact that while under his watch, that trash can never overflowed the way mine does on a daily basis. Without being told, he kept up with emptying that can more than once a day. Impressive!
12.praying for the boys choir.. he faithfully prayed for the other young boys who sang with him at Mass, even if they were typical boys who maybe weren't always so patient with him. He adored being part of that group.
13.praying for the adult choir... he would name them by name each week at our family Rosary. I considered joinnig the choir just so I could have those prayers each week myself. (If you've ever heard me sing, you'd know they'd never put up with my voice!)
14. checks at rosary... Ryan had a system of checks to keep track of behavior at our Rosary group. At the end of prayers , if you had been good, he'd say "Mrs. Volpe, you got five checks." If you did something he didn't like, beware.. .it might mean only three checks for you that week.
15.pretzels, garlic knots... I always kept a box of frozen pretzels in the freezer for Ryan. The big soft ones you bake at home. Ryan would check the freezer to make sure there were some in there if he was going to be here for any length of time because he loved these! I was happy to keep a supply just for him because it was something I knew would always make him happy. Along the same lines.. Friday night meant pizza before Rosary for most of us,,, but for Ryan it meant garlic knots and Rosary. Woe to the person who polished off the garlic knots before he got some! We all made sure Ryan had his garlic knots each week.
I could go on, but if you've stuck with me this long,I think you get a good picture my experience of Ryan.
Knowing him is something that will touch my life forever.
Losing him has been something that has changed my life forever.
I hope that these thoughts will bring a smile to Mary Ellen and Dave, and that special days will one day be not just sad, but sorrowful with a healthy sprinkle of sweet once again!
Happy birthday dear Ryan!
I sure do miss you.