My husband, Rob, wrote this letter to Ryan as part of our expanded “Just Because He Breathes” presentation for Exodus International. The video below was shown in our presentation, after Rob read this:
I miss you so much. I don’t really know how heaven works because you might already know everything I’m about to say but just in case you don’t there’s some things I want you to know. I love you so much and it hurts so bad that you were not here last weekend to celebrate Riley’s wedding with us. We all missed you so much. Riley and Abby left an empty place for you, and Lindsey was the only bridesmaid who walked unescorted down the aisle, because you should have been with her. Even though the day would have been difficult for you in some aspects, you would have been so proud of your brother. And I know that you would just ADORE Abby. Your handsome face and easy laugh would have made the day complete for me.
That said, I am not angry that you relapsed on that day In late June 2009. I know you did not intend to let things get out of hand like they did. In fact I would not be bitter or angry even if you had taken your life. I have nothing but compassion and respect for how well and how long you battled your difficulties. Only now by reading your journals, do I more fully realize how much pain and difficulty you were facing. Whenever I feel like I need a good cry, all I have to do is to pull them out and it puts me in touch with the deep pain you were in…and how, as your earthly father, I let you down in many ways.
I am so very, very sorry for the things that I did to contribute to your despair. I so desperately wish that I had known back then what I do know now. I thought I was so right when you first came out to us. Little did I know how much I had to learn. Please forgive me for letting fear control my decisions and the way I responded to you, instead of faith. I should have trusted God, who loves you so much more – and better – than I do, and who never stopped chasing after you.
I so regret how slow I was to truly understand and love you without any conditions.
But you always had such grace for me. You were so patient with us while we learned what really mattered.
Thank you for trusting us with your deepest thoughts and fears and sharing so much of your experience as a gay teen, and a gay young adult, attempting to reconcile his faith with his sexuality. Thank you for all your letters and emails; the ones that made us laugh and the ones that made us cry. Your handwritten letters are priceless to me.
I so wish that I could introduce you to some of my dearest friends now, men and women who love Jesus with their whole hearts. They have helped me to understand that gay is not a deal breaker for God…that gay and Christian can co-exist, and that God isn’t wringing His hands over this issue. He is way bigger than this. I know that God did not reject or abandon you, or anyone else.
I wish I could take you to dinner tonight and tell you all the ways that your life…and even your death…blesses ours every day. We have learned so very much from you. God, through you, has opened up a whole new world for mom and I.
I wish we could make that snowboarding trip to Mount Baker that we had planned.
I wish you could see how we’re still using the zip line you designed. I will never forget the joy on your face as you concocted yet another way to creatively fly across our back yard.
I wish I could take you backpacking again, and that we could talk and talk and talk as we hiked.
I wish you were here to have backyard bonfires, and to come up with ever increasingly crazy ways to alarm our neighbors.
I wish you could call and tell me all about it when you met a guy you were interested in…and that I could meet him, too.
I wish that we could have a barbeque on your roof, with the view of the Space Needle that we loved so much.
I wish we could ride down the driveway together…one of us on my rip stick and one on my long board…and that we could teach each other new tricks as we laughed and crashed.
I wish you were here to help me hunt the raccoons that threaten to eat our Janie cat…I will NEVER forget the time you pegged that one 30 ft up in the tree in our front yard, and then 20 seconds later, got the second one on your first try.
I wish you could cook your specialty eggs in our kitchen, adding that fire sauce, while you sang funny songs and worship songs and whatever else came to mind. I miss your voice.
I wish you were here in the audience, sitting with Larissa and Cam and Lindsey and Grandma Pat and Uncle Ronny and Uncle Don and all our new friends from Biola Queers, who I know you would love so much.
I wish I could hold you again.
I love you, Ryan.
I miss you. Oh, how I miss you.
I am so very, very proud of you.
I am sorry for EVER wanting you to be anyone other than who God made you to be. I am so very sorry for all the things I said that caused you to feel that I would love you more if you were straight.
I know now that you were EXACTLY who God intended…and that you were BEAUTIFUL.
You were, and will always be, my beautiful, beautiful boy…
We showed this video to accompany the letter during our presentation: