One of the best gifts about the ten months we had with Ryan before his death was the time we were given to ask forgiveness for the things we had not understood, the things we had said that were hurtful and the ways we had communicated less than unconditional love for Ryan in the years right after he had come out to us. We had done some of that work in family counseling before he started using, but what a gift it was to be able to tell Ryan much more fully all that God had taught us while he was missing.
And Ryan had so much grace for us. When we are lacking grace for ourselves, all we have to do is to remember that Ryan himself had forgiven us, not only in his words and actions, but in a letter he wrote to Rob on Father’s Day, 2009…only 9 days before we got the call from Harborview Medical Center that changed our lives forever.
I’m SO proud to be able to say that you are my father, and I always have been. When I was little you were my hero. When we had our differences, the pain I felt reflected the depth of my love for you. When we were estranged from each other, I still bragged about my dad, the firefighter.
I don’t know how it is possible, but today, I am more proud to be your son than ever before. Words cannot describe how thankful I am to have the rare quality of relationship that I have with you. Things have definitely changed now that I am an adult, and the respect which you have shown me upon that transition is almost uncanny, but it is love in its truest form. I feel I should, in turn, show you a gesture of respect, from the bottom of my heart, due to realizations upon my maturations.
In my mind, it would be a great shame to let you say you have come up short as a father. You are the best damn Father that I know of, and I can guarantee that 99% of the human population would have miserably failed if they tried to walk in your shoes. The responsibility that you have carried in our family has been enormous, and I am at a loss to understand how you are still standing. Well, I do know…it is because of your faith in God.
You have shown me again and again what it means to be a real man. To love unconditionally, to treat people with dignity and respect, to persevere through seemingly insurmountable tasks, to protect those dear to you, to stand up for your beliefs, to do the right thing even when others disagree, to give your best in everything you do and to trust God above all else. You have always loved me deeply, and have done what you thought was best for me. How could that ever have been a mistake?
Dad, you are my role model. I love you more than you can know.
June 21, 2009