Tomorrow would have been your 28th birthday. I still can’t believe you’re gone. Lost before I had the chance to say all the things I wanted to say… to apologize properly for the ways I’ve let you down. Gone, I fear, before you fully understood there was never anything you had to hide or be ashamed of. And gone before you could experience the heart-wrenching joy/panic/elation/worry/pride that comes from having children of your own.
Drugs are such a scourge; they’ve robbed us of the very best. They’ve taken so much in the way of art and music and comedy and genius – they’ve taken you from me. And yet, in some fucked up way I can’t quite explain, I can’t be mad at the situation because it feels like being mad at you, and that’s something I could never do.
I just wish… I don’t know what I wish. That I had a time machine? That I believed in God, eternal life or heavenly reward? That we all had a chance to go back and be the best possible version of ourselves? That I could trade places with you?
I would in a heartbeat.
Your sister is now the same age as you were when you died. Remember the last time we spoke on the phone? It was about five day before we got word that you were gone. You mentioned in the conversation that you’d always wanted to see Machu Picchu. Well, guess where she’s going this year? Sydney plans to make the same trek one day, as do I. And it’s all to honor you. Because in some small, insignificant (but never to us) way, we believe that seeing this is not just for us, but for you as well.
The first place I visited – many, many months after your death – was Iceland. It was November and already bitterly cold. We drove out to a black sand beach that was basically abandoned, because who in their right mind wanted to stand next to the ocean in sub-zero temperatures? But stand I did.
I thought about you a lot that day (and every day before and since). I thought about how much you’d have loved it there. I thought about all the things you’d never get a chance to see or do. About how unfair life could be, and how all the bullshit we worry about ultimately amounts to nothing. Meanwhile, the things we should be worried about never seem to make the cut until it’s too late. Then I found a piece of driftwood and carved your name into the sand.
It was all I could do.
High tide rolled in later that day and erased it I’m sure, but you *were* there. I’ve done the same in all my travels since. In Egypt, I traced your name into the dust of a railing on the second floor of the antiquities museum. In Jamaica, I dropped a folded sheet of paper containing your initials into a cluster of trees as I walked by. In Costa Rica, I tossed a coin (printed the year you were born) into the lake at the base of a mighty volcano, and in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, I lit the biggest candle I could find in honor of your life. (and that’s just to name a few)
It’s my way of saying to the world: “Ryan was here. He mattered.”
We will never get over your loss or make peace with why you had to go, but we WILL honor you in ways both big and small. So happy birthday, sweet boy. Know that you are never far from my thoughts and always deep in my heart…
You were here.
You are gone.
You live on.