Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in Hong Kong

The trip to Hong Kong was so very intimate for us as a family. Matthew was so very engaging with Baby Alana. Baby Alana looks like my brother in law so there is no reminder of Ryan. But while carrying her in my arms, she represents so much, an extension of hope and joy to the whole family. She is just the perfect baby, always smiling and peaceful. She is an easy baby like Ryan. Matthew surprised us all. He would rather follow my sister to the ladies lounge to wait for her to nurse Alana than to be with me. He became the great 7-year old helper to my sister in the busy mall, holding the side of the stroller. He was like that the whole trip. There was just a natural bond between Matthew and Alana that came so effortlessly. I was surprised to see him so engaging with a baby for so long and did not turn back into the selfish 7 year old. I never have seen him to play such a role with any little ones.

Watching my sister and brother in law as parents was a joy. They were so very involved, loving and calm. I am so very proud of them.

As we departed, we just realized how important it is for us to see each other more often as family. We need to make it a tradition to have family trips. My sister really missed us when we left as she knew how important family connections are after becoming a one will dote over Alana as much as we will....

As for Ryan, he is in my heart but just not front and center like before. I told John I don’t know if it was because I was out of my routine…being in a different country and feeling distracted. Or I have truly mastered to live in the joy of presence. We came home yesterday and got a call that a friend of ours just passed away to cancer in her mid-forties. She was survived by her 2 boys and husband. As much as I have learned to stay positive with my new life and realize how death is just a fact of life, I felt so angry hearing that news. I feel that as adults we can learn to deal with death of our child but I felt so angry that these 2 boys have to survive the loss of their mother and her love. That very special privileged love that I have for Matthew was taken away from these 2 boys. How fair of life is that? So I acknowledged my anger and learned to carry on….

Friday, December 14, 2007

The day before the boys' 7th year old birthday

Letter to a friend remembering….

Today we squeezed in the time to go to Ryan’s resting place as we are leaving for HK tomorrow (on the boys’ bday). The place closes at 4pm and Matthew and I got there at 3:45pm. John took the day off and he went there to clean up the place before I got there. I have not gone in 6 months and thought it must need much cleaning. When I went there John already had planted the poinsettias and the mini Xmas tree so Matthew, Christian and I helped to decorate the place with a wreath, snowman and ornaments....

I stood there but no longer do tears pour anger has subsided standing in front of his grave. It was a calmer feeling....I miss him but the pain is not there...just sadness. It was that pain that prevented me from wanting to stand in front of his grave all these years. Then I realized how much I have come.... I found that Ryan is buried in such a beautiful area under the big oak tree with a beautiful view and I felt a sense of calm (but slightly).

At Matthew’s birthday, this is the second year while singing happy birthday I was only focused on Matthew, not Ryan. I saw how happy Matthew was to feel so special and I didn’t want to miss that... Even if I look at the photos of the little young Matthew, I feel sad too... That youth becomes all memories now...whether Ryan is dead or Matthew has grown up. I truly feel how we need to “feel” in the presence...because eventually the “7 year old Matthew” will become a past.

His 1st grade teacher told me that Matthew talks about Ryan. Matthew answered a homework question...when do you feel sad? He answered, “when someone I know dies.”.

To live each day requires so much internal strength and we all grow as humans....I think that is truly human survivorship.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

5th Annual Angel Ryan Project Request

Dear Friends and Families:
Hope you are well. Somehow this has become an annual letter for us to connect with our families and friends.

Can’t believe four and a half years has gone by and this is the 5th Annual Angel Ryan Project. This year I have been feeling exhausted physically and I realized I no longer have the stamina like past years. Perhaps I should nurture myself more and skip the Angel Ryan Project. How do I find the stamina and energy to plan the 5th Annual Ryan’s Ride in the spring when I am this exhausted now?

But as I began to plan for Matthew’s 7th birthday party and the sounds of holiday music being played on the radio, I realize that I could not skip the Angel Ryan Project. It is a representation of Ryan’s spirit and an opportunity for our family to truly learn the meaning of holiday giving.

Matthew will turn 7 on December 15th. We missed celebrating with Ryan for five birthdays already. Sometimes I try to imagine a seven-year old Ryan. but I couldn’t. I cannot picture how he would have looked now. Matthew, on the other hand, has grown to be so sensible. At many times, he would parent me:
“Mom, you don’t know how I feel because my brain is not your brain.” When I told him that he was right, “Mom, I am only a kid and I know it. You are an adult.” Matthew is right. I learn to be a better person from his lecture. Three of Matthew’s favorite books are about this set of twin boys who grew up to be professional football players. I asked him why he liked these books so he said the books remind him of Ryan and him.

This year, John and I had come across several parents who had since lost a child to cancer, sudden death. I am just reminded that challenges like these just happen in life randomly. And as survivors, we have the obligation to relate to these individuals and share the darkness in their lives. How can we not be there for them when not many have walked that path to truly understand the grieving journey?

We still have not ordered a marker for Ryan. I have to think of a quote to put on the marker but I want it to be right. So the guilt continues onto 2008.

2007 has been a miracle year. Alana Sophie, my niece and daughter of my sister, was born in Sept. She was healthy and gorgeous. I flew to Hong Kong to spend 5 days with her right after her birth to share the precious moments. I held her in my hands and felt the enormous joy and hope. I questioned if others feel the immense joy that I felt of having a niece in their arms. Matthew, John and I will visit Alana during this holiday season. I told Matthew, “Alana is like a sibling to you. She is the closest to you besides Ryan.”

John has started a new venture after 12 years with Sony Playstation. We all have learned to still live life with a passion and he is working hard but enjoying the new opportunity. On 12/9th, John will celebrate his tenth anniversary of being cancer free. I am so blessed for his continued good health, his patience and love to Matthew and I. I know I am stronger because I am sharing my life with John.

Matthew and I will deliver the gifts to the Mid Peninsula Boys & Girls Club on Wednesday, 12/12th at around 4pm. If your children are interested in helping with the delivery, please join us. I hope we can count on you to celebrate Ryan’s life with us by donating a gift or 2. The value of each gift is only about $15 and the club will mail you a tax receipt. The Club is an after school program for low-income families so gifts will be most appropriate for children between 7 to 14 years old age. They often lack gifts for the older children.

John, Matthew and I are grateful for your continued support to help us honor our little boy. You are the ones who keep this project going for our family. No words can express our gratitude to you. The delivery will be next week so please contribute to the Angel Ryan Project now and help us reach our goal to collect 200 plus gifts again.

May you find peace and joy during the holidays and be surrounded by love from those you care about.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I have not felt the need to write in a long time. But a friend told me about her co-worker 13 months old daughter just passed away in her sleep. Her co-workers were searching for resources. I helped what I could. They are so appreciative and I feel there is still so little that anyone can do for this mother who lost her only daughter. I saw a photo of the toddler….how could she die? She looked so healthy, chubby in the photo. How is this mom going to cope the loss of her only child?
I went on our family website and started reading the eulogy that I wrote for Ryan…. My eulogy included many of the experiences I would miss to do with him…As I read the eulogy, I just realized how much I have forgotten…. I forgot that he liked me to cut his French toast into papa, mama and baby sizes. I forgot he liked ketchup with his mac’ n cheese. How could I forget so much? Was this normal for 4 years of grief? Did John forget many of the details too? I tried to give myself excuse that this is normal. Perhaps I am so in the moment of the presence, of Matthew, of my life?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

4th Annual Ryan's Ride

As we experienced another year of Ryan’s Ride, I have realized how far life has changed for me. With the additional help from Misa and Carmen with the pre-planning, we were getting the planning down to near science. For me, it was the most relaxing week among the past four years leading up to the event. I have learned a quote from a friend, “Failure to plan is planning to fail”. So I tried to plan to the minute details.

We have dedicated this year’s Ride to Ryan and to Cooper Jones, whom we have never met. Cooper would have been 23 and he passed away ten years ago doing what he loved. Cooper’s parents Martha and David flew in from Spokane to help us at Ryan’s Ride. It was their way of honoring Cooper whom they missed for ten years. They celebrated their son’s anniversary watching hundreds of children doing what their son loved. Our other highlight was to have Ron from the Lance Armstrong Foundation flying in from Austin experiencing the event. Ron volunteered for the whole weekend. Ron works at LAF, a nationally established non-profit foundation but his visit endorsed LAF’s mission - survivorship. He supported us emotionally at this event making our family feel so valued to be part of the foundation we have been associated with for a decade.

Then there are many other stories… a boy riding in memory of his grandma, a two year old girl riding in memory of her identical twin sister just passed away to cancer a few months ago, a girl riding in memory of her 2 year old brother, a boy trained to have his training wheels removed for this Ride. I think as humans, we all have our stories and through these stories, we are all somehow connected….these connections are the power of the human spirits.

Each year, John and I as hosts worried about parents feeling stressed about the craze. But I told John: “The Ride is not about the parents. It is an experience to the children on the course. When I saw Matthew came across the finish with such determination, I knew I would be like many of you waking up early on a Sunday morning, packing the kids and bikes, circling around to look for parking at the event. That joy and determination of our children makes this Ride well worth the hoopla.”

As for me, watching the children riding placed me in the presence of their joy…or as Matthew’s mom, his joy. This year the focus was less about feeling Ryan’s presence but more about the presence of the children at the event. Then I feel the power of giving. If Ryan is still here, there would not have been a Ryan’s Ride planned by our family. It is truly the spirit of human survivorship, hope and giving.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Yesterday was a special day. I had a great massage and I went to baby shower of a mom in my twins playgroup. It was a shower made by a labor of love. And the 10 of us all enjoyed spending the day before Mother’s day with a wonderful group of mothers. These 9 moms gave each other support and shared the joy through the ups and downs. We all want to make it a tradition to have such gathering like this the day before mother day without kids in the years to come. One mom made a scrapbook for the future baby for all of us... We were supposed to include a photo of our kids but I only gave her a photo of Matthew and I. Another mom said she was surprised that I didn’t include a photo of Ryan and she thinks Ryan is always part of us...

So last night I came home and looked through the photos of the boys at 2.5 yrs...Matthew spending his first xmas without Ryan...I looked at those photos and saw Matthew being so little but still with the picture perfect smile? I asked myself how did John and I have smiles for pictures back then? Six months since Ryan’s death....I felt the pain traveling down to memory lane. I think no matter what, I have to grieve for the loss of Ryan’s absence in private today. I am going to look at more photos later just to have a good cry. But I will also go to watch Matthew’s t ball and say many “I love yous” to him.

It is natural on a day like this to wonder the what-if’s and to mourn no matter how much I want to skip it...

Bill C. did an amazing fun poster for Ryan’s Ride... I was so proud of if I found a great school for Matthew and I found a great art to represent Ryan. Now I am more charged to do the planning.... I think I try to find the balance to be normal, not to have the ride consume me and to learn to balance my life.

Yes, Matthew is the twinkle in my eyes everyday. Sometimes I look at him and wonder if other mothers love their child as much as I love him. I know they do.
I went on a very hilly hike with my 82 year mom and she kept up... Drove her home at night and on the way home just cried for Ryan... I still remember his goofy smile and flat sticking up as he got hot.... Still very vivid after 4 yrs...miss much especially today. Asked why did he become out of order so fast.... I had a good cry...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

In anticipation of 4th Annual Ryan’s Ride – our annual letter

Our 4th annual Ryan’s Ride will be on Sunday, June 24, 2007. We are in full swing planning for this special event so personal to our family. Every year, anxiety builds up not knowing if we have the courage to ensure the level of the spirit of the event in years past. Each year around this time, the reflections of Ryan surfaces more intensely.

A couple of week ago while I was at the Burlingame Library, I saw a glimpse of the librarian who did wonderful story time for Ryan and Matthew. I wanted to go up to thank her for creating those fond memories for me….. I didn’t go up…it would have been too forward so I thanked her in my heart. After all, it has been almost four years since Ryan’s passing on July 8th and this was my first encounter with this librarian in four years.

During that week, while I was driving home, I saw Fire Truck E-27 backing up into the fire station….I tried to look for familiar faces of the fire fighters….to see if anyone of them was the one who came that night to be with our family.

Then I got an email from a stranger who emailed me the eve of the 2005 Ryan’s Ride, a very compassionate email from a girl who was 14 years old then. This young woman is now 17 years old and wants to volunteer at Ryan’s Ride. I asked her how she managed to remember two years later but she did.

Today I got an email from a mom of twin in our mothers club that her daughter of almost 2 years old passed away to cancer last Friday. Her email brought me down to memory lane. I cried for her and I cried for Ryan.

These are the fabrics woven through life that give us the reason to plan for Ryan’s Ride each year. It is like food for our souls.

Matthew who is almost six and a half and a kindergartener enjoys sports…soccer, little league, basketball and riding his bike. He has taken an extreme interest in drawing. We look at Matthew each day and see our little boy growing in front of our eyes. The joy we have in our lives is magnified because of the life challenges we have endured and survived. We feel so very blessed to have him. He reminds us of living now and to live full.

As for Ryan, his gift to us is his guiding spirit and soft presence in our hearts; always there and always giving.

John wants to share this quote:
“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all”

Loving both Ryan and Matthew is our joy.