Tuesday, July 8, 2008

5th year Ryan's Anniversary

July 8, 2008 (5th year Anniversary)
I woke up on the morning of the 7th and just felt emotional. Monday…5 yrs ago…. Our family life changed. For someone who is quite forgetful, the sequence of events that happened on the Monday of the July 7th five years ago lived very vividly on my mind. I cried a little in the morning then went to work. Five years later I know I can handle this day “better”. But to my surprise, it is just not like any other normal day. I felt more tense and emotional.

I kept myself busy watching TV. Then when I turned off the TV, it was 12:40am…. I immediately wanted to check on Matthew to make sure he was breathing. That was the time I checked on Ryan five years ago. No matter how well I have learned to navigate, today is just a day I cannot treat like the rest of the year. I will take a day off and go to the cemetery with John and the family. In the afternoon, John and I will spend a quiet moment hiking somewhere. Connecting with nature is healing to us. I cannot believe it has been five years that we lost our little boy. His brother is growing so rapidly in front of our eyes and we savor each presence with him….

It was 2:30am and I turned off the light just now and tried to go to sleep… I burst into tears… At 2am five years ago, my little boy was pronounced dead. I saw his little body on the hospital bed, not moving. I remember John told me to touch him. I was in shock. What had happened? Friends were there….and we had to call John’s parents in the East Coast and my sister in Hong Kong. I wanted answers but I couldn’t get any…. I kept writing. I did an email blast and asked for help…give me tools so I could deal with this. Help poured in and resources came. Many were in ground zero with us…

As each year has passed, fewer people remember this anniversary and it is expected as we personally also managed to navigate more effectively and become more private in our own grief. I have learned that the world continues…the world does not change for me just because of my own tragedy. It is our outlook to this world that changed. We are placed in an ocean and we have to learn to surf in the water or else we would sink, simple as that. Eventually, we realized that we became better surfers.

Then I started playing the role of supporting newly bereaved parents. It gave me a whole new perspective as watching them was like watching my old reflection. I knew all too well how they felt one month, 6 months out, 2 years out. As time goes, I also realized that people are tired of seeing me mourn and I am tired of seeing myself mourn so grief all becomes much more internal and I share it only to those who are truly there to listen. But of course, on major days such as today, there is just no easy way out. In addition, being a supporter also gave me perspectives of knowing how much energy my friends had to exert in supporting us.

The journey continues. Sometime, I wonder what do other people think when they see me as a mother with a big grin on her face…the mother who lost a son but she is smiling often…am I there to prove that the loss of a child is so easy to survive because I am smiling so big each day…Only if people know that at times obstacles also magnify our vulnerabilities.

No matter what, we all owe it to ourselves to live authentically. It is important to keep it real. Life is no fairy tale. It includes all facets of emotional elements - joy, sadness, challenged, pain. Life is not always a beautiful picture as someone who always wants to paint it. You have to go deep down to the well to feel that lowest, the pain in order to also see the beauty in life.

I now know all too well that I have to count my blessings, be in the presence as much as possible and still appreciate life. Ryan and Matthew, one son in some far away place and one son here on earth with me. I love you both.

5th Annual Ryan Phua Memorial Kids' Ride Recap

July 4, 2008 (5th Annual Ryan Phua Memorial Kids’ Ride)
Ryan’s Ride came and went. (Our 5th time around). On the day of the event, I woke up at before dawn; looked at little Matthew sleeping soundly then reminded myself that Ryan’s Ride is here because my son died. I welled up in tears and pulled myself together and got ready for the day knowing that it would be a beautiful day.

Closed to 700 children showed up with their families. Last year, we rushed though putting the kids on the course because we were concerned about time and we finished the ride in record time. I felt so bad that something we planned so hard was done in a rush. So this year, I told the volunteers to stage the kids and please don’t rush through the whole process. It was beautiful as I watched and cheered each wave of kids pedaling down the road. I saw the smiles in many of them and I smiled. The smiles of these children truly brought me joy and were just priceless.

This year’s highlights: Our adorable 9-month niece Alana arrived from Hong Kong to participate in the Ride. I broke the rule and just wanted her to be a part of the personal family event. So we loaded her up in Ryan & Matthew’s Radio Flyer wagon and let her on the course too.

Then I met Lisa who is starting a branch of The Little Gym in Millbrae. Lisa’s generosity was just unbelievable to me. She offered her 2 full time employees to me to help me with the planning of Ryan’s Ride for two months.

Then there was Ines, whose determination and volunteer spirit truly shows me the meaning of kindness. She worked diligently to get lunches for our volunteers donated and offered to volunteer her time at the event along with her two sons.

Then of course, there were our friends who would be there year after year to help at Ryan’s Ride. (Daniela, Luca, Nadia, Ivania, Julie W, Doug, Junko, Yin Ping, Ron K., Ron S., Tiffany and her family, Cece, Shawna, Misa, Carmen, Carrie and her family, Michael, Mireille, Sarah, Donna & Hoa, Kelly, Lori, Joanna and her colleagues) I find this quote very appropriate: “A faithful friend is the medicine of life.” Thank you for being part of this journey with us. We truly are stronger as individuals because of your support.

Check out photos at www.ryansride.org and this slideshow created by Daniela Degrassi Photography.