There’s no way in Hell that I would have considered doing the mommy job of preparing the funeral for my baby boy. Not physically, not mentally, not emotionally, not psychologically, not spiritually, not nothingly. It’ll take everything I’ve got to sit thru it.
Ryan’s funeral could have been the ‘worst of the worst nights of my life.’
But Ron saved the day. He got his heartbroken self up in front of everyone, and told them the “7 things I learned from my Son.” Let me tell you some of what he said that afternoon.
“When my son, Ryan, came along, I prided myself on teaching him the alphabet and soccer and flattered myself that I was a good teacher, but as I look back I now see that I was actually still learning and that I was still learning more important lessons than I was teaching.
Lesson 1- Appreciate Life
Lesson 2- Smiles are Infectious
Lesson 3- Explore your world
Lesson 4- Don’t take yourself too seriously
Lesson 5- Don’t confuse intelligence with experience
Lesson 6- Charity means giving when it hurts
Lesson 7- …and the greatest of these is Love.”
That, my friends, should tell you the kind of son we enjoyed in Ryan.
I remember driving to the Funeral home with Ron to see Ryan’s body just before his cremation.
Just the two of us, Ryan’s mom and dad. His parents. That’s all we were to anyone that day. As we entered a cold storage room, I remember thinking to myself,
“How could they be so insensitive to have let us spend our very last moments with our little boy in such an unfriendly, frigid environment?”
All there was was a child-sized makeshift, cardboard coffin. It stood solitary in the middle of a room. It was a stark reminder of how Ryan died in the car. Alone. Seeing the box screamed there would be no more talks, hugs, and laughter from our little Ry-Ry.
We both gasped and crumbled. I have to admit it was surreal and unbearable that our little boy’s body was inside a cardboard box.
We cried out to God,
“What kind of love is this that you would rip him out of our hearts as if he’s better off with you?” He’ll tell you himself, he’s better off with us.
Some of you are wondering, “How much of him was left after the fire?” Do you really think we opened that cheap container? All we could do was cry and say goodbye to the little boy in the box. The only one more damaged than Ryan was me.
Our SUV is rolling over and over and flames are beginning to eat through my passenger seat, searing my hamstrings. The final rollover lands us on my side. My door won’t open. Everything I touch is glass, gravel, and weeds on the shoulder of Highway 83.
The fire ignited under me and is crawling toward my 7-year-old, Ryan, sitting behind me in the backseat.
Our happy family of four are trapped like POW’s. I can smell the skin on my legs burning. Then, I am numb. No, more like frozen. Gradually, my brain begins to thaw.
I open my eyes and every one of us is on fire!
My baby, Tyler, is!
My seven-year-old, Ryan, is!
My husband, Ron, is!
And it feels like we’re all melting. Both children are trapped in their car seats. Can a person be on fire and frozen at the same time?
This is only the beginning of the worst days and years of my life.
As yours, our hearts go out to those who suffered loss and injury as a result of the terror attack at the Manchester England Concert last night. The horror for those parents and children who lost track of each other in the moments following the explosion is unimaginable. But moments are translated to years of agony for those who received the terrible news – their loved one was severely injured or lost.
As you, the Hirn family is praying for these families and those who have witnessed this event. But we are also praying for our world which is suffering such senseless brutality at the hands of a few misdirected cowards.
Staying in your own backyard may seem easiest right about now. But remember, the world is filled with far more people who love life and love others regardless of their faith or persuasion. It is important to remember that we who love our families, our lives and the lives of others are in the majority.
We are grateful for our safety when we visited England not long after another terror episode. Be vigilant wherever you go. But don’t let bullies dictate your movements.
I applaud you for always looking on the bright side of life. After what you have been through, I’m sure it might have been easier to let your grief rule the day. But you and Ron chose to lead your other sons in joy. Wondered how you handled the reminders of the Nazi horrors against the Jews in WWII. Did you avoid the German Holocaust memorials and museums on your trip, or did you go through them? Did your kids understand? How did they handle it?
Dear Bright Side, Can you ever measure grief? I always thought the word “Holocaust” meant mass extermination. But the Greek Word holokaustos, actually means ‘burnt whole.” The knowledge that millions of lives were purposely ended is shattering. Ron and I will never be able to run away from the visions of our own personal holocaust when fire took our seven-year old Ryan from us.
We cannot change the past anymore than Germany can change the horrors that happened in the streets and concentration camps throughout Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s. But there are choices that have to be made: When the past seems to hold a curse, look to the future. Ron and I intentionally chose to introduce our boys to the world and her history, not trying to water it down for our sons’ ears. But we tried to look beyond the horrors in the remnants of Hiroshima Japan, Auschwitz Poland and other Nazi Concentration camps, and in huge numbers who were killed in the name of communism.
The truth lies in the overwhelming courage it took for the survivors to continue forward in life and beauty.
We walked through the ghostly concentration camps and war memorials as a family – but each of us were silently processing our thoughts. With the museums, after consulting with the guides, we chose to censure the most graphic museum images for our 8 and 10 year old by scanning ahead and steering them away from the more gruesome images. But we felt Tyler, at 14, was old enough to handle the complete truth and he viewed freely. Those who remain alive today to tell the story were children then! At the end of the day we were each left with the same theme: Hope and courage.
Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial
The Germans have found a way to honor those taken, and find beauty and resolve shining through future generations. Ron and I share our enthusiasm for life with our boys while still honoring the short but vibrant life of our firstborn, Ryan.
Our cameraman takes a shot most memorable to our family at the ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’
I guess you never appreciate the light until you’ve seen how absolutely dark darkness can be.
“My other car is a . . cruise ship” the bumper sticker on the car in front of me read. Remembering our last cruise made me laugh out loud:
It’s not about the car for me. Never has been. I was always more interested in where I would end up than how I would look getting there.
My other car is NOT a Lamborghini. (But I still get a charge standing in front of one!)
In Dubai, this is the norm rather than the exception. For me, it’s the opposite!
Doesn’t matter what type, model, color or age you have; unless you use it to head yourself in the right direction you may stay in the showroom for the rest of your life. The way I see it, you use the vehicle you’ve got to get you to the places you want to go. Good shoes for me are more important than fancy wheels.
Years ago, Ron and I rented a Westfalia in Germany (remember Shaggy and Scooby-Doo’s Scooby-mobile? Add a pop-up top and you’ve got it.) We weren’t concerned about luxury camping. We had found camping across Europe to be one of the cheapest ways to go, a great way to meet people and easy to find a space for the night. There are no Walmarts in Germany, but almost everyone holds the Walmart Policy: “Park here for the night!”
The memories of how we got there flood my mind and bring great smiles: From airplanes headed to Saudi Arabia, to bamboo rafts headed down the river.
And once we got there we always ended up using exactly what God had given us: Our brains and our feet. Remember what Dr. Seuss said: “You’ve got brains in you head, and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.