Family · Hope · Motherhood

Sing Happy Birthday today for Ryan!

I’m a mom who lost her oldest son in a car fire when he was 7-years-old. 

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Ryan ’94

One of the things I think back on is that I never wanted children in the first place.

I guess I could tell you that if we’d never had Ryan, we would never have lost Ryan.

I’ve thought plenty about that over the years.

Does it sound crazy to you?

Every time I think that way I always judge myself as a ‘failure-Mom.’

But I’m changing.

That dark thought has basically disappeared deep into my psychic basement. 

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Ryan at 4

 

Today is Ryan’s birthday.

He’d be 25.

He’d be out of college, and working somewhere in his own business, being his own boss.

Our little boy was very social from the start; he just naturally loved people. 

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Ryan, baby Tyler & Ron

And he cared about them, almost to a fault.

Here’s what I think: If Ryan could’ve had his dream job, it would have only one focus: out of the wealth he created he would be “Generous’’ professionally.

He would work so he could give away money to help others.

Of course, I’ve got a Ryan story for you.

It’s our lucky day! A gift to you from Ryan on his birthday today, October 3rd. 

(Story) Eighteen years ago…in fact, it was on our last night ever with Ryan, he was killed the next afternoon.

We went to a dinner party at a friend’s house that Friday night.

We came in and looked to see who all was there.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ryan walking toward our priest. They talked for a second and Ryan handed something to the priest.

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I later found out it was a five-dollar bill. 

Ryan said to Father Jerry: “Give this to the poor children.” 

I remembered our previous conversation in the car on the way over that night.

Ryan had told us he was still several dollars short of getting his Gameboy he’d been saving for.

That’s where the five dollars came from.

I’m crying as I write this.

In the past eighteen years, I believe with my whole heart that Ryan was created especially for me, and I was created for him, even if we’d only had a year together.

But we had seven! Did you hear what I said? We had SEVEN YEARS TOGETHER!

Happy Birthday, punkin!

I love you.

mom

Encouragement · Family · Hope · wounded healer

Seen through her baby’s eyes

I’m Dawn.

The mother in this story is me. Our little family was boxed-in by a fire in our car.

We skidded across the access road off the Interstate and rolled the car three times.

Three of us survived. My seven-year-old son, Ryan, was burned alive, to death.

I realized last night that I haven’t told you very much about our baby boy, Tyler, who was freed from the flames along with Ron, and me. (We three were burned over 25% of our bodies).

This was–no-contest–the worst experience of my life.

Everything in me died on a slab that day, but my breathing wouldn’t quit.

I only wanted one thing . . . to be with my Ry-Ry immediately.

About Tyler.

My 2-year-old gave me the best Gifts of my life. (He’s a sophomore at Auburn now).

He gave his gift every morning of every month of every year after “the accident.”

 

He saw me beyond his own pain. He saw beneath my scars.

He saw the heart of a mother who didn’t deserve to be called “mother” anymore.

For him, nothing had changed.

We were still Team Tyler!

And every morning he pushed my bedroom door open, he saw the one thing he needed most. Mommy-Me! I was all he needed.

I was haunted by my consummate failure at the ‘’scene,’’ Tyler wasn’t.

I was more than my scars.

That’s what he taught me again and again, and he hardly knew how to talk.

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Forget words he knew me ‘by heart.’

I was all-mother, not his ‘scarred’ mother.

I was the mother who knew just what he needed, and when.

He showed me I still had the Goods.

He never once bailed on me while I was bailing on myself every day.

How can a 2-year-old do that?

I think about the ”Little Prince” and what he said, “

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.

What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Tyler saw me rightly and I grew into his vision of me.

He took me every day by the hand into the kitchen for breakfast.

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Tyler

He led me to the window to show me, in a loving way, that Life goes on.

It didn’t matter to him if I was ready to see it or not. God only knows how saw my strength. God only knows how he knew me.

Tyler will always be God’s best Gift to me!

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me and tyler

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

Encouragement · Hope · wounded healer

It just didn’t matter anymore

Everybody knows Brody won’t take off his shirt.Brody2 CC

He won’t swim when all his friends are swimming because when he was a little boy he was horribly burned.

It was his chest that was seriously mangled.

He finally realized he can’t escape his scars unless he wore a shirt 24/7!

He could hide his scars under a shirt!

But what does Brody do when everyone goes shirtless?

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A few weeks ago I met Brody face-to-face at our “Catching Courage” event in Florida for burn survivors and firefighters.

To say he was in a league of his own would be an understatement.

He had something.

Don’t ask me what it was except to remind us that “The Lord works in mysterious ways!”

Brody is a wonder boy straight from the Heart of God. 

Ask anyone who knows him!

Brody is his own highlight reel on ESPN!

I could tell you BrodyStories all night, but let me just answer the earlier question about when things suddenly go shirtless.

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Oh, I forgot to tell you about the dolphins.

We were in the dolphin pool at “Theater by the Sea,” during Catching Courage.

Brody, hanging back, looked at the other burn kids in the dolphin pool and you could see his brain working, you could feel his internal struggle.

He hesitated.

Then looked at the kids again and suddenly he stripped his shirt off.

He made a decision.

And with a big dose of courage, he ran into the water to swim with the dolphins!

The scars didn’t matter, and the insecurity was gone.

We all cheered him!

The Gift he gave us was his whole self!

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Hey Brody! You light my fire!

Dawn

 

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

Encouragement · Hope · Relationship

New Kids in Town

There’s a new breed of “hero” in the country.

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen a few but you didn’t know what you were looking for.

Wait.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

First, I want to talk about the heroes that have flown in and out of your life.USA womens soccer 2019

Think back to Superman, or George Lucas, astronauts or police officers?

How ’bout our World Champion USA soccer team?   

So who and what is this new breed of heroes I’m talking about?

These heroes are “Pediatric Burn Survivors”!

They survived the fire that was consuming them and they are surviving the emotional handicap of growing up scared.  

But how are these ‘child burn survivors’ heroes?

For one thing,  most face multiple surgeries, over multiple years since every growth spurt requires “skin-release’ surgery so they can keep growing. 

Next, they take their scars to school with them and are then ridiculed.

Many are bullied or laughed at.

One child I know was tagged with  a new name–“Freddy Kruger.”

I want you to take that in and feel the shame that lingers. (And we thought the sky was falling when we had a ‘zit’ on our forehead.) 

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Catching Courage ’19 Pediatric Burn Survivors

These young burn survivors are heroes because daily they walk into school never knowing who would hurt them with words or everything going on behind their back.

Think about the everyday insecurities of ‘growing up’, especially in puberty.

Then, on top of their fears, add physical deformities.

Be mindful that most of their peers will never understand. Not even me–an adult burn survivor–even I don’t understand.

It’s all so unfair.

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CC ’19-Brody and Kaleigh
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CC ’19–Alex
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CC ’19–Lovely
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CC ’19–Future Firefighter Brantson

These kids are the new breed of “heroes.”

dawn

BTW-If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn

 

 

 

Encouragement · Hope · Relationship

Who rescues the rescuers?

How does Ryan Shines help support our Firefighters?

We’re building a community at Ryan Shines that recognizes that Firefighters are stronger when they face their daily internal reality together and head-on.

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We want this community of trust to be available to every Career&Volunteer&Retired Firefighter in America.

We want to show them that Firefighters don’t ever have to live or die alone.

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So we will join their band of brothers and sisters from across the state to form a support network for the mental and physical health of their fellow Firefighters by providing trained assistance through a  “Firefighter Peer Support” Team.

Let me tell you the story about a Fire Chief in Alabama. His name is Mark Sealy and he oversees 24 fire stations in Mobile.

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His best friend, a fellow Firefighter, suffered and died from PTSD.

All he knew was to self-medicate.

That’s the day when the Chief really ‘got it.’

His friend had survived every emergency that Firefighters face but his ‘internal Civil War’ took him out.

So, Mark not only knows everything first hand about firefighting but he has also been at the center of personal tragedy himself.

And he’s so open and eager that our common dream of ‘Peer Support’ take root and grow.

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In other words,  we ‘drank the kool-aid.’

I wish I could clone him and send him to every fire station in the country.

This is what we are developing in our own circle of influence.

We have created our first of many statewide Support Teams called “Alabama Firefighter Peer Support” at Ryan Shines.

Now, I am not fluent in ‘Firefighter,’ but I do understand personal trauma and the aftermath (PTSD), and the importance of finding friends you can trust.

You’ll find men and women with whom you can speak in a kind of  ‘shorthand’ because they intimately know the words and the feelings that have been burned into their brain since their first fire. 

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Ryan

Every day I wish Ryan was here. But when I look at all we’re doing together, he is no less than the engine driving us, and his is the Shining that lights our way.

 

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

education · Hope

The Gift Firefighters give ordinary people every day

Do you know any firefighters personally?

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I’ve spent the last six months with over 500 Firefighters.

As we have learned at Ryan Shines fighting fires could cost them their life, or their health, their family, their security, or their future.

Whatever else it is, it is risk, pure and simple.

Firefighters risking their lives.

Do you remember this? 

“There is no greater Love than to sacrifice ourselves for others’’(John 15:13). That single sentence should be carved on the front of every Fire Station in every city. 

RIO CHRIST

Some say that “sacrifice” is weak.

But think about your parents’ sacrifices for you.

It was a sign of strength. It is the opposite of self-centered.

It is ‘sacrificial generosity.’

Most Firefighters would tell you: “It’s never about us!

It’s about the ones we are rescuing.”

And that is the way they live their lives. 

One Firefighter said, “I was born for this! To risk my life for others. For strangers.” 

 And then they’ll tell you they’ve never met a stranger.

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There is a Brotherhood among these Firefighters, and everybody they rescue joins their Station House of Courage.

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

 

Friendship · Relationship

Giving their lives

Can you imagine every time you go off to work you’re putting yourself in harm’s way?

(And here I am afraid of roaches.) 

Having met hundreds of Firefighters, every time I watch them work together, I am stunned by their compassionate Souls.

firefighting group

 

And their instinct to rescue, anyone or anything that is in danger.

It’s in their DNA. These remarkable people are a breed apart.

A blind man can see that.

So, let me ask you, “Would you consider running into fires for a living?” They do. Everyday.

I’m not saying they’re gods.

They are human beings like us.

But it’s their passion that sets them apart. It is their curse and their blessing.

They live between a rock and a soft place. 

Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here.

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I live in the South. In Alabama.

Can you believe that we’re ranked #2 in Firefighter suicide over work-related deaths in our country? And it’s prevalent nationwide. 

In the face of all this, I feel ashamed for not observing that these quiet heroes, imprisoned by workplace heartache and trauma, want to end their lives.

Why don’t they just ask for help? Because…

It’s not in their job description. Their job is to save others, not themselves.

Which means that it’s our job to support those who risk it all to rescue others.  

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Next week, I’d like to talk about how Ryan Shines offers support.

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

 

Faith · Hope

Hearts and Minds working together

Once upon a time, in the days just after receiving God’s Original Blessing, it hit me that my Blessing wasn’t mostly for me to keep in a mid-sized Safety Deposit Box.

It wasn’t mine to hide or hoard.

Ryan
Ryan

So, I freed my mind to move around wherever it wants to explore.

It went directly to my heart. Pretty awesome combo, ‘hearts and minds’ working together side-by-side!

Everywhere they went I followed with no idea where we were going.

But at every turn, I kept seeing children.

Children that had been burned, but had survived.

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I suddenly KNEW my Blessing was for these courageous burn survivors and our uniformed heroes who ran into burning buildings to search and rescue.

My dream was beginning to multiply like rabbits. 

My next brainstorm was The Foundation.

We named it after our seven-year-old boy, Ryan, who was killed in our burning car.

Here was a deeper dimension to my Blessing: ”Ryan Shines Burn Foundation.”

And our mission is to advise and help pediatric burn survivors with scholarships for their education and for attending Burn Camp; and to nurture the hearts and minds of Firefighters across the country.

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photo by Janelle Anderson

Thank you for helping Ryan shine on and on…

dawn

Next week, I’ll share another lovely part of my Blessing.

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

Family · Relationship

I found it in the Dark

I’m thinking about the big Blessing that happened to me.hand dark

I’m still not sure if I found it or it found me.

But I’ve got to tell you what was weird about it.

I found it in the Dark, not in the Light.

I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

Do you remember the story of the policeman who was going out the door to work the night shift and dropped his keys in the grass?

His wife came out to help him look.

He was walking up and down the curb.

His wife asked him, “Is that where you lost them?”

He said, “No, but the light’s much better here.”

I think that’s true for all of us.

We assume our Blessing is dancing in front of us in the light because that would make it easier to find.

But don’t forget, it took me 14 years to find it, and when I found it I knew immediately that the Blessing wasn’t for me to keep.

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I was Blessed to be a Blessing to others.

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Dawn          

 

 

 

 

I’ll tell you how the Blessing grew next time…

 

Encouragement · Faith · Family · Relationship

Count your Blessings

I started counting my Blessings: being a mother, enjoying a long and loving marriage, our healthy sons, and a purposeful life.

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We’ve all experienced tragedies that we thought would follow us forever and stop the beating of our heart.

When Ryan was killed in the fire, my heart stopped and all I could see and hear was, “NOOOOO!”

There was no Blessing there on the frontage road in South Texas.

And it was emotionally exhausting to search for the Blessing.

It took me 14 years to get my ‘focus’ back.

But once I found it, it was like hitting a gusher.

I let it run down my face like oil and all the way down to my toes.  

A record-breaking gusher of Blessings!

One big “Yes” overpowering the “NO!

I want to tell you the secret of how I found my big “YES!”

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The Blessing that’s bigger than any Curse.

We’ll look together here next time.

Dawn