I want to tell you just a little bit of the rest of the story. Most of you that have joined me on my blog are aware of my son, Ryan’s, blog where he invited us all to walk with him through his journey with cancer. If you are not familiar with Ryan’s blog – check out Grassrootsconspiracy.com.
Last summer on Ryan’s Birthday – four and a half years after Ryan died from a glioblastoma in his spinal cord – I ran across two messages that had been sent to me on my Messenger app. I had not run across the “filtered messages” before – when you are in a grief place your curiosity goes out the window – reserving all energy for getting through the day.
I would like to share with you one of those messages.
Her name is Rebecca and she sent me this message in May of 2014. Rebecca lives in London, United Kingdom.
“Dear Brenda, I hope that you don’t mind me emailing you. I have spent some time recently being inspired by your amazing son, Ryan, through the gift of Soul Pancake and their documentary series, My Last Days. I watched the film about Ryan and then began reading his blog and learning more through the internet about this incredible man. I wanted to make contact with you and let you know the impact that Ryan has had on my life, and on so many peoples’ lives. Of that I am positive. His style of writing is addictive; he was hilarious, brilliant, wise, sincere, thoughtful; an expressive and genuine son, brother, father, husband, and friend. I am a 34-year old mother of ten-month-old twin boys, from London, England. I am Jewish, however I do not practice religion. In the last few weeks since I have read about Ryan and the purpose of the Grassroots Conspiracy, of his belief system and the idea of living like Jesus, of loving your neighbor – I have been thinking so much more about spirituality and about this very idea of living like Jesus. Whether or not I know Jesus, the concept, the inspiration provided by Ryan, is unique to me and something for me to take with me on my journey, in my story, and input into my world. I wanted you to know that I am so deeply, deeply, sorry for your loss and for all of his family. I cannot imagine the pain you are experiencing but believe your love to be eternal. Ryan has touched so many lives and made such an impact, I truly feel he has changed me, and has therefore changed my children and my husband and their experiences of how to live and cherish those around them. Who Ryan was has genuinely left me wondering how he became such a together, driven, creative, soulful child and adult, and thinking about how I can encourage my children in that direction. I think about this all the time and even over here in the UK, we are thinking about you and how to live Ryan’s message. Again, I hope you do not mind me emailing you. May your God bless you and your family. With love and best wishes, Becky.”
To run across this message almost five years after we lost Ryan, was such a gift. The gift was multilayered, as you can imagine. Of course, my mama-heart was moved and deeply comforted – but I think an even greater gift was the validation that God continues to use each of our offerings to bless and accomplish His beautiful purposes in ways that we can never predict and are often unaware of. I love that. This piece of Ryan’s continued story reminds me that somehow, someway, God is present in this messy broken world; that no matter what our story is – no matter how broken and messed up it all is – He continues to reveal Himself in whatever unfolds. I love that over in England there is a family that is trying to love people where they live, work, and play.
But there is more to this story. So, after I discovered this message, I responded to Becky. Three years after Becky wrote her message, I wrote her. I thanked her, of course, sharing with her that I miss him every day and treasure any response to his life’s message of Love and living like Jesus. I shared with her that even though I don’t know her story and what her journey has been the last 3 ½ years – I hope Love has touched her, her husband and her babies.
She wrote back that very night.
“Dear Brenda. Wow, thanks so much for getting back to me. Actually the 3-year gap between communication was useful as it allowed me to reflect on what I wrote then. Ryan remains meaningful to me. Following reading his writings and watching the Soul Pancake series, I started volunteering and then working at a local hospice. One of Justin Baldoni’s messages was that those facing death often have incredible depth of insight and he wanted to document it. This alone is what led me to the hospice, and I shared this at my interview in 2014. I’m now retraining as a nurse with the intent of remaining in palliative care, which is where my soul now lies. So the message I wrote to you over 3 years ago remains true and Ryan’s words and experiences truly changed me on an indescribable level and in ways I hadn’t yet realized. With love, and immense respect for you and your family, Becky”
Our stories matter. It may not be a blog like Ryan’s that people see all over the world – but your story is most definitely seen. Your story is seen by your family, your friends, your enemies, your church, your co-workers, those at your grocery store, at your bank, your pub, your daycare, at your favorite restaurants, your gym . . . That’s a lot of influence. Ryan was just as flawed as the rest of us. Positive Influence isn’t about perfection, but about being present and loving and showing compassion to those in our world. The question is what kind of influence will flow from my life. Will I allow all the wounds that invariably come just be being alive in this crazy world, to make me bitter, negative and resentful or choose another path? I think the key to leaving a fragrance of grace and beauty in my world comes from letting go (letting go is another way of saying “to forgive”) of all the wounds that others have inflicted on me – that does not mean all those people are safe for me to be in relationship with – but holding all the injuries inside me only destroys me. As we go through life, it would be easy to collect a truckload of offenses and hurt feelings because living in relationship is hard and messy. And our ego feels so justified in keeping track.
Let’s decide to collect stamps, or garden gnomes or salt & peppershakers instead. As we choose to let go, then we have more emotional space available in each moment for extending kindness, grace and mercy. I want my story to leave that kind of fragrance and influence. But … I do have an awesome souvenir spoon collection, if you ever want to see it!