I didn’t know Ryan Woods, or Jessica. I didn’t know the boy he was or the student he was or the father he was or the husband he was like some people did. I was introduced to Ryan through a video two days before he died. I was so moved by that video that I sat at my desk and weeped for about 20 minutes. I called a minister friend of mine after I had calmed down, I called him angry at God for letting this happen to a guy dedicated to God. On Tuesday night I talked to my wife, telling her some things I don’t say that often, reminding her who she is in my life. Telling her that I was sorry about being stressed out over the news of a baby instead of being filled with wonder.
Perhaps, meeting Ryan on November 5th of this year was exactly what I needed. Perhaps his death reminded me how to live. Hearing him say that the “dreams” he and Jessica have are enough to warrant just a few more years broke my heart. Not only because I was sad for he and his beautiful family, but here I was with a few more years, and I wasn’t living in the peaceful joy of it all, which is often the case with all of us.
One of Ryan’s most quoted saying is this, “We are all in the process of dying. The question is: what kind of story are you going to live out while you are dying?” He tells us to live the beautiful story and to make beautiful music with our lives.
I think I know why sinners loved Jesus. I think Jesus was dying long before he was tried and nailed to a cross. I think Jesus lived in the reality that death is the only option, and that reality gave life to everyone he encountered. I’m not sure how I have missed this for 33 years, but when someone is dying, they begin to instantly get priorities right.
For Ryan, he signed birthday cards for his kids (ages 4 and 7ish) and talked with Jessica about what to get them for their 16th birthday. He started letters of thanks to his mom, dad, wife, and friends. He admitted, “Dying has taught me so much about life, how to be a better dad, a better husband, a better lover of people, a better man.
In regards to crying he said, “It feels good to cry. It feels appropriate, it feels like I”m doing the right thing, like I can’t be judged for crying–I can only be loved. And I desperately want to be loved. Sometimes when I cry, when I really cry and cry hard, I’m honestly just in search of confirmation that I’m not simply wasting time here dinking around waiting to die. The thing is, I think you never feel more human than when you are dying. And that’s an emotional and painful place to be.”
So, what have I learned. If we can teach people how to die long before they actually do, then they will be free to live the life of Christ in absolute freedom. That starts with me. Most of the stuff I care about would go out the window the day I was told I was dying... because most of it focuses on my opinions, my reputation, my ego, and my future.
So here’s a start:
I want my church family to love me, but I want lost people to love me more.
I want to make sure my wife and children know how loved they are by me. (I have started email accounts for my kids so I can pass along love notes and tell them how proud I am of them)
I want my co-workers to know how thankful I am for the beauty of their lives, and the beautiful death they are in the process of, and whatever time we have together, let’s start enjoying it more, right now!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.