First off, I have a son his age. In fact, I am certain that the two of them played hockey against each other over the past few years in their high school careers. It is not easy to imagine that a young person who was skating with so much joy in his life, worrying over his homework or some girl in his home room, is now gone. I imagine how lost I would feel to lose my own son, a person who I helped bring into the world and I wouldn’t want that for anyone. To look back at all the years of playing together, learning together, seeing his face as he experienced things for the first time, to know that they are now gone, would put a void in my soul.
The other reason is that a few years ago I lost a younger brother to cancer. He was older than Ryan and his battle was very short, but brutal nonetheless and so sad. For some reason, I can only remember my brother in his younger days, when we all lived at home and played hockey together or football or baseball or just played. He was married and had a young daughter when he died, but when I think of him, his new family is not part of the picture.
I saw Ryan that night when the Jackets hosted the Sharks. He was at the visitor bench area and a guest of Jody Shelley. I didn’t know who he was until after the game. But seeing him and learning of what was ahead for him was tough and choked me up. I called my son that night who was away at school and told him of this, that a kid he skated against just a few seasons ago faced a very serious situation.
I hope that Ryan is at peace. He put on a brave face and was probably in great pain the last week. To get upset about a defenseman missing a check, or a goalie not covering the puck, or even an announcer confused over a player’s name, is meaningless when you think of what Ryan went through. And everytime I saw him, he always had a smile on his face, even though he knew what was ahead.
You do learn from your children.