Friday, September 23, 2005

9/23/05 Lesson in the Loss

Linda Katcher Griffiths was one of the first mothers of a missing person I remember speaking to all those years ago when Jason disappeared. Linda's son, Ryan, is the same age as Jason, and he disappeared the fall before.

To me, Linda was like a beam of sunlight breaking through the dark clouds of my pain and heartbreak. She was the one who "held my hand" and hugged me long distance, helping me to understand what we experience as mothers of missing children. I will be forever grateful for her helping me get through those first very dark months.

She'll talk about her story in a future posting.

Today, we're going to hear from Ryan's best friend, Travis. His words should make us stand at attention and review how we express our care to those whom we value. It might be too late for Travis, but it's not too late for you to reach out and tell someone who is precious to you that you love them.

This message seems very timely with yet another life-threatening hurricane bearing down upon the coast.

It is hard to summarize what Ryan was like because he was such a diverse person. What I want to share with you is how his disappearance has affected my life, because I feel that it is the best way to understand what type of person Ryan was like.

The night before Ryan disappeared was typical November Friday in Illinois. As usual, we went to meet friends at an old country lane that led back to a patch of woods that overlooked a local highway. That was where our group usually met to listen to music, tell jokes, talk about women, college, life, and anything else we happened to have on our mind at that time.

That particular night we reminisced about our high school glory days, discussed our problems with our girlfriends, and finally life and what we thought lay ahead for us. It is the latter what I want to expand upon.

Our conversation seemed to focus on whether we would go to graduate school, and what we would have to do to start our own marketing firm upon graduation. By the time our conversation had ended the temperature had dropped to around forty and the moon was high in the sky, both of which were sure signs it was time to call it a night and go home. But before we did, Ryan told me that whatever path we chose in life, he would always have faith in me and was confident in my ability to achieve whatever I wanted. Despite our close upbringing, we had never had a conversation that ended that personal or emotional. That next night Ryan disappeared.

Since then, I have spent a lot of time reflecting upon that conversation while asking, why had our conversation end that way and why that night. I have yet to find an answer and doubt I ever do, but it was that conversation that was a changing point in my life. See until then, I took my friends generally for granted, was afraid of social ridicule if I expressed my feelings toward them, and had the misconception that life was always perfect. But that all changed.

Ryan was the type of person to make a person realize that a friend is much more than just that, and that if you honestly care about someone you should let them know, because if you don’t you may never get the opportunity to. I guess what changed the most for me was my respect for life, friends, and fearlessness to express my feelings toward my friends and people I care about.

Sometimes all it takes is something as simple as an honest compliment, or as in my case one friend telling another he believed in him to change a person’s life. I just wish I hadn’t been blinded by fear of expressing my feelings and let Ryan know what he meant as a friend, and now I don’t have the chance to.

Life is too short, please don’t let it happen to you.

Travis, age 24

Ryan's Website:


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