Every good story has a lesson, and any good lesson is really a gift. I often need to re-learn this lesson, and I can't always find the gift in it, but I can say that this is the story of how I received grace and learned how it is possible to carry that gift everywhere we go. I learned this from my late-husband, who is perhaps the most important person I'll ever know. His name was Ryan. He was 26 when he died.

There is a photograph of the two of us in our essence. We were photographed sitting on my sister's porch. My head is down, my nose nearly touching a notepad on which I was writing directions. Ryan is sitting with an open newspaper on his lap, one hand in the air, a grin on his face, clearly recounting his witty revision of the day's current events. The photograph was taken one year before we married, and two years before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Ryan and I were different from one another in a way that worked. He was a born politician. I was a born organizer. He got energy from other people. I got comfort from knowing I could handle any situation. He could talk cats out of trees. I could wrangle them.

He was the sort of person that if I left him alone in a grocery store for five minutes, I would find him deep in conversation with a total stranger. In that short time, he would have learned their occupation, children's names and hobbies. Almost invariably, these people would throw themselves at me to shake hands, exclaiming, "You must be Ryan's wife. He's told me so much about you and how you've saved his life twice." I have no idea how he was able to exchange so much information so quickly.

His ability to meet people and see the best in them was something to admire, as was his sense of humor, and his faith that everything would turn out just fine. This last could be annoying as well, because it made him happy-go-lucky in the most impractical of ways. Even though he could quote any book he'd ever read and tell you what page he was quoting from, he couldn't cook. He could estimate percentages accurately in his head, but couldn't balance a checkbook. He could make best friends in two minutes, but couldn't keep a steady job. He could give a three minute impromptu speech and stop on the second, but he couldn't replace a door knob.

I worked, paid the bills, fixed our plumbing, and changed the oil in the car; while Ryan finished college -- later attended law school — kept our social calendar full, and in general kept us happy. When I was too uptight or he was too carefree, the offending party would offer up "You married it" as a means of both defense and apology.

It was not quite a year after we married that Ryan had a grand mal seizure. After a CAT scan revealed a brain tumor, he spent his spring break having brain surgery and cracking jokes about growing a second brain. He spent his summer break cursing the loss of his hair to radiation and flirting with the female chemotherapy patients at the oncology clinic.

Life went on. I got a better job. We moved. He graduated college. He started law school. His neurologist gave him a clean bill of health, though he muddled along with occasional seizures.

During his second year of law school his seizures were increasingly a problem. Finally, one night a visit to the emergency room with a splitting headache resulted in the discovery that he had another brain tumor. The subsequent surgery gave us the news that it had returned in the most aggressive form, which kills 90% of patients within six months of diagnosis. Ryan was as good humored and optimistic about it as usual, but countless doctors, two more surgeries, one experimental treatment and four months later he couldn't see out of one eye nor walk in a straight line.

In the midst of all of this Ryan's step-father decided that we needed to buy a house, so he went and picked one that we could afford. It was barely a cottage -- in the middle of renovation when I first saw it -- but it was a very big deal to Ryan to own his home. The entire scheme was insane. I was out of my mind anyway, so I signed wherever I was told to sign until one day we had a mortgage and a house.

It was during the week that we closed on the house that Ryan took a turn for the worse. His balance was so poor that even a short walk across the apartment was becoming difficult. He didn't really want to get out of bed, because of a painful sensitivity to light. Neither of us could sleep at night, because his constant headache had him up and down all night long.

That week, some friends from church had volunteered to help me paint our new house, but I wasn't able to join them—the doctor wanted Ryan back in the hospital.

On Sunday, we were told that he might have a couple of weeks to live. My sister started making the arrangements for us to set up a hospice at the house, while my mother started coordinating with some ladies at my church to pack the apartment. Our lawyer drew up his will and do not resuscitate. I don't remember much about that week, except a few dramatic moments and a couple of Ryan's last jokes.

We set our moving date for the following Saturday so we could have hospice set up by the subsequent Monday. On Thursday, night they told us that Ryan had a few hours left. The tumor was crushing his brain and would soon be shutting down his respiratory function.

Of course, the doctor was wrong and Ryan lived another day. Though he never opened his eyes, he managed a few silent jokes. The father of his best friend, spent that last night telling hilarious stories about Ryan and his friends' high-jinks, while Ryan's breathing became more labored and his lungs filled with fluid.

I sat by his side telling him that everything would be fine. That I would be fine and that I knew he was going where he would be so full of joy and love and happiness. More importantly I believed this so fully that I finally knew how peaceful it is to feel the transcendence of grace.

Finally, about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, he gasped a few times for air that wouldn't come, and then he died. It was simultaneously the most terrible and most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

In the morning, I was like a zombie. My mother had me dress, and eat, and call our church, and took me to my apartment where everyone was supposed to gather for the move. It was 9:30 a.m. when I walked into an empty apartment. It was empty except for people. There were family, friends, and other friends of friends whom I had never seen before in my life. I hadn't packed so much as a shoebox myself, and everything had already been taken to the new house. They had all, together, done it for me.

Just like I knew that Ryan would be fine, I knew that I would be fine, because love and peace aren't just in heaven, they are in every one of us. They were in the people who packed and painted. They were in the people who entertained Ryan in the hospital. They were in the people who reminded me to eat. They were in the people who had moved us. They were in the people who had arranged for hospice. I knew that just as I had needed Ryan to tell me a joke when I was down; I had needed those people, and they had wanted to be there for me.

We can find small graces in every act of kindness, every day. Ryan had the ability to look into the eyes of any stranger and find that spark that made them special -- that little something that made them a valuable part of the world. Somehow when he died, he gave that gift to me and taught me how much I needed others.

Submitted by Anonymous

Pass It On®
Pass It On®


Your Comments
alaina from madurai AUGUST 27, 2016

dave from philippines AUGUST 24, 2014
amazing story....very inspiring story:)

Alison D. from Loveland, Colorado MARCH 12, 2009
Thank you.

Cynthia B. from Boston, MA SEPTEMBER 25, 2008
Thank you so much for your story. I am caring for my son who has an ongoing illness and am feeling very alone, but just the other day I had a nurse reach out to me and give me hope. I am trying so hard to remember there are people out there that want to help me and I need to let them. You are blessed to have known such a wonderful person.

L.O. from Pennsylvania, USA SEPTEMBER 3, 2008
You are so blessed to have had a wonderful person like that in your life.

See All Comments

Here are some other inspiring stories you might like.
SELF- CONFIDENCE SPREADS CONFIDENCE As a high school student, I see so many different students living so many different lives. I see so much sadness from people with so much potential, and so much goodness. Overtime, I realized that a lot of this comes from a lack of self-love and self-confidence. I began watching endless ted talks about...
Read Story
FAMILY Family has always been of great importance to me and something that I value very strongly. I grew up in an all-girl household with my mom and older sister while my dad and two older half-brothers live in Italy. Living in a household just us girls has brought us together and made the bond between us very strong....
Read Story
HIT BY A TRUCK WHILE STANDING ON THE SIDEWALK 3 and 1/2 years ago, I was standing on the sidewalk waiting to cross the street when a pickup came through the intersection trying to turn right. His rate of speed and blood alcohol caused him to go up on the sidewalk and hit me. I am a nurse and have always wanted to be a nurse. I loved my job. The injuries I...
Read Story
STEPPING OUT OF COMFORT ZONE My name is Ainne Olar,15 years old and I'm in 10th grade of High School. I was born in Philippines and I spent most of my childhood there, then we moved in Canada. It was my first time moving to another country, so I was a very shy student for a little while back in my school in New Brunswick. New Brunswick...
Read Story
GREAT VALLEYS AND FALLS WERE CREATED THROUGH PERSEVERANCE . They say life doesn't give you what you deserve but what you fight for.Life has all that we need to live like gold underneath the earth that you need to extract from the mother earth.In extracting it there levels of difficulties which we encounter .As we go deeper the earth there level that are soft and...
Read Story
TELLING THE TRUTH When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I got caught in a few lies, my father told me that if I ever find that I have to lie about what I was doing, then I was doing the wrong thing... I didn't reform my ways immediately but what he said stuck with me. I am now 66 years old and I've made a considerable effort...
Read Story
EZEQUIEL Happy #autismawarenessmonth everyone. This song is the culmination of my senior project at The Center School. My topic revolves around the Socioeconomic Status of people with autism and how it affects their education. This song, however, more talks about the subject of my topic and why I chose this topic. This...
Read Story
I LEAVE AND SURPRISINGLY RECLAIM MY CONFIDENCE I tendered my resignation 5 days before the end of 2018. I am worried because there is no other job offer. "Is that the correct decision?"I asked myself every morning. Tomorrow will be the 3rd weeks, and I can say it's the right decision. During these 3 weeks, I begin to brainstorm on how to replace the loss...
Read Story
MY SON WHO NEEDS FRIENDS While watching the pass it on commercial the similarity in her story matched my own with my 9 year old son. He is autistic spectrum as well. And he has no friends who are his peers. I am the only one that plays with him in the park. And it hurts so much. He offers to play with other children, but once they...
Read Story
MY EON I have a 3 year old who has autism his name is Ezra and he is a amazing little boy but everyone who meets him and learns he has autism tells me there sorry and treats him so different and tells me how sorry they are and he is a amazing little boy it's hard to get people to understand he's just like everyone else...
Read Story
BREAKFAST COMMENTS! I was having breakfast one morning with my four year granddaughter Charlie in our local Cracker Barrel. A sounthern older lady approached us as she was leaving. She commented on how adorable my granddaughter was. She said, she had been watching our interaction with each other as we ate out breakfast. We had...
Read Story
MOVING BACK TO PENNSYLVANIA When I was 11 years old, I had to move for the third time from Northern New Jersey to here, in North Wales, PA. Moving was very stressful; moreover, it had been about eight years since I had lived in the Philadelphia area. I was scared of going to a new school, adjusting to a new environment, and meeting new...
Read Story
I AM NOT MY CIRCUMSTANCES I am Jearlean Taylor from Baltimore, Maryland. I am author, fashion model, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, mentor, and woman of God. My life has proven to be a journey of unexpected challenges. I developed a rare form of cancer (Rhabdomysarcoma) at 3 years old. As a result of cancer, multiple surgeries(too...
Read Story
'TENACITY', IT'S MORE THAN CARING. When my mother finally acknowledged that she couldn't care for herself any longer, and agreed to come to Florida to stay with me, I didn't know how long this would be for, so it was impossible to prepare for the event In its entirety. I did however, make a decision to take her home and help to make her life as...
Read Story
MOTIVATION I motivate myself everyday to conquer school and the battle of life. Sometimes it can be a challenge but if you believe in yourself then you'll get through anything. My father motivates me everyday to make my day worth living. He told me that if I was brave enough that I could do anything in life. Be strong and...
Read Story
VETERAN SMILES During a trip to a local veteran’s hospital with my dad in 2012, a Marine Corps veteran, I noticed that many of the veterans lacked basic toiletries and lived too far from the hospital for family or friends to visit regularly. I was only 13 at the time, but decided to make a 4‑H service project to bring...
Read Story
NOT ONLY ME. There was a time where I completely gave up. A time where I thought I wasn’t worthy to live up to my dreams. I was wrong. I joined a school that helped me find myself. Helped me understand who I truly was, what I really wanted to be. They believed in me so much that I was completely connected with one particular...
Read Story
CANCER AT 22? My name is Zahra* and I am a warrior! I am sharing my story in the hope that if you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed with cancer, it will take you beyond the and help you through the difficult days ahead. Exactly 4 months after my wedding, I started having killing headaches. I was in great shape...
Read Story
42 YEARS AND GOING STRONG Not a day when I have doubted my love for this girl. We got to enjoy our 42’nd Wedding Anniversary, while visiting the stunningly rugged and beautiful Mayan towns surrounding Lake Atitlan in Guatemala this past week. A half hour speedboat ride across the lake, got us to the artisan town of San Juan la Laguna,...
Read Story
MY MOTHER About a year after my mother died, a teacher questioned me about who she was. When I finally gave her enough information to identity my mother, the teacher said " Oh! You mean that *kind* woman! " I thought "what a great commentary on a person's life," and resolved to try to live so that could be said about...
Read Story
THE POWER OF EMOTIONAL GRIT In the spring of 2016, I had my annual eye exam to get my contact prescription renewed. My eye doctor then recommended that I see a specialist, because I didn’t do as well on one of the tests for a second year in a row. The specialist in turn ran additional tests and took pictures of the backs of my eyes. In...
Read Story
ALWAYS STRIVE TO SHOW AND GIVE COMPASSION. ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN SHOWN NONE. My entire life, I had to work, and work hard to avoid being the brunt of rude and Difficult bullying. Even from home, even from my Own Mother. Even at 63, I'm still spurned by my blood Family. It's Sad to Hurt a Child so badly that they have a hard time forgetting the Same Family, and School bullying. Especially...
Read Story
THE DAY I LOSS HER Do you remember the last time you spoke to your mother? If you do, when was that? Do you remember the last time you expressed how much you love her? If so, when? I am unsure if it was only me but we tend to have this habit of shying away from the expressing how important our mother or our father to us. I...
Read Story
ON MY WAY HOME I have always reflexively helped others. No matter how big or small the action, I am driven to help others; open doors, share umbrella, let others go first at the store if they have fewer items, and have received a prestigious Magnet Award for compassion. I was driving home, north bound on a 6 lane highway. A...
Read Story
A STORY TO TELL So recently I got goosebumps. It was Friday, November 17. I was so pumped since it was the end of the week and we had planned to go out and eat for dinner. I went school like it was a normal day, but little did I know there was a shock waiting for me at school. There’s this boy in my band, Spanish and math...
Read Story
HONESTY During life time theirs going to be that one time in your life when you feel like telling a lie one your afraid of getting in trouble or two your embarrassed so you hide the truth so you tell a lie it's never okay to tell a lie about something even if it's not important you shouldn't lie because their is always a...
Read Story
THIRSTY FOR ART I am a free lance artist. I paint murals in schools, most elementary schools. I design educational murals as well as decorative murals. But the important part is, the students paint with me. Nearly 20 years ago I was inspired by a local muralist to paint a mural at my kids' school. Once I got started, I decided...
Read Story
CARING In a ram-shackled house, far from the village, lived a young man who was mentally impaired. He was always seen in the village, working hard to fill his old bag with discarded items and scraps of food. The children of the village sneered at him; the elderly villagers looked down on him and scolded their children...
Read Story
MY PASSION OF MUSIC! I was a kid in the 4th grade and I been inspired by people playing the flute. So when I started 4th grade, there was a program in my school where you could learn an instrument and play in the band. I signed up as soon as possible because the places where being taken away fast so I really wanted to play the...
Read Story
YOU CAN DO IT! Growing up i remember my weekly "career" announcements. Anchor woman, flight attendant and teacher, among many, many othrrs. Each week i heard " you can do that. You will be good at that". That was my mom and dad. Throughout life, i learned that not everyone believed in me the way my mom and dad believed in...
Read Story
LUCKY FIN FOR THE WIN! Hello my name is Ashley and I'm 23 years old. I was born missing the lower part of my right arm. I grew up in a day and age where I never saw anyone like me. You didn't see people with missing limbs working in your local grocery store, on TV, on billboards, or even being confident just walking around. I never had...
Read Story
MADISON my sister was born with down syndrome in 1997 after being alive for a few days , sadly she passed away . She was going to be my younger sister , i was going to take care of her and love her endlessly. i feel like God gave me a purpose in life to work with individuals with down syndrome, to put my devotion that i...
Read Story
NIGHT TO SHINE On February 9, 2018, I was a volunteer at NFL star Tim Tebow's Night to Shine, a prom for developmentally disabled individuals. It was the most amazing, humbling experience I have ever been a part of. These beautiful spirits believe they can do anything and who are we to tell them they can't? They sing. They...
Read Story
FAILURE Started as an average Asian kid, everything seemed normal and fun until I got to Grade 3. My grades were just dropping, my parents forced me to study harder and there were some tough nights where they would give me an hour long lectures which I hated, but had to deal with. Through grade 4, 5, and 6 I kept having...
Read Story
A BUS CONDUCTOR Well am not that much good in english..But I will try my best.. One day I get into a bus.Conductor came near by me.I gave him the money.And I said the name of the place.But conductor got angry.And said, "Are you didn't saw the bus board?This bus will not go to that place."I really felt sad.And I...
Read Story
STEP(UP)MOM When I began dating my husband, he had an 8 month old son. We married a short time later when baby boy was almost 14 months old. He has a mother, she tries to participate but usually falls short. I’ve always called him my baby., even though he’s now 8 years old. I’ve had 3 children since I’ve been married. When...
Read Story
Where did your values come from?

We've all had people in our lives who have made a positive impact on us. A parent or grandparent, a sibling who was there for us, or maybe even just a guy who shines shoes for a living? Whoever they are, tell us their story so they can inspire us even more.

Tell Us Your Story All Value Stories