Today, just over 8 months later,
we will finally be laying Ryan to rest.
I was extremely humbled to be the one to give the eulogy at his funeral,
and while it was tough to write and ever harder to read,
it still gives me comfort to re-read it.
A lot of people who couldn't be at the funeral asked for me to share it,
so I thought today to be the appropriate day to do just that.
When something unexpected like this happens, I imagine most people think of the should-a, could-a, would’as. And I no doubt found myself doing the same thing when I found out about Ryan.
‘I should not have pestered him on the way to school in the mornings.‘
‘I could have been more supportive of his beliefs.’
‘I should have never said anything about how he finished only half of his beverages every time.’
But the fact of the matter is that I was his sister, and he was my brother. We pinched and hit. He chased me with spit bubbles, and I made fun of him when he used to wear four watches on one arm.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know anything was different with Ryan until I was much older. It’s the reason that when I started crawling, I chose to do so with one arm and one leg. It’s the reason that I challenged him to WWF wrestling matches. We didn’t treat him as a little boy who was wounded in an accident at a young age. He was just our brother, and our family didn’t see him any differently that.
When we rode bikes to school, he scooted right beside us. When us girls were cheerleading, he kept the team stats. We tortured him by making him wear makeup, and he always hid the chocolate donuts from us in the kitchen cabinets. We all packed in the car like Griswald’s and traveled from sea to sea. He was just one of the Shuck kids.
It wasn’t until his high school graduation that I realized just how special Ryan was. Those ceremonies are dreadful for any kid, but when his name was called, the thousands of people that were in the ceremony hall all stood in one swoop to honor him in a standing ovation. I was overwhelmed. I had been in the presence of someone so truly spectacular my whole life. How did I miss this? So I started to pay more attention.
Ryan’s strength is something that I don’t think any of us will ever know. We can all lift weights, and run and dance, but his feats were beyond anything we could fathom.
He not only learned to play video games with one hand, but he was the best. No one could beat him. He even learned to play with the Nintendo play pad, which sometimes required both hands and feet. And he still somehow managed to beat our scores.
With a few minor additions to a vehicle, he learned to drive. He even coordinated his own carpool, taking me and my friends to school every day.
He stunned us all when he said he wanted to live at the college dorms at University of Tampa. He was the only one of us kids who didn’t find his way back to my parents’ house after college. He went on to rent, and then to own his own condo.
From there, our shy brother somehow became the Mayor of Soho. He was so active and so proud of his community. Every time I was in town to visit, he would take me on a walk to his favorite spots. On our journey, everyone, and I mean everyone, would shout, “Hey Ryan!” And I would ask, “Who was that?” and after he cackled his most contagious laugh, he would reply, “I have no idea.”
We seemed to rotate Daily Eats and The Deck – both places I swear he single-handedly kept in business. Once we had loaded up on burgers, fries or pizza (Ryan’s Holy trinity of food), we would head over to MacDinton’s, The Dubliner, or SoHo Tavern, where he would famously only drink half of his Coors Light before opening a fresh one.
During Happy Hour, he’d also defeat the system by visiting every beer station and hiding all of the beer bottles in his scooter basket.
He truly had no fear. His fearlessness gave him the strength to voice his opinions, something he probably didn’t have much of growing up in a house with mostly women. His rants and comments were bold, and often very publicly voiced on Facebook. And when we’d say something to him about it, he would just shrug and cackle.
His views were a most admirable quality about him. He saw life in a different way than all of us, and my most favorite memory of Ryan will forever be how he was able to capture that on camera. He saw beyond a person, place or thing. He saw beauty and emotion, and was able to portray that with one photograph. Perhaps that was the best part of not being able to move quickly. He was able to truly sit back and enjoy the show.
And enjoy he did. Ryan was rarely seen without a smile on his face. It was infectious, and this is why I assume is he was so popular in his community. He challenged people to realize that having differences didn’t mean being so different. That challenges are only what you make of them.
I don’t think he had any idea of the effect on people. It is positively the reason that I grew up and didn’t feel the need to judge anyone. The reason that I have friends of all shapes, sizes and colors. The reason that my children will grow up to be the same way. The reason my son from the moment he was mobile, would crawl and jump onto Ryan’s lap. He didn’t see a disability of any kind; he saw a loving uncle, who just had some sweet wheels and a horn.
That mindset alone brought on a huge shock to Ryan when I did the run for him last year. He gave me his blessing to publicize his life story to the world. And truthfully, I don’t think he was prepared for the overwhelming response that came our way. In the beginning he felt pitied, and he went months without speaking to me. But I knew I had to continue on because no one pitied him in the least; that race and that fundraiser was about overcoming obstacles, and Ryan was the king of them all. I may have run the miles, but it was he who lapped me several times over in the marathon of life.
Team Hoyt’s slogan is “Yes You Can,” but Ryan’s is “Yes He Did.”
And that’s how we should leave today. Ryan’s life was incredibly short, but not one moment went by that wasn’t fulfilled. What takes some of us a lifetime to achieve, he was able to do in 31 years – and that should be celebrated. He taught us all so much in that short time, and now it is our duty to keep his spirit alive. We must be strong and never second guess our strength. We must be kind and put differences aside so that we may learn from one another. We should act spontaneously and go places we never thought we could go. We should never give up and always continue to challenge ourselves.
We should wipe away our tears because Ryan would think that this was lame. I’m sure we’re all getting a few grunts right now from wherever he is. And lastly, we should drink copious amount of Coors Light, but immediately toss when the Rockie’s lose their blue.
Thank you all for coming. Your love, support and friendship to Ryan will always mean the world to us.