I will always remember Ryan 
This is a sad time and hopefully this site will help us all keep Ryan in our thoughts. Losing Ryan was like losing a piece of me. We were so alike in so many ways, but he was way more together than I am. His ability to wait until the last minute and pull it off was a special gift and he was a black belt master at it and I was an amateur. His spirit, drive and humor make it easy for people to love Ryan. I was looking forward to being his father in-law someday :) Ryan will always have a special place in our family and Lynn, Ronny D and Ross will always be part of our family and we think about them often. Fond memories that will always last.
Chris Murphy

Comments

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

I just saw a news clip about James Gandolfini dying at the age of 51. My first thought was "Oh my, how excited Ryan must be for Tony Soprano to join him in heaven.".



Dad and I have both been so sad lately - missing you so badly it hurts. We both continue to hope our life on this earth doesn't have to last too many more years. We make the best of it but we continue to walk around with a gigantic hole in our hearts.



Brendan finished his masters and is officially a teacher. Bryan and Seymour graduated. Your friends are getting married, having babies,- crazy stuff. It breaks our hearts that you aren't among them.



We love and miss you so very, very much.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

Today I ran across an appeal from Wikipedia for a donation to keep them going. I sent them a small one in your memory since you loved Wikipedia so much. I even sent a note telling them about you and how you introduced me to Wikipedia and how you used it so much during high school. I knew you would want me to support them a bit so I did. They responded with a really sweet note.



Duke Leffler posted a nice message about you on Facebook the other day. Here's what he said about you.



"First time I met him our PE Coach Mr Abbey introduced us and told me to watch out for him. He was quiet and soft spoken for about a day until he made friends with everyone in our class and everyone in the school.Great kid. Magnanimous personality and a natural born winner and leader. He touched a ton of lives."



We miss you so very much sweet boy.



All my love

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Sweet Ry,



Tonight we saw the movie Lincoln about your man, Abraham. What a great movie it was and oh how you would have liked it. I kept thinking that throughout the whole 2 1/2 hours. I was also remembering you telling me about all the tragedies in their family and how grief drove Mary mad. I knew Robert was the only son to outlive his mother because you had told me. My heart hurt for poor Mary and I appreciated how well the directors portrayed the ravages of parental grief. We bereaved parents get it in a different way than the average movie goer unfortunately.



We had another Fanksgiving without you. Our 6th. Unbelievable. Today as I was eating leftovers for lunch, I realized that the leftovers make me miss you more than the actual feast. You loved the leftovers and were always sad when they petered out.



I have decided to not do a Remembering Ryan Reunion this year. I feel disloyal and guilty for not doing it but it's just too hard. Seeing all your friends and hearing about their LSAT scores, their first years at Med School,their new careers, their engagements and even new babies..... It's all too much and takes a toll on Dad and me. In the early years, we were hurting so badly that nothing could really make it worse and seeing them all made us feel your presence a bit. Now that our wounds have scabbed over some, certain things are harder than they used to be. So I pray they all will still remember you without the party and that no one thinks we are "over it". We will never be "over it". It's just that our survival techniques change with time.



Derrick Serpa posted something on Facebook about the Thanksgiving weekend football game at Lakewood. Oh how you would have been there! You loved that tradition and never missed it.



I can't begin to tell you how much I love and miss you sweet boy.



All my love

mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I just watched a TV special on Michael Phelps. I turned to Dad and said "I wish Ryan could have seen that." The whole Olympics make me miss you more than normal.

I first heard of Michael Phelps from you. When skinny little Spenser Vaughn joined the MoHi swim team, you immediately nicknamed im Phelps because he swam so fast. You would have loved to watch the Michael Phelps journey over the last 5 years.

Both swimming and diving at the Olympics make me long to have you sitting in our family room watching it with us.

We survived the 5th anniversary of your death. It was a hard week though. Falling on the same day of the week added a new level of PTSD. The week was even hotter than normal just like the year you died. All day on Friday, I kept thinking "5 years ago today, we buried our boy." The moon was full - just like in that same week in 2007. Then on Saturday, after a hot week, the weather turned and was eerily mild and overcast - exactly like it was 5 years ago on the day after your funeral. Really weird.

Today at Oodles, a customer asked me "Who was Ryan?" So I told him. He seemed visibly affected by your story. He offered his condolences and when he started to leave, he walked over to me, shook my hand and told me that every night he says prayers with his little girl and tonight they will include a prayer for you.

Love and miss you so much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet boy,
Here we are on the cusp of the 5th anniversary of your death. And this year has an added layer of angst in that the 29th will fall on a Sunday, the day of the week that you died, for the first time since it happened. Makes it harder, if that is possible.

I have been looking at pictures of you today - so handsome, so happy. You brought so much joy to our lives and we miss you more than words can say. Already, several of your friends have changed their Facebook profile photo to include you. Makes me tear up to see them - tears of gratitude that you are still on their minds after 5 sad years.

Time is such a strange beast. 5 years feels like both forever and yesterday. On one hand I'm grateful for the lessening of the pain that time has brought but on the other hand, I resent it for taking me further away from you.

I so often wonder what you would be doing with your life if you were still alive. I watch your friends graduate; start careers; go to law school, med school, B school; get married, even have babies. All without you! It makes me so sad. Dad and I still don't really do graduation parties or weddings. They are just too painful for us - especially for your peers. I'm sure some people think we're selfish for that but they will just have to think what they will. Until they have walked a mile in our shoes, it's hard to realize the pain we continue to endure. As a friend wrote on my facebook post today...."ah, the wound that never heals". She is right.

Last weekend I attended the National Compassionate Friends conference. Spent the weekend with 1400 other bereaved parents. It was a bit startling to be in the presence of so many who share our loss. I attended some excellent sessions and benefited from the conference. Heard a lot of sad stories too. No matter how bad we might have it, seems we can always find someone who has it worse.

I am trying so hard to stay one step in front of the depression demons this weekend. We're leaving town tomorrow and returning on Monday morning. These anniversary dates are so very difficult. Dad, Ross, Annie and I have a fun outing in San Francisco planned and then Annie is making dinner - some of your favorite foods. It will be good to be together on that sad day.

I pray there is a heaven and we will be together again soon.

Love you with all my being Ry
Ma



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

Yesterday we received a lovely thank you note from David. Dad made me read it out loud to him since he knew he would cry. And he did cry. Here's what David said.

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Dickerson,

It is hard to put into words the gratitude and appreciation I feel for being chosen as the recipient of the Ryan Hunter Dickerson Character Trait Award. I am honored and humbled to have been chosen to receive this award and promise to do all I can to carry on the legacy of compassion, humor, and drive that Ryan exemplified. Althought it was through my brothers that I knew Ryan, I still felt a connection with his warm and loving personality. Whenever I would see Ryan, whether it was at a swim meet, water polo match, or when he was over at my house working out with Nathan, he and I would playfully size each other up and play wrestle. Every time we finished (and of course he beat me) he always told me "you are almost there, you'll get me next time." Although I knew he was my brothers' friend, it was easy for me to feel as if he was my friend too.

I will always try to live my life with as big of a heart as Ryan had, for the way he loved cand cared for others was truly unique.

Most sincerely,

David Bennett


We love and miss you so much sweet boy.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Wow - there are so many things I want to tell you. I wish I could pick up the phone and call you. I wish I could hear your voice.

Topaz the wonderdog has bone cancer and is having her leg amputated on Friday. We are all so sad but Steve & Debra are heart broken. She is their baby. Her life expectancy is short now - a matter of months. I hope dogs go to heaven and she can run and play with you when she gets there. She always loved to romp with you and Debra always said she needed a boy like you in her life.

Our speaker at Rotary today was the Rubes cartoon creator. It was bittersweet thing for me. I laughed at the funny cartoons but I was sad I couldn't buy one of his books and have it autographed for you. You LOVED Rubes and often laughed out loud at them over your breakfast.

Last week we presented the scholarship and character award in your name at Modesto High. Clare Conrotto, a water polo player and swimmer won the scholarship. A girl after my own heart, she handed me a thank you note as I handed her the scholarship. In the sweet note she said while she never knew you, the stories about you on the pool deck are legendary. And David Bennett won the Character award. I cried when I made the presentation. I said I knew you were smiling down from heaven knowing Nathan and Austin's little brother was getting your award. He's a GREAT kid and we love him. He's West Point bound, just like his brothers. Those Bennetts hit the jackpot when it comes to raising great kids.

Lane and Jasi are both headed to the STate finals in Jr High and High School rodeo in the next few weeks. Lane is quite the stud in all events. You would be so proud of them. They all wear number 6 in your honor. Such a sweet gesture.

Dad and I are working like crazy people.7 days a week, many hours a day but it's fun. And working at this manic pace keeps our depression demons at bay.

Love and miss you so much bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Yesterday I was invited to LaLoma Jr High to speak to their Leadership class. Miss Kanaly is their teacher and the one who invited me. She adored you, as I hope you know, and she asked me up front if it was okay for the kids to ask me questions about you since she felt you epitomized a good leader. I told her I LOVE to be asked about you so ask they did. I was there an hour and was able to talk about you much of the time. I made Miss Kanaly cry a few times and I think the kids were touched by your story. One sweet boy hugged me when it was over and told me he was sorry for my loss. Very sweet.

As I walked on the campus I reminisced about your jr. high days - the least fun time of your life, I believe, yet you still excelled and shone. I gazed at the football field and remembered watching you captain the flag team. The gym reminded me of the jr high dances that Dad and I chaperoned, as well as the awards ceremonies where you were honored. I can still see your 12-14 year old self with braces on your teeth and that mop of shaggy hair. Those are the years you befriended Brendan, and met Kevin and Jeremy. You, Chris, Mark, Kevin, Jeremy and a gaggle of others had many fun days toilet papering houses, making movies with home video cameras, and learning to play poker.

This morning I got a Carepages update from an old colleague who has a 7 year old son with serious kidney problems. In the post, they used the following quote by Clara Claiborne Parks. I liked it though I wouldn't hold out my hands and accept this lot in life if given a choice. No sirree, I wouldn't.


“So, then: this experience we did not choose, which we would have given anything to avoid, has made us different, has made us better. Through it we have learned the lesson that no one studies willingly, the hard, slow lesson of Sophocles and Shakespeare – that one grows by suffering…. If today I were given the choice, to accept the experience with everything it entails, or to refuse the bitter largesse, I would have to stretch out my hands – because out of it has come, for all of us, an unimagined life. And I will not change the last word of the story. It is still love.”

I love and miss you so very, very much sweet boy.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
On Friday, Friday the 13th as it was, two special people joined you in heaven. GrandBob, Ross Parker's grandfather who loved you too, died after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a month ago. And then my dear friend Jane Johnston died after suffering an arrhythmia while driving to the Sacramento airport. GrandBob was in his 80s's so he had a long and full life. Christy is very sad, of course. Jane was only 60 though and a very youthful 60. Her family is devastated - shocked just like we were when you died. I am sad too. She was my really good friend and I will miss her.

I hope you see them both in Heaven. You and GrandBob reminisce about the old hockey days at SkateWhirl and Jane tells you how much you are missed in Modesto.

Also on Friday, I had an experience that made me realize there are things worth than death. A couple and their handicapped daughter came to see me at the Gallo Center. The daughter is 26 and uses a walker and has a hard time talking. After we took care of the business they came for, I asked the dad in private what his daughter's disability was. He said "Severe brain trauma" She was perfectly healthy until a horse riding accident 13 years ago. She almost died, spent months in a coma but lived and is now permanently disabled. I realized how easily that could be you. As much as I long to have your physical presence in our lives, I wouldn't want you to live like that.

Love and miss you so much sweet boy. Give my friends a welcome to heaven hug.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ry,
I don't write to you here very often anymore - not because I don't still miss you dreadfully; not because I don't still think of you all the time. Life has regained a rhythm and it's a busy one. Dad and I work 7 days a week. And many of those days are long ones but it's work we enjoy and it helps keep our depression demons from overtaking us.

I often try to describe my "new normal" life as having had your leg amputated. I have learned to walk again with my prosthetic device but I'm still an amputee and always will be.

Last week was Easter and we missed you. I try not to think about what you might be doing with your life if you hadn't died. But it's hard because your absence is as big as your presence was. You loved Easter candy; you didn't like Easter ham. I remembered the sunrise service where Tyler played the trumpet and you & I sat with Debra. I have a picture of you and Debra from that early cold morning.

I took Chris G to lunch today for his birthday. 23. I've now known him half his life. So hard to believe you would be a fully grown 23 year old. You will always be my sweet boy, perpetually frozen in all our memories at 18.

I still long to be with you and look forward to that day.

all my love
mom

Anonymous 
Dear Ryan,
You've impacted my life far more than anyone I have ever known. Sure my parents raised me, and taught me right from wrong, but you've taught me more about myself than I had ever thought a person could possibly teach. Your words still ring in my ears, especially when I need them most.
Thank you.



Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy.

Brendan posted this on his Facebook on your birthday. Mrs. Pugh pointed it out to me last night. It made me cry as Brendan's sweetness often does. Here's what he said.

For your 14th birthday, I got you a book -- "I Am the Messenger," by Markus Zusak. Most of the time when I gave people books for their birthday I could expect, at best, a blank stare, but I could always count on you to react differently. True to form, you read it in a few days, and I remember arguing with you about the protagonist's motivations. I sat on your bed and you paced your room like a world-famous Princeton professor stuck in a shaggy-haired 14 year old body.

Earlier this week a student asked me if I had read anything by Markus Zusak and I froze, lost in my memory. She gave me a weird look and I told her I'd explain later. I bought a copy off Amazon last night, and I'm going to write a letter to put inside so she can understand. "Dear Valentina," it's going to start. "My best friend and I loved this book."

Lauren Nutter also sent us a lovely message about what a great guy you were and how you helped a shy, insecure girl feel welcome and part of the crowd. You were such a special boy.

Love and miss you so much.
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Happy birthday bud.
23 years ago tonight you were born in Lewisville Memorial Hospital. You weren't the baby girl I was expecting but what a gift you were.

Dad and I have cried much of the day. Even though this day is less awful than the day you died, it's still a hard day. Sweet Taylor, who works for us at Oodles, brought cupcakes to Dad before school this morning and arranged to meet Mallory to give her flowers for me. So thoughtful. Debra sent beautiful flowers with a card that made me sob. Others send cards, facebook messages, emails, etc. Our hearts are touched that so many people still remember and acknowledge the anniversary of your birth.

Dad, Ross and I had pizza together tonight in your honor. We miss you so very, very much. Our little family is like a chair that has lost one of its four legs. We are off centered and clumsy without you. You, the happy one, the joyful one, the one who lit up the room, the one who always made us laugh. I told someone today I never believed I could survive 4 1/2 years without you.

Five more days until my birthday and then the Dickerson birthday marathon will be over for another year, thank goodness.

So now I will go off to bed and remember that joyful day 23 years ago when you made your grand entrance into this world and made it a better place for 18 years, 5 months and 13 days.

All my love sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ryan,

Christmas has come and gone once again. 5 times without you. Unbelievable. You were always the joyful Christmas person in our family so your absence is as huge as your presence was. We miss you so very, very much. We miss you at the Pughs on Christmas Eve with all the pretty girls and the talk of new careers and international adventures. What would you be doing with that promising life of yours at 22? We miss you on Christmas morning. There's no one to wake us early with happiness and anticipation bursting forth. There's no one to sit under the tree surrounded by packages saying heartfelt thanks for every thing. We miss you at Christmas dinner when the feast is prepared. This year it was a yummy tenderloin and you, my carnivore, would have eaten half of it. We even miss you here with leftovers. There are far more leftovers with you gone.

The Remembering Ryan Reunion was successful again. About 70 of your friends came. It was loud, crowded and fun. It's a bittersweet night for Dad and me. We are happy to see the old gang(s) but it makes us miss you even more. You should be with them. Lance is in Tokyo so he wasn't here. I think Mark had already left for Hawaii so he wasn't here. Derrick is in Italy so he wasn't here. Kevin & Jeremy didn't make it this year. But lots and lots of others did. You are still loved and missed sweet boy.

We actually had the best Christmas since you died. It was good to have Ross back with us. He's happy these days. He's in love and he has a new job with lots of promise. He is in a very good place and for that we are all grateful. As I've always said, a mother is only as happy as her least happy child. So now poor Ross carries the full burden all by himself.


A new year will begin in just a few days. I always feel melancholy about new years, knowing that the year will hold both blessings and sadness. People we love will die. We just don't know who it will be. We will begin the 5th calendar year without you in it. Time flies and for that I am also grateful. We'll be together again soon.

Loving and missing you much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's Christmas time once again. Our 5th one without you. How have we survived them all? This one is less awful than the first 4. We still cry and there are still many things that poke us in tender spots but all in all, we are weathering the "season of joy" with a little more of it in our own hearts.

Yesterday I did a Ryan Random Act of Kindness. Dad and I were at In-n-Out having a late lunch while we were running errands. I noticed a scraggly guy with one wire crutch come in, look at the menu board, stand there a few minutes and then walk out again. Normally, I'm not very observant of those kinds of things because I'm usually my normal, busy, multi-tasking self. But notice him I did and no one else seemed to. So I said to Dad.."I think that guy is hungry." He wasn't panhandling - just wishing, or so I thought. I thought about it a minute and then went outside to look for him. I found him around the corner, counting a handful of change. I asked him if he wanted something to eat and he said he was 53 cents short. I told him to come back in and I would buy lunch for him. He followed me to the counter and said "just a cheeseburger would be great" so I bought him a #2. He tried to give me his handful of change but I told him it was "on me" and was my Christmas gift to him. He was very appreciative. When I got back to my seat, Dad said "Ry would have done that. I bet he's proud of you."

Today I am baking cookies with Rachel and Suzy, our Olympic hopefuls. Mine are for next Friday's 5th Annual Remembering Ryan Reunion. 5 Christmases without you. Unbelievable.

Timmy Joo stopped by Oodles yesterday. He looks great. All grown up, fit. You would be proud of him, I know. It makes Dad and me happy that your friends still love us and come visit. Speaks volumes about the kind of friend you were to them.

I've been trying to reach out to the parents of another boy who went to heaven earlier this month. He was your age - graduated the same year you did but from Davis. I wonder if you knew him. Chris G and Bryan did. I haven't been able to reach him parents yet but I think of them all the time knowing the hell they are living through right now. ugh. There's no end to the suffering in this life.

So wish you were here to make our holidays happy as you always did. We miss you more than words can say.

Love you bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryanizer,
Here we are on our 5th Thanksgiving without you. So hard to believe how time marches on. This one is less awful. We still miss you beyond what words can describe but for the first time, I actually feel a bit of holiday spirit. I had a major meltdown yesterday morning while in the kitchen prepping. I sobbed through peeling potatoes and making the dressing. I don't know what you would be doing at this stage of your life. Hopefully you would have graduated from WashU last spring. You would either be gainfully employed or in law school or possibly looking for work like so many other recent college grads. But you would have been coming home yesterday. I grieve that you didn't.

We have a big group coming for "the feast" today but even with a house full of friends and loved ones, there will be a big hole. Your absence is as big as your presence was. We ALL miss you. Susan P texted me yesterday and said she knows you and Brianna would have argued over the dressing.

As I was addressing envelopes for the 5th Annual Remembering Ryan reunion invitations earlier this week, I noticed how many entries in my contact list are people I didn't know before you died. That sort of weirds me out. To think people know us without having known you is a strange sensation. But life keeps moving, even for those of us who have suffered losses so big we thought they were unsurvivable. I have a few newly widowed friends who are facing their first holidays without their mates. And there's my cousin Tina's family facing the holidays without their mom, wife, daughter. Life is full of suffering. I am now finally at a stage where I can understand I'm not the only person in the world to have experienced such suffering.

I continue to pray there is an afterlife, a heaven - and that it's all we hope it to be. If there is, I know you're happy and whole and making it an even better place. Can't wait to join you there someday soon.

Love you more than words can say. And I'm thankful I was your ma and you were my boy for 18 years, 5 months and 13 days.

Mom

PAULA 
DEAR LYNN,
YOU DONT KNOW ME AND I DONT KNOW YOU, BUT SOME HOW THIS SITE COME UP AND I STARTED TO READ YOUR NOTES AND I CRYED THE WHOLE TIME. THIS IS SO AWESOME HOW YOU HONOR YOUR SON..GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY..PAULA

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Last weekend we cleaned our storage unit. As Dad pointed out, we have spent $6000 over the past 5 years storing $500 worth of crap. But it's empty now. So earlier today Dad and I were going through it, trying to sort through things - give away, throw away, etc - to get our garage in order. I took the time to re-read the hundreds of birthday cards I got for my 50th almost 4 years ago. I turned 50 just 7 months after you died so I wasn't in a celebratory mood to say the least. Dad did a sweet thing by asking all our friends - far and wide - to send a card to me. I got lots and lots of card. I read them all in February of 2008 but couldn't bring myself to throw them out. Today I re-read them all and kept the ones with really special messages. I cried a lot as I read them.

This one was from Mikey Joo. It made me cry. Here's what he said:

"Dear Mrs. D,
Happy Birthday! I wish you the most sincere birthday wishes and I hope that the year will bring you some comfort and ease in your life. Although I know that you find any mere gift from me incomparable to the gift you had in Ryan, take comfort in the fact that Ryan watches us from heaven. At times, I like to think about the paintings and pictures in Harry Potter that had the ability to watch the Hogwarts students go about their lives. In that sense, I know that Ryan has a presence in our dorm rooms across the country and a presence most strongly felt in your own home. I will pray especially for you these coming days, but I certainly won't forget to include Mr. D and Ross ni my prayers."

We miss you so much, bud. Dad and I talk about you every day. We went to the movie last night and saw Footloose. The main character had a lot of Ryan in him and we reminisced about how you went before the school board when they banned riding scooters to school. You were a special boy and we were honored to be your Ma and Pa.

love you so very much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry
Over the long holiday weekend I subjected Dad and myself to unnecessary pain. I let my entrepenurial spirit overtake my emotional protection devices. For some crazy reason, I signed us up to sell Oodles On the Go at the water polo tournament at the Johansen pool. Yikes - what was I thinking or better yet, why wasn't I thinking? Just driving up there triggered post traumatic stress for both of us. The whistles, the screaming coaches (yes, Chiavetta hasn't calmed down one iota), the smell of chlorine, the speedo clad young, fit, tanned bodies, the pool bleached hair, the cheering parents, the moms wearing shirts proclaiming them WaterPolo Moms, the pre-game cheers, the post game hand shakes. ugh. It was awful. We literally had to just zone out and focus on our job at hand. We couldn't watch the games. We could barely stay in the pool complex. So many memories. So many ghosts.

Our community is raising money to by a service dog for a little boy named Ryan McGowan who has a serious illness. His supporters have purchased latex bands that say Prayers for Ryan and they are selling them for a $1 donation. We have a donation box at Oodles and I noticed this little Ryan was born on your 20th birthday. Kinda spooky.

I recently read the following quote in a Compassionate Friends newsletter. It was part of a story written by a mom whose 19 year old son committed suicide. 4 years later, her husband (the boy's dad) also committed suicide. She said “It’s difficult for parents to comprehend that we can survive the pain of a child’s death, and the reality is that some parents don’t survive.” I often ruminate on how hard it is to continue on with life; to put a smile on our faces every day; to muster up the energy it takes to keep going - to continue being productive. I totally understand that dad's despair and hopelessness. (I was there myself for such a long, long time.) But at the same time, I feel such sadness for the poor mom who had to suffer the loss of her son and her husband.

Dad and I miss you terribly Ry. I had lunch with Brendan recently and we discussed what you would be doing with your life right now if you were still here. We all long for that.

All my love plus some
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
Today I came across an article a fellow bereaved mom gave me a while back because the author of this article lost her son to an undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmia. The same thing we believe took you. I read it again today and find I feel so similar to this mom who wrote this article at the very same point in her journey as I now find myself. 4 years in. Here's what Sue Dudek said:

"As I write this, th efourth anniversary of my son's death is days away. Every year when the calendar turns to October my thoughts turn to all the "lasts" we experienced with Chris - our last Parents' Weekend, our last family celebration, his last visit home, our last hug good-bye. October is painful; it represents the moment in history that divides my life into the "before" and the "after". Life "before" was good, our family was happy, the futre was bright. LIfe "after" has been a struggle to survive unspeakable pain, re-establish a new normal, and face a future that is littered with shattered dreams, assumptions, and expectations.

The person I am now barely resembles who I was four years ago. I have gained an acute awareness of suffering and a heightened sense of empathy yet I have lost th eability to dream, the luxury of lightheartedness, and what it feels like to experience joy. At the best of times, I have a tenuous peace with sorrow; in my worst moments I am consumed by a profound sense of emptiness. At all times I ache with missing him, an ache I expect will never cease. How could anything or anyone fill his place in my heart, my mind, my soul? It is his space, his and mine; it is sacred.

And yet, as I have recently admitted to a select few, I have begun to feel "better". Better does not mean I am "moving on" without Chris, that I am " getting over" the loss, or that I am regaining my former self. For me, better means learning to coexist with the sorrow and letting go of the "why?". There isn't an answer to the why that could possibly satisfy me, that could make me say "Oh, so that's why he died. Now I understand. I'm okay with that." Learning to live with mystery is akin to admitting that there is little in this life that we actually control; the only thing we do control is how we react to life's experiences. In the case of losing a child, the option to choose is very slow in coming because the shock is disabling and prolonged. Eventually the opportunity to choose comes, but it is not easy or simple or even obvious. To choose to let go of the blackness is a coice that needs to be mad eeach and every day - consciously, actively, and repeatedly. Feeling better is a journey, not an endpoint.

I will never stop loving Chris, never love him less than completely and wholeheartedly. For the rest of my life I will regret that he is not here to share, to love, to experience, to be. Despite all the pain and heartache, I thank God every single day that I had him for 21 yearss. I wanted more - for him, for me, for my husband and girls, for everyone who loves him. It was not to be. I am grateful for what I had. Perhaps that is what "better" is all about."


This mom puts it well. I agree with everything she says. I find lately that I have begun to come to a place of appreciating that I had 49 good years of life; that we had you until you finished high school. Like this mom, I wanted so much more and I miss you with every fiber of my being but I'm so glad I had you. How much I would have missed out of without you.

All my love
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Here we are on the 4th anniversary of the worst day of our life. Dad and I have both cried all day. We are both at work but likely not very productive.

Last night Debra texted me and said "Thinking of you, Ron and Ross. 4 years ago today was the last normal day you had in life." So true.

4 years ago this morning, I awoke to a chaotic house filled with partically unpacked boxes. Dad was in Yosemite, having hiked to the top of Half Dome by moonlight over night with a group of guys. I unpacked a while, then went and redeemed my Mother's Day gift certificate for a massage and pedicure. As I was leaving the dressing room, you called and we talked very briefly - not knowing it would be our very last conversation in this life. After my spa treatments I stopped at Target (I now think I was in Target when you died.) I went home and unpacked boxes - many holding our family's photos from the past 20+ years. I looked through many of the albums and felt nostalgic. A few hours later, the phone rang and Moak told me there had been a terrible accident and you had drowned. My life as I knew it stopped at that point and this new one began. I remember bees buzzing in my head and feeling like I was floating outside my body. I remember being incredibly thirsty but not eating for days. That's when we descended into hell where we stayed for a really long time.

I still marvel that we have survived this long. I still can't believe you really died. I still have moments where I think "this can't be true. Surely this didn't really happen to us."

That old saying "time heals all wounds" is wrong. Some wounds are too deep to heal. But thankfully it scabs them over enough that we can go on with some semblance of life.

As in past years, your friends and ours have been terrific today. Dad and I have had dozens of texts, emails, facebook messages, cards, flowers. We are loved and you were loved. Brendan's facebook post made us both sob this morning. Here's what he said:


"Four years? No, that can't be right. Weren't we just talking yesterday? I've been struggling lately, but whenever it gets bad I close my eyes and climb into the Range Rover, and we drive off. And you always listen, and you always laugh, and by the time I open my eyes, I always feel a little better. So I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate that. I don't know where I'd be without you. I love you so much"

Brianna,Brianne, Mallory, Lance,Leigh, and Debra changed their profile picture to one with you in it. Annie B posted a prom picture. All those things make me feel a little better - knowing you aren't forgotten. How awful it would be if this day passed without anyone acknowledging our profound loss.

Tonight YES Co is dedicating their performance of Hairspray to you. So sweet. Last Sunday, Steve & Debra bought the altar flowers in your memory. Mr. Griffith took flowers to your grave. The Serpas did a random act of kindness for Steve, Dad's blind customer/friend in your memory. So much love for us and you, sweet boy.

Love and miss you more than words can say.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Here we are - another 4th of July - our 4th without you. The fireworks stands remind me of you and how much you loved them and the 4th. Tonight as I type this, fireworks are going off all over the neighborhood and I am reminded of the Fireworks Extravaganzas you, Kevin, Jeremy and Chris used to have on our tennis court.
And then 4th of July reminds me of some of the last times we had together. On your last 4th, you, Dad and I walked to our church to watch the parade together. There are pictures of us from that day. How innocent we were - going on about our lives not realizing that a mere 25 days later, our lives would be horribly changed forever. The last photo I ever took of you was in front of our Wycliffe house on July 4 with Natalie, Tyler and John.

Today we sold Oodles in front of the church. It was fun and we were busy so it kept my mind occupied. Bret and Gran are here for a visit. I have so enjoyed my time with 10 year old Bret. We talk about you a lot. And this afternoon I got out some of your old toys for him to play with. He asks me questions about you. I'm sure he doesn't REALLY remember you but he remembers the essence of you, as Aunt Les described. And that essence is good. You were always so sweet and fun to the cousins.

Having Bret reminds me how much I miss having little boys in my daily life. I've been to the grocery store more in the past 2 days than I normally go in a month. I have bought "boy food" that I miss buying in this new life I live.

Dad and I had a great time in Europe. We rode 400 kms over 8 days. You would be proud of us. I thought of you and Ross the whole time. I saw young families and little boys and longed for the days when you were both young. I want a re-do. Every village we passed through, I saw something I wanted to buy for you or tell you about.

I love and miss you so very much sweet boy. It's hard to believe you have been gone almost 4 years.

mom

Aunt Les 
So now go with the wind at your back and the sun on your face
With a song in your heart and the promise of grace
Go in peace and in truth and let love lead your way
Go with God. Go with God.

We all stil love and miss you.

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well, here we are. After months of being on the calendar, the trip to Germany and Austria is only 2 days away. I am still not excited - only a bit anxious about the long plane ride and nervous about leaving Oodles for two full weeks. I have been at a dead run for weeks it seems so I am exhausted. Last night was our big fundraiser for GCA. It went beautifully and we raised a bunch of money. whew! glad to have it behind us.

Brendan and Brianne are graduating this weekend. Lancey and Alyssa too. Brianna, Mallory and Kevin are already done. I am so proud of them all and happy for them yet it is painful to watch them do it without you. The depression demons have almost sunk my boat many times in the last few months. It's a daily struggle to outrun them.

I was getting my hair cut on Wednesday afternoon and the dad of one of your good friends was in the chair near me. He hadn't seen me yet and was telling the hairdresser of his daughter's recent graduation trip. I literally put my fingers in my ears so I wouldn't have to hear it. It's that painful.

I had another interaction with a mom recently who lamented how disappointed she was that we would have to miss her daughter's graduation party because of our vacation. I told her we likely wouldn't have come anyway because these graduations are so hard for us. She said "Well you can't blame us for being proud of our kids!" I told her I didn't blame her at all and that I was proud of her kid too - but that doesn't mean it isn't excruciating to witness when my kid is dead.

One thing about having your child die, you certainly learn sensitivity. I'm sure I was as insufferably boastful in my old life as I find some friends to be now. But others are incredibly thoughtful and kind, realizing just how much pain we live with constantly. I appreciate those friends so very much. And i appreciate the ones who cry with me and say "It's just not fair. Ryan should be graduating too."

I still wonder daily why God chose Dad and me to give a heapin' helping of suffering in this life. Life is too hard.

Last week I bought soccer jerseys for 5 Airport neighborhood kids in my memory. And tonight I bought a $40 candy bar to buy school supplies for kids in the Philippines. I did that in your name too. You would like both of those things.

I love and miss you so much buddy.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I don't feel well tonight for some weird reason and it makes my sadness even worse. This spring, especially May, has been very hard. Your friends are graduating from college, as you would be. My friends are flying off to see their kids graduate from college. It's probably much more joyful for the parents than the kids. Dad and I feel robbed of that joy in life. We should have gone to St Louis this month and proudly sat in the stands while you crossed the stage in cap & gown. But we didn't get to do that. Instead we went to Modesto High and gave two scholarships in your memory. Life is so very unfair.

Between graduations and Mother's Day, this month has worn me down. I'm tired and sad and longing to be with you.

I can't help but think how unfair it is that Tina, my 42 year old first cousin, died last week from a massive heart attack, leaving three kids, a grandchild and a sweet husband & mother who are lost without her. Why couldn't it have been me?!!!! She is still needed here and has lots to live for. I'm free to go and more than ready. I don't understand this life.

Mallory wore her Ryan bracelet as she graduated last Saturday - a sweet gesture of taking you with her across the stage. Made me cry to read that in her text.

Natalie sent me a sweet mother's day card and said how she would have liked to have called me "Ma". That made me cry too.

I hope Dad and I feel better once June rolls around. We're going to Europe on a bicycling trip for 2 weeks. I wish I was excited about it - I should be - but I'm not.

I love and miss you more than words can say.

Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's finally spring after a long, cold, wet winter. I'm sure there are still some cool rainy days ahead but we have a week of sunshine in the forecast and for that I am grateful.

One of our Oodlers is on the swim team at MoHi. The NorCal Relays were yesterday so today he was telling me about them. There was an incident of one kid not being in place to swim the butterfly at the appointed time so Taylor had to swim it, even though it isn't his stroke. Can't you hear Chiavetta screaming about that? Dad and I chuckled thinking how you could have easily been the kid who spaced out and missed the race or the kid who jumped in and swam an event you weren't prepared for. We miss those days.

I just finished reading a fabulous book called Not Fade Away - A short life well lived. It's about a smart, successful media executive who died from stomach cancer at 51. He wrote a book about his life and his death. I checked it out from the library but I'm going to buy it so I have it forever since I loved it so much. He said a lot of things I really liked but this passage was especially meaningful to me.

"...the soul is something that should be outside the reach of physical pain. Pain, I realize now, is one of the things that urges us to separate the soul from the body. I'm not being flippant if I put it in business terms; those terms just make a lot of sense to me. The soul and the body are like long-term business partners. For some decades they make a brilliant team. They each bring somemthing esential to the party of life; they really complement each other. But when things head south for the body, the soul must either be dragged down or take steps to dissolve the partnership.

There's a next level where the soul can go, and the body can't. Not that dissolving a partnership is ever easy. But the alternative is even worse. Let the soul be sullied by the complaints of the body, and you've lost not only in one of life's arenas, but two."

I love that explanation. I'm just so sad your business partnership had to be dissolved after less than 2 decades when some people get 9 or 10 decades! Not fair, not fair, not fair!

I love and miss you so very much.
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
dear Ry,
Today at lunch I was at a Board meeting where I complemented the Executive director on her dragonfly pin. She told me her husband started giving her dragonflies about 20 years ago. Knowing she lost a teenage son about 22 years ago, I said "because of your son you lost?" and she said yes. I told her about this poem I read in the early days of your departure. I couldn't remember it exactly, but I remembered it brought me comfort so I googled it today and found it. I really really love its message and understand why so many of my bereaved mom friends are really into dragonflies.

Love and miss you so much sweet boy - ma

The Dragonfly


Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads,
there lived a little water beetle in a community of water
beetles. They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond
with few disturbances and interruptions.

Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of
their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and
would never be seen again. They knew when this happened; their
friend was dead, gone forever.

Then, one day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge
to climb up that stem. However, he was determined that he would
not leave forever. He would come back and tell his friends what
he had found at the top.

When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the
surface of the lily pad, he was so tired, and the sun felt so
warm, that he decided he must take a nap. As he slept, his body
changed and when he woke up, he had turned into a beautiful
blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings and a slender body
designed for flying.

So, fly he did! And, as he soared he saw the beauty of a whole
new world and a far superior way of life to what he had never
known existed.

Then he remembered his beetle friends and how they were thinking
by now he was dead. He wanted to go back to tell them, and
explain to them that he was now more alive than he had ever been
before. His life had been fulfilled rather than ended.

But, his new body would not go down into the water. He could
not get back to tell his friends the good news. Then he
understood that their time would come, when they, too, would
know what he now knew. So, he raised his wings and flew off
into his joyous new life!


~Author Unknown~



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I have been reading the blog of a mom who lost her 19 year old son in the fall of '08. He was your age but got to live a year and half longer than you did. Her words resonate with me and remind me of the terrible, terrible suffering bereaved parents feel so deeply in the first few years.

I have struggled mightily with where is God in all of this. Where was the God to whom I asked to "protect my children from needless tragedy" but didn't? Even today, 3 1/2 years later, I rarely tell someone I will pray for them because I don't believe it works. This entry below sums it up pretty nicely. Here's what Jordan's mom had to say about her relationship with God after He failed to keep her boy safe.



"Mark and I attended a grief workshop last spring and the woman sitting next to me articulated the feelings I had been struggling to grasp. She said, “I still believe in God, I just don’t know if I trust him.” As soon as she said the words I straightened up in my seat. She had put words to the internal struggle I faced daily. I didn’t trust God, because my most important prayer had gone unanswered. Jordan was gone even though we prayed for his safety. He was gone and his friends remained unharmed.
I have to figure out how to trust God again. My belief is still present, I know this because in the days and weeks after Jordan died when the pain of grief made me feel like I was suffocating I cried out the only word that my mouth could form, “Mercy”. I would lay curled up on my bed too exhausted and distraught to move, feeling like I could explode at any moment. With the bit of strength I had, I said over and over again, “mercy”, “mercy”, “mercy, Lord please.” Mercy was my plea until I felt my heartbeat calm, and I was able to catch my breath. I would finally feel soothed and able to face the next moment."


I haven't quite figured out what prayer is all about but I no longer believe God grants specific requests. Gads of people pray for children dying of cancer and they still die. Non-believers and non-pray-ers get well at the same rate as those who pray. So I now just occasionally talk to God - mostly about your brother. Sometimes I just vent to God. Sometimes I try to make deals with him. But mostly we don't talk much anymore. After 48 years of regular praying, we are now mostly incommunicado.

Dad asked me the other day why I still go to church if I don't believe in God. I think the passage above explains it. I do still believe in God - I just don't trust him. And I certainly don't count on him in a pinch any more. I think of him like a loving grandparent or something. I think he loves me and is sad that I'm so sad but he's not in a position to do anything about it. Crap happens whether you pray or not.

I still get really offended by the holy rollers who spout off about how everything happens for the good of God; how our God is so good; how "it's all part of God's plan'. I especially get offended by those who have been lucky enough to make it through this life relatively unscathed and believe God has blessed them above others. Like they deserve it and the rest of us don't.

I miss you so much. Before I fully woke up this morning, I was thinking about you flying to St. Louis for orientation before going to Austin on that last airplane trip of your life. I was thinking of you changing planes in Kansas City, then taking the train from the airport to the WashU campus and finding your way by yourself. I was so nervous and you were too, even though you tried to be cool about it. Then I was thinking how sad I am that you never had an i-phone. I love my i-phone so much and wish you could have had one. It would have helped you find your way on that trip. So many things, especially technology, have changed in the 3 1/2 years you've been gone. That makes me sad. The world moves on without you. Harry Potter movies are made; new books that you would have loved are written; new albums are released; i-pads and cool stuff are released. It doesn't seem fair.

I love you buddy and will never be fully happy again until I am once again with you.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Here we are in the middle of March again. Spring break time once again Vas is home from Harvard. Mal is home from Arizona. Leah Macko was in Oodles over the weekend. When I see one of them, I have to stuff my sadness down deep inside before the tears appear. Oh what we would give to have you home for a week, telling us about your senior year at WashU. These college years have gone fast in spite of our tremendous suffering.

I just finished a book written in the early 70's by a pastor whose 21 year old daughter was killed in a car accident on Easter morning. The book was loaned to me by another bereaved mother friend who lost her son years ago but still bears the scars of losing a child. Those scars that never go away.
In the book, a woman named Elizabeth Gray Vining is quoted as saying the following.

"Often it seems that those who have most to give to the world are the very ones who are taken from it in the flower of their youth and vigor. It is hard to understand why this should be so unless - and this I believe to be true - they have done whatever it was they had to do here, have fulfilled their secret contract with this world, and have been released for more important work elsewhere."

In a nutshell that is what I want to believe. I want to believe your death wasn't a senseless tragedy; an avoidable medical thing that could have been prevented with an EKG or something. I prayed every day for God to protect my children from needless tragedy and it feels like he let me down. I want to believe your death was part of the grand scheme of things and you got your just reward earlier than most. That brings me a bit of comfort.
And at the same time I long for my own contract with this world to be fulfilled so I can be released for more important work where you are. This life is just too darned hard most of the time.

I learned a few days ago that California Assembly Woman Kristin Olson has named me her district's Woman of the Year. I will be recognized at the Capitol next week along with 79 other women from throughout the State. I am very honored and flattered. I wish I could call and tell you because I know you would be proud of me and say "yea, my ma -she's the big time" like you used to do. The three people who would be proud of me for this honor are all in heaven now - you, Granddad and Nanny.

I love you buddy and miss you more than words can say.

Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well the Dickerson birthday marathon is over for another year. yea. It's always been hectic with one cake & party after the next but now it's just sad. Another reminder of all we have lost and what has happened to our family.

As I was lying in bed Monday night, at the end of my birthday, I thought of all the people who loved me and used to call and sing Happy Birthday to me who are now in Heaven. Nanny, MawMaw, Daddy, B & Granddad and you. My birthdays used to begin with early morning phone calls from those people to whom February 21 was a very special day because I was special to them. I am ready to be in Heaven with my fan club. I miss all of you so much. But I miss you the most.

I talked on the phone last night with a mom who lost her 14 year old a couple months ago. Her faith is very strong and she firmly believes we will see our children again. It does me good to talk to people like that. As we ended our conversation, we said how we hope the two of you are friends in heaven.

Michael Tesluk is the Teen Hall of Famer in today's paper. You would be so proud of him. As I read about him and his accomplishments, I wanted to cut it out and send it to you in St. Louis. I always remember how much Ryan T, Michael's brother, loved you. I distinctly remember one time after JoHo had beat us in water polo. You were not a happy camper about the loss but immediately after the game, Ryan T came across the pool deck to say hello to you in his shy, reticent way. You immediately grabbed him and hugged him and were so friendly and nice to him even though he was on the enemy team. I was impressed at the time and I'm still impressed with your magnanimity all these years later. You were a very special boy, Ryan Hunter.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet birthday boy,
Today we celebrate the 22nd anniversary of your birth. What a happy day that was and the beginning of 18 years, 5 months and 13 days of being blessed by you.

You were actually "due" on February 15 and when you hadn't arrived by your due date, the doctors recommended inducing labor since your brother had been a 9lb 9.5oz whopper. As tough as your old ma was, they didn't want her birthing another big one like Ross. So we were all set for labor to be induced at 1pm on Thursday, Feb 16, 1989. I went to work like always that morning to get things ready for me to be gone. Then at 11:30 I got my hair cut and proceeded to Lewisville Memorial. They started the pitocin drip about 1pm. Things moved slowly for a few hours until the doctor broke my water about 4:30. It got really intense at that time and you were born at 5:55pm. When the nurse said "It's a boy." I was shocked. I just knew you were going to be a girl. Dad squatted down on the floor beside me and I asked if he was sick or emotional. He said "both." The nurse asked your name and I said "Ryan Hunter". She said "That's a good Dress for Success name". Ross was with Aunt Les and Leslie. The whole famn damily descended upon us in no time. Everyone was so excited about the new baby brother in our little family. The next day while looking at you through the nursery window, I lamented to Aunt Les how I was dreading not getting any sleep for the next year. (your brother had been a terrible sleeper and Dad and I got little rest for the first couple of years.) Aunt Les tapped on the glass, pointed at you and said "This one is different." And she was right. You were a good sleeper from the beginning. And a joyful, happy boy who brought so much sunshine to our lives. You talked early and often; were scary smart and always made friends easily and kept them forever. You had a sound sense of right and wrong and always looked out for the underdog. In your whole life, I never once knew you to be mean to anyone or anything. I used to tell you that when God made you, He put his thumb on your forehead and said "This one is special". Indeed you were special. We were blessed to have you - to be Ryan Dickerson's mom & dad. And we are forever saddened to have lost you.

I talked to a lady today who lost a son years ago. She doesn't believe in Heaven or any kind of afterlife. I so hope she's wrong. I live each day looking forward to being with you again for eternity.

Happy happy day sweet Ryanizer.

all my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Your birthday week is here again. You would be turning 22 on Wednesday. There is a memorial ad in today's paper with your beautiful face reminding all the readers of The Modesto Bee that you were born and that you died much too soon. But most of all that you lived and brought so much joy to your mom & dad, and countless others while you were here.

As I write this, I'm using crutches to walk. The Pughs took us cross country skiing yesterday at Bear Valley for my birthday treat. The snow was hard and compact and icy and your mother was her usual uncoordinated self. I fell 4 or 5 times HARD on the same spot - my left hip. By the time we got home, I couldn't walk. The pain in my hip was excruciating. After 2 1/2 hours, a couple hundred bucks and some x-rays, I was was sent home from the ER with assurance that nothing was broken, only badly bruised. I really don't have time to be "stove up" as Bamps would say but I am.

It feels like spring here though cold and rain are returning this week. This time of year always reminds me of you and the beginning of swim season. You loved warm weather and after the cold, idle December and January you were always more than ready for sunshine and a new sports season.

Most of your friends are preparing to graduate in a few months. It's bittersweet for us. We feel so cheated out of that experience. I often wonder what you would be doing next. Law school? Work? Europe? I so wish you could have had your college experience and that we could have had it vicariously through you.

Earlier this week a friend from Sacramento sent an email video clip to me. It was of families reuniting with their loved ones home from Iraq or Afghanistan. I watched it at my desk and sobbed. I couldn't help thinking how elated Dad, Ross and I would be to see you if you walked through our door.

I love and miss you so much, Ry. There will always be a gigantic hole in my heart. I long for the day we can be reunited in Heaven.

All my love to you during your birthday week, sweet boy.
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry
Last night Dad and I went to a Reader's Theater thing with the Pughs. It was called Children of the Dustbowl. Very Steinbeckian, of course. You would have loved it. We did too. Just before it began, the lady who came up with the idea for the event came up to me and introduced herself. She said "I hope it's okay to say this but my son knew Ryan." I told her of course it was okay and that I loved for people to mention you. She went on to tell me that Levi, her son, told her "Everyone loved Ryan. He was truly the nicest person at Modesto High." That made me very proud.

Later we stopped at Oodles on our way home and I visited with a lady who lost her 15 year old niece just a few days before your death. Claire, her niece, was a really sweet kid too. I started to tell her how sweet you were and she interrupted me and said "I know. I always heard about him from my kids. Even before he died, I knew what a special person he was." We then discussed how it's often the really special kids who die young. I wonder why.

Love and miss you terribly on this Martha Luder Keen day.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well here we are 13 days into another new year. The 4th calendar year without you. A couple days ago it was 1-11-11. You would have really liked that date. I flew home from NYC that day just hours in front of a major blizzard.

I took Mal to New York with me. We had a great time and we found pennies on the ground everywhere we went. Messages from you, I believe. We talked about you a lot. While we were there a terrible tragedy occurred in Tucson in the neighborhood where Mallory nannies. A 9 year girl and a 30 year old young man were killed. Of course, my heart breaks for the parents of both. Obama was there yesterday for a memorial service and the whole country is talking about what a great speech he gave. While the words were nice, it all seemed like a political rally to me and I kept thinking how those bereaved parents felt during all the cheering and clapping. Debra told me I was observing through the bereaved mom lens and I'm sure she's right. That is, after all, what I am first and foremost.

Speaking of bereaved moms, I found the following posted on the website of a family who lost their 14 year old about a month ago. I had read it before but liked it again when I saw it this time. It aptly says what we bereaved parents need most.



A Bereaved Parent's Wish List

I wish my child hadn't died. I wish I had him back.

I wish you wouldn't be afraid to speak his name. He lived and was very important to me. I need to hear he was important to you also.

If I cry and get emotional when you talk about my child I wish you knew that it isn't because you have hurt me. His death and absence is the cause of my tears. You have talked about my child, and you have allowed me to share my grief. I thank you for both.

Please don't remove his pictures, artwork, or other remembrances from your home. It helps me to know you want to remember him too.

Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn't shy away from me. I need you now more than ever.

I need diversions so I do want to hear about you: but, I also want you to hear about me. I might be sad and I might cry, but I wish you would let me talk about him, often my favorite topic of the day.

I know that you think and pray for me often. I also know that his death pains you, too. I wish you would let me know these things with a phone call, a text, a card or note, or a real big hug.

I wish you wouldn't expect my grief to be over in six months. The first months are traumatic for me, but I wish you could understand that my grief will never be over. I will suffer the death of my child until the day I die.

I am working very hard on my recovery, but I wish you could understand that I will never fully recover. I will always love and miss him, and I will always grieve that he is gone.

I wish you wouldn't expect me "not to think about it" or to "be happy." Neither will happen for a very long time.

I don't want a "pity party", but I do wish you will understand when I have to grieve. Sometimes you have to hurt before you can heal.

I wish you would understand how my life has shattered. I know it can be miserable for you to be around me when I am miserable. Please be as patient with me as I am with you.

When I say, "I'm doing okay," I wish you could understand that sometimes I don't feel okay and I often struggle daily.

I wish you knew that all of the grief reactions I'm having can be completely normal. Depression, anger, hopelessness, and overwhelming sadness are all to be expected. So please excuse me when I'm quiet and withdrawn or irritable and cranky.

Your advice to "take it one day at a time" is excellent advice. However, a day is sometimes too much and too fast for me right now. I wish you could understand that I'm doing good to handle an hour at a time.

Please excuse me if I seem rude sometimes; it is certainly not my intent.

I wish you understood that grief changes people. When he died, a huge part of me died with him. I am not the same person I was before he died, and I will never be that person again.

I wish very much that you could understand my loss and my grief, my silence and my tears, my void and my pain. BUT I pray daily that you will never have to understand.


Love and miss you so much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ry,
Well we have almost survived another holiday season - our 4th. Unbelievable, really. We had some very hard moments around Christmas and felt especially lonely this year since Ross is in Texas. It was our first Christmas since 1984 that we didn't have our children with us. We missed you both. As we somehow manage to do, we plowed through and found bits of joy where we could. We are blessed with many friends who love us and include us and we have regained our energy for entertaining so we hosted several things at our house. We're finally at the stage where being busy is helpful. In the early days I was resentful of people who thought being busy would take our minds off our grief. That was a ludicrous thought. We were so grief stricken we couldn't do anything else. But 3 1/2 years later, we seek busy days.

Tomorrow is the last day of the year. 2008, 2009 and 2010 have all come and gone without you living in them. 2007 is the year of demarcation for me. I gauge everything by whether it was before or after Ryan died. I always feel a little melancholy at this time of year, saying goodbye to a year and not knowing what the new one holds. I know it will hold both sorrow and joy. I know people I love will suffer. Some will die; some will get sick; some will get hurt; some will get divorced; some will lose their jobs. Life is hard, regardless of what those inane hats and t-shirts say. Selfishly I hope God spares us from any more suffering. Surely we've had our lifetime quota. I don't wish it on others but I don't have the capacity for anymore either.

These days I try valiantly to focus on what I have left, rather than on what I've lost. I feel blessed to have a job I love. I have truly never been happier in my professional life. My personal life is still full of angst, sadness, worry and loss but I realize I have many blessings. I am grateful for Dad. Through my grief work, I have encountered many widows and widowers who miss their spouses greatly. I am grateful Dad and I have each other. And I'm grateful we have Ross and our many surrogate kids.

We ate dinner tonight with Bryan at Chefs of New York. That was always your favorite pizza place. They have really spruced it up and it looks much nicer. The pizza is still great. I told Dad and Bryan that I hope you get to eat in heaven. You loved to eat so much.

Love you so much buddy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
Well we had the 4th Annual Remembering Ryan Reunion last night. As in past years, about 80 of your friends and fans stopped by. It was loud and crowded (the only time I've really missed the big house in Carmichael) and joyful. We got to see a lot of your friends who are special to us and only few weren't able to make it. (no sign of Lancey). Earlier in the day I was in Savemart buying the last minute stuff and I just started to cry as I walked down the aisle pushing the cart. It is so darned unfair that you are gone. There are college kids everywhere - home on break and I want you here! I don't know Dad and I did to draw such a lousy hand. Every day during this season of mirth, the mailbox is full of Christmas cards from our friends with their beautiful, intact, healthy, successful families. I am jealous, I admit it.

When I feel my pity parties coming on I remind myself that somewhere, every day, some mother is losing her child. It happens too often. On Friday I had lunch with a newly bereaved mom who lost her son, also named Ryan, 12 weeks ago. He was 33 but still she grieves like we do. As I looked at your friends last night, I thought to myself -statistically speaking, at least one of them will someday lose a child. I wish I had magic powers so I could prevent it. I wish I could cover them all with an invisible shield of protection so they might never have to feel the pain our family has been saddled with. But if even God can't or won't protect them from it, how can I? I guess all I can do is what is what I do now - be there for others who suffer this same awful plight.

Dad and I are trying our best to muddle our way through the holiday season without being a wet blanket of sadness. We're doing better than in past years but we are still so sad and feel very cheated out of our lives' greatest blessing.

We love you so very much Ry-banoosky

Mom

Robert Mah 
Hey Ryan,
Just thinking about life and thought about you. Been keeping in shape like you told me to. I found out why Mr. Chiavetta kept saying I was mad all the time. It's cuz of my eyebrows. Haha I do look mad :) Anyways just stopping by to say hi and that I miss you. Thanks for everything you've taught me.

TTYL,
Robert

Lynn Dickerson 
Happy Fanksgiving Ry,
We had our 4th Feast without you. Hard to fathom, really. We hosted our smallest group in years - only 9 of us. I cook the same amount of food whether we're having 9 or 20 so we have tons of leftovers. The leftovers make me sad. I keep thinking of how much you loved the feast and the leftovers. You would have made short order of all that food by now. It will likely go to waste without you and all your com padres here to devour it.

Our good friend, Valerie, came from Georgia and I'm so grateful to her for making that long, expensive trip. She gave Dad and me something to look forward to. We had fun with her and she definitely lightened the mood around here. It was a blessing. I took her to the library to see your tree; to the fountain to see your plaque and to your grave. At the grave, I found a note with a movie ticket stub from Harry Potter. Dana had left it. I sobbed as I read it. All the hoopla over the new Harry Potter movie has saddened me since you weren't here to see it. I'll be glad when all the Harry Potter stuff ends.

I am braving the boxes of Christmas decorations for the first time since you died. In the past three years, I have done minimal decorating and certainly haven't opened the ornament boxes. I still don't think I'm up for the ornaments but I have gone through the other boxes. And I have cried while doing it. I look at pictures of you as a little boy in the Christmas frames and I sob. I miss you so much.

Last week we attended a "surviving the holidays" workshop sponsored by Hospice. You would think by year 4 we would have figured it out but it's still painful and scary. The guest speaker was a guy I wanted to hear. He lost his 18 year old daughter in 2001. He has recorded 3 cds and I bought all three. The songs are right on target. He puts words and music to my feelings.

The Giahos family stopped by Oodles today to see us. Vas, the Harvard man, is home on break. It was great to see both the boys. I am so proud of them both, and you would be too. Dad and I always cry with Vas. I think because he reminds us so much of you and the potential you had.

I'm planning the 4th annual Remembering Ryan Reunion for Dec 18. It will be interesting to see who comes this year. Everyone is growing up and moving on. But they all still love you. And we all miss you so much.

Bryan spent some time with us on Thanksgiving. He retold the Black Friday story of the two of you opening Hollisters that morning. I love the story because I can just see you doing it. I loved your zest for life.

I can't wait til we are all together again. In the meantime, it brings me joy to think you and Granddad are together again.

All my love sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ry,
Today was the annual Kettle Kickoff for the Salvation Army. I was once again a Christmas angel, rounding out the team since Bette Belle has gone on to heaven with you. Our team won!!! It was really thrilling. The entire event raised a bit over $180,000 and our team alone brought in $40,000. We were so proud!

Tonight I tackled the closet in my office. Several things have needed cleaning out and tidying up since the move. I found several things that made me cry. I found your script from the Senior awards night one of the years you emceed it. You had made notes throughout the binder, mostly phonetic pronunciations of names. Seeing your messy handwriting and remembering those special nights made me cry. Then I found an envelope you had colored red and green with markers and given to Dad and me for Christmas one year when you were younger. It isn't dated so I'm guessing you were around 12 when you wrote it. Here's what you said in that lovely gift to us.

"Dear Dad & Mom,
I just want to say thanks for everything. The reason I worry about you so much is that I love you and would be crushed if anything ever happened to you. Thanks for your support and love for Ross and me. Merry Christmas.
Love,
Ryan"

What a very special boy you were. I have often thought that if one of the 4 of us had to die, I'm glad you didn't have to experience the excruciating pain Dad, Ross and I have felt. You were so loving and tender hearted and worried about all of us so much. I'm glad you never had to go through what we have gone through over the past 3 1/2 years. I remember as a teenager when you would hear a siren, you would run into the room where I was and say "Where's my brother?" "Have you talked to my brother?" "Call him." You couldn't rest until I had reached Ross on his cell to make sure he hadn't been in an accident.

I love you so much bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We buried Granddad's worn out old body one week ago today. It was a joyful funeral, befitting of Granddad who was a joyful fellow in spite of a life filled with many tragedies and sorrow. We all swelled with pride as we heard and read story after story from people who told the reasons they personally loved our Granddad. One that was written on the memorial website described Granddad as Jasper's own George Bailey and the writer said she believed he was the single most important person in race relations in the late 60's in Jasper, Texas. It was a lovely tribute. Dad spoke at the funeral. He made the crowd laugh and cry. It was a full house. Dad put Hershey Hugs & Kisses in each seat in the pews just like Granddad did every week for his Sunday School class.

Granddad's good friend, Sarah, told me that she thought the beginning of his decline was your death. She said it was so very hard on him. I knew it probably was though he never talked about it to us - in fact, he wouldn't talk about it with us. I think it was just too hard.

We're home now and back to our frantically busy pace. Thanksgiving is just 10 days away. I ordered our turkey today. I try so hard to not let myself venture into the land of "Ryan would be flying home next week" but occasionally I do. It's a treacherous place for me to venture. It's hard to believe these will be the 4th holidays without you. Unbelievable, really. You would be finishing up your undergraduate work and probably applying to law schools or grad schools.

I sobbed again in church today. I do that all too often these days. Debra showed an Oprah clip about two female veterans who lost limbs in Iraq. One of them visited the other in the hospital and said to her, even though she didn't know her, "I'm here to stand with you through your pain." I was sitting next to Mrs. Pugh and I patted her leg and said "That's what you have done for me." Then we both cried.

I love and miss you so very much, Ry.

mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
How happy you must have been yesterday to find good ol' Granddad there in Heaven with you. I can just picture the reunion and how glad you all were to see him and vice versa! When I said my goodbyes to him on Tuesday, I asked him to tell you when he got to Heaven with you that I love and miss you so much.

Ross was very sweet in his goodbye to Granddad. In his loud Ross voice he told him it was okay to go and that he loved him and that Granddad had been a very good grandfather, leaving Ross with many good memories. Then he called him a rascal and told him he would see him again. It made me cry.

Dad and I just arrived in Jasper for the services. It was a long travel day. You really can't get here from there! But we did. Dad and Uncle Larry are meeting with the pastor in the morning and tomorrow afternoon we'll have the visitation at the funeral home. While Dad and I are sad, it's not even in the same universe of sadness that we felt (and still feel ) about losing you. Losing our parents is part of the natural order of things. It's more of a nostalgic sadness - a saying goodbye to a big part of our past lives and the young, vibrant, joyful, funny Granddad. We're actually happy he's now in heaven rather than a sad old nursing home.

The Jasper radio station did a breaking news alert about Granddad's passing and Dad has received dozens of nice messages from friends he and his brothers grew up with. Granddad was loved and respected by so many people. Just like you!

I hope while we're all down here mourning and going through these sad rituals that you guys are living it up big, throwing a big welcome home party for Granddad.

Love you so much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's Halloween weekend. This will be our first Halloween since you died that we have lived where we will have trick or treaters. No one found us, thank goodness, in our hidden/gated/isolated house in Carmichael. Maybe we will have the strength to face the little goblins this year. You were the only person in our family who loved Halloween. Dad hates it; Ross is ambivalent about it like he is with most things in life and I am somewhere in between. But today I will go to Target and buy little candy bars for the first time since you were still at home.

On Thursday afternoon, Mark's grandmother walked in my office and handed me a check for $5000 made out to the Gallo Center for the Arts in memory of you. Because of that lovely, generous gift your name will be on the memorial wall in perpetuity. My heart was really touched. I had wanted to do that for you but couldn't really afford it anymore. Now there's one more place in town where your memory will live on forever.

Granddad is declining. His lungs are filling with fluid. Dad and Uncle Larry are struggling with decisions. What is the right thing to do? It's so hard to make the decision to end antibiotics, feeding tubes, etc. Even when we know that's what we would want done for us, it's still hard to do with others. Dad is tormented with being here to take care of his business yet feeling like he needs to be in Texas helping his brother take care of his dying father. Life is hard. I keep thinking of you, B and Paul waiting for Granddad on the other side. I am a little jealous of him, honestly. Surely he wants to get there as quickly as he can.

I bought a new book yesterday called When the Dying Speak. It's written by a Hospice chaplain and was recommended by my friend, Pam, in Texas who recently lost her dad. I find it incredibly encouraging. He shares many stories of dying patients who see their loved ones waiting for them in their final days or hours. It gives me hope I really will see you again.

I dreamed about you Thursday night. In the dream, your hair was dark brown and you had a little double chin. I was thinking you had just come home from your first year at college with the "freshman fifteen".

I am trying not to fall into the trap of thinking you would be coming home for Thanksgiving in just a little over 3 weeks. We would be SO EXCITED! It's hard to gear up for the holidays without you in them.

Another cousin of Stevie & Vas died last week. She was only 23. I hope you have met her in heaven and made the connection - talking with her about your buddy, the jolly Greek giant.

We love and miss you so much, Ry.

Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today I received a letter in the mail soliciting donations for The Compassionate Friends. The letter was written by a bereaved dad and it caught my attention. Once again someone else in this miserable club put words to my feelings. Here's what it said.

"Grief is a strange animal. Unless you have seen it up close and personal, your imagination will gladly fail you. That stunning sadness that follows the death of a family member is often life threatening. This too terrible to think about event in one's life is the beast we fight every day. When our son Brian died, all previously "obvious" reasons to live evaporated for my wife Janet and me. Our lives as we knew them had ended forever."

I find myself telling people often that there are no words to describe it. And there aren't. You have to walk through this hell to fully understand it. You can fear it from the outside but you can't fully comprehend it.

Tonight I'm having dinner with a new friend. A woman who lost her 42 year old husband on August 5. She is very, very sad. I've never met her but I'm going to share her grief for a bit tonight.

I gave Dad a ride to work today. As we drove along Bangs Road, he said "I used to love this time of year. Water polo season; the first cool snap, fall. Now I just feel so terrible all the time." I know what he means. The approaching holidays make me miss you more than usual.

Chris G came to see us last night. He walked with Scrumpy and me and he wondered aloud if he would have stayed as close to us as he has if you hadn't died. He thinks he would have but who knows.

I love you so much, buddy.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad has been in Texas most of the week at Granddad's bedside. Granddad has been in the hospital 8 days and isn't getting much better. He didn't really know Dad while he was there and he slept most of the time. Very sad. When Dad and I would talk on the phone, I could hear him in the background making awful noises. Dad said sometimes he would cry out loud; sometimes he would laugh. He snorted and coughed and cried out. It all makes me so very sad. I wish God would grant us all an easy escape from this life when our race is run. At least you got that. I am visualizing you, B and Paul standing on the other side beckoning Granddad over. Kind of a heavenly game of Red Rover. Red Rover, Red Rover, let Granddad come over! I so hope there really is a heaven and that you are all there to greet him. He'll be looking for a knuckle sandwich or a karate chop from you - his sweet, sweet grandchild. Oh how happy he'll be to see you all.

I find I'm a little jealous that he's going to be with you soon and I'm not. I'm on my way but the journey is taking longer than I would like.

We're having our new house painted so Bruce has been here all week. As I was leaving for work this morning, we chatted for a bit about you and your death and losses Bruce has experienced. He shared his first memory of you. He said he ran into you at We's Donuts the year we moved here. He couldn't remember exactly what you said but he recalled you saying something about the Lord. He said he was so impressed that a young boy, surrounded by his buddies, said whatever it was. Then we ruminated on the theory that God took you early because you were just too good for this crazy, broken world. I hope that's what it was.

A couple of weeks ago Dad and I were at a fundraising dinner in Oakdale. Mr. Rich, your old Lakewood principal who is now Superintendent in Oakdale, was there. He talked with us a bit and as he was leaving our table he said "I can't NOT say something about Ryan and what an extraordinary young man he was." He was sort of apologetic about bringing you up. We quickly assured him that we LOVE for people to bring you up. Later that same night, I was at the dessert table and a lady introduced herself to me. She said "I think of you often and I think of your son." I asked her if she knew you and she said no but she wished she had since she had heard and read so much about you. That made me proud. Even in death you are still loved sweet boy.

I love and miss you more than words can say.
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
It's Saturday morning and I have much to do yet I find I'm wasting time - something I rarely have the luxury to do. I googled your name a few minutes ago. You, the real Ryan Dickerson, are still the first entry to pop up, but there are lots of other Ryan Dickersons. One is a football player at Syracuse University; one is a doctor in Louisiana; a couple are attorneys; one is getting married to someone named Ashley; and one even has a blog about stem cell replacement. But none are the Ryan Dickerson I long for and miss so much.

In my googling, I ran across something Kris Luis wrote a few days after you died. I don't recall ever reading it before but I was crazy with grief for such a long time that I don't remember much of what I read those first two years. Here's what Kris had to say. It made me cry.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Grief Observed: A tribute to Ryan Dickerson
Current mood: crushed
Time is a funny thing. Sometimes, I look back at my past and feel just about every emotion possible. When I think about the idea of time itself i'm not really sure how to look at it. It's like there's this huge timeline floating around in eternity and each of our lives are somewhere on that timeline. The times we had together the times we wish we could forget. But within that, we each have our own timelines. Some are longer than others. Some are finished almost before they began, as a baby, some last into 70's 80's and 90's and some......last until 18.

I could write the story of ryans life, but everyone's read that in the papers already. The papers cant describe how ryan could make anyone laugh just being around him and how he never seemed to be sad, or how much fun lifting weights at 530 in the morning could be, or the joy of singing jay-z songs in his car driving around on a friday night. Words cant really describe at all what it was like to be around him, how much he cared for everyone he knew, even those he didn't know. He was the smartest, wisest, funniest person i've ever known. My life is better having known him. That's what he did, he made people happy.

One summer we were all into raquetball for some reason, we would play everyday after school and even on weekends. One time when we played he and i came up with a twist on it. We each had to say a memory we had of each other everytime we served. Some called it emo raquetball lol but i'm so glad we did that. I'll never forget it.

I really don't know why i'm writing this. I don't know if I expect it to help or if I just want other people to know or just to keep him alive. That's what i'm so scared of. I don't want to forget him. There's a video about a pastor who lost a close friend and he talks about this passage of the Bible where a man named Lazarus, who was a close fried on Jesus, has just passed away. Jesus was away when it happened but when he comes back everyone is in mourning for what had happened. The people there even tell Jesus "if you had been here you could have saved him." Everyone is broken and hurting and Jesus, the Son of God, weeps. He feels everything that is happening. The heartache of all these people mourning the death of their friend and he lets the full force of this saddness hit him and...he weeps.

This is what we have to do. We have to weep. We have to let it all hit us and deal with it. Pushing it away will make us feel better, but it will come back, it has to. It's like there's a huge hole in our hearts where he once was and if we focus on it and never deal with it, it will consume us to the point where we cant move on and the Ryan I know wouldn't want that for any of us.

"Hi i'm Ryan, I like to be happy, and to make people happier"

____________________________________________________________________

Sometimes I see old green Landrovers and I can't help but look at the driver, still hoping it will be you. It hurts to see those Ryan-mobiles. The other day I saw one and I thought how it probably hurts your friends just as much to see your car because they, unlike me, have a lot more memories of fun times in that old heap. I rarely rode in it, even when the passenger door would still open. I only paid the repair bills on it! But so many of your friends have such fond memories of riding around with you, singing off key at the top of your lungs. Over time, there will be fewer and fewer 1998 green Landrovers and eventually they will only exist in our memories - just like you now do.

I really hope there's a heaven and we're all going to be together again soon. Dad, Ross and I miss you so much.

We just got pumpkin frozen yogurt at Oodles. You would love it. You were the only one in our family who liked pumpkin pie and this tastes just like it. And in yesterday's crossword puzzle the clue was "Cal's wife in East of Eden". I wanted to call you and ask you to remind me of that viscous woman's name. Last weekend we went to a 60th birthday party for Rick Donker. Dad shared stories of coaching you guys in Junior High track and thanked Rick for being such a fan of yours, even back then. Every day something happens that sharpens our reminds us of how much we miss you and always will.

All my love
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My how I miss you, buddy.

Tonight I stopped at Dinner My Way on my way home. The young girl ringing me up said "I hope you don't mind my asking but are you Ryan Dickerson's mom?" Of course, I LOVE it when someone asks that. She went to Jr High with you and ran track with you when Dad and Rick coached. She said "Ryan was a really good guy." I agree.

Yesterday a friend of Ross' brought his grandmother into Oodles. The grandmother saw your picture on our bulletin board and asked Ross what his connection was to Ryan. He told her you were his brother. She then said she used to work out at the same time at the SOS. She told Ross you were "special in an unusual way".

Al called this morning to tell me the sad news that good friends of theirs lost a son in a car wreck last night. Ironically his name is also Ryan. His younger brother was friends with Ross in high school. Al and Paula are heartbroken to watch another family lose a precious son and go through what Dad, Ross and I have gone through (and still go through). I have been sad for them all day.

Every day some parent loses a child. It shouldn't happen but it does. Life is full of suffering and we never know what tomorrow will bring.

We miss you so much.

all my love
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
My bereaved mother friend in Pennsylvania forwarded this on to me today from Garrison Keillor's show. It speaks to the goodness of people in a tragedy such as ours. Of the futile attempts to help something that isn't able to be helped.


What People Give You
by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno
What People Give You

Long-faced irises. Mums.
Pink roses and white roses
and giant sunflowers,
and hundreds of daisies.

Fruit baskets with muscular pears,
and water crackers and tiny jams
and the steady march of casseroles.
And money,
people give money these days.

Cards, of course:
the Madonna, wise
and sad just for you,
Chinese cherry blossoms,
sunsets and moonscapes,
and dragonflies for transcendence.

People stand by your sink
and offer up their pain:
Did you know I lost a baby once,
or My eldest son was killed,
or My mother died two months ago.

People are good.

They file into your cartoon house until it bows at the seams;
they give you every
blessed
thing,
everything,
except your daughter back.
"What People Give You" by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, from Slamming Open the Door.
© Alice James Books, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's been over a month since I last wrote to you. I still think of you constantly and continue to talk about you often - often to the discomfort of those with whom I'm conversing. Truth is, it makes most people nervous and uncomfortable to talk about a dead child. But I do it anyway.

Often my most depressing time of day is when I first awaken. I remember again that you are gone and our lives have been altered forever. Today was one of those days and I haven't shaken it yet. Maybe it's because I have the luxury of a little free time today. Dad and I have both been working ridiculously long hours. I work 40-60 hours at my real job and then work another 20-30 at Oodles. But the busy-ness is good for us. It makes the time fly and when we're swamped and exhausted, we are less likely to fall into the pit of despair. Oh, we still have days when the sadness threatens to overtake us but all in all, we are managing better because of our very full lives.

It's Labor Day. We no longer host a big end of summer barbecue in the back yard. Those days are gone along with you. I do have happy memories of those Labor Days gone by though.

Over the weekend I was at the Gallo Center for our first Valley's Got Talent. Riley Mills' mom came up to me and reintroduced herself. We talked about you guys and the picture that ran in the paper of the 5 Eagle Scouts on your water polo team. You guys posed in your speedos and badge sashes. (of course, you forgot your sash so you were the only Eagle in only a skimpy speedo) I so appreciate it when someone still talks to me about you. It still happens fairly often and I'm grateful. I often read stories written by other bereaved parents who lament about their child's name never being mentioned anymore. Fortunately yours is.

Just this morning, there was a posting on your facebook or myspace from Maggie Betancourt, a camp friend. Here's what she said: "

I've been thinking a lot about you lately. I think about that day at camp everyday and how much it has affected me. You will never know how much you have made an impact in my life and so many others through the short amount of time I knew you. I live my life with your memory on my mind. Whenever I look down at my wrist... with your bracelet, I just remember you and it helps me get through the tough times. You are truly missed."

You are truly missed, sweet boy.

We gave your bed to Dana to use in her apartment in San Francisco. It was in our garage and we don't have room for it in the new house. Luckily we found out Dana was about to go buy a bed so we offered it to her. It makes me feel good to know Bondino is sleeping on your furniture. You would like that too. Today is her birthday.

I can't begin to tell you how much I miss you, Ryan. I know I will until the day I join you in Heaven. I really, really hope there's a heaven and we are reunited soon. I'm not as sure of it as I once was but I still hold out hope.

All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
In my seemingly never ending unpacking, I came across your 6th grade school work today. One exercise you did was an "I Am a Person Who..."
Here's what you said about yourself.

I Am A Person Who

Likes Music
Hates getting in trouble
can work well on computers
cannot stay focused very well
would never kill someone
would rather play than mow the lawn
loves to skate
wants to learn how to sign fluently and play guitar
used to be afraid of tornadoes
would be better off if I didn't procrastinate
is really good at hockey
gets really angry when I have a lot of work to do
"bugs" other people when I don't do things immediately
has the good habit of standing up for people
has the bad habit of being disorganized
wishes I would change the way I wait to do big projects for school
wishes I could change the way other people treat each other badly
never misses watching the TV show King of the Hill or The Simpsons
will someday be an All American linebacker for Texas A&M University

Finding these things makes me cry and smile both. Dad and I went through your box of Boy Scout camping gear tonight. We both cried at your bar of soap in the plastic container.

Love you, love you, love you
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry
3 years ago today we buried your body in the ground. The thought makes me cringe. At Rotary today, I turned to Debra and said "We buried Ryan 3 years ago today." and she said "I know."

I helped Dad a while at Oodles tonight and Audrey from diving came in. She reminded me who she was and we talked once again about her accident where you helped rescue her. Later when she was getting ready to leave, she came and found me, hugged me and said "I just want you to know I think about Ryan every day and I'll never forget him." We both cried.

Last night Krista Mensonides came by to check on me and said something similar. You are still loved and remembered by so many.

I remember about a year into your death I learned of a woman who died on the 3 year anniversary of her son's death. No one knew if it was intentional or just self medicating gone too far. I remember hoping I would be past the point of wanting to kill myself by the 3 year anniversary. I guess I am. I don't fantasize about it so much anymore but I also look forward to my time on Earth being over. The other night I dreamed I was in a plane that was going down. In the dream I said a quick prayer asking for an entry into Heaven and I actually felt excited that I was about to be with you.

Better get back to my unpacking chores.

Love and miss you so much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Ryan
Brendan posted this on his facebook yesterday from India. Made me cry but I loved it. I can hear the conversation in my head.


Brendan Cassidy said:
We were sitting in his car one night, and I told him I was scared for the future. He said, "Brendan, you don't have much fashion sense, but other than that you're pretty ok. I think you're gonna be fine." I haven't gained much fashion sense in the past three years, and I don't know if I'd call myself ok yet, but I'm working on it. Thanks for believing in me, Ryan. I can still feel you here.


So much love flowed our way yesterday. I am grateful for the many people who loved you and us.

My i-phone died on the 29th too. I'm bummed about that. Debra thinks maybe you caused it to happen - just messing with me from Heaven. If so, cut it out.

I love you
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
You left this world 3 years ago today. Amazing really. I didn't think I could survive three hours much less three years yet here I am - still kicking. We human beings are amazing creatures - able to bear the unbearable and keep going against all odds.

Dad and I are in a fancy overpriced resort in Napa Valley- our escape for this year. We didn't leave until today so we were in Modesto all morning. We have both cried a lot today. I think we did better in the prior two years because we were already somewhere else - somewhere isolated and far away.

Many of your friends have posted photos of you in their facebook profiles and many have changed their status to remember you in some way. Each one makes me cry but swells my heart with gratitude because they haven't forgotten you and pride that you were the kind of kid who touched lives in such a meaningful way.

Dad and I had a lovely dinner overlooking beautiful scenery. We pondered what you would be doing with your life if you hadn't been snatched away. No doubt something fun and exciting. We feel so cheated that we never got to see that happen.

This has been a hard week. We moved AGAIN on Monday. I have been surrounded by hundreds of boxes and chaos just like I was three years ago when I got that awful phone call that changed our lives. It's been a little de ja vu-ish. I am glad this terrible day is almost over for another year. It is incredulous that we will be staring our 4th year without you.

I had lunch last week with the mom of Alan Bautista, a 16 year old boy who died in a car wreck 6 weeks ago. My heart hurts for his mom and what she's going through. Life is going to be so hard for such a long time.

I learned a few days ago that Grace's brother, Marshall, from Wichita Falls died. He was a few years older than you and Ross. I can't stop thinking about Kim and Stuart and the disoriented, surreal place they are in right now. LIfe is full of suffering. Sometimes when I'm having a particularly hard day, I stop and remember that somewhere in our vast land another mother is learning that her child just died. It happens everyday to someone.

I hope there is a heaven and that you're reveling in all the goodness it holds. I hope somehow you know how much you were and are loved by all of us you left behind.

Dad, Ross and I, along with lots of others, love and miss you so much.

As sad as today is, it doesn't come close to comparing to the hell we were going through 3 years ago tonight. For the healing gift of time, I am grateful.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
So many people who loved you and love us are remembering the third anniversary of your journey to Heaven. It means a lot to me that they continue to remember. Solange Altman sent the following to me. I think it's the first time I've seen it. She had sent an exceprt from it before but I never read the whole thing. It made me so proud of you, as I always have been and remain even in your death.


"Ryan was a friend to both my kids’, Nick and Tati Altman. But I really came to know him when he participated in Mock Trial. I was one of his Mock Trial coaches.

Last fall the Mock Trial team was in a tight spot. The competition was 2 ½ weeks away and we needed a student to portray an expert witness in the mock criminal trial competition. Mr. Beck said he thought he knew someone. That someone was Ryan. Even though he was involved in many other activities he agreed to help us because that was the kind of person he was - always willing to help.

He was given the materials & 2 days later he showed up for dress rehearsal--- prepared dapper in his suit. As the prosecution expert Dr. Kyle Killian, Ryan had to persuade the court that a stink bomb had the capacity to blow up a building. The science underlying his opinion was shaky. However once he took the stand Ryan dripped sincerity. He boldly asserted his position and steadfastly maintained it in a cool unflappable manner..

The other coaches, my husband Steve Altman, history teacher Steve Beck, and chemistry teacher Ron Vincent couldn’t believe what we had seen. We couldn’t stop smiling. Ryan’s poise & self-esteem gave the rest of the team more confidence.

We all had such high hopes for Ryan. I thought he would end up going to law school at some place like Duke or Yale. I could see him getting involved in politics and serving on the staff of some prominent politician then becoming a Congressman, or becoming a lawyer for some publisher arguing first amendment cases before the Supreme Court. He was the kind of kid you wanted to keep track of. We all wanted to know where he ended up--- hoping that we played some small part in helping him achieve his dream. His life wasn’t supposed to end like this.

But God had other plans for him. I have to believe that he was called for a special reason.

We are so sad that he has been taken from us. Our hearts are broken. The joy he brought to us, and his spirit have left deep impressions on our heart. We won’t forget him.

Que Deus tem em bom lugar. God keep him in a good place.


anonymous 
Lynn,
I came upon this site in February when I saw Ryan's rememberance in the ModBee. His joyful and warming smile instantly broke my heart and I couldn't help but look up what had happened to this young man who seemed to radiate with happiness. I am truly sorry for your loss. I have read your letters to Ryan and laughed at some of your memories and cried at most of them. While I was reading I couldn't help but feel as if I was intruding on something that was so personal and involved only you and your son. I stopped reading after that, but came back to this site about a month ago because I found myself wondering how you were doing. I sincerely hope that doesn't strike you as odd. It is just that your son's photo and your letters found a place in my heart.

I have noticed that in many of your letters you are counting how long Ryan has been gone and while I was reading last night I came across a passage that made me think of my grandmother who lost her youngest son 30 years ago and still cries. It also reminded me of you. Here it is, "...I would stay up all night and watch reruns of I love Lucy, and trying not to think of what had happened one week ago, then one month ago, then one year ago. It's a kind of coutdown, except you never get any closer to a destination. Each day sucks as much as the one before. You simply start to accept the general suckiness." My grandmother agreed. She said it sucks a billion times over and her life never truly "went" on as it should have. The sun rose and set like usual. She went on being a mother to my father and aunt, a wife to my grandfather, a grandmother to my cousins and me, but she could never reach that same level of happiness and content that she once had. It ceases to exist when once piece of the puzzle is missing and you are forced to create a new level of happiness or else you will drive yourself mad. She however disagreed with the acceptance part. She said that, while she has accepted that my uncle was never coming back, she stills finds it hard to accept that her child was taken from her.

Please forgive me if I have intruded on something that I shouldn't have. Once again, I am truly sorry for your loss and the world's loss because I gathered from your letters that Ryan was an assest to this world.

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ry,
I sobbed during church today as the SSP kids were commissioned for their mission trip next week. I watched them all standing at the front and remembered you, Brianna, etc standing in that same spot. It was like a dam broke. I cried and cried - those shoulder shaking, snorting sobs. And I can't seem to stop this afternoon. I don't cry much but I must have been over due. I miss you so very, very much. I miss your loud, joyful laugh. I miss your goofiness that added so much joy to our lives. I miss everything about you.

We're moving AGAIN next week. This will be the last time. I'm NEVER moving again. I hate the process and long to be settled once and for all.

Dad just called and needs me at Oodles so I must run.

All my love plus some
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
I read this passage in an Anna Quindlen book this morning. While talking about the last ordinary day before realizing her mother was dying of cancer, and life was changing forever, the protagonist said this and I said a silent "amen" to it. If I had Anna Quindlen's gift with words, I would have said it exactly the same way.

"I remember that the last completely normal day we ever had in our lives, my brothers and I, was an ordinary day much like this one, a muggy August into September weekday.......Afterward I wondered why I hadn't loved that day more, why I hadn't savored every bit of it like soft ice cream on my tongue, why I hadn't known how good it was to live so normally, so every day. But you only know that, I suppose, after it's not normal and everyday any longer. And nothing ever was, after that day. It was a Thursday and I was still my old self, smug, self-involved, successful and what in my circles passed for happy."

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
As I type this, fireworks are exploding all over town and I see them in my peripheral vision through the window. They make me miss you more than usual and usual is a lot. You loved fireworks. You loved 4th of July. Today I was a judge for the parade. As I drove downtown, I looked at Scenic Drive and remembered you, Dad and I walking from our house to downtown to watch the parade on July 4, 2007. Who would have ever known you had only 25 more days to live on this earth?

All your friends were off doing fun things this weekend - surfing in Santa Cruz, etc. I know you would have been with them and I would have been worried about you.

Mike R from Beyer and a bunch of boys came in Oodles today. It's sort of painful to watch them all sitting together; talking about girls; kidding each other - all the things you used to do with your buddies. I miss you so much.

It's so hard to believe you have been gone almost 3 years. Your friends are all growing up and you're still 18. Brendan leaves for India in the morning. It makes me nervous for him but I'm sure he'll be fine.

Love and miss you so much, sweet boy

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's a scorcher in the Great Valley of California today. Our first really hot day after a lovely, mild spring and summer. I'm trying to get all my chores done so I can go help Dad at Oodles.

The Glynn's good friend, Chuck Swanson, joined you in Heaven last Monday. His airplane crashed while he was flying over Oakdale. I went to his service yesterday. He was only 59 - young by most standards, though an old man when compared to your young life of only 18 years. I am sad for Chris. In just 3 years, he has lost both his grandparents, you, David and now Chuck. 5 people he loved very much. At only 21 he must be wondering what this is all about.

Brad Harden's parents stopped by Oodles last night and I visited with them a bit. Brad is in his third year at Annapolis. I remember how you and Brad were the only two boys in your class to graduate from La Loma with all A's and all O's. There were 4 girls but only 2 boys. I remember how you always tried to explain to me how straight arrow Brad was. You would always tell me how he parted his hair and tucked his shirt in. For a guy with shaggy hair like you, that parted hair thing was a confirmation of straight lacedness!

Dad and I got a lovely letter in the mail last week from the boy who received one of your scholarships. It made us cry but also made us so proud of you. He really got you even though he never knew you. Here's what Michael Kaiser had to say.

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Dickerson
Thank you so much for the scholarship you awarded me! It was such an honor that you gave me such a prestigious award. Thank you! Of all the scholarships that were given, the Ryan Dickerson Memorial Scholarship, to me, was teh one that most embodied what I try to pursue in my life. The characteristics your son had - kindness, enthusiasm, generosity, a love of life - are those that I have tried to develop. Everyday I put a smile on my face and try to be compassionate and understanding, like your son, because there is enough sadness in the world without me adding to it.

Although I only shared one year with your son, I heard about him a lot from friends and teachers. I never got the chance to meet him myself, but I was always hearing how awesome he was throughout my four years of high school. For example, during my senior year in Mrs. Johnson's English class, she told me that Ryan was the only student to argue with her that the novel Of Mice and Men could have turned out differently up until the very end. He was optimistic that the story could eventually have a positive ending. Mrs. Johnson teaches that from the beginning, one knew the book wouldn't end well. He didn't agree. Ryan viewed the novel with optimistic. I think that shows the kind of positive, optimistic person that Ryan was.

Again, I want to thank you for giving me such a prestigious award! And I promise I will continue to remain the person I am and try to uphold all the qualities that Ryan possessed.
Sincerely
Michael Kaiser



I love that story about your optimism. I never knew that particular anecdote but it is so characteristic of your sunny spirit, always seeing the best in others and having confidence things were going to be good.

We miss you so very much. July is looming. My most "hatiest" month. I really can't believe the 3rd anniversary of your death is upon us. Time does fly and that gives me encouragement that every day that passes is a day closer to when we'll be together again.

love you so much
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I feel lighter than normal today after a dream "visit" from you last night. In my dream, you walked through a door, wearing a bright orange shirt and a big grin. I called out excitedly, "Ry! I have missed you so much!" and then I went toward you. Then the dream ended. But it was great while it lasted and honest to Pete, today, I feel as if I have been with you.

Casey Reed and her twin sister and mom came into Oodles on Monday. We talked about you a lot. Casey talked about how you could get by with anything in schoool because the teachers loved you and anything you did - like roaming around the room during class- was forgiven because it was "just Ryan". Then her mom told me of a friend of hers who lost a child a few years ago when the daughter was 16. Casey said "Ryan knew her. She went to MoHi freshman year before transferring to Hughson." Then she said "In fact, Danielle was in love with Ryan. She had the biggest crush on him after having Health with him that first year. She would always ask me about Ryan when I saw her." I reached out and touched Casey on the arm and said "well, just think, now they are together in Heaven." She excitedly said "That's exactly what I said when I heard the news about Ryan! I said Now Danielle can hang out with Ryan like she always wanted to." Somehow that thought brought me a bit of happiness.

Ryan Merchant came into Oodles last night. He just graduated from Chico and we talked about how time flies. I told him it seems unreal that you have been gone almost three years. He agreed and said "It seems like I was hanging out with him just the other day."

I love and miss you so much buddy.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
Life continues to be super busy for the little wounded tribe of Dickersons. All three of us are working long and hard. I at my day job, then at Oodles in the evenings and on weekends; Dad and Ross every day at Oodles. It's fun though and rewarding. And it takes our minds off our enormous sorrow that never seems to go away; just recedes into the background from time to time. Ross is the old Ross again while at Oodles. He's loud and funny and good with customers. One day last week he emailed to me a photo of a little tow headed blonde boy about 5 years old. Ross had taken his photo because he looked so much like Ross did as a little boy. And he really did. Yesterday our chairs came in (we had been using loaners until the right ones arrived) and Ross made all the Oodlers and me sit in a chair across from him and try them out. He is having fun and I'm enormously grateful for that.

Last night Dad and I slipped away for a quick dinner downtown. We ran into Mrs. Malekos-Quick at The Barking Dog. She came over to us and talked about you for a long time. She said how special you were and that she thought you could have been the President. She then said something that was very true but I had never given words to. While talking about us being back in Modesto, she said "It must have been hard to live somewhere where no one knew Ryan." And she is right but I had never really thought about it that way.

We went to MoBand on Thursday night. It was bittersweet being there without you. During the Star Spangled Banner I could feel you with me. And throughout the night I could almost see you sauntering over with some cute girl in tow. It was MoBand where I met Natalie for the first time. I remember exactly what you were wearing that night. You brought her over to our blanket and introduced her to us.

Both Annie and Tabby have graduated and are on their way. Tabby was in Oodles last night with Brianne and Brianna celebrating her last night of childhood. She starts a real job as a grown up on Monday. Time marches on without you, as preposterous as that seems.

On Wednesday, a 16 year old YES Co kid from Newman died in a car wreck on his way into town. My heart hurts for his parents. I tried calling his mom yesterday but spoke with the aunt instead. I'll call her again after the services. That is when she will need me most. And then in today's paper there is the story of a 22 year old from Arnold who died in Afghanistan. More heart break. Every day some mother loses her child and joins us on this awful, awful journey.

I miss having you here to be a part of our summer.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

I feel so guilty that I don't write to you very often anymore. My life is so incredibly busy. I'm working my day job which is busy enough but then I go to Oodles and help Dad. I'm working lots of long hours. I'm less sad than I've been in a really long time so I'm grateful for that. I wish you were here to experience Oodles with us. You would love it. Mallory and I talked about what you would be like as an Oodler. She said "I can just see him. He would take a rag and act like he was going to wipe things down but really he would be looking into everyone's cups, seeing what they got. And we would have to constantly watch him to make sure he didn't put his hand in the toppings to get M&M's or the other candies." I laughed because she was right. You would have been good for business because you were such a chick magnet but you would have visited more than you worked, I suspect. One of our Oodlers is really interested in you. I told both Mallory and Natalie that she was likely to ask them all about you and they both said "She already has!" I like for people to be interested in you.

We gave your scholarships and character awards a couple weeks ago. It's always hard to go on the MoHi campus but we do it. I didn't know any of this year's winners but Jackson Leverone's little sister won one of the character awards. Her mom wrote me a really nice note about how honored they were for her to win it and how much Jackson liked you. She said both Jackson and Stephen C told her you were one of the nicest kids at school in spite of being cool & popular. I was always proud of you for being that way.

Yesterday I drove to Sacramento and gave the sermon at our old church there. Kathi invited me to speak on "Choosing Life" so I talked about how horrific our loss was and how I really didn't want to continue living myself after losing you. It went fine. Afterward an old guy fro the choir came up to me and said "I just lost my sister so I know what you're going through." I was gracious but I really wanted to say "no you don't. Losing a sister who had lived into her 70's or 80's is a far cry from losing an 18 year old son." I didn't though. I was nice. You would have been proud of me.

Ross ran into John Paul Cavialli at the DMV on Friday. He just returned from the Marines and hadn't heard about your death. Ross said John Paul cried. They sat together and talked for a couple of hours. Ross gave him his Ryan bracelet.

Lots of your friends come into Oodles to say hi and buy a yogurt from us. Even people I don't remember will say "I knew Ryan". We have your photos on the bulletin board and Mal made it look really cute. The Ryan section says "Our Honorary Oodler. Ryan Hunter Dickerson. Always Remember"

Saturday was the 34 month anniversary of your death. It's amazing you have been gone almost 3 years. It's even more amazing that we still hurt as badly as we do. We are highly functioning but we miss you so much. Every day is one day closer to being with you again.

Love you so very much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My what a couple of weeks we've had. We opened Oodles on May 3 - two weeks ago tomorrow. It's gone amazingly well. As usual, our fabulous friends have been very supportive, becoming repeat buyers of fro-yo and there have been lots of lots of customers who aren't our friends so that's very encouraging. It's been a lot of work. I have been working my day job, then rushing over to help Dad until closing and helping all weekend. No exaggeration, I've worked 16 or 17 hours a day just about every day since May 3. It's been fun and exhilarating but I'm also tired. I'm sort of in that over the top tired stage where I might put the milk in the dryer, rather than the refrigerator, and never realize it!

Dad was gone for 3 days last week and I was in charge. That was a little stressful since my day job is super busy right now too. Dad was in Portland at YogurtU. You'll be happy to know he graduated and is now back.

We have your picture and the Ryan brochure tacked up on the bulletin board in Oodles. Marcia H is convinced you are a part of Oodles since it has gone so well and been such a happy project. We have hired a great group of high school kids to help us. I really love every one of them. A couple are especially interested in you and your story so of course, I gladly tell them all about you.

A lady came by during the first week with her preschooler and his class. She asked Dad if he was "Ryan's dad". When Dad told me about it on the phone, he stopped talking mid-sentence and I knew he was crying. I asked him if he cried talking to her and he said "not this much". Turns out she was familiar with you because of the tree in the library. Her child's pre-school class visits there too.

I like to think your spirit is everywhere at Oodles. Last week I bought Fruit Loops for a topping since someone had requested it. As I was putting them in the container, I told Patrick, one of our Oodlers, that you loved Fruit Loops but I would never buy them for you and you had to get your sugar cereal fixes at the Luty's or at Gran's. A few minutes later, I was walking out the door and found a penny. Perhaps a sign from you saying "Way to go mom with the Fruit Loops."

I so wish you were home for the summer, working side by side with us, attracting all the cute girls in town. You would be good for business.

Last Sunday was Mother's Day - an awful day for me. Dad ignored it, thinking that the best approach. Ross finally called me at 3:30 pm with a happy Mother's day wish. The only cards I got were from Granddad, Bryan, Mallory and Aunt Les. Bryan's and Mallory's meant a lot to me. You were always the sweet, thoughtful one in our family on Mother's Day. My last Mother's Day present from you was my i-pod. I have kept it even though it no longer works. I think Mother's Day is as hard as Christmas or Thanksgiving. I feel so cheated in the mother category of life. I"m glad the day is over for another year.

Mallory left this message for me on facebook this morning.

"What if he didn't really die, but rather had to fake it because it had some greater mission or duty? Wouldn't that make us feel a little better about the situation to know he's living, even if it's not in our lives? Then I thought well maybe that's what Heaven is, you know? Maybe we think he is dead but really he is as alive and happy as can be, just somewhere else. I am sure you have exhausted that thought in the past thirty-four months, but it's like I just had a light bulb moment. It was like it was a little reminder from Ryan, not to be sad for him because he isn't dead; his spirit is very much alive. If anything, he should be sad for us."

I really like that thought. It's sort of the way I have to believe in order to survive. Dr Ludlow said to me the other day, when he had my mouth full of stuff and I couldn't respond....."I think Ryan is probably going to the Harvard of Heaven and doing important work there." I really like the idea that you're just away, still being Ryan, still blessing those around you with fun and frivolity and the Ryan glow.

Dad and I miss you so very much. Just yesterday we talked about how much we miss what would have been with you - adult friendship, being grandparents to your children, taking trips together, etc. It's painful to even think of all we have lost.

But we trudge on and hope this life really is just a pit stop on the way to something way bigger, better and more permanent.

All my love
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry

I just watched the tribute video on this website again for the first time in a longtime. It makes me smile and cry. It captures you so well. And I miss you so much.

I can't help but wish you were here to help us launch Oodles. You would be so excited and enjoy working there, I think. We feel sad doing something so exciting in our family without you being a part of it.

Yesterday Debra and I walked in a 5k for the Bette Belle Smith Day of Service. When I picked up my registration packet, my number was 1689. I showed it to Debra and Marcia and reminded them of your birthday. The 16th day of the year '89.

We vacated the Sacramento house this week. Finally. It has been a long and laborious process. Cleaning out your bathroom drawers was so hard. I finally away your toothbrush and your toiletries. I threw away all your ashtma medicines and your Advil and your cough drops. I threw away the magnesium tablets that made you have weired and vivid dreams. I thought as I did it that I was throwing away the last of your DNA. It was hard.

This morning's Bee is full of swim stories. Meghan Devlin won three state titles swimming for the JC. MoHi won the conference. In my mind's eye, I can see you running around the pool carrying the MoHi flag, being the obvious choice to carry your team's flag as you all celebrated. Mike Tesluk was barely beat out in the 500 - your event - so I could see you laboring through all 20 of of those long laps with Brendan and Nora flipping the numbers for your laps. Many of your friends and your friends' younger siblings took home awards. I wish I could call and tell you.

There are so many things I want to tell you every day. Vas has chosen Harvard. We've booked Lewis Black for the Gallo Center. Kendra Mensonides is getting married. Rigney is going to be dad. Ramada is home on leave from the Marines. Ross has a new friend named Dannon. When Dad said "like the yogurt?" Ross said "Yes, in fact she has a tattoo of a strawberry on her butt. Get it? Dannon, fruit on the bottom?" You would get a kick out of that.

I love and miss you more than words can say.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there Ry,
It's Saturday morning after a long, tiring week. I'm exhausted yet I have to go back to Sacramento and finish the packing up of the big house so the movers can take all our things next week and store them. I dread the day.

I've had laryngitis and a chest cold for a week so that is probably adding to my fatigue and exhaustion. I am also having vacation envy. All my friends are in vacation mode and we have no vacation planned in the foreseeable future. As much as I love my new job, I'm tired and need a little break.

Dad is just days away from opening Oodles. They painted this week and are finishing up the floor. It looks fabulous. Can't wait for it to open. Dad has life in his eyes again, after them being flat for such a long time. I'm grateful for this new adventure.

Two Ryan things happened to me last week. 1) I was meeting with a woman who wants to rent the Gallo Center for an event. She is Mrs. Malekos-Quick's sister. As I was getting ready to leave her office, I told her to tell Mrs. M-K hi for me. She hesitated for a moment and then stepped into her office for privacy and said to me..."I just have to tell you how much she thought of your son. She was crushed about his death. She told me that she has been teaching GATE kids for a long time but Ryan was a special one. She said to me "He had such charisma. He really could have been the president, Cindy!" Of course that made me so very proud.

Then on Thursday, I was the guest speaker for a professional women's group. After my talk, a lady came up to me to say she has a son who is an IB student and a water polo player. Then she said "Kyle is mentoring him and he is doing it in honor of Ryan." That, too, made me happy.

We were at a dinner party last night and one of the other guests was talking about one of his good employees and he turned to me and said "She was good friends with Ryan." I love it when people still say your name. It happens less and less with time.

It's still so hard for me to hear others tell stories of their kids and grandkids. I guess I'm going to struggle with that for the rest of my life.

I miss you more than words can say, bud.

all my love
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there buddy,
I had lunch with Bryan today. He was telling stories about when the two of you worked together at Hollister. He laughed through them all. I said "I miss him so much." He said "Yea, I miss him so much too. I've been missing him more than usual these last couple of months." He wishes he could call you about college stuff and girl stuff. I told him it makes me sad that you were cheated out of life. He said "I think life was cheated out of Ryan." Dad feels the same way. I hope Heaven exists and is a place full of meaningful work, full experiences and joy. You deserve all those things.

So many things happening here on Earth that I want to tell you about. Tim Herrmann won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Colombia, South America. Chris G turned 21 and is a full fledged adult. Ross found a brand new pair of New Balance 992's that the two of you loved for only $5 in a thrift store. He bought them even though he nor Dad wear a size 9. Just couldn't pass them up!

I miss you so much sweet boy.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today is Easter - our third one without you. It's been a cold, rainy, gray day. I have felt melancholy most of it. I went to church alone (Dad went to the sunrise service at 6:30 am since it was outside and allowed him to "go to church" without going in the church.) He still isn't up to going in the sanctuary. I thought of Easters gone by. We spent two of them in Hawaii and went to services on the beach. That was very cool, wasn't it? And then I thought of the year Tyler played the trumpet at our church's sunrise service. You and I huddled together in the cold. I have a picture of you and Debra sitting together that morning.

I bought an Easter lily in your memory and meant to take it by the cemetery to leave on your grave. By the time our lunch guests left, it was raining and I was tired and thus never took it by. It makes me sad to go to your grave at any time but especially when it's cold & rainy.

I had an exhausting week last week and it's finally catching up with me today. I wish I had tomorrow off. As Jimmy Buffet would say "I must confess I could use the rest."

I'm getting really tired of this prolonged moving exercise. Every week we go to Sacramento and pack more boxes. We leave some there for the moving van to pick up and take to storage in a few weeks. We bring some of them back here and unpack them. We're getting an A+ in recycling. Yesterday I packed all the photos and awards on your wall. I looked through the scrapbook Peggy made you for graduation. I sobbed when I put it in the box. Ross wandered in about that time and just held me while I cried. Our little wounded family misses you so much.

Last night we were at the Gallo Center for an event. There was a pre-concert reception for all the doctors in town. We were talking with some old neighbors who have boys similar in ages to you and Ross. They were talking about breaking out the champagne and doing a victory dance recently when they wrote their last tuition check. They went on & on about it and the whole time they were talking, it felt like someone had stuck a knife in me and was grinding it deeper with every word. Oh what I would give to be able to complain about tuition payments for your college education. People don't mean to be insensitive but they are. And I know I was too before your death.

In my packing yesterday I came upon a pair of your old sleeping pants. I decided to keep them and sleep in them myself. I'm wearing them now. They have poker/Las Vegas motifs on them. I remember how you looked in them, standing in the kitchen, all sleepy with bed head, looking in the pantry, deciding which cereal you wanted.

Last Thursday, I was sitting at my desk when my cell phone rang. Caller i.d. said it was Stephanie so I expected her on the other end. Instead it was Vas. I knew when I heard his voice that he had good news. Sure enough, he was calling to tell me he got into Harvard!!!!! I was so excited! I screamed my congratulations to him and then I burst into tears. Tears of happiness for Vas; tears of pride for this special, sweet, extraordinary kid who has been so focused and worked so hard; tears of pride for Gregg & Stephanie knowing how happy they must feel; tears of regret that I couldn't pick up the phone and call you to share the good news. You would be SO PROUD! I can just hear your response. I was an emotional mess for a few minutes. Our whole family is incredibly proud of him. Both Ross and Dad called later that afternoon to offer their congratulations. Yesterday Vas & Stevie helped Dad unload the U-Haul. So we've got a Harvard man helping us schlep our furniture around.

I love you so much, bud. I want you back. This isn't the way my life was supposed to turn out.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Even though I don't write to you daily anymore, a day never passes without there being something I want to tell you or share with you.

Last Monday, Steve totaled his Acura but fortunately walked away unscathed. A couple hours later, our friend, 73 year old Bill Foltz, was hit by a pick up truck while riding his bike. He died a little while later at the hospital. Dad and I went by to see his wife, Ann, later that same night. We sympathized with the stunned state of shock she was in. Her day had begun like any other and before it was over, her life had changed irreversibly. A stark reminder how precious and precarious life is.

I often recollect the day you died. I spent the day alone since Dad was in Yosemite. I went for a pedicure and a massage; went to Target (I think I was in Target when you actually died, as I recreate the day in my mind); unpacked boxes and put things away. I remember feeling melancholy all day. I didn't really know why. Now I wonder if my psyche was being prepared for the storm that was about to overtake my life.

We have found someone to lease our Sacramento house. Hallelujah! It's a sad situation though. They are a wealthy couple who own a lovely, big home in the Fabulous 40's but the husband has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. They need a one story house with big wide doors and open spaces. Our house is perfect. They are going to sign a two year lease with an option for additional years and stay there until his days on this earth are over. We met them yesterday and instantly liked them. The husband is a sweetheart of a man and it makes me sad that he has that awful disease. They also lost a son a few years ago. Their son was 38. We shared our stories of losing our boys. So now our big, beautiful house will once again be a house of suffering. The wife is visibly grieving this terrible turn their lives have taken. The husband is much more gregarious. Even though we will have to do the actual suffering from the disease; she will suffer watching him deteriorate and ultimately leave her. I hope our house wraps them in its love during their hard days like it did for us.

Now that we're back in Modesto, I have once again begun going to church at our old church. It's nice to be back. I feel loved and welcome there. It's also hard. I still sit with the Pughs - sans kids now. Tyler and Brie are both at IU. You're in Heaven. Today Susan and I both teared up remembering how our two families sat together in the same general area every week. She talked about how you would rest your head against the pew in front of us to "rest your eyes" a bit and how you would "stretch" your arms and yawn. Then we talked about how you ALWAYS went to the left altar railing to pray after communion. Today was communion Sunday and it made me miss you more than ever.

After church, our friend, Olive, thanked me for my letters to you in this blog. She told how she had learned a lot about how to talk to others who have suffered a big loss and put the new knowledge to work with a distant relative who lost a 19 year old son last year. She asked his mom to tell her about him and the mom did. Later Olive heard from someone else how much the mom appreciated that. I'm so glad I've been able to pass along some hard won wisdom. And fortuitously she told me this in front of someone who has been one of my harshest critics about pouring out my feelings in a such a transparent, raw fashion.

Spring has sprung in Modesto California and I wish you were here. You always loved spring. Dad told me a couple days ago that he had been on the verge of tears all day. I said "Because this spring weather reminds you of Ryan?" and he said yes. So many good memories.

We love and miss you more than words can say.

All my love
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
What was I thinking? Tonight Dad and I bought tickets and attended the Naval Academy Glee Club performance at the Gallo Center. I hadn't really thought about it being 60 young men your age. Then there they were - all that youthful, male exuberance that I miss so much. I looked at every one of them and thought about you. I almost had a panic attack and thought of rushing out of the theater. After it was over Dad said "You know what I hate about things like this?" and I said "yes, it reminds you of Ry." We were both feeling the same thing without saying anything to each other.

I had lunch with Marcia today and had a tearful meltdown at the Barking Dog. As much as I love Tim and Leslie, I can't bear to hear about their successful lives. They are off doing the things you should be doing. I apologized to Marcia for not being able to ask about them and hear of their adventures. She looked at me with such pity and compassion in her eyes and said "I know you can't. That's why I don't talk about them to you." And I cried.

Just when I think I've turned some enormous corner and gotten past the worst of the sadness and longing, I have a few days where the pain is still palpable and I miss you so much it physically hurts. I am jealous of parents who have all their children. When I am on the precipice of falling into that abyss of self pity and loneliness, I remember that every single day some mom loses a child. Somewhere another family is beginning this awful journey we have been on for almost 32 months.

Twice in the past week, I have stumbled into conversations with Mormon men who brought me comfort with their unwavering, unquestioning faith. My faith is no long either of those things so it's reassuring to find someone who has it - whether what they believe is true or not. Last Saturday I saw the Ludlows. We chatted a while and I said "I miss Ryan so much." and Dr.Ludlow said "How awful would it be if you didn't? Good point. I guess if I hadn't loved you so much I wouldn't miss you so much.

But love you I did and I still do. And I want badly to believe those Mormons know of what they speak and we'll be together again soon.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad left for Texas today to check on Granddad one more time before Oodles opens and he's working 7 days/week. Poor Granddad is confused and disoriented most of the time now. Makes me sad. Getting old is for the birds. I hope I never do.

I have been praying for an answer to our housing woes and this week we got half our woes resolved. Our friends, the Ruuds, who moved to Pennsylvania a few months before you died still have a small garden home in Modesto. They have offered it to us on a "house sitting" basis until we figure out what we're doing permanently. The big house still hasn't sold or leased but I feel good knowing we have a place to stay in Modesto for the time being. On Wednesday, Dad, Ross, Bryan, Chris, BunBun and Cole are going to move some of our furniture to Modesto. This is the first time we have moved ourselves since 1980. My how the mighty have fallen.

I spent much of the evening packing kitchen things. I couldn't help but think of those mid-July 2007 days when I was unpacking and putting our kitchen together. Just days before you died and our world shattered. I was listening to I Am Charlotte Simmons on my i-pod. I never finished that book after you died.

On Tuesday I gave my new member talk at Rotary and talked about how my life is now divided into two parts - Before Ryan Died and After Ryan Died and how never again will everything be right in my world but I'm doing the best I can to redeem your death for something positive.

On Wed night at the Gallo Center, a couple approached me and introduced themselves. The wife shyly told me her son was a friend of my son Ryan's. You could tell she felt uncomfortable saying your name and was worried she would upset me. If only people knew - it upsets me more to NOT say your name. It was Alex Negranza's mom and she was very sweet. She told me how Alex got tattoos to remind him of you. (Several guys did that) It does my heart good when people talk about you.

Earlier in the week, Bryce and Ethan left a facebook message for me asking for a Ryan bracelet. You are still loved and missed by many, sweet boy.

Seems there's never a shortage of opportunity for me to reach out to other bereaved moms. Last week I wrote to a 78 year old mom whose 53 year old son died about a month ago. It doesn't seem to matter how old the "child" is - they are still your child and it's a loss like no other.

Ross and I went out for pizza tonight and he talked about how he's glad he came home from North Carolina when he did because it gave him several months with you that he wouldn't have had. He said he thinks "the supernatural was at work".

We love & miss you so much, bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We have just returned from a day in El Dorado County wine tasting for Brianne's 21st birthday celebration. Adela and Tabby were there. Ross went with us and Connor was there with one of his friends, along with Brianne's extended family. A couple of times during the day, I had to ward off the sadness that threatened to overtake me as I thought of Brianne's big birthday without you. She was always 10 days younger than you; now you are forever 18 and she's passing you by.

I am super stressed over our real estate woes. I don't know what to do. Sell our house at a huge loss? Rent our house for a few years at less of a loss? Rent a small house or apartment in Modesto? Buy a house in Modesto? Store our stuff? It's complicated and depressing. I keep praying about it but as the norm has become, God is silent. I think he's forgotten about me altogether. We have to do something soon because Dad's new business will be opening in a little over a month and we will both need to be in Modesto. Aye yae yae! What to do?

Dad is going to Texas next week to check on Granddad one more time before becoming consumed with his new business 7 days/week. Poor Granddad is struggling. He is very confused and disoriented most of the time when we talk to him. Getting old is the pits. At least you never had to have that happen to you.

I miss you so much. Last night we went to a Beatlemajesty concert at the Gallo center. It was a fund raiser for Royal Family Kids Camp - the camp were Dad volunteered the last two summers. The Beatles tribute band was great and we had fun. When they sang the "They say it's your birthday...happy birthday to you..." song, I almost started to cry remembering how you and Dad sang that together every time someone had birthday - complete with air guitar. Our lives have so much less fun and joy in them with you missing.

You were a special, special kid Ryan Dickerson. And I miss you with every fiber of my being.

Love
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well the Dickerson birthday marathon is over for another year, thank goodness. I turned 52 today. So weird to think I'm that old. Cody Howell also celebrated his birthday today. I got over 110 happy birthday messages on Facebook. Many of them from your friends. I was thinking a few minutes ago how blessed I am to have all of those kids in my life even though in a tangential sort of way. You continue to bless my life even in your death through the many friendships & relationships you cultivated during your brief stopover in this life.

Last Tuesday, on your 21st birthday, we dedicated your Eagle Scout fountain to your memory. Dad and I purchased a lovely sign and the City of Modesto allowed us to have it placed there. We had a little ceremony at 11am. Quite a few people came. A bunch of Scout folks; your firends, our friends,Ross' friends, church friends, etc. We continue to be humbled by the outpouring of love for our family. Mayor Ridenour spoke; Dad spoke and I spoke. I re-read my comments from your Court of Honor in 2004. Here's what I said back then and re-read on Tuesday.

"I read once that a pushy mother is the next best thing to a good education. My name is Lynn Dickerson and I am the pushy mother in Ryan Dickerson's life.

I am also the very proud mother. Today is a special day as we celebrate the great accomplishment of Ryan becoming an Eagle Scout.
All mothers think their children are special, or they should, and I'm no exception. But Ryan really IS special, mother's bias aside. He always has been. Some of us go through life stumping our toes all along the way and finding the bumpiest route to travel, it seems. Ryan, on the other hand, leads a charmed life. Things just always seem to work out for him. And I think it's because he has such a big heart and is such a good person through & through.

Ryan has played sports all his life. He's never been the best athlete on the team but at home we have a whole drawer full of awards he has won for "having the most heart" on the team, trying the hardest, having the best attitude on the team, showing leadership, etc. The things that really count in life, long after the final score is recorded on a scoreboard. And I'm very proud of him for being that kind of person.

I'm also proud of him for his kindness and his ability to make and keep friends. Our family has moved twice in Ryan's life. Once when he was in 2nd grade and again when he was beginning 6th grade. Moving is hard and scary and it was both of those things for Ryan, the person in our family who least likes change. But both times, he quickly adapted and made friends right away. Lots of friends. And then as soon as he was one of the guys, he began looking out for the new kids and the kids who had no one to sit with at lunch.

Among our family and friends, we refer to Ryan as our absent minded professor. He's smart as a whip but he can be just a tab bit distractible. He has been able to explain Einstein's Theory of Relativity since he was about 6 years old but in elementary school he lost so many pairs of glasses, we finally just let him stop wearing glasses and cope with his near sightedness.

He worked hard to become an Eagle Scout, and even when he was tempted to give up and his schedule was too full, he persevered. He was almost a full year behind his peers in Boy Scouts when we moved here. Our friend, Rick Serpa, encouraged him to join Troop 49 and he did. And then he had to really hustle to catch up to his buddies but he did. That's the kind of person Ryan Dickerson is.

On behalf of our family, thank you for being here today and thank you to the many of you who helped Ryan get here. When you live somewhere far from your family like we do, your friends become your family. And Modesto has been a great place for our family because of all of you.

So Ryan, congratulations and please know just how proud your Dad and I are of you. God blessed us good wehn he gave us YOU!"


It's uncanny to read those words again -almost 6 years later. I still wonder if God made you the way he did since he knew you weren't here for long. Guess we'll never know in this life.

Many of your friends changed their Facebook pictures on your birthday to one with you in it and wished you a happy birthday in their status line. That meant a lot to me. You are still loved and remembered by so many. I cried more on your birthday than I have in months. I miss you so very much.

Love you dearly sweet boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Happy birthday Ry,
21 years ago this morning our little family awoke with anticipation and excitement. We were having a baby! We weren't sure if you were a girl or boy but we knew our lives were changing forever one way or the other. I worked until 11am; got my hair cut at noon; reported in to the hospital at 1pm and they started labor induction. At 5:55pm you were born - a boy!!! It was a joyful day. And the beginning of 18 years, 5 months and 13 days of joy, fun, and more love than the law allowed.

Now here we are facing our days without you - doing our best but still struggling to carry on with such a gaping hole in our family. There are no words to describe how much we love & miss you and how much we hurt that you are gone.

Before I got out of bed this morning, I "talked" to you in my head - wishing you a happy birthday and telling you how much I love and miss you. You knew that on earth; surely you know it in Heaven. I hope so.

Yesterday Dad and I went to a car wash that was raising funds to bury a 17 year old girl who was beaten and raped in a park last week. Her mother's picture is on the front page of the paper today and she is quoted as saying "I just want her back. I just want her back." It gave me chills because I remember saying those exact words over & over those first few weeks & months. As Dad and I sat in line waiting for her friends to wash our car yesterday we commented on how much worse it would have been to be forced to wash cars to raise the money to bury you. And to imagine the fear and pain she felt in the last minutes of her life. As I always remind myself, no matter how bad we have it; someone always has it worse.

I cleaned out your closet over the weekend. A tough assignment but one that had to be done. Ross is angry at me for giving your things away. He's a "thing collector" by nature so getting rid of anything is hard for him. And he's much more sentimental than one would think from his gruff exterior. He took all the bags of clothes out of my car; went through them all; culled all your band t-shirts from jr high and a few other things; and then had his friend Kevin try on a lot of things. Kevin took two pairs of jeans, several collared shirts and all your nice Banana Republic sweaters. He was very appreciative of them so I'm glad they went to a good home. I'm taking the rest to Vas to go through since he's about your size too.

Well sweet boy, I can only imagine how you would have celebrated your 21st birthday in St. Louis on Mardi Gras! I have no doubt it would have been a very fun day.

We're dedicating "Glynn Fountain" in your memory today at 11a.m. There is a plaque that Dad and I have purchased that will be unveiled. So your handsome face will smile at everyone that passes that way.

I love & miss you more than words can say. I"m so sorry you aren't here to get your childhood birthday letters. I wish I had put them in the casket with you. Today is the day you would have been able to read them.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

Dad and I just returned from the movies - a dark, depressing movie. A movie with Steve Carell and Tina Fey previewed. As soon as it ended, Dad and I looked at each other and simultaneously said "Ryan would love that movie!"

I cleaned out your closet today in preparation for our upcoming move. I bagged up all your t-shirts, shorts, underwear, jackets, socks. I saved a few things that I couldn't bear to part with. I'm going to give it all away. Makes me sad but I know I can't hang on to those things forever. Maybe someone else can get some good from them. Dad wants your friends to have your stuff but they are all scattered to the four winds and most are too big for your clothes anyway.
I sobbed into shirts & Speedos and cargo shorts and sweatshirts. It was a hard job.

Last week a woman from Stanislaus magazine came by to interview me. She asked about what made us come back to Modesto. I said, as I always do, "well we suffered a terrible tragedy that changed our lives...." She said "I want to just say I have a daughter in the IB program at Modesto High.She's only a junior so she wasn't there when your son was but they still talk about him all the time." That warmed my heart.

I just finished Pat Conroy's new book South of Broad. There's a beautiful passage in it that reminded me of how I felt for so long after your death. I still feel it sometimes. He described folding up his God like you would a handkerchief and putting him in the bottom of a drawer for a while. Maybe for so long that you forget he's there. I think I did that when I felt so abandoned by God.

I love & miss you so much bud

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I forgot to tell you this when I wrote yesterday.

Last Friday I met with two Assyrian men who are organizers of the annual Assyrian Aid Society event. They want to have it at the Gallo Center this year. Toward the end of our conversation, I asked if this was the same event that used to be at Diane Pedota's house. They said "Yes, we had our first one there. Did you come?" I said "No, but my son was there, supposedly to help park cars but I think he just ate your food." Then I told them you had died the next month, after their event. They both immediately said "I remember him!" One of them said "Was he with Linda Glynn's son?" and I said "yes". Then the other one said "I took pictures of him." I told him I have copies of those pictures and treasure them since they are some of the last photos taken of you. That event was on Debra's birthday - June 30 - while we were in San Francisco seeing Jersey Boys. You died less than a month later. Both the Assyrian men were really nice and seemed genuinely sad for our loss. They both commented on what a nice and handsome boy you were.

And earlier in the week I went to a Commonwealth meeting - it's a group for young professionals in town. I have volunteered to be a "yoda" to them. (So weird that I'm old now. I was young for so long in my career but I've now passed the tipping point.) Anyway, when I sat down at the table with a group of young adults and introduced myself, one of the young women said "I know your family. My sister loved Ryan." She was one of the Stockman girls from Central Catholic- Julia's sister. You knew her through Chris, I'm sure.

It makes me feel good when people remember you. Just today, Tyler Pugh sent us a copy of an essay he's writing for a class as IU. He has to write a eulogy and he's writing it about you. So sweet.

And I had a big breakthrough today. I had a business lunch with two radio executives who don't know I lost a child and I didn't tell them. The first time ever, I think. I tell everyone from cab drivers to doctors.

Love you so much bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

This morning I was searching my electronic photos for one to use for your birthday memorial ad in the Bee. I came across a picture taken on your 18th birthday, by our pool. It's of you hugging Dana is the biggest bear hug imaginable. She has on her cheerleader uniform and had stopped by your party for a little while before the basketball game.I sent a copy of it to Dana since I wasn't sure she had ever seen the picture. She emailed me after getting it and said she had never seen it. She was very glad to have it and has made it her Facebook profile photo. It is a photo so full of emotion and love. It made me cry to look at it.

Dad and I have decided to lease out our house instead of trying to sell it now while the market is so depressed. We would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if we sell now so we're going to hunker down and ride this market out for however long it takes. I pray we can find someone good to lease it. Living apart is hard and I'm tired of doing it.

Today was the Super Bowl. We went to a party in Modesto and had a nice time. I talked with someone who didn't know we had lost a child. That's always shocking to me since I feel like we have big post it notes on our forehead that say "WARNING! Bereaved Parents!" But I guess we look a lot more normal on the outside than we really are.

Dad turned 55 last week. We all reminisced about his 50th birthday party and your & Ross' roast of Dad. You were both great. I so wish we had video taped it.

I love you so much sweet boy
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there bud,

I just had a big cry over you a few minutes ago. I don't cry on the outside much anymore - only on the inside. But tonight, I cried after reading a facebook entry from Brendan.

Ross turned 25 last Thursday. So weird. He told me on Saturday that his birthday was a lonely day. We did all the things we normally do in an effort to make his birthday special yet he felt lonely. I suspect it was because you are gone.

I'm reading a novel by Pat Conroy that is about a family of 4 like us - two boys and parents. One of the boys dies and the the other one has a nervous breakdown. The parents are almost destroyed in the process too. It feels hauntingly familiar to me.

Smelvin turned 21 last Friday. I can't help but feel sad as your friends all become full fledged adults without you. It's only 17 days until your 21st birthday. As always, I will be glad when February is over.

We're going to dedicate your Eagle Scout spot to you on your birthday. We have purchased a very cool sign with your picture on it that will be erected near "Glynn Fountain" as Chris likes to call it. It will be unveiled on your 21st birthday. Dad still cries every time he drives by that spot and the cemetery. Not sure how he will respond when we see your handsome face every time we pass by.

Madison is in Paris for a semester. You would have liked that. You loved Paris. I feel so sad and jealous of your friends having these fabulous experiences you never got to have.

Scooby's mom sent us a lovely note last week. She remembered the 30 month anniversary of your death was approaching. She recalled memories of the summer you worked at American Chevrolet. She said "I have flashbacks of Ryan pushing the billy goat around with his ear phones in." She ended it by saying "...we sure thought the world of Ryan! He brought us lots of laughs in the times we shared with him."

You've been gone 2 1/2 years. Amazing that we have survived this long. There were times I didn't think I would survive the next 2 1/2 hours, much less 2 1/2 years.

I miss you so much.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
It's been a busy week in my life. I sat in a courtroom all day Tuesday but fortunately was released from possible jury duty at 4:30 that afternoon. My schedule was jam packed at work but it was all good stuff - just lots of it. I really love my new job.

On Wednesday I was the guest speaker at a Soroptomist club. That's a service club for women. There were about 30 women in the audience. I talked about the Gallo Center mostly but at the end I talked about my career path and my decision to go back to Modesto and take the GCA job even though it pays lots less, etc, etc. I explained how losing you had changed my entire life. When I was done a woman in the audience raised her hand and said she and another woman next to her belong to the "same club" I do. They too have lost children. Imagine - 30 women in a room and 3 of them have lost children. 10%! That seems amazing to me. Then when I got back to the Center, Marie was there giving a tour to a group of her friends. She told me she wanted me to meet someone who was visiting from Indiana. She said "She's one of us." meaning that lady had also lost a child. Turns out she lost a grown daughter and two grandchildren in a house fire last May. Again I ask as I ponder the magnitude of her loss...how do you multiply infinity times 3?

A tragedy occurred in Columbia,S.C. last weekend. A 17 year old boy named Luke was accidentally shot by his friend while they were out target practicing. Luke was best friends with the son of one of my former McClatchy colleagues. I have asked Brendan to reach out to Trevor, Luke's good friend, and try to help him through this awful time of losing a best friend. I may ask Chris or Bryan to call him too. So much sadness in this world.

On Thursday night as I was leaving the Center, there was a group of young adults finishing up rehearsals for The Merry Widow. I literally bumped into a girl and just as the girl's friend called out to her, I realized she was blind. Then I realized I knew her. I said "Rachel. It's Lynn Dickerson, Ryan Dickerson's mom. Do you remember Ryan from junior high?" She said "Oh hi. Sure I remember Ryan. How could anyone forget Ryan?" Then I said "Do you know he died?" She said "Yes, I read that and I'm so sorry." We chatted a minute and then I said " Well it was good seeing you" and she said "It was good seeing you too." (I guess people say that even if they can't see you with their eyes.) I always admired her so much - she was so accomplished in spite of her disability. I also remember the time you were assigned to walk her back from PE to the main building in 8th grade and you forgot her. You remembered and dashed back for her but someone else had already come to her aid. You felt terrible about it. You were our absent minded professor with an enormous heart and conscious.

On Thursday I introduced Bryan to Jim Johnson, our new Arts Education coordinator. I said "He was one of my Ryan's good friends." Jim, a retired MJC educator, said "I had a student who wrote about your Ryan in my class." He couldn't remember the boy's name but said he wrote about how your death impacted his life. I wish he could remember who it was.

Dad and I stayed in Modesto for Jesus Christ Superstar last night. I kept thinking how much you would have liked it and how much fun it would have been to talk about it with you afterward. You would have analyzed it and had lots of thoughts on it.

It seems like last week was a week of a lot of Ryan mentions and I'm always grateful for that. Kay Osborne was in the audience at the Soroptomist club meeting and she stood up after I was done talking and told the group what a special person you were. She told how you were elected Student Body president the year we moved here. She said "No one ever gets elected the same year they move to a new town but Ryan did." Then she said when you walked in a room it got a little brighter. And it did.

We are learning to go on with our lives but we still miss you so very much. I think we always will.

Love you with all my heart
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
In an optimistic mood that our house might actually sell in this century, I decided to start cleaning out some drawers & things in anticipation of packing. I started in your room because I was feeling strong at the moment. I find I can't throw away anything that has your handwriting on it. Even syllabus info where you have made notes and long boring science notes. I found a few gems this morning.

I loved this poem you wrote in 5th grade called If I Were in Charge of the World

If I were in charge of the world
I'd cancel bad tasting food like cauliflower,
The A period on Mondays,
Dogs getting out, and also
Sudaam Hussein, Fidel Castro and Marilyn Manson.

If I were in charge of the world
There'd be REAL football and hockey during P.E.,
Better hockey rinks and more places to skate, and
Microscopic natural disasters.

If I were in charge of the world
You wouldn't have sadness,
You wouldn't have to be neat,
you wouldn't have trash,
Or "Ryan, do your homework."
You wouldn't even have homework.

If I were in charge of the world
A Santa Fe chalupa with steak from Taco Bell would be a vegetable,
All Adam Sandler movies would be rated G,
and a person who sometimes forgot to bring home his homework,
And sometimes forgot to not act like a jerk
Would still be allowed to
In charge of the world.


I found your Italian Renaissance paper you wrote in 8th grade. I vividly remember you working on that project and me promising to take you to Italy someday. I never got to do that. :( Mr. Fletcher gave you 200 out of 200 points and wrote this comment on your paper.

"Superbly accomplished! Well organized and written - you have a gift for language. I really enjoyed the Renaissance mental gymnastics in discovering your own secret code for organizing your pages - how clever! Thanks for the excellent report!!"

I remember Mr Fletcher's wife died a year or so later and you and I went to the funeral because you were so sad for Mr. Fletcher and wanted him to know you cared. You were such a special boy Ry. I miss you so much.

All my love
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today Dad rode the train to Modesto to take care of some business things for Oodles, the soon to be frozen yogurt shop. We had lunch together at Tasty Taco. A high school boy was checking out in front of me and needed 11 cents to keep from breaking a $20. I said 'Here, I have 11 cents." Freddie, the guy who owns Tasty Taco, said to the boy.."do you know who this nice lady is? She runs the Gallo Center for the Arts." The boy told me he knows Julian Gallo and thanked me for the change. A few minutes later he came to my table and tried to repay me the 11 cents. I declined and then he started telling me again about the Gallo kids he knows. I asked him where he goes to school and he said Modesto High. I said "Did you know Ryan Dickerson?" His eyes got big and he said "Yes! and I know a lot of his friends." I said "We're his parents." He then looked down at my business card I had just given him and said "I didn't really know him personally but I knew what a great guy he was. Everyone knew him and liked him." Then he scurried off in that uncomfortable way people often do.

Last week when I was in New York, I met with an agent who handles Lucas Nelson, Willie Nelson's son, who is now touring. It made me smile and almost cry at the same time. I told the agent that my son used to go to summer camp with Lucas Nelson. I would have loved to call you and tell you about that. I remember that first summer well when you and Lucas were in the same cabin. Willie dropped him off on opening day and you told me how fat Willie's ponytail was.

Ross called me last night at bedtime, sounding very sad. He was listening to his i-pod on shuffle when some song you had introduced to him came on. I think it made him miss you a lot.

Today I learned of a woman at CSUS who lost a daughter to brain cancer. The daughter left a daughter whom the grandmother raised. A couple years ago that young woman was murdered by her boyfriend, an Iraqi veteran. I always seem to find someone who has it worse than I do.

I'm home for a 3 day weekend and looking forward to the rest.

Love and miss you terribly
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there sweet boy,
Ross and I got home last night from our NYC trip. It was a good trip - especially for Ross. He LOVED the city and had a great time. I worked hard and was exhausted much of the time. Glad to be home.

As always there were so many things that reminded me of you. Ross and I went to a comedy club the first night there and both of us got picked from the audience for participation. That's right up Ross' alley, and was the same for you. Not so much for me. But it was fun. One of the comedians used a gesture that reminded me of you SO MUCH. It was your "Chloe Rivera" move and you always used to make me laugh when you did it and this guy did it exactly the same way.

I took Ross' picture in front of Letterman's studio just the way I did with you. And I walked by the Brooks Brothers where you bought your prom tie. I ended up sitting next to 4 Texas Aggies at one of the Broadway shows I attended. And I ran into your friend, Crazy Rachel, who goes to school in Chicago but was in NYC for the APAP convention. She saw me first and said "Lynn, it's Rachel. Remember me? I was a friend of ..." and then she trailed off rather than saying your name. I wish there was a way to educate the world that it's really more than okay to still mention you or say your name. So many people still can't do it or don't know what to say.

I'm starting to feel serious anxiety and worry about our house situation. It's only been shown twice in 3 1/2 months. I really don't know what to do I'm trying to have patience and faith. In the big scheme of things, after losing you, it really doesn't matter in the same way it once would have but at the same time, I really don't want to lose all the financial resources we've worked 30 years for. If we have to keep living, I would rather do it with a little money.

We all love and miss you so very much, bud.

I'm signing off now to write a letter to a newly bereaved mom whose 12 year son died last week in a car wreck. ugh.

all my love
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Ross and I are leaving bright and early tomorrow morning for New York City. I'm going to the performing arts conference and Ross is going to explore the city. He's never been so it should be fun. I remember so vividly our last family vacation with you - to NYC in April 07. After flying the red eye, Dad and I slept for a few hours. When we awoke, we called you on your cell and you & Tyler were having an "Irish breakfast" somewhere nearby. I said "Aren't you tired? Didn't you want to rest for a bit?" You said "Ma, I can sleep when I'm dead. I'm in New York City!" Dad and I talked about that comment the other day. That was such a "Ryan comment" and is definitely how you lived your life. And I'm now so glad you did.

I've been fighting the blues the last couple of days in spite of some major successes at work. My sadness over losing you still trumps any other joys in my life. I now have fewer awful days but they still pop up from time to time.

Tonight I saw on Kris Murphy's facebook page that a 12 year old friend of hers died in a car wreck on his way home from school. A 10th grader was driving. I fear it was his brother - couldn't really tell from the news story. That poor family. I wish I could wave a magic wand and protect them from all they are feeling now and will feel for such a long time to come.

Chris and I were trying to remember the name of your beta fish that Ashley Garcia gave you for your 18th birthday that Chris almost killed. Neither of us can remember. I want to call you and ask you.

Over the weekend Dad and I saw Up In The Air. The two main characters were named Ryan and Natalie.

Annie turned 21 today. And you will always be 18.

Love and miss you so much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's the last day of 2009. New Year's Eve. I always feel contemplative on this day as I look back on a full year that sped past. Some years are great; some have been tragic and some have been a mixed bag. I'm always amazed at how quickly the year has gone regardless of whether it was a good one or a bad one.

It was 10 years ago today the world was anxiously awaiting Y2K - fearing all sorts of catastrophes that never came to be. It all feels silly in hindsight. Our family celebrated at a dull New Year's Eve party at the mall in Wichita Falls with the McAdens, Humperts and others. You were 10. Ross was 14 - a freshman at Old High - just sprouting his independence wings with driving friends and other scary things. We didn't know it at the time but in a few months we would be moving to California - leaving behind our Texas friends and family. Such a huge adventure in our lives.

After losing you, I now approach the new year with trepidation, knowing it will hold profound suffering for many people - maybe even me. On New Year's Eve of 2006, I was melancholy knowing it was our last holiday in Modesto - knowing we were moving and leaving the familiarity of our lives and our dear friends; knowing you were graduating and leaving home; knowing but not knowing that our lives were about to change drastically.

Last New Year's Eve, we had no idea that Debra's mom would become ill and die within a few months. Now here we are again, on the eve of a new year knowing people we love will die in the coming year. We just don't know who they are yet.

I kept a journal this year. I wrote down every book I read (I read 40 fiction books and 29 non-fiction books); every movie I saw (I saw 20 movies); and I kept a list of suffering. I wrote down the names of everyone who died who impacted me in some way - I may have known them personally or I may have known someone who loved them or they may have just been a high profile death that grabbed the public's attention. That list is pages long.

Joni, Angelo, Tommy, Fred, Linda B, Linda G, Mark, Dave B and Dave G lost their dads. Belinda, Ken, Curtis, Dina, Debra, John B, John M, Melanee, Talbott, Mary & Tim, Donna & Roscoe, Elizabeth, Ken, Kenni, Mrs Ashlock and Dawn lost their moms. Policemen were killed. Planes crashed. Crazy people went into offices and shot people.Earthquakes in foreign lands killed hundreds. Hikers in Yosemite fell to their deaths.

Famous people as well as regular people died - Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Natasha Richardson, Millard Fuller, Bruno from West Wing, Dan Seals, Walter Cronkite, Bea Arthur, an Anaheim Angel baseball player, Danny Gans, Frank McCourt, Jack Kemp, Dom Deloise, Wayman Tisdale, Norman Brinker, Ed McMahon, Billy Mays, Karl Mauldin, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Ted Kennedy, Patrick Swayze, Mary from Peter, Paul & Mary, and Brittany Murphy.

Friends I cared about - Bette Belle, Aday, Sue Smith Brooks, Mary Jacobus, Joe Cooper, Tom Crane, Jane Armstrong, Kirk Lindsey, Carole Tomlinson Keasy, Ken Diehl.

And the ones that touch my heart the most -children young & old who left behind grieving parents.
Rosie's grandson who died in a car wreck right after Christmas last year; little 10 month old Brody who choked to death ; Jett Travolta; Ryan Armstrong who left behind a dad named Ron and a brother named Ross; Bryce Turner - a student at Chapman University whose dad is Mark Looker's friend; Daniel Hyde who gave his life in Iraq; Lynn Padlo's daughter; Dimitri - Stevie's' cousin; Josh Kelly; Sandra Cantu who was brutally murdered; Adrianna Bachan - a USC student who was hit by a car and killed; Peter O'Ran who was 3 days older than you and died of a heart defect; Mica a friend of a friend of Brianne's who died in a car accident; Kathy Stone Wood daughter of Pat & Bud who died in a car wreck; 25 year old Alison from Escalon; 23 year old Alicia from Knight's Ferry; Sara, David, Jesse & Jason - children & grandchildren of dear Louise & Bill who died in a drunk driving crash; John Daniel Pontus son of a South Carolina friend who died in a car accident; Michael Ford; Shelby Evans - sister of Brianna's sorority sister; Joe Louden - a counselor from Foothills; Jeremy Kelley who died in a motorcycle crash; Brooke's twin babies; 7 year old Madison from Ceres who died of a brain tumor; Dustin - beloved only child of my new friend Alice; Annie Le - the bright Yale student who was murdered; Van's son Charlie; 3 kids from El Dorado Hills who died in a car crash; 18 month old boy from Coppell who was Casey's friend and Dennis' parishioner, 20 year old Jessie who died in a car wreck.

And there are lots more. As I am now so keenly aware - the world is a dangerous place and life if full of suffering. We don't know what 2010 holds for any of us.Undoubtedly, it will hold both joy and sadness; both victory and defeat; both tragedy and ecstasy.

My new year's resolution is to make the most of each day; to redeem your death for something good in the world; to do my part to lighten someone's load and to do all the good I can while I'm here- knowing I'm only here for a short while in the big scheme of things.

So happy new year sweet boy. I will miss you as much in 2010 as I did in 2008 and 2009.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well, we survived another Christmas without you. Our third - still feels surreal that the world goes on without you in it.

We flew to Texas on Christmas morning. Up at 3am, left the house at 4am, took off at 6am, finally got to Beaumont at 4pm. Dad stayed with Granddad at the hospital while Ross and I continued on to Jasper. It was fun to be with the family and experience Christmas with little kids again. It's been a long time since we did that. Their excitement helped cover up our longing for you. You would have had a great time and I couldn't help but think of how much fun you would be having and how the little kids would be fawning over you, as they always did.

Aunt Les and Eady told me I think about death too much. It's hard for people to realize how differently I feel about death now. With you there, it seems like a good place to go to me.

Granddad isn't doing very well. He's disoriented and confused, as well as very frail. I fear him living too long rather than dying too soon. He won't be able to live alone after this and he has lost all his independence. Seems to me like death would be a welcome relief for him but that isn't for me to decide, obviously. He's such a good fellow and has had more than his share of suffering in his lifetime. Last week when Dad called him, he thought it was you. He kept calling Dad "Ryan" and Dad kept correcting him. I know you'll be there to welcome him over and give him a knuckle sandwich when his time comes.

Dad and I are going skiing tomorrow. It will be my first time since our near collision in January of 2001 that took out my ACL. I just went through your ski box and am going to wear your jacket and long underwear and socks. I can't find your good goggles. Maybe I will feel you close to me and have your skiing ability tomorrow. I hope I don't hold the group up as I remember how to do it.

I have a rotten cold and have felt bad for almost a full week now. I'm ready to be well. I'm tired of coughing.

It was one year ago tomorrow that we dedicated your tree at the library. It's amazing how time marches on, regardless of whether we're happy or sad.

I love you bud and miss you so very, very much.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
It's almost Christmas. All your buds are home from college. I see their photos on Facebook at parties, having fun and it breaks my heart that you aren't with them. Yesterday I saw photos posted by Abbey Murphy of their annual trek to the city. It reminded me of the years we went with them. Some of those years were really fun as we tromoped through the streets of San Francisco, rode the cable cars, ice skated, shopped, sang Christmas carols on BART. I can barely bring myself to look at photos that remind me so much of all we have lost. I'm not sure why I do it because it's so painful. But I do. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.

Granddad isn't doing so well. He's still in the hospital healing from his hip surgery but his mind seems to be failing too. Today when Dad called him, he thought it was you. He kept saying "Ryan? Why hello Ryan!" It took Dad a while to get through to him that it was him and not you. It makes us wonder if he's in that "tween" place where maybe he's seeing you as well as us. I sort of hope so. And it makes me a little envious. I would rather he move on to Heaven than suffer in this life. I told Dad tonight that it's a shame we can't will ourselves to move on to the next life. He said "Yes, but if that was possible, you and I would have already gone." Very true.

Chris and I talked today about how he doesn't know what it feels like to lose a child and I don't know what it feels like to lose a best friend. Then he said "Lots of people know how I feel because Ryan had so many best friends."

I took Natalie to lunch today. It's always great to see her. She is still as pretty as ever - on the inside as well as the outside. I often wonder if you two would have stayed together or found new loves at college. If you had stayed together you would have had really beautiful children. And they would have been smart and sweet. I can see why you two were such a good match.

I love and miss you so very, very much.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Last night we hosted the Third Annual Remembering Ryan Reunion. I think there were about 90 people here throughout the 4 hours. It's a bittersweet time for Dad and me. We love seeing your friends and we're thrilled they still love you and us enough to drive to Sacramento for the party, yet at the same time it makes us sad to see them all growing up without you. So many of them are doing really great things with their lives - studying abroad, cool internships in Washington, traveling, etc. You would have loved all that so much. I felt your presence with us, especially on Friday night as I was rounding up photos of you to put out. The lights in the hall flickered on and off for about a full minute. I called Dad in and said "I think Ryan is with us." It was pretty cool.

Last Tuesday we presented the Mock Trial award in your name to Vas. He was the nominee from Johansen so we were thrilled to choose him as the winner. Modesto High won the championship and they are headed to State. After they won, they did the "Who are we? MoHi!Where are we from? Westside!" cheer in your honor. It touched my heart though they weren't nearly as good at it as you were! There were several people there who knew and loved you so it was a special night.

Chad left a sweet card for us last night and I read it this morning. His words made me cry. He said "No matter how many years go by, or where this life may take me, I will never forget Ryan. His life's example and positive attitude significantly shaped who I am today. He will always have a permanent place in my heart and memory."

Only 5 days til Christmas. You would be SO excited as you always were. Christmas just isn't the same in our house without your exuberance and energy. We muddle through but it's certainly not as joyful nor as fun.

Loving and missing you dearly,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
Granddad fell last week and broke his hip. He had surgery on Thursday and will be in the hospital for several more weeks. Dad flew to Texas yesterday morning to help care for him a few days, giving Uncle Larry a break.

I have spent all day baking in preparation for the 3rd annual Remembering Ryan Reunion scheduled for next Saturday night. We've had about 80 the last two years and I'm guessing we'll have a similar number this year. Dad and I have been baking and freezing cookies for weeks. Ross eats them almost as fast as we bake them! It will be nice to see the old gang. It makes me sad that you won't be among them. I try to focus on the joy of seeing all your friends rather than the sadness of you not being here. I'm going to imagine your spirit being with us that night.

Last week we hosted the Chamber of Commerce mixer at the Gallo Center. I was talking to one of Dad's former co-workers and she told me about telling Gary Plummer about your death right after it happened. She said he said "No, not Ryan." I think everyone felt that way. Not Ryan Dickerson. Later I introduced myself to the lady who recently bought Village Baking Company. She said "You were a Lakewood mom, weren't you?" She told me her two girls also went there. I asked their ages and when she told me one of them is 20, I said "Oh, your 20 year old must have been in Ryan's class." She said "Yes, and she has told me what a really great person he was." She also apologized for bringing it up, afraid she might have made me sad. I wish people understood that I NEVER forget about it - even for a second. And I love for people to bring you up.

Ross' friend Kevin, who never met you, had a dream about you recently and in the dream you were trying to give him a message about Ross. He spent the night last night so at breakfast this morning, I tried to hear more about the dream but I think he felt awkward telling me about it, especially since he never met you.

I can listen to Christmas music this year. Huge step forward. I couldn't bear to hear any Christmas music the last two years so it's a sign I'm making progress. I even went to a Christmas party last night and had fun. Time is a magic elixir.

Ross and I talked about you earlier tonight while I was baking and he was watching me bake. I told him my memories of you are dimming which I hate. He said he still has moments when he picks up his phone to call you about something. He said Chris Crutcher just published a new book, after a 10 year hiatus. You would be excited about that. I'm sure I would have bought it for you for Christmas.

Ross and I had a nice conversation about how grateful I am to have him. Then he said he likes to think the reason I didn't kill myself was because of him. I told him that is true. Then he said "well thank you for that, Mom."

We all love and miss you so very much, bud.
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today Dad and I drove to Modesto for the Holiday Parade of Lights. I was a judge and Dad was Scoopy for The Bee. It was the first time for us to attend the parade since before you died. It was a good night but we both missed you terribly. Dad was a fabulous Scoopy, as always, high fiving and hugging kids - young and old. He's perfect in a character suit. As I sat in the judge's stand and watched all the entries, I almost cried several times. I remembered all the years we were there as family. When the Cub Scout floats came by, I remembered all those Scouting days. The high school bands choked me up. It was a bittersweet evening. I also realized maybe God put us in Sacramento for a reason those first two years. We needed that time to heal in a quiet place where we were anonymous and there weren't reminders of you and our old life everywhere we turned. It's taken this long - almost 2 1/2 years for us to be strong enough to face those things that conjure up such painful, but precious, memories.

I spent much of my week helping with the logistics for Bette Belle's memorial service next Tuesday. I feel like it's my final act of friendship for someone who was so special to all of us. I'm glad I can help in a small way. I also keep thinking of how both of you died on a Sunday, the 29th. Maybe God reserves those days for some of his most special saints to join him.

We have decided to go to Jasper on Christmas Day. We haven't been there for Christmas in years - 9 years, I think. I am now so keenly aware of the fragility of life - who knows how many more Christmases we have with Granddad or Gran or Bamps? Or any of our family as we have learned by losing you. It's not just the old folks who die.
We are going to fly on Christmas day. That is an awful day for us anyway so we might as well be in an airplane. The Texas family seems excited we're coming. It won't feel right without you there too. Nothing does.

Love and miss you with all my heart,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

Dad and I are very sad right now. We just learned that sweet Bette Belle has flown up to Heaven with you. Even though she was almost 89 and in failing health, it's hard to imagine Modesto without her. It's the end of an era. She was truly an extraordinary human being.

She called me a few days after your funeral and I cried as we talked. I told her I was jealous that she was likely to see you sooner than I would. She said "Well when I get there, we're going to bake chocolate chip cookies together." So I hope you were there to greet her and once she has gotten reacquainted with the many friends and loved ones who got there first, you two can bake some cookies.

A few days after it was announced I would be taking the Gallo Arts Center CEO job, I got a call mid morning at home. It was Bette Belle's daughter, Mary, who said "Lynn, I'm at the hospital with Mother and she's going in for a procedure but she won't go until she talks to you." So she put her on the phone and Bette Belle told me how thrilled she was that I was coming back to Modesto and taking the GCA job. When I hung up the phone, I sobbed and told Dad I was afraid she wasn't going to make it out of the procedure. She had called me just in case. But she did make it out and lived another two months.

Bless her sweet heart. She will be greatly missed. I've never known one single person who has made more of a positive difference in their community than Bette Belle. Jean will be 90 in 10 days and now his bride is gone. I know his heart is broken.

I love you bud. I'm glad to know the two of you are together up there.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
You would be so proud of us. Ross and I headed out around noon to buy a Christmas tree. Dad was still trying to avoid all things Christmas so we went alone. After checking out a couple of tree lots, where Ross wondered aloud where they find all the ex-cons to man the lots, we settled on a big Noble fir. A couple of nice high school kids tied it to the top of the Lexus and we creeped home. Ross made fun of me for driving so slowly - at one point he reached over and turned on the flashers. When we finally pulled into the driveway, I said "yeah, we made it without losing the tree." Ross said "yes, 3 miles and 45 minutes later, we're here." It was a slight exaggeration.

Then we began the arduous task of drilling a hole in the trunk and getting the tree to stand upright in the stand. We eventually had to get help from Dad.

Ross brought the tree in the house and he and I strung the lights. They are a far cry from a Ron Dickerson job that used to take 8 hours but they are on. Ross and I were so proud of ourselves for accomplishing that task and then half an hour later, I walked into the living room and half the lights were no longer shining. So we had to call poor Dad to our rescue again. He fixed the problem for us. So much for his attempts at not participating in the Christmas tree process.

We still can't bring ourselves to go through our old boxes of ornaments. Just too many painful memories. So we are using the new ornaments I bought in '07. Our tree looks like a department store tree instead of a family tree but that's the best we can do for now.

So the tree is standing, albeit leaning quite a bit to one side. I told Ross it's a little like our wounded family. Standing but not straight and tall. But it's burning brightly. I feel victorious. Another hard hurdle cleared.

Ross said to me earlier today, and I repeated it to Dad tonight...."Ryan wouldn't want us to be sad about Christmas." So on we trudge, doing our best.

Love you, love you, love you,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well we made it through another Thanksgiving without you. We are grateful for the 14 friends who chose to share the holiday with us, helping to camouflage our loneliness and aching.

Earlier today I read the blog from a young woman in Dallas who lost her husband to a brain tumor in September. She is a writer for the Dallas Morning News so her way with words is better than mine. I related to a couple of these phrases:

"My list of thanks is long this year, but it's overshadowed by my immeasurable sorrow – the death of my dear husband in September."

" In the shadow of so much sorrow, I am thankful for the comfort found in doing things the way we always did them – even though I know those traditions will evolve over the years without Steve."

I feel similarly. My list of thanks is long too. I'm thankful for my new job that I love so much and fits my skill set so well. I'm thankful for Dad and Ross and Scrumpy. I'm thankful for our Texas family even though we rarely see them. I'm thankful for our huge and wonderful group of friends - many who have been with us every step of this horrible 28 month journey. I'm grateful for my good health and able body - not because I want to live forever because I don't - but because I do want to live until I die - just like you did. I'm thankful that we were good savers all of our lives so that now I can afford to do a job I love that pays less than 1/4 what I used to earn; that I can not stress (too much anyway) about this big house that won't sell. I'm grateful that Dad has a new interest in life and enthusiasm about his new business venture. But as Tyra Damm so aptly put it, still my thankfulness is overshadowed by my immeasurable sorrow. And I suppose it always will be. (I still cringe when people say Life is good or I see one of those stupid Life is Good t-shirts.)

In Wednesday's mail came a sweet card from an old friend in Wichita Falls who also lost a son many years ago. She said this "After your terrible loss (and ours in 1979) we know how we each feel. I was told peace comes with acceptance - but it is so long in coming. My heart broke for each of you - I regret you didn't hear from me, but somehow I just couldn't write."

It is indeed a horrible thing to lose a child, especially one as extraordinary as you. We missed you yesterday, even more than we do every day.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
This may be my hardest day of the year. I always loved the day before Thanksgiving in our old life. I loved setting the tables, preparing the "feast" as you called it. I loved the anticipation of the holiday season, just over the horizon. It was always one of my very favorite days of the year. In my new "normal, I still enjoy the day but it is a bittersweet day. I miss you more than usual on this day because you should be home with us. And we would all be so full of joy to see you.

Dad is out delivering turkey dinners to Hospice patients right now. If you were here, you would have gone with him and it would have been a fun father/son outing. I'm sure Dad is thinking the same thing though we don't talk about it much. We both fear "losing it" if we allow ourselves to explore those "only ifs".

I cried several times yesterday and today. I began my day with a tearful goodbye to Debra as she told me to have a happy Thanksgiving in spite of my heavy heart and empty spot at our table. Then I cried at Rotary when Pete Herrmann and I discussed you and Lezzzlie. I cried at my desk a time or two. I miss you so very, very much.

I sent notes to many of my bereaved moms across the country. For many of them, it is their first holiday season without their children and I remember how awful the first one is.

I have been dutifully cooking and prepping all morning. The homemade rolls you love are rising. The sweet potatoes are ready to go into the oven. The dressing is made. And I thought of you with each step of the process and wished you were here to sample.

I hope there is a Heaven and that the celebration is bigger and better than anything we can imagine here. I hope you are surrounded by fun kids and pretty girls, as well as Nanny & Papa, MawMaw & PawPaw, Uncle Paul, B, Grandpa Robbie and all the others who are there with you.

I love and miss you much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My eyes welled up with tears today in Raley's - right there on the canned fruit aisle, as I put the crushed pineapple for the frozen fruit salad in my cart. I don't think many of our Thanksgiving guests even like my frozen fruit salad, but yet I will always make it because you loved it. You and Bamps both loved it a lot. You were always happy when there were leftover ramekins in the freezer a few days later. As I stood in the grocery store this morning, I was hearing in my head Brianna's words from her eulogy at your funeral..."and Ry, I'll save my fruit cup for you at Thanksgiving". I cry just typing this.

Last year on your birthday Mrs. Pugh decided to become an adult literacy tutor as her Random Acts of Kindness for Ryan. It has been a very rewarding experience for her. She is teaching a 50 year old man who has never gone to school how to read. You would love that so very much. She sent this email to me a few days ago. It made me cry. Here's what she said.

"Last night I had my reading lesson with my student. He
finished the first set of skill books and had to take a checkup test to go on to the next book. After we finished the test (he did very well) I suggested that he get his library card to reward his hard work. We went and he signed up and received his library card!! He was amazed that he doesn't have to pay for books. :)

Well, after he got his new library card we went to the children's
section to pick out a few books that he could read to his son Joshua who is four years old. I showed him Ryan's tree and the plaque and told him about Ryan and his work at the library and love for reading and that I loved him so much. I told him about honoring and remembering him on his birthday and the tutoring was my kindness act because of Ryan and that he (my student) was my first student.
Ryan's love for reading just got passed on to someone who very much
wants to learn to read.
I thought you would like that."

I know you would beam with pride to hear that story.

We saw Mrs Taylor-Cameron at Home for the Holidays yesterday and she gave me several pictures taken at a speech tournament your sophomore year. One is priceless. It's when you learned you were going to State. you have your hands raised in victory and a huge excited grin on your face. I framed it. Getting these photos we've never seen is such a gift.

I love and miss you so much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
These days leading up to Thanksgiving are so hard for me. I miss you so much and want you to be getting on an airplane next week and heading to California. I want to go to the Sacramento airport and eagerly await you at the bottom of the escalator. I want to see you come into sight with your backpack slung over one shoulder and that sweet, crooked grin on your face. I want you here for "the feast" next week so you can eat yourself into a "food coma" as Brianna calls it. I want you back!

When I return home after being in Modesto all week, Scrumpy is so glad to see me. He whimpers with excitement and curls his body into mine in a dog/person hug of sorts. It's really precious to see how much he loves me. I often think it must be like what it would be for you to come back home to me. I'm sure when I leave on Monday mornings, Scrump doesn't know where I am or if he'll ever see me again. Then when I return, he is overcome with joy, just like I would be if you were returned to me.

Tonight we went out for sushi with Ross and his friend, Kevin. I proposed a toast to you, the lover of all things sushi, and we clinked our water glasses together.

Yesterday was Kettle Kick Off day - one of my favorite days of the year. I teared up numerous times during the event. I have always loved the Salvation Army band and their Christmas carols. I felt that first uprising of Christmas spirit, like I always did in my old life, and it made me cry. I cried because you aren't here to share in these holidays and your death prevents me from being able to fully love them like I did all of my life before losing you. I cried when the total was announced - $227,000 in this lousy economy. I cried at that because the goodness of humans touched my heart. My late friend Aday used to joke that she was the kind of person who cried at supermarket grand openings. I am that kind of person too. When people's goodness shines in such a bright way it makes me cry. I cried at the video of Bette Belle who is so frail and thin - and at Jean who filled in for her as a Christmas angel and looked so sad without her.

I am doing my best to navigate the holidays better this year. I am facing them head on; not running from them like I have the past two years. I am trying to feel the joy again. It isn't easy but it isn't as hard either. I'm grateful for that.

You are with me in my heart every second of every day.

I love you so much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
On Friday, several of us from my new office took a "field trip" to the library to see your tree. Chris G had never seen it, believe it or not. Brianne was in town so she went with us, as well as two of my new colleagues. It's such a beautiful tribute to your beautiful life. After reading the plaque, my new friend, Al, said "Man, he was a handsome kid." I said "yea, inside and out." Then I told him all about your death and what a great kid you were. I told him he would have really liked you. He had asked me earlier in the week if you were like Chris.(He really likes Chris.) I told him you were funny and charming like Chris but also very different in many ways.

Dad and I stayed for the Lord of the Dance Broadway show at the Gallo Center for the Arts last night. It was a fabulous performance. We held hands every time they played the song, Lord of the Dance, since it always reminds us of your funeral.

I actually bought a couple Christmas presents today and looked through some catalogs with Christmas gifts. I couldn't do that the first two years. I am so grateful the holidays are being a bit easier this year. I can't imagine them every holding the same amount of joy and happy anticipation they did in my old life but I'm enormously grateful that they don't hurt as badly as they did the first two years.

I did a Facebook invitation today for the Third Annual Remembering Ryan Reunion. Several people have commented on how unbelievable it is that this is the third Christmas without you. You would be a Junior in college. So weird.

On Tuesday night Chris went with me to the JoDee Messina concert. We were back stage before the concert began and she came through the door carrying a laptop with a webcam. She thrust it in Chris' face and said "Who are you?" He said "I'm Chris Glynn, Lynn Dickerson's intern." A few minutes later we both commented on how we wished we could call and tell you so you could log on and see Chris and make fun of him.

I love and miss you so much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry
Even after 27 1/2 months, I still have bad days - days where I miss you so much it hurts. Yesterday was one of those. Something happened at Rotary that made me very sad. I actually cried and I don't do that often anymore. A new member gave her new member talk. She is a lovely person, a few years younger than me. I don't really know her but had thought she was someone I would like to get to know. In her speech she talked about how good her life has been: a wholesome upbringing on a farm in small town Central California. Big loving family; married the man of her dreams almost 30 years ago; has two grown beautiful daughters (one your age and one 2 years older), yadda, yadda, yadda. She was a good speaker and her talk was interesting and well done. But she ended it by saying something along the lines of "I have come to firmly believe that everything that happens is meant to be and God is a loving, all powerful God who knows what is best for us.' I'm paraphrasing but that's the gist of it. I looked up, across the table and locked eyes with Tracey Kerr who was looking right at me with pity. I rolled my eyes at her, like "yeah, right" and about that time, Debra put her arm around me and patted my shoulder. She later told me she "heard my heart crack open" when that phrase was uttered. I began to cry right there at the table. I can't get to that place of believing your death and all the other horrible things that happen in this fallen world are "meant to be" and a part of God's plan.

The program at Rotary yesterday was a Veterans Day program and there was a mom there who lost her son in Fallujah 5 years ago. We talked briefly after the program. We hugged and shared our broken hearts. We talked about the importance of living in the moment and how we no longer have any fear of death since 'we have people there".

I found the piece below this morning on a website written by a mom who recently lost her son to cancer. It's about parents of critically ill children but I think it applies to parents of dead chidlren too. We also get accused of being strong when we're really just surviving because we have no other choice.


"Parents of children with a terminal illness are often referred to or viewed as having strength “like a rock.” Albeit flattering, it isn’t quite true. It is more like the strength of an egg. An egg, you ask? Yes! If you’ll think about it, you’ll see my point. An egg has a polished, smooth outer appearance, with no cracks or weak spots visible. It seems almost inconceivablele that the inside might not be so smooth or solid. Most children, at some point are shown the famous egg trick. An egg set at just the right angle can withstand enormous amounts of pressure and cannot be cracked or broken. Yet the same egg, tapped gently at an ever slightly different angle, will break. The contents, once so neatly concealed, will come spilling out. The no longer perfect shell will be crushed. It looks so fragile that it seems inconceivablele that it ever held any strength. A rock, on the other hand, is solid all the way through. To break it is almost impossible. If you succeed, you will find that there is nothing inside but more rock. It takes a lot more than pure hardness to hold the hand of hope. Parents of [medically fragile] children are not solid all the way through. We hurt, we fear, we cry, we hope. It takes a very careful balancing act to keep the shell from being shattered. “Balancing an egg” while running a household, going for doctors’ visits and hospital stays, keeping the family together, and holding on to the constantly unraveling ties of your sanity can be very tricky indeed! Occasionally, the angle will be off and the shell will break, shattering hope and all the neatly secured appearances of a truly fragile existence. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, though, parents of medically fragile kids will pick themselves up and put themselves back together again."

Anonymous


Love and miss you so much bud
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I'm home again after another busy week at my new job in Modesto. I just finished up the fifth week. I've learned a lot and continue to think this is a great fit for me. Chris G volunteers in my office every day so it's good to be with him. My colleagues get a kick out him calling me Mrs. D. It's so natural to me that I don't even think anything about it. They find it amusing though.

Meghan Devlin's photo was on the front page of the Bee's sport section yesterday. In the photo, she's in the pool, making a shot. He arm muscles are rippling and your green bracelet is on her shooting wrist. I didn't notice the bracelet until Mrs. Pugh texted me to comment on it.

I had dinner last week with a new bereaved mom friend. She lost her only child, a 29 year old son, in early September. We talked about how sad we are that we'll never be grandmothers to your children. I still have a shot at the grandmother role with Ross but all her opportunities are gone. I understand that sadness.

Today I got out our Thanksgiving decorations. Somehow the holidays don't feel as ominous as the past two did. I'm so grateful for that. I don't think Dad feels the same way. I rarely allow myself to go to that place where I think "Oh, he'll be coming home for Thanksgiving in just 3 weeks." It's too painful so I try to push it out of my mind when it sneaks in.

Earlier today I was cleaning up my contacts in my i-phone. I came to your entry and I read it and cried. I have your cell phone number as well as your dorm number and your dorm address and your WashU email. I never got to use any of those but I can't bear to delete them either.

I went to my friend, Ken Diehl's funeral yesterday. He was 86 so it was his time. I liked him very much. He was quite the jokester so I hope you see him in Heaven. Afterward we took our 88 year old friend, George, to lunch. We talked about Abraham Lincoln and how his wife went mad after their first son died. I told George I understand how that could happen. I went a little mad myself. George said to us that he wished he had known you. That was invitation enough for Dad to brag on you for a while. We told him how much you liked Lincoln too. Then George said "I've always thought the very worst thing that could happen to me would be to lose a child." We told him he is right about that.

I love you much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
I have spent more time on Micheal Piper's site and found this post by his mom that really resonated with me. I love the piece written by Emily Kingsley. So very, very true. Here it is.

"I have come to view loss in a very broad sense, and feel we are equally entitled to profound feelings. Loss of life is but one "reading" on what I have dubbed the "grief-o-mometer." Other losses can also have a profound impact and require us to work through grief. The grief of a sick or hurt child....any parent of a child with cancer or other life threatening illness will tell you the grieving begins with the initial diagnosis. The grief of an ill spouse or aging parent. The grief of separation from someone you love....for whatever reason....and there are many. The grief of divorce. The grief of raising a child that doesn't match the "dream" the parent had. The grief of not realizing your own dreams. All of these things and many others cause our hearts to ache and our minds to scream in pain, then hopefully settle in time.

One of our Caringbridge Angels sent us this wonderful piece that speaks to that hopeful transition. It goes like this:

WELCOME TO HOLLAND
by Emily Perl Kingsley
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip -to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

" Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is they haven't taken you to a horrible, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills... and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy...and they're all talking about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ...about Holland.

Reprinted with permission from Emily Perl Kinglsey. 1987 copyright by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.

I haven't yet accepted Holland. So far, I haven't even seen a windmill. Perhaps spring will bring a tulip.

If you haven't been to Italy, I pray you find peace in Holland. If you have found a home in Italy, I pray you have compassion for those in Holland."

written by Becca Piper


I'm just now seeing a few tulips and windmills. For over two years I mourned all that Italy promised and I would never see. I like the part about "if you have found a home in Italy, have compassion for those of us in Holland."

I was helping Ross clean his bathroom a few minutes ago and had a tearful meltdown when I went through the drawer and saw your cough drops, asthma medicine, inhaler, retainer, etc. I sobbed and Ross hugged me. I said "I miss him so much." and Ross said "I do, too Mom. I do too."

Love you so much buddy
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

I continue to connect with fellow bereaved moms all across this big country of ours. My newest is a woman Annie referred me to. She met her through some program she is applying for having to do with adoption. Annie found out this woman had lost a 15 year old son about 2 years ago. The lady apologized to Annie and explained that she still has very hard days. Annie, being the sweet person she is, and having lost both you and Kendall - two dear friends in one short lifetime - was especially sensitive to the lady's feelings. She told her about you and later gave me the mom's email address. We connected and this morning I have spent some time reading her son's Carebridges site. The following is a post from Becca, Michael's mom. It hit home with me because I find myself reacting similarly when I see families together - especially when the parents don't seem to appreciate what they have. Here's what she wrote:

"A few moments before in the lobby of our hotel, a family was playing a card game with their three kids. Their conversation was relaxed and everyone sounded like they were having fun. As they were called to dinner, Mom and the three kids went ahead, while Dad put the card game away. I casually commented, “You have a very nice family…really nice kids.” Dad rolled his eyes back in his head and said, “It’s been a LONG two weeks.” I cried because I have become so aware of how we take things for granted. “Enjoy them every minute,” I said quietly. “You never know how long you’ll have them.” I’m sure he didn’t hear me. In some ways I hope he didn’t. Even if he had heard the words, they are meaningless to people who have not lost a child, or been close to someone who has. A few years ago, the very same words would have been lost on me.

In our society, death, especially of a child is so frightening that our human psyche doesn’t think of it as real, until it is. We slide into parenting fully believing that our kids will be with us forever. Intellectually, we know any of us could die at any moment, but emotionally, we don’t come close to that reality. Instead, if anything, we “dance” around the topic, “playing” with it. I’ve only told a few people this, but in the doctor’s office, just moments before Michael was diagnosed, we were having that age old conversation that starts with “What would you do if you knew you only had a week to live?” It was just something to talk about, but it had no feeling of reality. The furthest thing from our minds was that Michael would be diagnosed with cancer within moments. Without the chemotherapy, Michael would not have lived a week. He was already that sick.

Life changes in a moment."


Amen to that.

love you so much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry
Today is the 29th again. It's been 27 months since you left this world for the next one. Unbelievable that we're still going through the motions of life and that the earth is still spinning without you here.

I read this quote in yesterday's Sac Bee. It was from a story about Maria Shriver's Women's conference and the session on grief. Susan St. James who lost her 14 year old son in a plane crash in 2004 told this story. I LOVE the thought. Here's what the story said:

"Teddy Ebersole, the son of St. James and NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol, died in 2004 when the chartered jet that he and his father were in crashed in Colorado. St. James said that after his death, she received letters from a lot of businessmen who knew her husband. One from a a professional football team owner struck a chord with her.

It said. "You know, the thing that helped me the most is, we're not human beings having a spiritual experience, we're spiritual beings having a human experience." she said. "And I could picture Teddy as a spiritual being and then coming down on Earth, having these 14 cool years and then going home."

I like to think that way about you. That you had 18 really wonderful years where you spread love and joy and fun wherever you went. Then your job was done and you went home. Sometimes when I look around at all the awful things that go on in this world, I'm glad you don't have to experience anymore of it. Most of your life was free of suffering or heart ache of any kind and for that, I'm eternally grateful.

Dad drove up last night for a Boy Scout fundraising dinner. He got stuck in a terrible traffic jam and it took him almost 4 hours to get here. He wasn't wearing his dress clothes, thinking he would have plenty of time to change. Then the traffic problem occurred and he was cutting it really close. He wasn't sure where to change clothes so he went through a Prime Shine carwash and alerted the attendants that he wasn't a pervert but was going to change clothes during the wash. They told him he had a little over 2 minutes to get it done and he did. You would have liked that story.

Dad and I both teared up at the Boy Scout dinner seeing those young boys in their uniforms and remembering the year you said the invocation for Royal Robbins' dinner in the same venue. You were mad at me for roping you into that commitment but you did a good job and left as soon as the prayer was said. So I got to be proud of you and you got to escape early so we were both satisfied.

I see you everywhere in Modesto. And I miss you so very, very much.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry

You would have been so proud of your ol' Pop Squat this afternoon. We were on our walk when we noticed a boy and his mom. The boy was trying to learn how to ride his bike. He was much older than a normal bike learner and his mom was shouting out instructions to him but not participating in the activity. Dad and I walked on a little ways and Dad said "I'm going back to help him." So he went back, introduced himself to Ethan, and then proceeded to teach him how to ride his bike. Ethan is 12 and was very appreciative of Dad's help. By the time we left, Dad was sweaty but Ethan was successfully navigating the parking lot at the wildlife center. When we walked off, he yelled out "Thanks Ron!" It was sweet. Such a "Dad thing" to do. As always I was proud of him as you would have been.

Tyler came for Sunday dinner today. Dad drove to Davis and picked him up and Ross took him back. We had roast beef, mashed potatoes, salad, asparagus, bread and apple pie. Tyler said "This is such a Dickerson dinner!" I think maybe that's the only thing he misses about us - our meals! It was good to see him. Felt like old times except you were missing.

Our house has been listed 3 weeks and has only been shown once. I knew it was slow but I thought we would have some initial activity. No such luck. I am not going to stress over it. At least I have places to stay in Modesto and it's only 1 1/2 hours away. Could be a lot worse. Since losing you, I don't stress over things like that anymore. My perspective on most aspects of life has changed.

In a few more days you will have been gone 27 months. Still hard to believe.

I'll be heading back to Modesto early tomorrow morning for another busy week. I carry you in my heart wherever I go.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My life has become so busy I don't even have time to write these letters to you anymore. But I still think of you every second of every day.

I love my new job and am working my tail off. But it's fun and rewarding and I think I'm going to be really good at it. I've learned a lot in just three weeks but still have lots more to learn.

I saw Annie this week. She was in town for a short fall break and invited me to lunch with her mom, Mrs. Pugh, Julia's mom, Alyssa's mom and Brianne's mom. Those mom lunches are something I normally would avoid since it's excruciating for me to listen to everyone's report on their happy successful college kids and when my turn comes, I have to say "My son is dead." I love all of them and want them all to be successful and happy but those conversations poke me in a very tender place. Annie looks great and has the world by the tail, as usual. She's going to graduate early and conquer the world in the next year. It's pretty impressive to hear her plans. She still thinks of you and wears your bracelet and misses you. That means a lot to me.

I have been having one on one conversations with all my new employees. Earlier this week when having one of those, Ryan's Reading Tree came up in conversation and I ended up sobbing as I told Claudine about the day you died and the following days. Not the most professional impression but it is what it is.

Both Bryan and Chris are volunteering at the Gallo Center for the Arts - helping me out. I love them both so much and they love me. Bryan was in my office and said something dumb so I looked at him with a funny look and he yelled out "Mrs D - don't give me that Ryan look! You looked just like Ryan when you did that!" I loved it!

I have dreamed about you several times this week. maybe because I'm sleeping on Wycliffe. Maybe your spirit is closer here. I know I miss you more - being in your town.

This morning as I was driving to work, just as I rounded the bend in front of our old house on Wycliffe, KAT Country started playing that goofy Finally Friday song that you always loved. I had to re-do my mascara when I got to work.

I'm leaving now to head home to Dad, Ross and Scrump. I miss them so much. I hate being gone all week but the days fly by since I'm so busy. I think it's harder on Dad. I'm sure his days are longer and lonelier than mine.

Love and miss you madly,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

Whew - my life is a whirlwind right now. From Monday through Friday of last week, I worked 64 1/2 hours. Every second of my day is busy right now. So much to learn, back to back meetings, performances, lunches, dinners, etc. I really like my job and think I can add a lot of value. I hate being away from home and our family but am grateful to have Debra, Steve & Topaz welcome me so completely. I find I am much sadder about you in Modesto than I had become in Sacramento over the last few months. I hope that subsides with time. There are just so many reminders of you - everywhere. It's even harder for Dad than me. He sobs every time he drives down Scenic. He came into town yesterday to go to an event with me and then to dinner with the Gallos. As we drove past your grave, he said he doesn't think we should buy a house on that side of town. I agree it's hard but at the same time, that is our side of town and I can't imagine living elsewhere. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Chris G is doing an internship with us. It's fun to have him around. We tease him and he's a good sport. Last week, we had him call a music store for Chopin sheet music. He asked for "Chop In" instead of "Sho-pan". At the same time, about three of us yelled out the correct pronunciation. It was funny. When he got off the phone he said "I listen to George Strait!"

Today we had the fundraising walk for the Terra family. I think almost $5000 was raised and I'm so pleased. The Serpas were there so we walked with them. It was nice to catch up. We walked past your fountain.

I saw Kay and her husband, Jerry, last week at an event. I told them it was hard being around so many reminders of you. Jerry spoke up and said "Yea, you drive past his grave, then his fountain and then the tree in the library. It's just a Ryan boulevard."

No activity on our house yet. I'm just praying for the right buyer at the right time at the right price.

I love and miss you much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Geez Ry,
We have a major typhoon pounding us in the Central Valley of usually sunny California. Another oak tree blew down in our yard though the big one is still standing, thank goodness. I'm literally praying it doesn't fall. We really don't need that.

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt were at the GAC last night. I saw Mr. Beck. Bryan helped me auction off two signed guitars. We made $1725 from them. Bryan looked so handsome and smelled like chlorine. Reminded me of of being with you. I'm sure some people thought he was my son and that's ok. He has a hole in his heart for his mom and I have a hole in my heart for you so we're a good match.

Ross is sick. Dad took him to the doctor today and fortunately he doesn't have swine flu - only a respiratory infection. He sounds and feels awful though.

I signed up for me insurance today. It makes me sad to sign up for employee and spouse only and not have you to list as my child. It's funny how those little things jab me in a tender spot.

Being back in Modesto is wonderful in so many ways but boy does it make me miss you more. I now believe being in Sacramento those first two years was probably a really good thing. The memories here are overwhelming sometimes.

I just saw Tyler Jessop's facebook update and he mentioned today's water polo game. I then realized it was Tuesday. I used to live for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. My favorite part of the week involved sitting in those stands watching you in the pool.

Love and miss you madly.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

Well, Vas did indeed win Homecomming King. It is eerie how his life has mirrored yours in so many ways. He's ranked first in his class though - you didn't quite achieve that! He's a remarkable boy - just as you were.

Last night Dad and I were on our way to Raley's and as we drove I read a funny email from my i-phone to Dad. We both got tickled in a big way. The more I read, the more we laughed. We both had tears running down our faces and couldn't talk because we were laughing so hard. Finally I said to Dad..."We haven't laughed like this since before Ryan died." Later in the grocery store, Dad said "You're right. We haven't laughed that much in over two years." We feel guilty when we feel happy like that but at the same time we know you would want us to laugh. As you said in your essay...."I'm Ryan. I'm happy and I like to make other people happy."

A few weeks ago we had a few friends for dinner to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Debra was going to be late so I asked Kathi, our Sacramento pastor and good friend, to do a blessing. Here is what she wrote. I re-read it today and thought it too lovely not to share.


God of life, God of love, 30 years ago, Ron and Lynn took one another to be wife, to be husband.
They promised that they would hold one another from that day forward.
For better or worse
for richer or poorer
In sickness and in health.


They have done that. They have held one another's hands; they have held each other's hearts, through the best days of their lives,
and through worse days than they had ever imagined


They have been sustained by each other's grounding and comforting companionship
when it seemed that there were no limits to the success and happiness of their lives,
and in the moments when all of it threatened to disappear.


You have given them into each other's care.
Their hands have wiped tears from the other's eyes
They have found strength to give to the other when he has needed it most, when she thought she could not go on another day.
You have given them kindness and care, from the person whose touch felt most like yours
You have kept alive in them the light of hope
They have kept their promise to love and to cherish one another all the days of their lives.


This is an immense and grace-filled gift, and all of us who are grateful to be here to share it with them give you great thanks.
For this food
For these friends
For this marriage for life
For life



One of the greatest blessings to come out of that 30 year marriage was you, dear boy. And we all miss you so much.

all my love,
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Chris's grandfather died on Thursday. He was 94 and lived a long and extraordinary life. I told Chris I am envisioning Baba being greeted in Heaven by dozens of Assyrians and one bushy blonde white boy. You always got a kick out of him and would tell me funny stories about interacting with him at Chris' house.

A Ceres family lost their 7 year old to a brain tumor a few days ago. Her obituary ran in The Bee this week. My heart aches for them and the hell they are going through.

My week in Modesto was a mixed bag. While it was great to be back there among our many friends, I found I missed you more than usual. I mentioned that to Tom & Denise Solomon last night when we had dinner together and Tom pointed out it is my first time to live there without you. It makes me sad to drive past your grave on Scenic everyday and to drive past our house on Wycliffe twice a day.

Last night was Johansen's Homecoming and Vas was up for King. I haven't heard if he won. I'm betting he did. Another parallel of your life. He has followed in your footsteps in so many ways. I told Dad that probably freaks out Gregg & Stephanie and Dad said "It freaks me out!"

Prospective buyers are coming to look at our house in a few minutes. we've been busily getting it in tip top shape. Poor Ross evacuated the place. He doesn't quite get why a house has to look unlived in to be shown. I'm not optimistic that it's going to sell anytime soon but I am hopeful anyway. I hate living apart from my family.

I dreamed about you last night.

Love you so much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there sweet Ry,

I love my new job. I'm super busy and there's lots to learn and lots to do but it's a great fit and I am glad I'm here. Last night was our first event since I arrived. It was a sold out Kenny Rogers concert. Very fun. I saw lots of old friends and was made to feel welcome and loved. I was introduced to a lady who said 'I knew Ryan. My grandson played water polo with him and we watched him many times." I beamed with pride, of course. It was Cody Hardeman's grandmother. And later the dance teacher from Modesto High introduced herself and told me they all miss you and think of us often. I met another couple who recently lost a nephew. When you're looking for it, you don't have to travel far to find fellow sufferers.

I had a long phone chat tonight with Mrs. Beard. We reminisced about her being your first "employer" from the days when she generously paid you to pick up her paper and mail when they traveled. She referred to your death as "a great loss" and it is.

Meghan Devlin works here in our box office part time. She stopped by to see me today. She was wearing her green Ryan bracelet. I always think of how you used to say you were scared of her because she could kick your butt if she wanted to. She was a pretty tough water polo player and still is - now at the JC.
I am grateful when people still bring you up in conversation. I hope that never stops.

I miss Dad, Ross and Scrumpy but I'm so busy I don't have time to mope. I'm going home tomorrow.

Love you so much bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there bud,
I'm exhausted tonight. The new job adrenaline has worn off and I'm tired after a long day at the new job where I am taking in info at the "drinking from a fire hose" pace. I drove home to Sacramento tonight to help Dad get the house "realtor ready" for tomorrow's broker tour. I just finished cleaning house and I was worn out when I got here.

You should have seen Scrumpy when I came in tonight. He was beside himself with joy! After loving me for a minute or so, he ran to the back door where he pranced until I let him out. Dad was outside mowing the grass and Scrumpy ran at lightning speed to Dad as if to say "come quick! Look who's here!" I have never felt so welcomed and loved.

I had lunch with Chris G today at The Barking Dog. We talked about you, of course. We can do that now without getting too sad. We both miss you lots. I love Mr.G and am glad to still have him in my life.

I'm staying with Debra and Steve most nights during the week. It made me very sad to drive down Wycliffe last night, past our old house. I slowed and looked at it carefully, remembering our many happy times there. Debra, Topaz and I walked our old route after dinner - just like old times - except you're gone. This morning I went to work via our end of Wycliffe. It was weird sitting there, waiting for the traffic on Scenic to clear so I could get out -just like I did thousands of times before. So many things the same yet everything is different.

I love you so very, very much sweet boy.

Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

I started my new gig today and it's been a great day. As I was walking down I St, I felt like Mary Tyler Moore. I wanted to twirl around and throw my hat in the air. I feel like I'm home! In that 4 block walk, I saw your friend, Bryce Aquino, as well as Brenda Morris. Later I ran into two other friends. While I was waiting to cross the street, a man came up to me and said "Aren't you Lynn Dickerson, the new CEO at the Gallo Arts center?" We chatted for a while. It was like old home week.

I did get teary eyed once, thinking how super great this would be if you were still alive. You would be so excited to come home to Modesto for your college breaks.

There is a framed poster in my temporary office of an event that happened in 2002. There's a picture of Mark in it, holding his musical instrument. He looks like such a little boy. I can just hear you cackling at it, making fun of Mark. I remember when he looked like that. I think it's 8th grade - and he spent lots of time at our house and you at his house in those days. Makes me long for that time machine to turn back time and have those days again.

My stomach is growling and Debra is waiting with soup & salad so I am signing off.

I love you so much and wish I could call you and share my day with you.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
I'm scurrying around, getting ready to catch an early morning plane to Washington DC tomorrow. I'm meeting with my WIT women's group for the weekend. I return Sunday and start the new job on Monday. I'm a little melancholy tonight, realizing today was the last day of my sabbatical. I have enjoyed the time off. Dad and I have spent lots of quality time together and enjoyed each other. We traveled a bit, hiked a lot, rode our bikes, walked miles and miles with Scrumpy, gardened, ate a lot of frozen yogurt, watched Medium, House and Brothers & Sisters on DVD. It's been a nice break and I will miss it. I dread the transition of working in Modesto while we sell the house here but I'm not going to stress about it. All those kind of things now just seem like a minor inconvenience compared to what we've been through over the past two years.

Mrs. Garvin is a grandmother. Her daughter had twins earlier this week. I wish I could call and tell you. You would be excited for her and would ask me to send a gift. You were a thoughtful boy, even though you needed a full time secretary (or super efficient mom) to follow through on your many thoughtful ideas. I remember when Mrs. Garvin's husband died and you bought a card, had dozens of kids sign it and the asked me to mail it for you. It was nasty and gnarly from being in your backpack for a week but I mailed it and I'm sure Mrs. Garvin was touched by the kind words from so many of the kids. Not many 15 year old boys would have done that. You were special, Ry.

Love you much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

We put our house on the market today. While I'm eager to have the transition behind us, I'm sad to leave this house. I have a strange relationship with it though. I loved it when we bought it; then 10 days after we moved in, you died, so I have been sad most of the time we have lived here. But in some weird way, I feel affection for the house for sheltering me and protecting me through those incredibly dark and horrible days. I will especially miss the yard. Dad and I "grief gardened" many, many days. There are many plants in the yard sent to us as sympathy gifts. There's a beautiful magnolia sent by Sara and Valerie on your 19th birthday. There is a "Heaven on Earth" rose sent by Brad & Cheryl. There are dogwoods that Dad and Granddad gave me for Mother's Day. I will cry when I say goodbye to this beautiful home & garden. And it will be the first time in our 30 year marriage that we move "down" in houses. Oh well. High end houses are moving at a snail's pace so it could take a really long time to find a buyer. And best case scenario, we're going to get hosed financially. But we'll get a bargain in Modesto so hopefully it will all work out.

I have had a couple of requests for Ryan bracelets from MoHi water polo girls. Even though they were just freshman when you were a senior, they remember you. I got this sweet not from Ellie Byrd today.

I'm a water polo player at Mohi and I was a freshman when Ryan was a senior with my sister, Laura. I was wondering if you could send me a bracelet because I never got one.
I'd also like to share a story with you. This last summer at JOs for water polo, it was the two year anniversary of Ryan's death. I wanted to do something special so I told the team about what had happened, and I had us do his favorite cheer, "motorcycle motorcycle, vroom vroom vroom." I know Ryan was watching that game because we won by one in a shootout, after saying his cheer about ten times.
I just thought you should know that, and how we still remember and miss him everyday."

I love getting those messages.

Tomorrow is Bryan's birthday and the next day is John's. They are both turning 20 and growing up without you. Doesn't seem right, does it?

Love you so much buddy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,

Today is the 29th. It's been 26 months since you departed this world and our lives changed forever. I just re-read entries from a year ago and realize how much we have healed in a year. Sadness is a permanent part of us - we are forever altered by our loss - but we are better. I suppose we are finally entering the summer of our grief. I talk daily to another bereaved mom who lost her kids 4 months ago. She sometimes asks me how long she will hurt this badly. I feel guilty telling her the truth but yet I can't lie to her. So I say "a long, long time" but time does soften the pain.

Today I finished a book Mrs. Cassidy gave me by Marcus Zusak, the guy who wrote I Am the Messenger that you liked. This book was called The Book Thief. It was set in Nazi Germany so it was incredibly sad and tragic but a great book. It was narrated by Death. At the end, as death is taking Papa, the protagonist's father, Death describes how some souls he takes are lighter that others - sitting up, waiting for him - because they have given so much of themselves in their life. I think your soul must have been one of those.

I love and miss you so much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad and I are home from the desert. ugh. It was incredibly hot there. We came home a day early because the heat was oppressive. Plus, we missed the Scrump. We enjoyed each other and had a fun time in spite of 111 degree temperatures. Last night we walked along the "Rodeo Drive of Palm Desert", as the lady at the resort called it, and came upon a very cool bronzed statue bench of Abe Lincoln. I so badly wanted to take a photo of your man, Abe, with my i-phone and send it to you. The urge was overwhelming.

Tonight I walked Scrumpy alone while Dad watched the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. The sunset was spectacular and we encountered at least 20 deer on the trail. A big flock of turkeys flew over us as they were roosting for the night and the Canada geese were flying and honking. I realized I am once again noticing the beauty around me. I didn't for such a long time. I was a zombie, just stumbling through the days, doing the best I could to survive. I'm grateful that I can once again notice beautiful things.

It was announced today that I am going to be the new CEO of the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto. I have felt like a star tonight as I've received dozens of emails, calls, texts and Facebook messages congratulating me and welcoming us "home" to Motown. It feels really good to be going back. And I think I'll be a good fit for the new job. Chris G called and was beside himself with excitement. I told him I feel a little guilty going back since you never wanted us to leave in the first place. He said it's okay and that you would be happy about us going back. I'm sure he's right. I wish I could call and share my good news with you.

I still sometimes fall back into that negative trap of thinking if we had never moved, you would have never died. I feel responsible and guilty. There's nothing I can do about it now and I try not to dwell on it but it creeps back into my consciousness sometimes.

all my love
mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry

Tonight Dad and I were in the frozen yogurt shop (we have developed a serious addiction to frozen yogurt) and the young boy running the cash register reminded us both of you. He had dark hair but otherwise, he looked like you. He was almost the same height and weight and had on American Eagle khaki cargo shorts. His hair was your kind of shaggy. And he was sweet.

A friend from Texas called today asking for advice on how to help a friend who lost his only child - a son - two years ago next Monday. His wife is worried about him because he doesn't seem to be getting any better. The wife isn't the boy's mom so that makes it harder. It's difficult to know how to help a macho Texan who probably doesn't know what to do with the overflowing emotions that have been sloshing around in his heart for two years. I suggested to my friend that she ask him to tell her about his son. She said he thanked her for looking him in the eye and mentioning his son when she saw him today. It's really a shame we Americans aren't better at dealing with other's loss. We are scared and don't know the right things to say so we often ignore it or dance around it. We change the subject when the deceased is mentioned. We try to avoid all the words we think should be forbidden: the person's name, die, died, death, etc. We talk in euphemisms. When really what the bereaved want is the chance to talk about their loved one and their loss and their sadness.

Dad and I are leaving town tomorrow for our last little get-a-way before I start working again. I'm a little sad this "vacation" is almost over. It's been nice.

Geoff is home from Colorado for a few days. Ross is going to visit him. One of the things Geoff wants to do while in Modesto is visit your grave. Sweet, huh.

I love you and miss you much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

A few months after you died, Mrs. Johnson and Madame Scaif sent to us the cassette tapes of your IB orals in English and French. The cassettes have been on my desk since then - like a radioactive isotope. I couldn't bring myself to listen to them...until today. I was in the car alone and found the courage to listen. The English one begins with a narrator saying "This is Ryan Dickerson from Modesto High School in Modesto California on March 28, 2007." Then for the next 15 minutes or so you analyzed a passage from The Scarlet Letter. I loved hearing your voice. It was your formal, "I'm being serious and trying to impress you" voice rather than your normal funny guy voice. You talked about good & evil, heaven & hell and other Hawthornian things. I was sad when it ended. Then I listened to the one in French. I didn't understand much - merci, oui, and your name. Toward the end, the interviewer must have asked you where you were going to college because you said in a French accent "Washington University in St. Louis". Then I could tell she asked you if you had ever been to France because you said something that included the words Mark, Jackson Hite, Kalina Veneman, Madison Murphy, Hannah Peters and Madame Aldredge. Then I could tell she asked what you liked best and you said "Par'ee. Oui! Oui!" I was smiling the whole time, imagining you making those recordings. I called Dad afterward and told him about them. He said "I may never be able to listen to them." I'm glad I did. I felt like I had a little visit with you today.

There are not enough words to describe how much we miss you.

all our love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today I was a guest speaker at a Sac State graduate level class. It's a Gender Studies class and my assignment was to talk about gender differences in the workplace. I felt ill prepared but it went really well. Like you and Ross, I never met an audience I didn't like. After I was done, a young woman in the class approached me and said "I hope you don't think I'm weird but I need to tell you something. I see things - and have for a long time. While you were speaking, there was a blue aura around you and I kept seeing a person. He was just over your left shoulder most of the time you were speaking and sometimes he was on the right side of you but he was always there. Was your son just a bit taller than you?" I told her yes, you were just a few inches taller than me and that I hoped it was you she had seen. In my old life, I would have found that really strange. Now I find it incredibly comforting. I couldn't wait to tell Dad.

Tonight we're having dinner guests. Dave Gilchrist and two other ex-colleagues from the Carolinas are in town for training so we invited them over. It's hot as Hades outside unfortunately but it will be good to see them nonetheless. Dave loved you lots and has sent me several really sweet letters about you. The two of you bonded when he stayed with you & Ross several times years ago when Dad and I had to be out of town. He was so sad when you died and came to your funeral from Washington. I remember the time when you were in 8th grade and forgot a paper at home on the computer tray. You called me to bring it to you at school but I was in Sacramento at a corporate meeting. I don't recall where Dad was but he was out of pocket so I called Dave at The Bee and he found the hidden key at our house, retrieved the paper, and took it to you at LaLoma. He's a good egg and was a dear friend to our family. He also loved Sarah so I'm glad he will get to meet Scrumpy.

I love you very much, bud, and if you were with me today while I was speaking, thanks.

xoxo
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well, I'm home from Arizona. I had a nice time with my friends. We drove up to Sedona which was really beautiful. I always see things I want to buy for you.

I got word while I was gone that my old friend Aday died last Thursday. She has been fighting cancer for 3 1/2 years. You would remember her because she had Thanksgiving with our family for several years in a row when you were young. I haven't seen her in a long time but I am sad for her husband, knowing how much he will miss her and how sad he will be for a long time. She was a special friend with a 1000 watt smile, a wickedly funny sense of humor, and a kind heart. She was a very special friend to me and I loved her very much. I hope you were one of the first non-family members to welcome her to heaven. I wrote to her a few weeks ago and asked her to tell you how much I love and miss you when she got there.

Dad is home from Jasper where he & Uncle Larry convinced Granddad to move into an assisted living place. Granddad is much weaker and more frail than when we were there in April, says Dad. I hope he will be happy at the new place where he'll have more socialization and better nutrition and care. Getting old is the pits. It makes me sad to see it happening to sweet Granddad.

I love you so much, buddy

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,

I'm rushing around, trying to get ready to catch my plane to Arizona in the morning. I'm going to celebrate the 50th birthday of my friend, Valerie.

When it rains, it pours in the job category. I accepted a position today though it won't be public for a few more days. I'm excited about it. In the last week, I was contacted about two other jobs - both bigger with lots more earning potential. But I tried to stay true to my mission of finding something that "makes my heart sing" with what I hope will be the last leg of my career. When I left my big job, I told everyone I hoped to do meaningful work that brings me joy & satisfaction. I think this will be it. As I was praying about it and trying to spend quiet time listening for guidance, I also asked you what I should do. I could hear your answer in my mind. You would have said "Mom, the money isn't important. Do what you enjoy." So that's the decision I made.

My conversation with you in my head reminded me of the real conversations I had with you every time I got a promotion and had to break the news to you that our lives were changing. Usually it meant moving to a new town. You never liked that. It was ironic how you hated change the most of any of us, yet you adjusted the quickest and shone the brightest in the new town. You would always say to me, (and make me feel greedy and ambitious, I might add) "But Mom, we have a good life here. We have a nice house and good friends and we make enough money. Why do we have to move and take a different job?" In hindsight, every move we made, with this last move to Sacramento being the possible exception, was good for our family and especially good for you. Just think of the hundreds of friends we would never have met if we hadn't made those moves.

I'm sad tonight for another family. One of my favorite people at McClatchy is Chad Muilenburg, a young attorney with three darling little blonde boys. Two of his little boys have a genetic kidney disorder. The youngest, 4 year old Josh, was on the transplant list and got a call Monday night. The transplant appeared to go well but last night around midnight, the kidney failed and had to be removed. So now he has no kidneys. He is obviously very sick and the future looks scary for this sweet family. Dad and I took dinner to them a couple weeks ago and Josh was so cute. While we there, he kept dragging out toys to show us and running around with lots of energy. He didn't seem sick at all. So if you can, put in a good word with the big guy for little Josh and his mom & dad.

I'll be home on Sunday night so I'll write to you again then.

In the meantime, remember how much your Ma loves you.



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

I am so touched by the post Marisa submitted. I just called Ross in to read it. It makes all of us feel better to hear stories of people's lives being changed positively because of you.

An anonymous person sent this message to me yesterday and I loved it.

"I'd like to share with you a sweet moment that happened last week with my 2 young daughters. We were at the Stanislaus Library checking out books when my 3 year old looked up at the tree in the children's wing, and said, "Mommy, it's the beautiful-est tree ever." And after reading the plaque on the wall, I'd have to agree. It is a beautiful tree & a beautiful tribute to Ryan's life. Thank you, & God bless."

I sometimes think about you being voted Most Likely to Be Famous by your class and realize in some ways you have achieved that already.

I'm back from Yosemite where Brianne, her mom, Debra and I hiked to Cloud's Rest. It was about a 15 mile round trip. Not as tough as Half Dome but pretty rigorous nonetheless. The last 300 meters is a rock climb. You should have seen Brianne scamper up those rocks like a squirrel or something. The rest of us took it very carefully as one wrong step could have easily meant a fall to our death. No exaggeration! A 53 year old woman fell to her death about a month ago. As we were gingerly making our ascent, Coleen reminded Debra in jest that she was with two bereaved moms and while we aren't suicidal, we have a different relationship with death than most people. But we made it.

We spent the night in a tent cabin - not the fanciest of accomodations. Brianne and I both think we heard a bear outside our tent during the night. All our food was in a bear locker but it sure sounded as if one was rummaging around, making "bear" noises.

So that was my big adventure for the week. I talked to you in my head during the entire hike. Brianne and I took a picture of our wrists, with your green bracelets on, to let everyone know you were traveling with us in our hearts.

Dad has gone to Jasper to check on Granddad. His health is failing and we are hoping he will move into an assisted living place. I'm sure he's terribly lonely since he can no longer drive. Knowing how Dad and Uncle Larry have a tendency to sort of lecture Granddad about what he should do, I said to him "Try to talk to him as if you were Ryan." Cause I know you would be really sweet to him. Ross is sweet to him too. I'm always touched to hear Ross' phone conversations with him. And then I remember how you used to talk to him on the phone and playfully say "I've got a knuckle sandwich for you." when Granddad would tell you he had a karate chop for you. At the graveside after your funeral Granddad stood up and karate chopped the casket. It broke my heart to see that.

Love you dearly sweet boy,
Mom


Marisa 
Ryan,

You do not know me but my step-daughter went to school with you at La Loma so I know a bit about you. I have pondered writing this many times because it seems awkward. Then I realized that there is a time when something just needs to be said and you cannot worry about the awkwardness.

I have been reading your moms' posts on modmomsclub and this website. I need you to know that they have made a difference in my life. I have not lost a child but I have a ten year old son. Up until recently I just went about everyday doing the same thing, getting up for work, making sure he was ready for school, getting him to school, going to work, everyday had the same routine.

Today I took the afternoon off to take my son and a friend to lunch, ice cream, bowling, the arcade, and a ceramic painting place.
We had a blast and my son was shocked and amazed because it just was not like me to do this because I am such a workaholic.

Ryan, I did this because of you.

I want you to know Ryan that you have changed the way I look at everyday. I take time for the small things for fear they could be my last moments with my son. I do not let it consume me but the suddeness of your passing made me stop and realize that I do not live by my plan but God's plan.

I wanted you to know that I look at life differently now and for the better. I appreciate the openess and love your family has expressed. I know it does not fix the pain but you are an inspiration and guiding light to me and my family.


Marisa


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's late and Dad & I just returned from Modesto. We went to the Picnic at the Pops. It was our first time to re-engage in that annual tradition since you died. And it was a wonderful night. There have only been a handful of times in the last 25 months where I can honestly say I had fun. There have been pleasant times and times with special people but actual "fun" has been pretty scarce. Tonight was fun. It was a Billy Joel thing - a guy named Michael Cavanah covered Billy Joel music and a few other good ones including Johnny B Good (I called Ross during that one so he could hear it on my cell phone) and Old Time Rock n Roll - your all time favorite song for years. That was the very last song they did. The crowd was standing and dancing - Dad and I held each other and cried. But then we thought - maybe it's a sign that Ryan is here with us. I hope so.

At intermission, Dad saw a boy who looked like you. He went up to him and told him he reminded him of his son who died two years ago. The boy was from Turlock and didn't know you but his girlfriend knew of you through Riley Plunkett from water polo. Later Dad pointed him out to me. There was definitely a resemblance though he wasn't as handsome as you.

We saw lots & lots of old friends and felt loved. Modesto is our town. I hope we can find a way to ultimately get back there.

Dad and I both remembered the many years we went to Picnic at the Pops at the Gallo winery with you in tow. We remember the first year when we were new to town. Bob & Marie invited us to be their guests so we sat on the veranda instead of on the lawn. You, Mark, Chris G, Leslie H and others played football on the grounds until the security guards made you quit. You always had fun running around with your friends until the fireworks began and then you would show back up at our blanket.

We feel blessed you were our boy and we had so many good times together. And we miss you terribly.

All my love
Mom

p.s. I'm leaving in the morning for Yosemite with Debra, Coleen, Brianne and Adella to hike Clouds Rest. Maybe we'll make it to the top this time if weather permits.

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
Tears are dripping off my cheeks and my nose is running as I write this tonight. I decided to watch the video tribute on your website a few minutes ago before writing my letter to you. You are so alive and so "Ryan" in it. It makes me sob but also makes me feel close to you. I miss you more than words can tell.

Mallory called tonight from Arizona. She was on her way home from Ali's first birthday party. Ali is the granddaughter of Coach Joe & Tricia Ma'am. Mallory is their part time nanny. She said during the gift opening, Tricia commented on how it was a "Ryan blessing " that brought them all together. They found Mal through our connection to the Goldings and it has worked out well for all of them. See, you continue to bring people together even after you're gone. That was always one of your greatest skills.

Miss Carol Whites wrote to say it was 10 years ago today that her son got married. You and Ross were at the wedding with Aunt Les. She said that was the last time she saw you. Here's what she said:
"10 years ago this evening was the last time I say Ryan. You know I can still see him in my minds eye. Ry was so full of life and fun and I remember his eyes so vividly darting everywhere trying to drink it all in at the same time. Ryan had a huge time at thier wedding and I am glad I have that wonderful memory of him."

Me too.

Today is 9/11. It's been 8 years since the terrorist attacks. I now have more sympathy and empathy for those who lost loved ones in that horrific event. I have read about or seen interviews of several parents who lost grown kids. I understand on a completely different level now. I wonder how I will feel in 6 more years. I fear I will hurt just as much but that my memories of you will be dimmer.

Tomorrow is Debra's mom's birthday - a sad milestone for Debra. Find Pat and give her a big hug for all of us down here who love & miss her.

Dad and I watched a tv show tonight entitled Love Never Dies. So true.

We love you very much.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
We were in Modesto all day today and until 9pm tonight. We started the day there with a meeting at Modesto High. It was a waste of our time. Being on that campus is hard for us so if I had known how little would be accomplished, we would have skipped it.

We visited your grave - something that is hard for both of us but especially for poor Dad. We were driving down Scenic, toward Steve & Debra's house when I heard Dad crying. We were almost to the cemetery so I said "Let's stop." We stood at your grave and Dad wept and I held him. Sometimes the tears don't come for me even though I am sad. I cried every day for the first 5 months after you died but I don't cry often anymore. But my heart remains heavy.

Dad said he had two split second experiences today where he felt 'normal". Then as quickly as they occurred, they were gone. A little like sunshine peaking through the clouds on a dark day, only to quickly go behind a cloud again.

I saw Jackson's mom at the fund raising dinner we attended tonight. She told me his Ryan bracelet broke and he had taped it together with white athletic tape. I took mine off and gave it to her to give to him. It touches me to see people still wearing them.

Several people told us today and tonight that we look like ourselves again after such a long time of looking grief stricken. One lady said "Ryan would be happy about that, you know." And I'm sure she's right.

Love & miss you forever & ever bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Tonight I knocked over your golf clubs while I was taking the garbage cans out. I took a mental walk down memory lane as I picked them up and righted the bag. I remembered the day you accidentally whacked me in the back with your swing as I was pulling weeds in the back yard in Wichita Falls. My whole spine reverberated for a few seconds. And then I thought of how you never liked playing golf, even though Dad wanted you to. I think it was too slow for you. And you played a little like Happy Gilmore, hitting your tee shots more like hockey passes than golf swings. And then I thought of the times I drove you, Mark, Stevie, Vas, Kevin & Jeremy to that public course in Ceres on summer days pre-drivers licenses. Riversomething. I miss those days.

We had lunch guests today. Ancelle, a friend from our Make-A-Wish volunteer days, and her baby. She's a young mom with a 19 month old precious little boy. He was due on your birthday in '08 but was actually born the day after mine. He is very cute and we enjoyed our time with him. He liked Scrumpy a lot and vice versa.

The first email I checked this morning was from a guy on the East Coast wanting to talk to me about a CEO job. Some old newspaper friends had recommended me. We had a good talk and agreed to take things to the next phase. So that was an encouraging start to my day. This process of figuring out the next chapter of my life is a little like riding a roller coaster. But I've always loved roller coasters, you know.

I love you. And I miss you so much. It still feels unbelievable to me that we have to live the rest of our earthly lives without you.

I'm going to Modesto High tomorrow to talk to the Leadership kids about doing a Ryan's Relay to benefit the Terra family. They are the ones who lost two adult kids and two grandkids on Memorial Day in a car accident. They are having a very difficult time (duh) and Mrs. Byers and others are trying to organize something to at least alleviate some of the financial pain. If attaching your name to it will help, we're there.

All my love
mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello Ry,

Today has been a fight against discouragement and despair. I thought I had my "next chapter" figured out and I was excited about it. Now it looks as if it is falling through. I'm trying not be disappointed but I am. I am trying to hard to discern God's will for my life but it isn't always easy. I suppose this newest wrinkle is God's way of saying "no" so I'm now saying "if this is no, what is next?" I know it will all work out but I still have waves of anxiety from time to time.

I spent a long time today on a blog site today written by the wife of a 40 year old guy in Texas who died yesterday from a brain tumor. He left behind a wife, an 8 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. It was heartbreaking to watch the progression of the disease in photos.

And I keep thinking of my friend Lori Ford who lost her son in June and her home and all its contents last Sunday. It's easy to fall into the pit of self pity until you look around and see the suffering of others. We don't have to look very far to find someone who has it even worse than we. Sometimes I think of my Nanny and how she lost her 5 month old son, Don, during the Great Depression. She often talked about him to me. I could see him in my mind's eye from her description but she had no photos of him. Not even one. I think of the hundreds of photos I have of you and how grateful I am for them. Nanny only had Don's image in her heart and head. And it was 60+ years before she saw him again in the hereafter.

I finished the Walking in the Garden of Souls book that I'm so taken with. So this will be the last quote from it. I liked this one because it made me feel better about my outreach to other bereaved moms and my public sharing of my story through these letters and my Modesto Bee blog. I sometimes worry that I come across as a butt-insky rather than a helper. So this message was encouraging to me because it's what I am trying to do. Here's what Anderson had to say:

"One of the most important gardens we can create to benefit others is a garden of community to let others who are hurting know that they are not alone in their struggle. People are all the same on the earth - they want to belong. So many people are afraid they will say or do the wrong thing and make things worse. There is nothing someone can do to make things worse for anyone in tragedy. The worst has already happened and there is nowhere to go from there but up. Just the attempt - whether it is successful or not - to show people you care when they are in tragedy is a gift they will cherish. It costs nothing to say some encouraging words to someone who has lost a loved one, a job, a relationship or some of their hope. There is power in community. In a garden of community we can lean on each other and know we will not fall when things become difficult."

Love you punkin
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
Happy Labor Day. Labor Day was our first holiday to face without you in '07. I remember it vividly. We went to the Herrmanns for a small barbecue. Being on Wycliffe was tough but we did it. Hanna came by. Chris G came by. The Murphys came by. We cried a lot. Pete's brother, who lost his only child tragically a few years ago, walked across the room during the blessing to hug me when I began to sob. I had lost 15 lbs and was thin and gaunt. We were still fragile and frail - like old people who had just been released from the hospital's ICU.

I don't remember what we did last year. That's weird because I always remember that kind of stuff. I find this grief has done a number on my brain and my memory. I sort of lost a whole year. Most of '08 doesn't register. I guess that's nature's way of protecting our psyches when the pain is too great.

I'm finishing up the George Anderson book I keep talking about. I swear, this is the most helpful book I have read and I have read dozens and dozens. The author talks about surviving tragedy and growing again in the face of despair.He called it "the Gift - the extraordinary perception was are given to see past the confines of the small world we lived in prior to tragedy. Ask anyone who has endured any type of loss - loss of a loved one loss of a job, or even the loss of the ability to make sense of their own lives - and they will recount for you the remarkable and life-changing things that seem to have just happened around them to assure them that they are not fighting the battle alone.....It is the only consolation our loved ones can give us when so much has been taken from us, but it is given to us as a promise that ALL will be returned to us when we have concluded our journey on the earth...."

His words give me hope.

I love you so very much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
Bryan drove up tonight and went to dinner with Dad, Ross and me. He showed me a couple photos of you on his phone. One of you sitting on the toilet with your computer in your lap. How many hours did you spend just like that? Many!

I read on Facebook that Haley Baker is getting married. Remember when you ran against her for Student Body President in 6th grade? I think it took her a long time to forgive you for winning but she did. The night of the visitation at the funeral home, when she came through the line, she said "I finally forgave him for beating me out for Student Body president at Lakewood." I thought that was sweet. I dread the onslaught of weddings of your peers. ugh.

I corresponded today with a mom in South Carolina who lost her only child - a 20 year old son - in May in a car wreck. I hurt for her, knowing the despair and hopelessness she is feeling. She said to me:
"I remember when you lost Ryan, and thought then how would you do it. I don't know how I'm going to do it, I am just trying to take one step at a time. John Daniel was our life, everything we did revolved around him." I wrote back and told her she will survive even though she doesn't see how it is possible. I remember feeling the exact same way. I still do sometimes.

It's weird to be "the veteran" in this bereaved mom club. I now have many friends who have lost children since you died. Today I was thinking of some of them and realized I lost you in '07; Tammy & Robin lost their children in '08; and Donna, Lori & Louise lost theirs in '09. Time marches on and tragedies occur everyday. My own loss still feels fresh yet here I am in Year 3 without you. Unbelievable.

The book I'm currently reading is possibly the most helpful one I've read - and that's saying a lot, coming from the grief librarian herself. Here are some things that jumped out at me today from George Anderson's Walking in the Garden of Souls.

"Coming to terms with the prospect that the bereavement is a life long commitment is a slow and sometimes difficult journey in itself. I am concerned about those who tell me they quickly recovered from their grief as I am of those who tell me they cannot seem to recover from their grief.The process of learning to live as a bereaved person and accepting the great challenge of this life lesson, is something that will take patience, understanding , an help from our loved ones....Time is equal to perspective when we think about learning to cope. Just like a scar, grief will lessen in severity over time - some days will be better than others, but each day will make a difference in building the resolve we need to continue on our path. But no matter how well it feels, the scar will never completely disappear - we are bereaved for the rest of our lives."

Today is Aunt Les' birthday. I hope you sent her a birthday sign of some sort.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Brendan spent the afternoon with us yesterday. It was great to catch up with him and hear all about his adventures in Ireland. He & I went through your closet and I gave him a couple pairs of shorts and your pea coat. It makes me feel better for your friends to have those things rather than having to give them to Goodwill someday. I don't cry often anymore but yesterday I wept while going through the closet exercise. For some reason, I cry more with Brendan than others.

The Today Show had a segment on the emotions parents feel when they ship their kids off to college. I turned it off. I still can't bear to hear that kind of talk.

Natalie wrote to say Wake Forest chose a Harry Potter theme for their beginning of school dorm decorations. Here's what she said: "The theme this year for all the different residence halls is Harry Potter. I got the chills when I checked in and notice that my residence hall, Huffman, is Hufflepuff. Funny huh? Everything was decorated in yellow and there are big banners and a few badgers here and there. That picture of Ryan in his yellow Hufflepuff robe pops into my head whenever I walk through the lounge now."

Synchronicity, Debra would say.

I feel sad today. Missing you. Feeling sad for the Ford family who lost their son in June and their home on Sunday. Feeling sad for missed opportunities and wrong decisions. Sad for broken relationships and our lost future. Sad that life doesn't work out the way we think it will.

I'm going to the Farmer's Market now. Maybe some Kettle Korn will cheer me up.

Love you lots
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Well the rumor about the Fords was true. Here's the blurb about the fire in this morning's Bee.

"For one family, the tragedy was doubled.

In June, David and Lori Ford suffered the loss of their 19 year old son, Michael, from sudden cardiac failure.

Sunday, their house on Morning Mist Lane burned to the ground. Monday evening, the couple and four children returend to sift through the ruins of what had been Michael's room, hoping to find remembrances of him.

Several firefighters happened by and pitched in.

Ford, a deacon in his church, said the family is determined to rebuild.

"We are standing before the mystery of evil, but our faith consoles us." he said.

He wept as he searched, until a neighbor arrived holding the family cat, Striper, whispers singed but otherwise healthy.

"The kitty's ok." Ford said, his face lighting up."


Ryan, I cannot imagine how devastated we would be if we had not only lost you but all our pictures and your things as well. My heart breaks for this nice family. I just don't understand how this crazy world works.

Love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Oh Ry, how much suffering does one nice family have to endure? Fortunately I'm not talking about ours this time.

This morning's Sac Bee had a story about 20 homes in Auburn being destroyed by a fire. It is fire season in this tinder box of a state we call California. I read the story with a compassionate heart but it wasn't until a couple hours ago when I got an email from a fellow bereaved mom that the story took on extra significance. It is reported that the Ford family lost their home in the fire. They also lost their 19 year old son on June 6. He's the one I wrote about earlier who died of an undetected heart ailment, similar to what we believe killed you. His mom was here at our home last Tuesday night for our bereaved mom's support group. I liked her very much. She told me how they had just had a car wreck that almost totaled her car - an expense they can do without right now after funeral expenses - and we discussed how "when it rains, it pours" sometimes. Now it is believed they have lost their home and most, if not all of their possessions. Those possessions include their photos and mementos of their son's life. I can't stop thinking about them and the unfairness of the situation.

None of us should ever say "it can't get any worse" because it always can.

Dad and I went to the California State Fair today. Another perk of not having a job - we could go to the fair on a Monday when the temperature was in the low 80's and the crowds were non-existent. We had a corn on the cob and a corn dog. I kept telling Dad how much being at the fair reminded me of you and made me miss you more than usual. He said "Yea, he did love all this crap, didn't he?" And you did - the food, the cheesy stuff for sale, the rides, the booths - all of it. So we thought of you and imagined you with us.

Love you much bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
The heat wave broke, thank goodness, and today was a lovely day. We went to church and then to the movie where we saw a sweet & inspirational movie called Adam. We walked about 8 blocks to the yogurt store after the movie and then rode our bikes about 15 miles on the American River trail. It was a nice Sunday.

In the book Dad is reading, the author, George Anderson, describes the phases of grief like seasons of the year. It rang true for both of us. Fall is the time of loss - shock protects you from the worst of the grief for a while. Then Winter sets in - the worst. The cold winds blow, the grass is brown, the trees are bare. The days are short and darkness comes early and often. The winter of grief is the most awful.
Then finally spring arrives. You begin to see green shoots and buds on the trees. There are more sunny days yet cold winds can sneak up and surprise us and unexpected frost can damage the tender shoots on the shrubs before they have a chance to blossom. But it's a season of hope. And it's a welcome relief from the long, cold winter.
Then finally summer arrives - the new normal in the lives of the broken hearted. The days are longer and brighter and we finally feel the sunshine on our faces again. We never forget the brutal days of winter, nor would we want to, but we are grateful for the warmth and lushness of summer.

(That metaphor only works in places like California where summers are mostly nice! Our Texas friends would not think summer a season to hope for.)

But I digress. Dad and I discussed where we are after 25 months. We think we're in spring. Some days, maybe even late spring. Dad has a hard time acknowledging he's no longer in the midst of winter but I can see that he's moved to a warmer season. I think he feels disloyal to you by moving into a better place. I do too sometimes but then I remember how you, more than anyone else in our family, wanted peace, harmony and happiness within our family. You would be pulling for us to be floating on an air mattress in a beautiful pool on a perfect summer day.

But we miss you and your happy, fun filled spirit every day of our lives.

All my love
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We got a wonderful letter from Brandon Leppla in yesterday's mail. He just returned from being on staff at SSP for the summer. In the letter, he told us how you were one of his first true friends in Modesto and then shared some memories from the SSP summer mission trips the two of you went on together. I especially loved this story he told because I can literally hear you saying it in my head. I remember how much you loved your counselor, Tom Buckles (Tommy Boy as you named him that first summer). Here's the funny tale Brandon shared in his letter to us:

"...I remember the first night when Ryan, Dylan, Joey, Shane, Tommy Boy (Tom Buckles) and I all stayed up late while sleeping under the stars and Ryan asked Tom when it was that he turned his life around and gave up "fast cars, booze, drugs and loose women" and Tom replied "Well I'm hoping this week makes a difference."

Good for Tom! What a great comeback. I can just hear you howling with laughter at that great response. No wonder you loved him so much.

And then Brandon said this:

"...That week was just one fun thing after another. Throughout the rest of the week Ryan had convinced girls from other churches that he was an Abercrombie model and he led everybody in the dance for the song "Lord of the Dance" where he would hike up his pants and get in a squat position to run into the center of the circle and be the first in every time!"

Then he ended with this sweet line.

"I hope I can give you guys some sort of comfort knowing that Ryan still lives on through me and he will always be one of my role models."

We miss your special-ness so much. You truly were one of a kind.
Dad, Ross and I went out for pizza tonight. While we were waiting for our food, Ross was being really funny and I thought how much fun it would have been for you to be there too. The two of you played off each other really well and could certainly entertain a crowd.

We miss you so much.

all my love
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
Dad is reading a book called Walking in the Garden of Souls by George Anderson. He read this passage aloud to me today.

"In my twenty-seven years of working with the bereaved, I know one thing for certain: loss is the earth's great leveler. No matter what our education, financial status, or social placement, the grief we will experience due to the physical loss of someone we love has the potential to smash our belief system, dismantle our values, and sometimes even crush our hope. In the course of my work, I have truly seen the mighty fall in facing their own loss - doctors who lose their perspective and fall apart, members of the clergy who suffer a crisis of faith, and grief therapists who become emotionally unraveled - all because they spent many years learning how to understand the effects of loss, but had never really prepared themselves for their own personal loss. There is a fundamental difference between KNOWLEDGE and EXPERIENCE with regard to loss: we will be moved by the circumstances of another's loss but we will be devastated by our own.

Isn't that the truth! I always thought losing a child would be the worst thing that could happen to me. It was too scary to even really think about - I was afraid I would jinx things if I allowed myself to imagine the horror of losing you or Ross. And then when it happened, it was worse than anything I could have even conjured up. Knowledge and experience are truly two completely different things.

Missing you and loving you as always.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I was in Modesto on business today and two sweet things happened. While paying for my tapitia at The Tasty Taco, the cute girl ringing up my order said "Aren't you Ryan's mom?" It thrilled me to be asked that question! It was Emily Swartwood and I hadn't recognized her. I told her what a gift she gave me by asking that question. When you were alive, I was asked that question often. You gave me quasi-celebrity status, especially with cute girls. So I was thrilled to have that experience one more time today.

Later when I was walking back to my car, I saw an old business friend. He gave me a big hug and we chatted for a few minutes on the sidewalk. He expressed regret over missing the Ryan's Reading Tree dedication last December and then said how "huge" the tree is. Then he said something very thought provoking. He said Dad and I are lucky in a way because we don't have to worry about you at all. He said "you don't have to worry about where he is when he's late coming home; you won't have to worry about him having marriage problems or money problems when he gets older; you don't have to worry about him getting in trouble of any kind. You had this really great kid for 18 years and now he's safe. I think there are a lot of people who are jealous of you - people whose kids are on drugs or in prison or living on the streets." It was an interesting perspective and gave me something to think about on the drive home.

Last night I hosted a support group for bereaved moms. I had never met most of them. There were 7 of us. Two of the moms lost their sons just this summer so their grief is still fresh and raw and awful. Still in that oozing wound stage where it cripples every aspect of your life. One of the moms is especially in a bad way. My heart hurt for her. Other than sharing our stories and offering hope that she will survive and the pain will soften with time, there isn't anything we can do to help. But somehow it does help to have others who understand what you're going through. It nourished my soul to be with them. I hope it did the same for the other moms. Two lost their kids to cancer; one was shot; one died from an undetected heart condition (just like you, we believe) after swimming the length of a pool underwater; one was hit by a truck while checking a text message and one hit a tree on a quad. I am reminded of the fragility of life every single day.

I love you so much, bud.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello Ry,
I began my day today by listening to a saved voice mail from Brendan that he left on July 29 from Northern Ireland. In his sweet, slow Brendan way he told me about his Ireland experience and that he was thinking of you more than usual on that day. He said he has his photo luggage tag with the picture of the two of you that I had made for him on his backpack. He said it goes with him everywhere he goes and people often ask about it. He said "I tell them about Ryan and without even knowing him, they say that he looks like a really friendly guy." He then went on to say that he thinks it's nice that people who never knew you can see what a great guy you were from your picture. Then he said "Ryan WAS such a friendly, special person. I think of him every day and miss him. I loved Ryan and I love you guys." It was so sweet - made me cry. Actually makes me cry as I type it now.

On our walk tonight, Dad and I lamented about what a shame you never got to go to college. We both envision that you would have thrived. Dad recalled the day we visited WashU the summer before your senior year and you did your prospective student interview. The graduate student who interviewed you was clearly impressed. Dad reminded me of how much the interviewer's demeanor changed from the time he came out to get you until he brought you back out. Dad described him as acting like an eager puppy, nipping at your feet, hoping you would choose WashU, after he had spent half an hour with you. Just last night, Dad read aloud an excerpt from a book on the afterlife. The author believes we continue having experiences like we have on earth, just better and without the sorrow and evil. So I said to Dad, "maybe he is going to college in Heaven." Dad said he hopes so and that if you are, he's sure you are a BMOC there too. I corrected him and said you are a BMIH (big man in Heaven).

I learned today that my old friend, Aday Harrison, is dying. She has been battling cancer for a few years but it appears she is on the home stretch now. Another of my friends getting there first. I know it sounds crazy to normal people but I actually feel pangs of jealousy when I learn of someone getting to heaven ahead of me. I have the urge to send a care package to you with them. Instead, I tell every one of them to give you my love.

All my love sweet boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
This afternoon we attended a neighborhood wine & cheese party where we met lots of new people. One particular man I was talking to was boasting about his son who just left for college, a particularly difficult conversation for me every time, and he asked if I have children, also still a very difficult question. I introduced him to Ross and then told him about you. He said he was sorry and then he said "But you know, life is full of stuff. That's just life." In that que sera sera way. I felt like saying to him..."yea Buster, we'll see how you feel about "life's stuff" when it hits you with its full force some day." Grrrrr!

Brianna turned 21 today. She bought her first legal beer in a trucker bar in Wyoming last night with her dad. They are on a road trip to Bloomington. She told me about it in a text message. I told her you would have especially liked that trucker bar touch. And you would have.

Today is also Christy's birthday and Gran & Bamps' 41st wedding anniversary. And the day you and Leah Macko started "going out" a few years ago. Don't ask me why I remember that but I do.

I miss keeping up with your girlfriend escapades. I miss so much about my relationship with you. There's a big space inside me that is your space and can't be filled with anything else.

I love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today Dad and I drove to Napa and hiked in the Napa State Park. It was a new place for us and we had a good day. Afterward we walked around St. Helena and had lunch. On the way home I read aloud to Dad from my book This Incomplete One - Words Occasioned by the Death of a Young Person. It's a book of sermons delivered at the funerals of young people.
Friedrich Schleiermacher, a German pastor who died in 1834, preached the funeral sermon for his youngest son. Some of his words resonated with me. I was also struck by how the horror of losing a child was just as bad in the 18th & 19th century, when it was much more common, as it is today.

Here's what Reverend Schleiermacher had to say about his son, Nathanael that I would echo about you. He was talking about God blessing him with his son.

"...that he gave him to me; that he granted to this child a life, which, even though short, was yet glad and bright and warmed by the loving breath of his grace; that he so truly watched over and guided him that now with his cherished remembrance nothing bitter is mixed. On the contrary, we must acknowledge that we have been richly blessed through this beloved child. The Lord has taken him; his name be praised, that although he has taken him, yet he has left us, and that this child remains with us here also in inextinguishable memories, a dear and imperishable individual.'

Love you so much bud,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad and I went to the movies this afternoon (one of the many benefits of being unemployed) and saw 500 Days of Summer. It's a cute indie film that Brianna recommended. There is one particular scene in it that reminded us both of you. It's a scene where Tom, the main character is REALLY happy and he struts and dances down a street, enveloping everyone he meets in his happiness. After the movie we both commented on that scene and how it was a "Ryan scene". Dad said "That's how Ryan's whole life was." And I think he's right for the most part.

Dad is watching the Cowboys play their first game in the fancy new stadium. I'm glad you were never a football fan. Since you weren't, watching the games together wasn't something you and Dad did. So it's not tainted for Dad like it would be if it had been a father/son thing like many dads and their sons have. I remember the first fall after we lost you, watching the Cowboys was one of Dad's only respites from the unrelenting suffering. I used to hope the Cowboys would win so Dad would have a smidgen of something to be happy about.

I love you bud and miss you more than words can say.
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
Today was full of encouraging progress for me. I'm feeling optimistic about my prospects for gainful employment. I actually have several good options - now my job is to discern which one is right for us. Easier said than done. I really don't want to make the wrong decision.

Many of the kids are leaving for college again. The whole Back To School thing is still very hard for me. I avoid Target and newspaper fliers and television commercials and articles about dorm necessitities. Even after two years, it's still painful.

Today I got a Facebook message from a bereaved mom friend who lives near Chico. Her beautiful daughter died just a few days before you did, at the age of 15. She wrote to say today was the first day of school for her surviving kids and would have been the first day of senior year for her Claire who died. It was hard for her to see all her daughter's friends excitedly beginning their senior year. I completely understand how she feels. It's hard to not feel cheated by life.

But you can always find someone who has it worse. Yesterday I had lunch for the first time with a bereaved mom who lost her only child in March 08. They had fertility issues and worked so hard to have her, only to lose her 11 1/2 years later to a brain tumor. I really liked this mom and think we will be friends. We share many of the same feelings. Ross told me the other day that every friend I have in Sacramento is a bereaved parent. That's a fairly accurate description of the truth. I have a few who aren't but not many.

Ross found a book on your shelves today that interested him. He had it in the kitchen and told me it was yours. I looked up and he held it up and said "Can't you tell? It's beat all to hell. The pages stick together and fold over onto one another." You were hard on stuff - books, clothes, shoes, anything you could chew on.

But boy, do we miss you~

All my love and then some,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We encountered another rattlesnake tonight on our walk. The second one this summer. Scrumpy had just finished his swim in the river and we were walking back toward the path. I walked right up on the snake and heard its rattle as it slithered off into the bushes. It was big and scary!

Dad had a very interesting experience at the i-pod repair shop today. The hard drive on mine went out a few days ago so he took it in to see if it could be repaired. The repair guy suggested we buy a refurbished one but Dad explained this one has sentimental value. He told how you had given it to me for Mother's Day and then died soon thereafter. Another customer, a woman, overheard the story. Later, as she and Dad were sitting together in the waiting area, she told him she was sorry about his loss and then told him she could tell him some things that would shock him. He said "Try me." She explained that she has psychic gifts. I don't think she called them that but that's what she described. Then she said she could feel your presence in the room. She told Dad that you are happy but worried about him. She said Dad's grief and sadness is holding you back. She asked Dad if he feels like there is a giant boulder on his chest when he lies down at night. Interestingly, that is the exact metaphor Dad uses to describe to me how he often feels. She then said that until that boulder is only a pebble, you won't be free to move on and be completely happy. Dad then asked her what she believes happens to our souls after we die and she said "I can just tell you this. You WILL see your son again."

Strange encounter for sure but Dad came home feeling so much lighter and happier. I told him it was like getting a postcard from you. "Having a great time. Weather is beautiful. See you soon! Love, Ry"

All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
Today is my and Dad's 30th wedding anniversary. Isn't that amazing? I always thought people who had been married 30 years were old but lo and behold, we have and we aren't. Funny how that works.

You were born the year we celebrated 10 years. Dad had promised me a "rock" - a bigger diamond for my wedding ring. But then you became very ill at 8 weeks and spent over a week in the hospital. That soaked up any extra money we might have had. On our anniversary that year, Dad apologized and told me "the rock" went up in the oxygen tent. That was okay. You were worth more than all the diamonds in the world.

Debra, who has a beautiful way with words, sent a lovely message to us this afternoon. Here's part of what she said:

"Congratulations on sustaining and nourishing your partnerships through joy and sorrow for three decades.
I was thinking about the two of you in your early 20's standing before God, family and friends making those vows . . . to love and honor one another for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health. I suppose no young couple really comprehends what will be required of them in keeping those vows in the journey we call marriage. Certainly, you never imagined the challenges that were in your future, especially the most horrible of all . . . losing Ryan."

I have contemplated our life together throughout the day. Jimmy Buffett's line "some of it's magic and some of it's tragic but we've had a good life all the way" keeps going through my head. I agree with the magic and tragic part but I'm still not able to say amen to the "good life" part. I hope to someday get there again through time and wisdom but at this point your death has negated all the "life is good" for us. We make the best of things and try to focus on what we have left rather than what we lost. And that's the best we can do.

Debra is right about young couples standing before their friends and family, making those vows, somehow thinking they have protection from the land mines of life. And some people do seem to skate through unscathed - but not very many. Life is hard and I guess at the end of the day what matters is how we deal with the adversity and loss that comes our way. Maybe that is the big test for all of us.

So I close tonight grateful to have been married to your ol' Pop Squat for 30 years. I can't think of a better man to have shared my life with. He was a great Dad to you and continues to be that to Ross. He's been my biggest cheerleader and supporter - making many personal sacrifices for the good of our family. He was a full time Dad long before it was fashionable to be one. He checked his ego at the door years ago to devote his time and attention to you, Ross and me. You always appreciated him and told him (and me) how lucky you were to have him as your Dad. I'm happy you were wise enough to know how lucky you were before it was too late.

We all miss you so much but I think Dad hurts the worst. You were his hero, as he often told you, and your death has left a Grand Canyon sized hole in his heart.

Love you so very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Brianne and Brianna spent the day with us today. We ate lunch at the famous The Squeeze Inn - a tiny little dive of a hamburger joint that has been featured on The Food Network. We stood in line for half an hour before we got in to order. Unlike most things in life that are over rated, this one wasn't. Very yummy and I can only imagine how many calories. You would have LOVED it. Greasy, unhealthy food was right up your alley.

We talked about you a lot this afternoon. I asked Brianna if she has told Nate, her boyfriend from IU, about you. She said she has but that it's difficult to fully describe you to people who never knew you. Dad and I struggle with that same thing. It makes us sad that we now have friends who never knew you. There aren't adequate words to describe the full essence of who you were. As the nuns sang about Maria in The Sound of Music...."how do you hold a moonbeam in your hands?"

Bret is in the hospital in Beaumont with what they believe to be Swine Flu. He's been sick since late last week and the respiratory problems have gotten worse. It scares me. Eady seems calm about it. I think I'm extra paranoid now because I KNOW the worst can happen whereas until it happens to you, you always believe everything is going to be okay. I'm sure he'll be fine but I will rest easier when he IS fine.

Last night we drove into the city and had dinner with our old friends, the Perglers, who are in Half Moon Bay on vacation. Their only son died a couple years before you did. They have healed much better than I think we ever will. Their son was in a lot of pain so maybe their solace is greater knowing he is no longer suffering. Our situation is different. You were the happiest kid we knew and the world was your oyster.

I love and miss you so much.
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We had a wonderful family day today - by far the best day we have had since your death. We drove to a spot near Lake Tahoe where we hiked to Lake Margaret. Dad, Ross, Scrumpy and I. It was a perfect day weather wise and the hike was only about 5 miles round trip so very do-able. It really was the nicest time we have shared in such a long time. I caught myself thinking how great it would have been if you had been with us too. But that will never be again. So sad.

After we got home and washed off the layers of dirt, Ross and I went to Whole Foods for a pizza. On the way there, we talked about the Wycliffe house. Ross told me buying it was a great decision, not just for our family but for the hordes of kids who came and went over the 7 years we were there. He said something to the effect of "without a doubt, dozens of kids' lives were enriched from the time they spent at that house." I had always thought to myself there were lots of Modesto kids who would drive by our old house as adults and say "I had a lot of fun at that house when I was growing up." Ross' comments tonight confirmed it for me and that felt good. I miss that house and that life so very much. I tear up just thinking about it.

I emailed Jack Herrera's dad last night to tell him I remember this is the 2 year anniversary of Jack's death. I told him I hope our February 16 birthday boys are living it up together in Heaven. He wrote back to say he wonders if the day you guys died was the worst day or the best day of your lives. Definitely the worst day for we parents but he believes the best day for you since you left this broken world for a better one. I like his thinking. I hope he's right.

Love you so very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
I don't normally write twice in one day but we just returned from the movies where we saw Julia & Julie and I'm feeling ebullient. I loved the movie and it inspired me to stay the course in finding something to do that I LOVE. Not just a hard job that pays a lot of money. Today I turned down a job. It scares me to let that bird in the hand go, not knowing what the bushes hold but my gut tells me it was the right decision. Time will tell, I suppose. I keep asking God to direct me toward meaningful work that brings me joy, satisfaction and enough money to pay the bills.

A few minutes ago, I was going through a stack of cards we recently received. Our friend, Carol, wrote this encouraging message to Dad and me after our weekend together a month or so ago. She said "...The great paradox is that perhaps the heaviest hearted guests brought us the most happiness, joy & hope! Ryan's death has somehow made you into emissaries of gentleness and love." We were both touched by those lovely words.

Also, my grief pen pal from Pennsylvania wrote this to me around the anniversary of your death:

"I'm sure it seems surreal to think it's been two years since Ryan's death. I don't know if you do this, but I have found myself telling people the number of months since David died. In other words I say, "My son was killed 19 months ago." I really don't want to say two years ago. Maybe I don't want to say two years because it puts him farther away from our world. I don't want people to say or think. "Oh yeah, she had a kid who died." but rather "Wow, her son was alive just 19 months ago." Maybe it's like when our boys were toddlers and people would ask their age and we'd say "22 months" instead of rounding up to 2."

I totally agree with what she said. I also do the "months thing" - even now. And it seems so strange that we're beginning our third year without you. You would be starting your junior year in college in a few days. Amazing....and so very, very tragic that you are not.

I love you sweetheart. I'm going to bed now and dream about butter (from the movie - you know how I love butter!)

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I didn't write to you last night because I'm waging a war with the depression demons and the demons are winning. I was afraid my words would be morose and heavy with sadness.

Today Dad, Ross and I thoroughly cleaned the house for the first time since we had to let the cleaning people go. One of my jobs was dusting. I hate dusting for many reasons but I hadn't thought about what a sad job it was going to be. As I dusted the dozens of photographs throughout our house, I looked at your sweet face many times. I was in tears by the time I finished. I miss you so much.

I don't know where my days go. I'm beginning to relate to those retirees who say "I don't know how I ever had time to work." My days zoom by and I never get enough done. I try to do something every day toward finding my new role in life - a role that pays the bills. I haven't found it yet but I have eliminated some things. I guess that's progress. Some days I feel calm and peaceful. Other days I am wracked with anxiety and fear. I keep praying to that God I'm no longer sure exists to give me clarity and direction - asking that his will be done in my life. I'm still waiting.

A few minutes ago, I was searching for something in my electronic files and found a copy of the letter I sent my friend Sue Smith last fall. She's the one who died a couple weeks ago. I sent it last fall and here's what I said to her:

October 20, 2008

Dear Sue,

I heard via Jan Hancock Nichols that you are sick. The rumor mill has it you are very ill but you know how the grapevine can be. It could be much less serious than we have been led to believe. I hope that is the case.

Regardless, I wanted to write to you and let you know you are in my thoughts and prayers. I’m sure this is a painful and scary time for you and those who love you.

Life is something, isn’t it? In some ways, it seems like just the other day we were at Jasper High School with our whole lives ahead of us. We were young and naïve and thought we would live forever and all of it would be good from there on out. As we have learned, time flies whether you’re having fun or not (we are 50 years old, after all) and life is full of suffering and tragedy. If we had known what was ahead of us, we likely wouldn’t have had the courage to attempt it. That’s the great thing about being young and dumb – we don’t know how hard life is going to be.

I’m sorry if I’m coming across morose and negative. I hope your life has had more than its share of joy and blessings. I personally suffered a great tragedy 15 months ago and my suffering continues to be great, thus coloring my outlook on life. Our 18 year old son, Ryan, drowned while life guarding at a summer camp near Austin, Tx on July 29, 2007. He was an extraordinary young man and the joy of our lives. Losing a child is a horrible, horrible thing.

I will end with my last memory of you – it was the day we graduated from high school. We were lined up in front of the football field entrance, preparing to enter the stadium. I think you were crying, as we all realized we might never see some of our classmates again. Of the 221 kids in our class, I distinctly remember your reaction and seeing you there in line.

I wish you peace and comfort and healing – in whatever form that may be. And if you get to Heaven first, look up my sweet Ryan and tell him his mother misses him so very, very much.

Love,
Lynn Reeves Dickerson

I hope she has found you and given you that message.

Missing you much and loving you even more,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Tonight Dad and I had dinner with a couple who are atheists.They liken a belief in God to believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Even though I confess to huge crises of faith, I still need to believe so it's upsetting to me to listen to discussions such as the one we participated in tonight. The thought of never being with you again is more than I can bear. So I will continue to believe even though losing you has rocked my faith to its core. Plus my happiest years were when I still believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

Yesterday when I was in Modesto, I stopped by the library to see your tree. I was only there a few minutes but it was fun to watch the kids' reaction to the tree. They all touch it. One little chubby boy of about 5 or 6 years old, kept asking "Is it real?" Someone finally said "No, but it sure looks real, doesn't it?" I almost told him it was my boy's tree but I decided that would have been too complicated to explain. So I just stood there and quietly observed.

I got an email from Ms. Byers tonight saying she visited your website last night. She said "I realized that I had come to think of him as the kid who died, and yet when I watched the video my heart ached to see him so alive. It was a special kid."
I cringe when I think of people thinking of you as 'the kid who died". You were so much more than that. You were the kid who lived a whole life - a good life - full and fun and robust - in just 18 years.

Love and miss you with all I am,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
I visited your grave today. I picked up the spent flowers and threw them away. I looked at each photo of you that is chiseled into the bronze headstone. I said a prayer, thanking God for giving you to us, if only for such a short time. I can't imagine what my life would have been like had you never been in it. (definitely less rich and fun and rewarding) Aas searing as the pain of losing you is, I'm still grateful to have had you. And I will miss you til the day I die.

You have a new neighbor at the cemetery. Someone was just buried next to you. The tent was still up and the flowers were recent. I couldn't find a name on the grave. I hope they know what a special spot they got, right next to THE Ryan Dickerson.

My friend, Ann Caulkins, who sent a card to me every week for the entire first year after you died, emailed this messge this morning.

"We lost a precious child from the kids' school on Friday. I will send you the obit. Will was brilliant - just graduated this year. I know he and Ryan will really like each other. I am thinking that God put Ryan on the welcoming committee for super smart cool kids that come to heaven, at least I hope so."

I hope so too.

I have begun writing twice a week on the Modesto Bee's Mom's site blog. So far I have chronicled our journey beginning the day of your death through September of 2007. I do it in hopes of enlightening readers on what it is like to experience such a profound loss. I have found society is ill equipped to deal with those of us who suffer an unspeakable tragedy. Debra told me today that a local businessman whom I know from Rotary told her he has been reading it. He intimated that it is hard to read. So many people have said that to me over the past two years. I feel like saying "if you think it's hard to read, imagine living it."

But I also get positive feedback from time to time that gives me cause to believe I am helping in some small way. My friend, Jane, just today told me because of what she has learned from me, she recently spoke to a co-worker who lost a child 7 years ago and told him she had been thinking of him and his son. She called the son by name (really important) and he was touched. He thanked her and said people rarely mention his son anymore. We bereaved parents live in fear of our children being forgotten and when people stop bringing you guys up in conversation, we believe that is happening.

I love and miss you so much, sweet boy.

Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We're home from Oregon where we saw beautiful scenery, tasted enough wine to last a month or more and met lots of nice people who are now our new friends. One particularly touching thing happened. We met a Japanese woman about my age who lives in Japan. She travels to the U.S. on business fairly often and usually attends this Great Grape Group wine weekend every year. Her English skills are much better than my non-existent Japanese skills but she is still difficult to understand. We hit it off right away but spent much of the weekend communicating via hand gestures and broken English. As I am wont to do, shortly after arriving on Thursday afternoon I told a small group of new friends about our tragedy. Kiyoko happened to be sitting next to me when I told my story. Later she quietly shared with me that she badly wanted to have children but was unable to. She suffered 7 miscarriages. She held her hands over her heart and then imitated tears running down her cheeks by trailing a finger down her face and said "broken heart, so sad, life dream". She didn't pretend to know my pain but she knew pain of her own - pain I can't know. So we bonded over our shared broken hearts. Last night, after we had said goodbye to most of the group and turned in for the night in preparation for an early departure to the airport, there was a knock on our door. I opened it to find Kiyoko standing there with a small gift wrapped box in her hand. She asked me to open it then. It contained a beautiful strand of pearls. In her faltering English she told me that in Japan pearls signify tears. She asked me to please accept the gift and wear them as a way of keeping you close in my heart. I was so touched by this virtual stranger's kindness and generosity. There are so many good people in the world. Kiyoko is definitely one of them.

After that sweet interchange, I told Dad it helped me understand how the many kids who knew you only 8 days at Camp Champions in the summer of 07 grew to love you as much as they did. Special friendships and bonds can be created in a very short period of time. I knew Kiyoko for less than 72 hours and I may never see her again but she touched my heart in a way I won't forget.

Just like you touched so many hearts in your short time here.

I am especially lonely for you tonight. Not sure why it's worse than usual tonight but it is.

I love you so very much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
I dreamed about you last night! It happens so rarely but when it does, it is such a treat. Dreams are weird - you would think that I would dream about you every night since you occupy so much of my psyche all the time but I don't. I think I have only dreamed about you 7 or 8 times in the past 24 months. In last night's dream, I found a letter from you on my desk. It was your distinctive messy handwriting and as I sat reading it, you came up behind me and put your hands on my shoulders. I was SO happy to see you.Then I found out that Julie, my former asst, had taken you to Tom Solomon who had taken you all around, including to the library to see your tree. Then you, Dad and I were in a park somewhere and you & Dad discussed building something that you had meant to build back in the Boy Scout days. You said "Let's build it in the fall and get JoAnne Serpa to help us." Later we were in church and you were sitting in front of me. I kept kissing you on the head and patting your shoulders. I was so happy to see you. Then I was thinking maybe I could contact WashU and they would let you come to school this fall since you were back. But all the time, I knew you were going to be dead again and I was trying to prevent that. It was a strange dream, as dreams are but it was so nice to be with you for a little while.

We were in Modesto this afternoon checking out a business venture. We took Natalie to Tasty Taco with us. As we were paying, the owner asked if she was our daughter. It flummoxed me for a moment. Then I said "She's sort of our surrogate daughter. She was our son's girlfriend - our son who died." Of course, that shut him right up. He's a young, 30 something year old and the subject of death stops all chit chat with that generation. Every time we're with Natalie, I leave feeling sad. Sad for us, sad for her, sad for all that could have been. She is a lovely, lovely girl. I know why you liked her so much.

Dad and I are off to Oregon in the morning for a wine tasting weekend with our friends, Rich & Mary, and a bunch of people we don't know.

Love & miss you so very much, bud

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today on the trail a teenage boy ran past us. He was polite and commented on how cute Scrumpy is. A minute or so later, his Dad ran by, huffing & puffing, and commented on how he can't keep up with his son anymore. A few minutes later, I noticed Dad sniffling and asked if he was crying. He nodded and kept crying. I said "That boy and his dad?" Then in a tear choked voice he said "I remember when we used to run together when we first moved out here. I would have to wait on him. Then by the time we stopped running together years later, he would be so far ahead that he would turn around and run back to me, then run side to side across the street, and run backwards, allowing me to keep up with him." So many things are reminders of all we have lost.

Dad told me he has been sad all day. He said he thought after yesterday (the anniversary of your funeral) passed, he might feel better but he doesn't. I think it's going to take a really long time if it ever happens.

Today's mail brought a lovely thank you note from Ariel, Gus' sister who got one of your scholarships. Here's what she said:

"I have truly never been more honored than when I received the Ryan Dickerson Scholarship. Thank you for your incredible generosity. The reason I feel so honored is because I remember Ryan as an extremely respectful and kind, and always hilariously amusing person. These traits were manifest in the smallest actions, such as when Gus, Ryan and I went to O'Brien's and the sandwich lady couldn't stop blushing because Ryan insisted on calling her "ma'am". He also had a way of making everyone feel included. I remember one day playing basketball at a park with Gus and Ryan and several of their friends. Due to Ryan, I did not feel the least bit awkward or self-conscious of my atrocious basketball skills because he accentuated his own goofiness on the court, shamelessly attempting several air balled shots. I still admire his confidence.
With the RHD scholarship, I will be attending UC Berkeley and I am undecided upon what I will study. I do know with certainty that I will continue to deeply respect and fondly cherish the memories of your son."

We love hearing those little anecdotes about you. They are such a gift to us. And it reminded me of how much you loved those sandwiches from O'Brien's deli. Gosh, I miss you so much.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Chris and Brianne visited us today. They got here about 1pm and are in the driveway now, fixing a flat tire so they can go home. We laughed a lot. Chris told lots of funny stories about you. We watched videos shot by Kevin when you guys were making the big movie all throughout junior high and we watched the video of you & Mark in 8th grade working on your Call of the Wild project. It is so cute. I can't help but smile more than I cry when watching it. We looked at photo albums from 2001 & 2003. So many happy memories. Where is that time machine? Life was so good back then.

Your funeral was 2 years ago today. Still seems surreal. Right now you feel so alive to me after looking at all those pictures and talking about you all day. You could so easily just be away at school or something. I wish that were the case.

Love and miss you dearly,

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

Dad's brother, your uncle Paul, died 40 years ago today. He was also 18. It sort of freaks me out that both of you died at 18 and within the same week on the calendar. I now realize Paul had only been dead 7 1/2 years when Dad and I started dating. From my vantage point, it felt like he been gone a long time. I now realize 7 1/2 years is no time at all in the world of sorrow. I'm sure B & Granddad were still grieving, though I never saw signs of it. No one ever talked about Paul. There were pictures of him hanging throughout the house but his name was rarely mentioned. So different from how we are grieving you and trying to keep your name alive in conversation. Times were different back then and everyone does it their own way.

We went to Modesto today for the YES Company's production of Bye Bye Birdie. It was fabulous. Nick McClellan from our church was Conrad Birdie and he did a great job. I saw the Buckle boys and their sweet parents - all fans of yours. Debra introduced me to Nick's mom and sister in the lobby and by way of introduction said "you knew Ryan Dickerson, didn't you?" They both nodded yes. Once again, I was proud to be your Mom.
I only cried once - at the end of the play just as the standing ovation was beginning. I saw a couple - front & center of the auditorium - jump up immediately. I knew from afar they were proud parents of one of the actors. I couldn't stop the tears. It reminded me so of the many times Dad and I were the proud parents in the audience.

Steve visited your grave today and picked up the cards and letters left by your friends last week. There was one from Fallon, one from Cody Howell and one from the Griffith family. They wrote such sweet things to you.

We also got a note in the mail from Susie Baskin at Camp. Here's what she wrote last Sunday:

"Dear Lynn and Ron,
I've been thinking of Ryan all day. Although his passing (according to the calendar) isn't for a few days, my memories are strongest today. Ryan passed away on the afternoon of Trojan/Spartan games - the first Sunday of the third term. He was to officiate one of their relay races. As I look outside my office window, I see campers covered in red and blue tribal warfare paint competing mightily.

I know I have told you this before, but at Vespers later that same night, I saw the most glorious shooting star light a huge swath across the sky. Many of us witnessed it and we all had the same thought - a heavenly tribute and welcome to Ryan.

Tonight at Vespers I'm planning to talk about people who have impacted our lives through their love and kindness. I can't think of a better example of this than Ryan.

Thinking of you today
Susie"

I find the "Sunday" anniversary is harder for me than the 29th. I am so sorry you missed Trojan/Spartan games that day. You loved them as a little boy and I can only imagine you as a staff member. Your exuberance would have been palpable.

Words fail me when trying to describe how much we miss you.

Love you the most because I'm the biggest,
Mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
Dad and I got up early this morning and drove to the Sierras to participate in an 8 mile hike in memory of Matt Prentice. Matt died on New Year's Eve of 2003 on his way home from his girlfriend's house. His parents have become our friends. Today was the 6th annual Hiking for Matt event. At least 75 people turned out today to remember Matt. It was a beautiful, though fairly rigorous hike. I'm glad we went.
As we were hiking along, I found a shiny penny on the trail. It was a pristine trail - no trash of any kind - but there was a penny for me to find. Dad and I think it was a message from you, saying "way to go Mom & Dad" - I'm right here with you".

I have decided that next year, that is how we're going to commemorate the 29th of July. We're going to have a hike in your memory.

Last week our friend Brenda Morris sent this devotional. She said she sent it last year too but I don't remember getting it last year. My brain was fuzzier last year than it is this year. But I liked what it had to say.

"What's Your Handicap?

"What's your handicap?" the golfer asked his partner. "My childhood," said his companion.

Some handicaps are physical, certain limitations placed on our bodies. Other handicaps are emotional, burdens of heartache from sad or abusive childhoods. Others may be dealing with current issues -- perhaps facing a terminal illness or grieving an irreparable loss.

After losing my son, I found myself at a point where I simply could no longer stand the agony of waiting for my pain to disappear. I knew that all my life I would miss him, and I became absolutely despondent. There is no way out of this, I thought. I'm spending my life waiting for this pain to disappear so I can begin living my life again. But the pain will never disappear. And I'll never begin living my life again. That's when a gentle idea began to change my life.

I began to understand that I was living and working with a handicap. The loss would always be there. The pain and heartache would always be present. I could accept that, treat it as a handicap, and within that framework go ahead and live my life once more. The moment I made that decision, my attitude and perspective changed. I was able to go on, able to move forward.

Many of us are living with handicaps. Some will change over time, but other's won't. If that's the case, stop waiting for your handicap to disappear. Instead, decide to live with it. Work around it. Treat yourself with care, with gentleness. Allow yourself to feel and experience all the limitations and emotions of your present situation. Accept them. Let them be part of you, part of your experience. Despite living with a handicap, go ahead and treat yourself to life."

That's what we're trying to do - limp along through life even though we're amputees.

I love & miss you so very, very much, Ry.
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Ry
I awoke this morning to find this lovely email from Mallory. It made me sob but it is a gift. Here's what she said.

"Mr. and Mrs. D,
The 29th has come and passed. I can't imagine what it was like for you two. Now, it's a whole another year that has to pass to mark the third anniversary. It's sad how each year isn't marked from December 25 to December 25, as it was when we were kids; instead, the countdown starts and ends on July 29. My sister and I visited Ryan's grave, where we saw Brianna, Brianne, and Chris. Brianna spread beautiful rose petals across his grave. It made my heart stop. How could something in a cemetery look so beautiful?
Ever since I left your house last week, I've been giving a lot of thought about Ryan. I was thinking of all the things he could have been, his options were endless. It wasn't until I began to think about all of the things he couldn't have been that I took comfort. He couldn't have been more loved. Second only to Lance Armstrong, the Ryan bracelet is quite popular. It is worn because of love throughout the year, not just to mark special anniversaries, and has become a part of everyone who wears one. He couldn't have been a better friend. Two years is a long time to be gone, but it doesn't stop people from bringing him up in everyday conversation. He had such an impact on us that no matter how hard we tried, we could never forget him. He couldn't have been a bigger influence on his friends and family. Doing RAKs in his honor is just one example of the influence his kind heart had in our lives. Since he has been gone, there have been countless comments from friends and family alike saying they want to change for the better to be more like Ryan. He couldn't bring more people together. I can't think of many examples of how someone's death brought so many people closer together. I know I've already said that he is like the glue that keeps our class together, but he's done more than that. He has brought together countless friendships that wouldn't have blossomed otherwise. Our friendship being one of these new found connections. He couldn't be missed more. People across the community have made such an effort to keep the memory of Ryan alive. Let's be honest, a relay held in most people's honor couldn't come close to being as successful as Ryan's Relay. Ryan is missed so dearly that everyone who knows him would give anything to have him back, but since that is not possible, they would give anything to make sure there are built in memories of him.
It brought me such comfort to know that all of these things he couldn't have done added up to be a wonderful thing. It may not have been the purpose we all thought was intended for him, but it was the purpose he accomplished. Not many people at such a young age could have such an influence on so many people nor could they accomplish such a purpose, but it was just a small task for your Ryan."

Mal still loves you and so do I.
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
Well here I am on the first day of Year 3 without you. We have a strange relationship with time. In most ways, it feels like it happened 10 minutes ago and at the same time, I can barely remember what it felt like to be whole and happy.

As we have been from the beginning, we were blessed with love & support from friends far and wide. I am touched by how many of your friends and ours who remembered and called or texted or sent an email or posted a message on Facebook or sent a card. We felt the love.


We drove home today from the coast. On the drive home I read aloud to Dad from a book called The Incomplete One. It's a compilation of sermons given at the funerals of children & young people. One contained this poem that Dad and I both really liked. It speaks to the growth that comes from an enormous loss and the sorrow that follows. I would just as soon not had that growth experience but I wasn't given the choice.

The poem is by Robert Browning Hamilton.

I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow
and ne'er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me



We have indeed learned much from our constant companion of the last two years, Sorrow.

Loving & missing you much
Mom

Chris Murphy 
Ryan Dickerson will always live on. It is really clear, especially on this day, that the people who create so much excitement and happiness truly live on in our thoughts and dreams. I remember so clearly two years ago hearing the news, and reacting as if it could not be possible. As reality set in, you realize quickly how important your family and friends are and you struggle to ask how you can help. What to say? what to do? It is still difficult to answer these questions. I am so glad my family and I knew Ryan as long as we did and those memories and the fun times we all had will be with us forever. Lynn, Ron and Ross, my heart goes out to you all and may you continue to gather strength every single day. Always your friends, Chris, Becky, Madison and Abbey.

Lynn Dickerson 
On this 2 year anniversary of your death I found this apropos quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff who lost his own 25 year old son and thus knows of what he speaks.

"The child was a gift. The grief does not smother the gratitude. And death, they all affirm, is not the end. We grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Yet none says that since death is not the end, we should not grieve. Though grief does not smother hope, neither does hope smother grief."



Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there buddy,
Today Dad and I drove to Santa Maria to check out a business opportunity. It was a 3 hour drive so while Dad drove, I read and played these two new games on my i-phone to which I have become addicted because of Mal. I was absorbed in the word scrambler game when Dad pointed out we were passing through Cambria. It hit me like a brick. I wanted so badly to call you and tell you I was in our old stomping grounds from our summer trips to the Central Coast. I called Chris G instead. Then I cried and cried and cried.

Just like I did last year, I asked Dad to load the huge plastic bin of sympathy cards and bring them on this trip. I have spent several hours re-reading cards we got when you died. We received over 1000 cards and as I re-read them, I find I don't remember reading many of them the first time. I was in such a state for such a long time. I believe I went a little crazy for a while. So as I read them now, it's as if I am getting the comfort all over again. I cry as I read some but mostly I feel washed in love. How blessed we are to have so many people who love us. In one of our grief support groups, we met a man who had lost his wife a few months earlier. CPS had taken his only son away from him. He was a mess. I think he was a little mentally ill but regardless, he was hurting like we were. At one meeting he mentioned how he had received a sympathy card. One card! He was so proud of that one act of kindness. Dad and I both left that meeting feeling guilty for the abundance of love we have received. It really does make a difference.

In the cards tonight, I came across several things worth sharing here. One is a quote from Lindbergh who also lost a child. It sums it up pretty accurately.

"It isn't the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for the long uphill climb back to sanity, faith and security.'

It is indeed a long climb back uphill. We're still climbing.

I am worried about Ross. This week is hard for him too. We tried to get him to come here with us but he didn't want to. But I worry about him being alone. I hope Norrah is able to be with him tomorrow as she plans.

Tonight I found a note Sahil wrote on a note pad at our house the day after we got the awful news. He said "I always had a great time with Ryan and loved just going around and hanging out with him. He was always the nicest guy in the room. He was always "that guy" that everyone knew and loved."

I also found a note from one of the counselors from camp who was with you your last night on earth. Daniel Driver wrote this to us:

"I had the privilege of spending Saturday evening with Ryan and two other counselors. We went to eat at an All You Can Eat Chinese buffet and then we went to watch The Simpsons movie. That was the only time I got to spend time with him but I was amazed at how quick he was to laugh and what a loving and caring person he was. We were talking about camp and he was so complimentary of every one that he spoke of. He was content to be in the presence of all who were with him, even though we were all practically complete strangers enjoying a meal together. He had that kind of happy & open personality that I dream of having. He truly seemed as if he was enjoying every second of the time we spent together. I am so lucky to have spent that evening with him. I know my words offer little comfort but I want you to know that he was a great and amazing young man & that I want to live my life every day with laughter and smiles like Ryan did."

It's hard to believe that two years ago tonight was the last night we spent in that naive "life is good and we deserve it because we've worked so hard" state. Our lives forever more will be divided into the Before Ryan Died and After Ryan Died segments. Like a book written in parts.

We will miss you forever and ever until we meet again.

All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad and I are in Pajaro Dunes, near Santa Cruz, at the Grover's condo, trying unsuccessfully to outrun July 29. We are blessed to have good friends who love us and generously offer us lovely places to spend our week of sorrow. Last year we spent it in Kirkwood at the Johnston's cabin - this year on the coast overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean.

You would love it here. The waves are just outside our back door and the storage room is full of boogie boards. It reminds me of our summer days of yore in Cayucos with Chris. Such fun times those were. Oh what I would give for a time machine.

I am reading a book called The Wednesday Letters that Brianna recommended. I just read a chapter about a 17 year old boy dying of a brain tumor. He died on a Sunday afternoon, just like you did. I read this passage out loud to Dad and we both cried. "Now I know why the Lord took his day off on Sunday. That must be the day he personally greets his favorites."

Debra always tells me that even though she doesn't know what happened that dreadful day in July, 2007, she knows God was in that water with you. I sure hope so.

Later in the book there is a poem written by a dad to his son that reminded me of you.

"Each night in a dream
a wrinkled old man of philosophy
whispers in my ear,
'The perfect ones can be taken home early"

Each morning the new dawn
opens my sleepy, worn eyes
and sweeps me down a long hallway toward a small bed.
There's a boy in it.

He is my son.

And though I am only tending him,
I pray He will let us keep the boy another day."


Grateful we were able to tend you for 18 years, 5 months and 13 days...

All my love,
You sad ol' ma



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad, Ross and I are like characters from a Saturday morning cartoon - running from a giant boulder of grief but it's gaining ground on us. The faster we run, the faster it rolls and as we look behind us, it's catching up, threatening to squash us flat.

Two years ago on this same Saturday Dad and I were unpacking boxes and getting Dad ready for Half Dome. I remember going to Raley's and buying trail mix and power bars for him. We were still surrounded by boxes and chaos in our new house. You called from Marble Falls, outside the WalMart, because you had the night off. You and your fellow lifeguards & counselors had gone into town to see The Simpsons movie. You ate and stopped at WalMart where you bought a set of poker chips & cards - clearly planning to put your Texas Hold em skills to work - wiping out your friends' wallets. Those poker chips & cards came home to us in your trunk - still in the WalMart bag, unopened.
You told me about finishing the Harry Potter book and how good it was. You mentioned that you had won the bet with Bryan about whether Snape was a good guy or a bad guy. You told me how much you liked your co-workers and some of the campers. You said "They are good people, Mom." We talked a good long time and I was so grateful for that time with you. You told me how much fun you were having and that it was just like being at camp except you were getting paid for it.
You talked to Dad for a few minutes and gave him a pep talk about Half Dome. You told him to take plenty of water and to not do anything stupid. You told him he could do it. We made plans to talk the next day and told you to have fun, be careful and that we loved you.

Dad and I worried because you guys were out on the road. We felt like camp was the safest three weeks of you summer, except for the few nights off when you guys would drive into town or into Austin. Little did we know what was ahead in less than 24 hours.

Last night was one of the few nights where I didn't sleep well. Fortunately through these hellish two years, I have slept pretty well. I awoke around 1am and just lay there for a long time. I played my "Ryan slideshow" in my head. There are certain scenes where I see you vividly. I worry about those memories fading so I call them up as often as possible. I miss you so much.

Yesterday was a good day for me on a couple of career fronts. One interesting thing happened when I was talking to a guy in Southern California about a franchise opportunity. I told him about losing you and I talked about how someday our surviving son would take over this business if we bought it. Later in the conversation he asked me what my other son's name was. Then he went on to tell me he lost his only brother to leukemia when he was 9 and his brother was 6. His brother's name was Ryan too. He has since named his son Ryan after that brother. He was very compassionate and understanding about our situation and our time line, knowing next week is the dreaded anniversary.

Abby is 20 today. You were always 5 months ahead of her on birthdays but she has passed you up now. You are 18 forever. Just think how handsome you'll be for all of etenity.

I love & miss you more than words can say,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My childhood friend died today. She fought a brief but brutal battle with cancer. Her daughter will go to college without her mom's send off & support next month. Her mother will grieve the loss of her child even though that child was 51 years old. I am sad for them. Tonight Dad and I were washing windows and I kept thinking how we were doing mundane chores while Sue's family was hurting so badly. The world keeps spinning regardless of our own personal tragedies.

Our former Wycliffe neighbor, Patti Pfeffer, sent this message today.

"Lynn,
I've been wanting to tell you & Ron this short story and with the 2 yr. anniversary of his death approaching, seems like a good time.
Julia was at ballet one day, and to pass the time the girls and some guys were thinking of different school cheers to do. After one of the "cheers" was recited, some of the dancers asked "....isn't that one of the cheers Ryan Dickerson started?" All smiled and agreed. The only reason I even heard about this was because Julia was quite moved that even in his death, he was still impacting these kids lives. She wanted to express to me how wonderful she thought that was. I know you feel the need to be sure he is remembered and that his life continues to touch others. Because of the examples he set, his memory is guaranteed to continue."

Hearing your name said by others is music to my ears.

I saw this quote today from Anne Lamott. She's one of my favorite writers and she beautifully describes what I often try to say about the importance of helping others carry their load of grief. There isn't anything anyone can really do but somehow it helps to have friends by your side. I am remembering those who have been here holding our hands as we trudged through the quicksand of life for the past two years.

"I believe that when all is said and done, all you can do is show up for someone in crisis, which seems inadequate. But when you do, it can radically change everything. Your there-ness, your stepping into a scared parent's line of vision, can be life-giving.... So you come to keep them company when it feels like the whole world is falling apart, and your being there says that just for this moment, this one tiny piece of the world is OK, or is at least better."

Love & miss you so much buddy
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
One of the things I always admired about you was what a good friend you were to so many people. As a result you had loads of friends. Dad and I have been the beneficiaries of your magnanimous nature because many of your friends have been by our side literally and figuratively over these past two years. As we approach the dreaded 2 year anniversary next Wednesday, our hearts are touched by all the kids who care about us and want to help us hang on and get past that day. Mallory came to visit tonight. Brianna and Brianne are coming next week. Natalie is coming one day soon, as is Bryan. Madison & Gus ar coming on Friday. The girls are better at expressing their feelings and talking openly about our loss but the boys do it in their own way.

I learned today by reading a story in the Sacramento Bee that one of the Stone girls from Modesto was killed in a car wreck last month. She was my age so calling her a girl is a stretch but her parents are my friends and to them she will always be their little girl. She left behind 6 kids of her own. I know they must all be devastated. I have learned that losing a child is horrendous regardless of the age of the child. I am sad for them.

Tonight Ross and Mal showed us a website that calculates when you're going to die based on your birthday and your BMI and your outlook on life and a few other lifestyle choices. It says I'm going to die at 64 and Dad at 76. Dad is cranky about that. He's thinking of taking up smoking since it knocks 9 years off your life span. He certainly doesn't want me to beat him to heaven and get to see you first.

Love you, love you, love you,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ryan,

I learned late this afternoon that my high school friend, Sue Smith, is in the final hours of her life. She has been battling cancer since Labor Day of last year. She has fought a valiant battle, professing her strong faith every step of the way. Her youngest child and only daughter just graduated from high school and is headed to A&M in August. It was Sue's dream to be able to take her girl to school. It now doesn't look as if that will happen. I am struck by the juxtaposition of their situation and ours. We were cheated out of taking you to college, something we were so excited about. And now Sue's daughter will be cheated out of having her mother by her side as she embarks on that exciting new adventure. In both cases, we were just a month away but fate had other plans.

Norrah had a big, elaborate dream about you. She awoke feeling good. I haven't had one of those in such a long time.

Today I began the process of looking into what it will take to become a counselor specializing in grief. I'm not sure that's what I'm going to do but it's one of the things I'm considering. Dad thinks it's a wrong choice but you know Dad, he will support me if I decide to become a circus clown. I'm starting a book called Thinking About Tomorrow - Reinventing Yourself at Midlife. (I personally hope I'm way past midlife but that's the politically correct term for 50 year olds.)

I love and miss you so much bud.

Ma



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad and I both are trying to avoid reliving those final days of your life two years ago but it's hard not to. Maybe someday July won't evoke those painful memories but for now they seem impossible to avoid.

Today I made contact with a former colleague from my Texas newspaper days. I learned over the weekend that he lost his 31 year old daughter 4 years ago to an undetected heart condition. Geez - how many of those are there? I emailed him today and we shared our stories. He shared this poem with me that he wrote after his daughter's death. Here are Glenn Dromgoole's words:

Out of Darkness

When she died
my soul suffered
a power failure;

everything went
totally dark
for a while,

then it flickered
and you could see
a little light,

and then the light
got brighter,
but not as bright

as it was before,
never as bright
as it was before.

I think that's where we are - we see flickers of light now - not the pitch black darkness of so many months but certainly not the sunny, bright days of before either.

My new friend from the airplane yesterday told me healing from a significant loss - not even necessarily a child's death - takes at least 2 years and the person needs to tell their story at least 20 times. I relayed that info to Dad and he said "We've told our story at least 200 times and it's now been 2 years and I'm still so sad."

We miss you so very, very much.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
We're home from Baltimore. We had a great trip. The weather was wonderful (a huge improvement over the 108 degrees it is was here today) and it was fun to catch up with our old friends. We talked about you a lot as we always do.

At dinner tonight, your brother reminded me that it was two years ago today that he saw you for the last time. Tomorrow morning will be the 2 year anniversary of the last time Dad and I saw you. I replay that morning in my mind often - wishing I hadn't been rushing you so to get to the airport on time and instead had focused no every second with you. I remember opening my wallet and giving you every dollar I had because I was afraid you didn't have enough cash. And I remember walking you to the car and hugging you goodbye in the driveway. Never dreaming it would be the last time I saw you or touched you alive in this life.

A very cool thing happened to me on the way home today. We flew Southwest so when we boarded the plane for the Phoenix to Sacramento leg, I chose a row with an older man already seated by the window. He looked kind. You know how I NEVER talk to my seatmates on airplanes. It's my unwritten rule. I just don't do it. Normally I read my book or do the crossword puzzle but I never chat with strangers on airplanes. Well, I ended up talking to this man for the entire 1 hour 45 minute flight. He is a Presbyterian pastor who now has a private practice with his wife called Windows of Awareness in Providence, RI. They do work with post traumatic stress sufferers and other kinds of emotional trauma. I told him of how I am transitioning to a new career and of my desire to do "grief" work. He was very helpful to me in suggesting avenues I might pursue. On the first leg from Baltimore to Phoenix I had spent some time asking God to point me in the right direction - to give me clarity and vision about what to do next with my life. So I think maybe God nudged me to sit next to that gentleman. It certainly felt like it.

Dad, Ross and I miss you so much, Ryan. I can't wait until we're all together again.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad and I are leaving at o'dark thirty tomorrow morning - headed to Baltimore for a reunion with some old Harte-Hanks friends. Should be fun. And we have healed enough that we can now set aside the suitcase of grief long enough to have a nice time with friends. That's a big improvement.

My former colleagues and Gary took us to lunch today for a farewell celebration. It was very nice and I only teared up slightly. No blubbering. Gary said many nice things about me and Dad. I will miss them but not the daily grind.

In the part of Only Spring that I read earlier tonight Gordon Livingston said
"Gary Hart, in a recent magazine interview, said that when he is recognized on the street and asked if he is Gary Hart, he replies, "I used to be." I feel the same way. I used to be Lucas' father. Now I'm one of the walking wounded."

I realized as I read that passage that I also feel that same way. I used to be Lynn Dickerson - mother of the water polo player, homecoming king, swimmer, IB student, cute boy who drove the dirty green Land Rover, coolest kid in town; newspaper executive; over committed community volunteer. Now I'm someone else - bereaved mother, retired executive deciding on the next chapter of her life. It's a strange sensation.

Mallory sent this email last night.

"It is so sad to think that we're growing up without Ryan. I saw the Harry Potter movie last night and couldn't help but think of Ryan and get sad. If only he knew how much he is missed!"

When Debra was here on Sunday, we reminisced about the time in our lives when we first started attending FUMC. Debra was the new pastor who also lived on our street. One of the first times we shook her hand as we left church, she asked you and Ross which one of you was the target of all the toilet paper in our trees. Those were your junior high days when we got t.p'd almost every weekend. And we could never get it all out of the redwood trees so our house was permanently decorated with streams of toilet paper high in the trees for at least three years. The t.p.ing never completely stopped but I was glad when you got a little too old to get t.p'd all the time. I miss those days now.

I will write to you when I return on Sunday.

Missing you so much.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I miss you more than usual today. Your absence is as big as your presence was.

For almost 2 years now, I have unsuccessfully tried to articulate the difficulty of waking up every morning. I could never find the right words to describe that sinking feeling I get as soon as my consciousness registers that you are gone forever. But in this book I'm reading right now, Gordon Livinston does it well in describing his feelings associated with his 6 year old son's death.

"The mornings are terrible. I awaken early and there is an instant's peace beore I remember who I am and what has happened. Then comes the crushing realization that he is not here beside me and never will be again."

He says other things that resonate with me too.

"I've always felt lucky because I've always been lucky. When this happens, at some point you start to feel that you deserve it, that you've somehow earned it. I don't feel lucky anymore."

That was the case for us too. We had been so blessed up until your death. We had it all. I remember asking Debra if she thought everyone gets their share of bad luck in their life and because I had had so much good fortune, God took you as one gigantic bad thing to negate all that good stuff. She said no..it doesn't work like that. And gave me several examples of people and cultures getting way more than their share of bad luck.

Gordon Livingston also said this when talking about God allowing bad things to happen to good people:

"The most we can ask from Him is some help in marshaling our strength and courage. If the cards we are dealt are favorable - as they have been for most of my life - we are lucky and the game is a pleasure. When instead, we confront tragedy and pain, we can flinch or be angry, but still we play on as best we can until we die."

That's what our family is doing...playing on the best we can until we die.

All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My first weekday of not having a job since 1982 had a strangely de ja vu feel to it, reminding me of the 7 weeks I took off in the summer of 2007 when you died. I will always be appreciative of Gary for being so generous with time needed to learn to breathe again before having to return to work. I don't know how people with 3 days bereavement leave do it. But I digress....being home on a summer weekday; walking the trail behind our house, waking when my body told me to rather than when the alarm clock buzzed - all reminded me of those awful days when my psyche was still vibrating from the jolt of losing you. But I practiced mindfulness and it was a good day all in all. We had lunch with Erwin and Silvia Potts who lost their 16 year old son 24 years ago. Their boy died just 2 1/2 weeks after Ross was born - there's that circle of life thing again. They have been incredibly supportive of us over the last 2 years.

A very cool thing happened to me today in the "what goes around, comes around" category of life. In the fall of 1988 when I was pregnant with you, I stopped in a maternity shop in Plano Texas to buy some clothes to cover my ever expanding waistline. The young "20 something" sales clerk was terrific! I was so impessed with her that I asked for her name & number. I later called her to interview for a job selling ads at the paper and hired her. She turned out to be not only a great ad salesperson but a lovely, funny, wonderful human being. She's now a mom of 4 year old twins and a 7 year old, living in Wisconsin. I haven't seen her in years - probably 15 years at least. She called shortly after you died but that was the one & only contact with her in all those years. Today she called again to say she had read about my career change. Her husband is an executive recruiter with a large national retailer, should I have an interest in that company. I can't begin to tell you how good that made me feel. Whether I ever talk to them or not is beside the point. The fact she thought that much of me, after all these years, was very touching.

Tonight I looked up a blog I read earlier in the spring written by Meghan O'Rourke. She chronicled her mother's illness and subsequent death from cancer. I wanted to send it to my friend, Dina, who buried her mom last week. Here is the last paragraph of the last entry. I liked what she had to say about loss.


"Loss doesn't feel redeemable. But for me one consoling aspect is the recognition that, in this at least, none of us is different from anyone else: We all lose loved ones; we all face our own death. And loss, strangely, can attune you to what is beautiful about existence even as it wounds you with what is awful. You live with a new sense of what the Victorian critic Walter Pater once called "the splendour of our experience and … its awful brevity," too.

Love you so much sweet boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
There's a new Harry Potter movie coming out soon. It's those kinds of things that punch us in the gut. It feels unfair for them to continue making those movies, knowing you're gone and unable to see them. Ross is rereading all the Harry Potter books and is insistent that I read them too. He asked me to read a passage from the 5th book yesterday that reminded him of you. It was a conversation between Harry and Dumbledore about the power of love.

In his book Only Spring, Gordon Livingston articulates my feelings so well as he describes his feelings about his dying son. For instance he said this:
"In a world full of unjust death and misery, what makes the life of this boy so uniquely valuable? Part of the reason is selfish, of course. So much of my happiness is wrapped up in my vision of him growing up, becoming ever more extraordinary."

In the early days after your death, I grappled so with the unfairness of it all. How could God have allowed someone like you to die at 18 when there are so many 18 year olds out there who have no morals or character; who abuse their bodies and minds; who treat others poorly; who just take from this world without giving back? And how was I supposed to go on with my life knowing there would be no college experience or graduation; no wedding or grandchildren from Ryan? Dad and I still practice living in the moment because a future without you in it is pretty depressing.

It's Sunday night and I don't have to get up for work tomorrow. Yesterday I felt like the big tangled knot of uncertainty about what to do next was starting to loosen, allowing me to sort out some interesting ideas. But then today, yesterday's ideas don't sound as appealing to me. Debra and Steve came for dinner and Debra, my wise sage, told me to be patient and trust that things will unfold with time. We celebrated my newfound freedom with good champagne. Patience isn't my strong suit but I'm going to keep practicing it. And I'm going to enjoy waking up when I want to tomorrow morning. I like that idea a lot.

Loving and missing you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
This first day of the rest of my life has been a pretty good one. I gardened and read and walked and did both yesterday's and today's sudoku and crossword puzzle. All my favorite things. Dad and I rode out bikes to the farmer's market. As we cut through the parking lot of the hardware store, Dad asked me if the adirondack chairs reminded me of PawPaw. I asked him what he thought Heaven was like for PawPaw. Without hesitation he said "he has a little dog by his side in his workshop. He can drink a beer anytime he wants without MawMaw getting mad at him.....he has all his fingers.....and he can hear - unless MawMaw is talking too much and he doesn't want to." That description made me smile. I hope you're getting to know him - he is such a sweet, gentle man.

Dad and I looked at Brianne & Julia's pictures from Tuscany posted on Facebook . Dad said it made him sad because you're not getting to do those things. I said "Maybe Heaven is a lot better than Italy."

I learned today that Susan's niece who is pregnant with twins got bad news on Friday. Prenatal testing determined the babies have a rare genetic disorder with a long medical name that causes brittle bones. They won't be able to live. So, so sad. Susan and I were talking just the other day about how perfect Brooke & Brad's lives are. But as I keep learning over & over, there are no hiding places when tragedy comes knocking. I am so sad for them.

Today I started a new book called Only Spring by Dr. Gordon Livingston. He lost two sons - a 22 year old to suicide and a 6 year old to leukemia. He included this quote from J.M. Barrie that hit home with me, especially since I've been thinking a lot about how life doesn't turn out the way we envision it will.

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume it is with what he vowed to make it."

Speaks to how little control any of us really have in this world. When we are under the illusion we're in control, that's really all it is - an illusion.

Love you so much bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
I am emotionally drained tonight. I began crying at 5:30a.m. when the first of the so long/good luck emails began popping up on my computer screen. I cried numerous times at work as I said goodbye to co-workers and my boss. By the time I finally pulled away from 21st & Q for the last time as an employee of The McClatchy Company, I was totally wrung out.

Tonight we hosted a small dinner party for two other bereaved parent couples with whom we have become friends. It was a very nice evening. Everyone, except me and one of the dads, cried at one time or another. I guess I was out of tears. We also laughed. I showed them the YouTube video of you leading the school song at the IB dinner.

When I awake tomorrow morning, it will be the first time in almost 30 years that I'm not a newspaper employee. Really strange. I hope these feelings of disconnection subside soon.

I am bone tired so I'm off to bed. I love you very much.
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We're back from our second funeral of the week in Stanislaus County. The send off for Clara was lovely, just as she was. I saw Michelle Minjares at the service. She's dating Jeff Riberio. (On the way back home, I told Dad I felt such an urge to call you and say "did you know Michelle is dating Jeff Riberio?" Instead I called Chris G and asked him why he hadn't told me.) She's as cute as ever and was very sweet to us. I told the entire Riberio family that Michelle had been your girlfriend in 6th and 8th grade. She just smiled sweetly.

On the drive home, I had my i-pod on shuffle and Old Time Rock n Roll came home. I looked at Dad and he was smiling to himself. Then I looked down at the clock and it was 6:36. It was a Ryan moment.

Speaking of Ryan moments and numerology. Debra sent this email to me a couple days ago. "Just checking face book and saw this. Made me think of Ryan and his love of these kind of number events. Shortly after 12pm on July 8, comes the moment that can be called 12:34:56 7/8/9. Happens only once a century. Too cool!"
You would indeed have liked that.

Tomorrow is my last day of work at The McClatchy Co. Still seems surreal. I'm ready to go though. The prolonged goodbyes are hard for me. I have cried numerous times saying farewell to colleagues who were leaving on business travel or vacation and won't be there tomorrow. Today I said goodbye to Julie, my fabulous assistant. I will miss Julie more than any other executive perk. She has been a great friend as well as assistant. I will always remember the day I returned to work after my 7 weeks off to mourn your death. I was sobbing by the time I got to my desk that first morning back. She followed me into my office and offered to put all the pictures of you away. I said no to that. Then she put her hand on my shoulder and said a beautiful prayer. It was something along the lines of "Lord, we know you can't fix what is wrong but we ask you to give Lynn strength to make it through today. Just today is all we're asking right now." There have many other times in the last 23 1/2 months when she has come to my aid when I was melting down. She would discreetly close my door or bring me a box of Kleenex or cover for me if someone important was looking for me and I was at my desk sobbing. On my and Dad's anniversary just 3 weeks after you died, she came to our house and brought dinner even though we had no interest in celebrating or acknowledging our anniversary. She said "28 years of marriage is important". She has done many, many thoughtful things for me including sending off your death certificate to get airline ticket refunds so I wouldn't have to; pretending to be me to untangle numerous bureaucratic knots associated with your death; buying me postage stamps with your photo on them for my birthday; running a marathon with your bracelet, etc, etc. I will miss her greatly.

And I miss you greatly.

All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I have felt sad today. The process of leaving my job is emotionally draining. I cry everyday about something. I wish I didn't but I do. I am terrible at goodbyes. Only two more days and that chapter of my life will be over.
I'm also feeling anxious about our future. I wish I was hard wired differently. Some people in my position would take the severance and go to Europe for a month. Me - I've already let the cleaning people go, cancelled the Arden Hills C.C. membership, and created a new skinnied down family budget.
And I'm sad about all these deaths. I'm sad about Debra's mom, Dina's mom and my old friend, Tom Crane from Wichita Falls. His service was today. He was a lovely, classy, gracious man. I remember the first time I met him in 1997. After we chatted a few minutes and he told me all the things wrong with the Times Record News, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said "My, my a Katie Couric in pants at the Times Record News." As a 38 year old woman, I was quite a novelty at the TRN and in town.

Erica wrote and asked for a new green bracelet. She's on her way to Argentina for a study abroad session and wants to take a little bit of you with her.

I am going to be more cheerful tomorrow. Promise.

Much love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
We said goodbye to Debra's mom today in a lovely memorial service and burial in a picturesque country cemetery. We sang two of the songs we sang at your funeral - Lord of the Dance and I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry. We did okay through them. It was like a family reunion - seeing so many old friends from our Modesto church.

Later we stopped by Paper Habit to pick up thank you notes I ordered for Debra. We needed to drop them off at Steve & Debra's house. That's when Dad had a major breakthrough. Not only was he able to drive onto Wycliffe, but he went in on our end of the street. We drove by our old house and even slowed down and looked at it. It made us sad but we did it. I can't tell you how huge that is. There were cars parked in the little front drive area just like in our day. They were work men instead of Luty or Mark or Bryan or John or Chris or Lance or any of a dozen other cars that were there on any given day. It was always kind of fun to drive up and try to figure out who was there. It was rare for there not to be teenager cars out front.

I'm feeling anxious tonight - wondering if we should put our house on the market. The real estate market is lousy and we don't know where we're going or what we're doing but at the same time this house soaks up a huge amount of money each month. I'm not sure what to do. I wish God sent emails.

On the way home from Merced today I read aloud to Dad from a book called Hello From Heaven. It's stories about "after death communications" that people have had after losing loved ones. The stories are comforting to us as we continue to look for assurance that you are still alive and well somewhere. I loved this quote from Norman Vincent Peale.
"I firmly believe that when you die you will enter immediately into another life. They who have gone before us are alive in one form of life and we in another."
I like that thought a lot.

Love you so much bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
Dad just came home from the Apple store where he picked up your computer. He took it in last week for a repair. He just handed me the receipt with tears in his eyes and pointed out the purchase date on the receipt. August 3, 2006. One year to the day before we buried you. We thought we were buying your computer for your senior year and your college years. Unaware of the heartache we would be feeling one year later and the sharp turn our lives would take.

Last Sunday Kathi's sermon was on how life rarely turns out the way we think it will. She used the metaphor of a beautiful piece of pottery. Sometimes the piece of pottery, like our lives, gets knocked off the shelf and shatters into hundreds of pieces. There is no way to put the vase back together again; no way it will ever look the same again. But instead of sweeping up the pieces and throwing them in the trash, we can take the pieces, shards and slivers and make a mosaic out of them. The mosaic, while very different from the original piece of pottery, can be just as beautiful or sometimes more beautiful than the original piece.

As we left church that Sunday, I hugged Kathi and told her the sermon was meant for me. She said "I thought of you when I wrote it." She didn't know about my job at that time - only about you. Our lives will never be as good without you in them but the mosaic metaphor definitely fits the job situation.

I had lunch with Kathi today and we talked about the sermon illustration as well as about you. She said she doesn't believe anyone's life turns out the way they envision it will. That was shocking to me but as I ruminate on it, I think she's right. Stuff gets in the way - people die, jobs are lost, divorces happen, babies are born with birth defects, babies are never conceived, kids break parents' hearts, parents break kids' spirits, people get sick, and the list goes on & on. All the while we think everyone else's lives are just fine, thank you very much, and only ours are filled with hurt and disappointment. But in fact, suffering is ubiquitous. How we handle it is up to us.

We are leaving early in the morning for Merced to attend Pat Brady's memorial service. Debra is so very sad.

Love you, love you, love you,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
In the last 8 days, 3 of my good friends have lost a parent to death. Joni's dad last Saturday, Debra's mom on Wednesday and Dina's mom yesterday. I knew and loved all three of those parents and my heart is heavy for their daughters.

I'm reading a book called The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson, the Ask Amy advice columnist who replaced Ann Landers. It's funny and touching and reminds me of my own childhood in a family of interesting but lovable characters in small town America. I have laughed out loud several times and teared up just as many times. I had a hard time listening to the chapter where she describes the college process with her daughter, Emily. She tells of visiting William and Mary, just like you and Dad did. Emily ends up going there and I believe Emily is your age. I can barely stand to hear others talk of dropping their children off at college, helping them get settled, furnishing their dorm rooms and then mourning their empty nests.I have no sympathy for sad empty nesters anymore. What I would give to have a regular empty nest and not this permanent, ripped to shreds, twigs & straw thrown to the four winds empty nest.

Love you so much bud
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Happy 4th of July bud,
Dad and I have been particularly melancholy the last couple of days. We now hate the month of July and the 4th is hard. You were a 4th of July kid. You loved the fireworks, the downtown parade, barbeques, etc but you especially loved the fireworks. I remember how excited you would get when the fireworks stands would go up in late June. We would begin our negotiations over how much money you could spend on them. I felt they were a total waste of money; you felt they were a once a year bonanza of quality entertainment! I remember with fondness the years you, Chris, Kevin and Jeremy had fireworks extravaganzas on our tennis courts. I remember your last 4th of July when you, Dad and I walked downtown and watched the parade from our church lawn. You were antsy to get back home and ditch us. Later, you, Natalie, Tyler and John came by our house for a while. That's when I took the last photos of you. We were busy preparing to move so things were sort of chaotic. Little did I know it would be our last Independence Day together.

In yesterday's Sac Bee there was a story about two bereaved moms whose kids died on 4th of July 2006 in a car wreck after rafting down the American River. The driver, a high school friend, had been drinking. The mothers have worked to make it illegal to have alcohol on the river. The story did a good job of illustrating the life long sadness that comes from losing a child. Both kids were outstanding people. One had just finished her freshman year at UC San Diego with at 3.7 GPA. The other had just finished his freshman year at Berkeley with a 4.0 GPA. He was an only child. His mom said this in the article: "I ran into somebody who told me "You look so great." And I said "Well, I'm not." People don't understand. Grieving doesn't end. We're completely different people now." ....Basically my husband and I have a very sad life. Joyless. It's as if it happened yesterday. I'm still on medication. I can't sleep anymore. Every night, I see him hitting that pole."

I read that part out loud to Dad and said "At least we're in better shape than that." He agreed. But we do understand what that mom is describing.

I got lots of emails and phone calls yesterday in response to my big news about leaving the newspaper biz. I felt loved and affirmed. A couple of weirdos posted nasty comments on the news story in the Modesto Bee but I keep reminding myself there are mean spirited people every where. One of the comments was blaming me for bringing Oliver North to Modesto a few years ago. Geez! Where did that come from? All in all, I got dozens of loving, encouraging messages. I appreciated them all. I really am ok with this.

We'll miss you so much today, Ry.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
John visited us today. It's the first time we've seen him since he and Dad and Bryan jumped out of an airplane together last July. It was great to see him. He still imitates you and he's spot on. And he still tells stories about you. We love that. He spent several hours with us. What a treat.

Today it was announced that I'm leaving McClatchy. Kind of a big deal. I've been in the newspaper business almost 30 years and I haven't looked for a job since 1982. I have lots of emotions about it - I'm sad and a little scared and anxious but also relieved and excited about doing something totally different. I'm not sure what that will be. I will miss the big paycheck and it will take some time to untangle my sense of identity from my old profession. But it's time for a change - time to do something that brings a greater sense of satisfaction and maybe even a little fun. The last few years, especially the last two years, have been incredibly hard. They have been hard for everyone in our industry - even those who weren't grieving the loss of their precious child. I have one more week in the office and then I begin the next chapter of my life. Those pages are blank right now but I hope to fill them with meaningful content.

I keep thinking what you would have to say about all this. You would tell me not to worry, I know. You would also tell me to believe in myself. (Both Tyler and John have told me I have a "killer resume".)Ross has been really supportive too.

I also keep thinking how freaked out I would be about your $45,000/year college expense now that I have no job. But I would take that worry any ol' day if I could have you back.

Michael Jackson died on the same day that my career with McClatchy died. I have to confess I'm a little sick of hearing all the hoopla about Michael. It's worse than when Elvis died and I liked Elvis lots more than Michael.

Love you lots sweet boy
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Debra's mom joined you in Heaven this morning at 2:25am. She waited until it was no longer Debra's birthday. I got up at 5:30 and checked her Carepage and learned the news. I sat at my computer and cried. I feel guilty that I'm not with Debra now. She was my life preserver when you died and for months afterward. She was the first person I reached that awful night. She said "I'm on my way." She was and she stayed for a long, long time. I don't know what I would have done without her.

I got a new i-phone today. Dad and I have been playing with it all night, figuring out all the features and loading my info. Dad said "you don't need your i-pod anymore now." I said "Yes, I do. Sentimental value." Dad teared up and said "I remember when he called me and wanted to buy it for you." That was Mother's Day of 06. You were a thoughtful, sweet boy.

It's been an emotionally exhausting day for your ol' mom. I'm heading to bed now. And I'm hoping Debra's mom gives you that hug in heaven that I requested.

God be with you til we meet again.....

All my love
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
Debra's mom is heaven bound shortly. Today has been an emotionally exhausting day for Debra and her siblings as they stand vigil beside her. She is in the final stages of dying. It hasn't been pretty and easy, like on TV. Even though I had hoped she would hang on until it was no longer Debra's birthday, I now hope it is soon. It's too hard on her kids to watch. I was so worried about Pat's death being on the same day as Debra's birth that I almost missed the significance of Pat laboring Debra into this world 51 years ago and Debra helping to usher her Mom out of this world on the same day 51 years later. There is something poetic and touching about that. So if Pat leaves this life before midnight, I think it will be okay.

I talked to Joni for a long time tonight on the phone. It's been almost 30 years since our friendship began in Houma, La when we were both young brides in our 20's. We now live on opposite sides of this big ol' country and rarely see each other, yet our friendship is still strong. We could talk for hours and not run out of things to say. We ended our long conversation tonight with the shared image of you and her Dad meeting up in Heaven. Mr. Ritter was quite the talker so we know you will get quite an earful when he finds out who you are. He saw you for the last time when you were 7.

Ross gave a speech in his class today. The assignment was to bring an item of importance and talk about its significance. Ross took the last Harry Potter book and told the class how he was reading that book when he learned his brother had died. Then when your trunk was returned to us, he got your copy out of your trunk. It was laying on his bed as he told me about his speech. I said "This one was Ryan's, wasn't it?" He said it was. I could tell because it was a little mishapen from getting damp and the jacket was crinkled. You always beat books to heck. I remember how Ross never liked to loan books to you because they came back to him looking as it they had gone through the wringer. You had that effect on things. You either chewed on them, spilled on them, or outright lost them. :)

At church on Sunday, we sang May God Be With you til we Meet Again. I've been singing it in my head ever since. It's my message to you and to Debra's mom.

I love you so much, sweet boy.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
As I write this tonight, I'm pondering the circle of life. Joni's Dad died on Saturday and Debra's mom is in the final days, if not hours, of her life And Dayna Autry is in labor, delivering Al & Paula's first grandchild. The extremes of happiness and sadness being felt by friends we love.

Tomorrow is Debra's birthday. I find myself hoping her mom holds on for another day so that Debra's birthday isn't forever linked with her mom's death. Instead I hope July can be the month of shared sorrow for us.

Over the weekend we saw My Sister's Keeper, a movie about a young girl dying of leukemia. There's another character in the movie who lost a 12 year old in a drunk driving car crash. I now pay special attention to how Hollywood handles these subjects of which I am a self professed expert. They did pretty well this time. The judge whose 12 year old daughter was killed was described as having had "a very public nervous breakdown which required a 6 month leave of absence". Highly likely. I remember thinking I was having a nervous breakdown a few times and thinking what a relief it would be to have someone haul me away to some place where they would take care of me and make the pain stop.

Amy Ransom wrote a sweet note on my Facebook page today, thanking us for coming to her dance program. She said "I'm so glad you and Mr. D could make it! You two are such lovely people. No wonder Ryan grew to be the amazing, kind-hearted person I will always remember him to be. I hope to see you guys again sometime =)
Love,
Asian Amy"
Dad and I both cried when we read it.

Yesterday I was lying on Ross' bed chatting with him when he told me he started growing his beard after your funeral. That was the last time he was clean shaven. It is significant for him. Then we talked about how much we both miss you.

I love you so madly; I miss you so badly
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad is home from summer camp. I'm not sure who is happier to have him here - me or Scrumpy. He had a great week though and loved his little 8 year old charge.

I met Dad in Modesto this afternoon so we could update our estate documents at the lawyer's office. Then we spent a couple hours with Bill & Louise Terra, our new friends who are newly bereaved. Then we went to MJC to see Dana and Amy in their dance production. Dad and I talked about how you would have hated it but would have gone, with flowers in hand, to support "Bondino" and "Asian Amy". We also talked about what a good counselor you would have been at the foster kids' camp with Dad. One of your natural strengths was your ease with younger kids. They always loved you. You were cool without being mean and you always knew how to talk to them. So many special skills and talents went into that grave. You are missed by so many.

I love and miss you so very much, bud.

Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My plane from DFW was delayed last night but I was grateful to finally land in Sacramento and walk out of the airport into the lovely Delta breezes. It was incredibly hot and humid in Ft Worth. I miss many things about Texas but not the summers.

As I was leaving the Star-Telegram on Wed, Don Burk, one of our advertising managers, stopped to tell me he thinks of us and you a lot and he hugs his little boys a little tighter every night. One is 5 and one is 3 and one is a swimmer, like you. I appreciate it when someone has the courage to acknowledge my loss and pain. I think most poeple think an adequate amount of time has passed.

I miss Dad. He's been at the Royal Family Kid's camp since Sunday. I've only talked to him once and that was brief and with a bad cell phone connection. Something big happened in my life today and I really need him here to share it with me. But ol' Scrump will have to do until tomorrow.

We're finally having our wills updated to reflect the change in heirs. It made me sad to read the verbiage...The Trustors have two (2) beloved children of their marriage, namely, ROSS CHANDLER DICKERSON and RYAN HUNTER DICKERSON who passed away on July 29, 2007.

Debra's mom entered Hospice care today. I wish I could trade places with her. All the people she loves most are still here and she's sad to leave them. Many, but not all, of course, of the people I love have already passed over. I sometimes fantasize about seeing you again when it's finally my time. Oh what a glorious day that will be.

I love this benediction that Kathi McShane, our Sacramento pastor, says every Sunday. I try to remember it but never can so I finally asked her to email it to me.

May God bless you, keep you, be gracious to you.
May God give you grace never to sell yourself—or God—short.
Grace to risk something big for something good.
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth,
And too small for anything but love.
So may God take your mind and think through it;
May God take your lips and speak through them;
May God take your hands and do something good with them;
May God take your heart and set it on fire.


I am asking God to do all those things for me.

I wish you were here tonight more than usual. I need your sweet encouragement.

All my love,
mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
I have to wake up at 3am tomorrow to catch a 6am flight to DFW for my visit to the Fort Worth Star Telegram. ugh. I hate these early flights. And I'm dreading the Texas heat - even for 2 days. How quickly we forget, huh?

Debra's mom is declining rapidly. It's a sad thing to watch someone you love leave this world a day at a time. Debra and her siblings are very sad. I feel like Pat is going to the foreign land where you are studying abroad. I'm envious that she may be with you soon. Debra has asked her to deliver a message to you so I know she will if it works that way. And I hope you are there to welcome her across when the time comes. In the meantime, I pray for her to not suffer needlessly and to not be afraid. And I pray for her family who loves her so much. It stinks to be the family left behind.

I must go so I can get a smidgen of sleep before schlepping through the airport with all the other half asleep travelers.

I love you so very, very much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Happy Summer Solstice sweet boy,
Ross and I had a great day together. We got up early, wished Dad a Happy Father's Day and bid him farewell as he prepared to leave for camp and then we drove to Mt Tam in Marin County where we hiked about 8 miles. On the way we got caught in the Sears Point Raceway traffic with a million NASCAR fans. That slowed us down but Ross napped and I listened to my audiobook so it was okay. The hike was breathtakingly beautiful. We met up with the Sparkmans for the last few miles and then had a late lunch at Stinson Beach. We're now tired and a little sunburned but feeling good that we got out and enjoyed nature together. I know you're shocked Ross went with me and I must confess I was too. Once while we were taking a break by a pretty stream, I said "Now aren't you glad you're here and not home in your room on your computer?" He looked up at me and said "I could have read a book about it." It made me laugh because that would be such a Ross thing to do. But he enjoyed the day too.

On the drive back home we talked about you and how much we both miss you. We talked about the last phone call we each had with you.
Both of us talked to you on the day you died. Earlier this weekend we were talking about you and about a Modesto friend who wrote me to say he too has lost his son - not to death but to drugs and homelessness. Ross said this to me... "Of all the ways to lose someone, death is the kindest." hmmmm...words to ponder.

The barbeque for Dad yesterday turned out well. Natalie couldn't make it because of Kirk Lindsey's funeral and Lance & Tyler were no shows but Bryan, Chris, Brianne, Mallory, Dana, Amy, Kevin, Jeremy, Lauren and her new boyfriend were here. Mal made placemates and napkin rings with photos of you for us. They are very creative. We cried, of course. It was a fun night and Dad felt loved. Brianne leaves Wed for Italy for a month so we were able to say goodbye to her.

I just talked to Mrs. Giahos. Vas is having a great time at Boys State. I wish you were here to compare notes with him since you, too, loved it. And Steve is on the Berkeley water polo team - the real team. Somehow I missed that - I thought he was playing club polo but no - he's on the real NCAA team. Isn't that something?!

I'm going to close tonight with lines from a Leonard Cohen song that Elizabeth Edwards quotes in her book. She includes this in the section where she talks about making the most of life in spite of being dealt a crappy hand. I really love what it says:

"Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."

I love and miss you much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Yesterday I received a carepages.com update on my childhood friend, Sue, who is valiantly fighting a brutal battle with cancer. She was diagnosed last September and told she was terminal. She fought hard, and continues to fight long after I think many of us would have given in. Her youngest daughter just graduated from high school so she wanted to be around for the joys of senior year. She still has much to live for, yet her tumors continue to grow and her battle intensifies. I admire her courage and spunk. I guess we never really know how we would react in a similar situation but I am fairly sure I would go peacefully and without a fight. As Elizabeth Edwards says in her book..."Death looks different to someone who has placed a child in the ground. It is not as frightening. In fact, it is in some way buried deep within you almost a relief....It is not a death wish. It is an appreciation that there might be in death some relief that life itself could never offer."

Tomorrow we're having a small barbeque for Dad with some of your friends who are home for the summer. Many are gone off on adventures far and wide but a few are around so they are coming to celebrate Father's Day a day early with your Dad since you can't be here to do it. As we continue to search for ways to parent your memory, your sweet friends are great about serving as our surrogate kids, helping us feel that connection to you even 23 months after you left us. Dad will actually be gone on Father's Day itself. He's headed to Royal Family Kids Camp again this year to be a counselor for foster kids. He did it last year and it was a meaningful experience for him and for the kids.

Dad and Ross each just called me to tell of their snake experience on the back patio today. Scrumpy found a big snake next to the lemon tree. Dad and Ross corraled it into some kind of plastic bin and called the animal control people who came and offered to take it away for $20 or let it go free elsewhere nearby. Dad suggested the vacant field nearby but instead she dropped it at the new house next door since no one lives there. Geez! It will be right back in our yard in no time flat. I told Dad that Nanny is surely laughing at him from heaven. She would have chopped its head off with a hoe and flung it in the bushes and gone back to work. She certainly wouldn't have paid twenty bucks to have it carted off!

I love you dearly sweet boy.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
I'm reading Elizabeth Edwards' new book Resilience. I loved her first one and I like this one too, especially the parts about Wade - her son who died in a car accident at age 16. I really connect with this woman. I wish I could meet her. The things she writes could be my words if only I were as good a writer as she. Last night I read aloud to Dad a passage that made me once again think that maybe the good really do die young. Not everyone who dies young is good and that whole "free will" thing gets in the way of long lives for many but I believe more and more as I learn of other young deaths that maybe some of you were sent here for a short time. Like you, Wade Edwards was a really good kid. As I read the essay his mother wrote about him shortly after his death, I was awestruck with the similarities in how she described him and how I would describe you. It's too long to retype the whole thing but here are some excerpts from the essay Elizabeth Edwards wrote about her boy whom she loved as much as I loved you.

"Wade was 16 when he died. On April 4, 1996, the wind blew across a North Carolina field and pushed his car slightly off the road. Slightly but enough. When he tried to bring it back on, the car flipped The air bag came out, the seat belt held, then the roof collapsed on him. The other boy walked away. Some dishes he was taking to the beach for us were unbroken. Our boy was killed instantly. It wasn't speed, it wasn't inattention, it was a straight road on a clear afternoon and it simply was.

And what that wind took at Easter was a cherished boy, a remarkable child with the character of a man.....He was a loving son and brother, hodling our hands, hugging us, no matter who was around to see. He was a loyal friend always there when his friends needed him, but never succumbing to peer pressure. He never drank or smoked. When a parent who came on the accident asked if drinking was involved, the boys there all answered, "Wade Edwards? No way." He usually drove home those who did drink. He was intelligent and determined. His conversation in the car that day was about how he wanted to be a lawyer, but he didn't want to take anything from his parents, he wanted to do it all himself....He was humble and shunned the spotlight....He was fair-minded....Though he had many gifts, he never thought of himself as the tiniest bit better than anyone else. And he chastised those who treated others poorly......His joys were my joys, his pains were multiplied to be my pains. I woke to him and slept only after his lips grazed mine. As private as he held some details of his life, protecting those he cared about from my judgment, his broader life was open, bare before me. I was the witness to all things he valued, most of which were intangible.....We know that we can never make sense of his loss. He had done it all right. Of all he wanted, he wanted most to be a father someday. And what an unbelievable father he could have been with his compassion, his warmth, his patience. He was a rare gift....And he left everyone he touched the better for knowing him. We stand a little straighter in his shadow."

Those same words could have been said about you, Ry, by your ma who thought you hung the moon.

I guess we'll never know why good boys like you and Wade Edwards and Mike Ford and Daniel Hyde are taken so early and all those ne'er-do-wells keep dodging bullets, literally and figuratively. Maybe someday we'll understand. For now it makes no sense.

I love you with all that I am
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I was reading a news story online and somehow found myself at a list of all the famous people who have died this year. That list led me to the list who died last year and in 07. So I looked at the list from '07 to see who left this earth the same year as you. There were some interesting ones: Art Buchwald, the columnist; Anna Nicole Smith, the bimbo; Kurt Vonnegut, the author; Don Ho, the tiny bubbles guy; Tom Poston who played George on The Newhart Show; Jerry Falwell, the preacher; Liz Claiborne, the fashion designer; Joel Siegel, the movie critic; Beverly Sills, the opera singer; Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady who hated litter and loved wildflowers as much as I; Tammy Faye Baker, the overly made up TV evangelist who spent time in the Big House; Tom Snyder, the TV Host died on the very same day as you; Merv Griffin, the talk show host of olden days; Brooke Astor, the Manhatten socialite; Leona Helmsley, the hotel magnate; Pavarotti, the singer; Jane Wyman, the actress & Ronald Reagan's ex wife; Marcel Marceau, the mime; Joey Bishop, the talk show host of days gone by; Porter Waggoner, the Grand Ole Opry singer who sang with Dollie Parton; Mr Whipple, the toilet paper squeezer; Evil Kneivel, the daredevil; Ike Turner, the singer/wife abuser and Dan Fogelberg, the singer who sang one of my favs "Another Auld Lang Syne". But you were the most important person in our world who died in 2007.

Today I saw that quote I liked so much about caterpillars and butterflies. Here's how it goes:

"What the caterpillar thinks is the end of the world, the butterfly knows is only the beginning."

I really, really like that thought.

Today my friend, Francesca, emailed with memories of me telling Ryan stories when we worked together. She said she felt like she knew you just from me unabashedly bragging on you all the time. Then she recalled seeing you coming in the Bee for Teens in the Newsroom as she was leaving one night and realizing that cute boy was Ryan Dickerson. Hearing her memories jogged a video clip in my brain of you coming through the door of my office at The Bee, sort of nodding and smiling that crooked grin to my asst and then coming into my office, behind my desk and giving me a hug. I was always so glad to see you. You always brightened my day, no matter how crappy a day I was having.

I miss you so very much.

All my love
Mom
I love and miss you so much, bud

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
Miss Carol Whites called today and we talked a long time. She said my letters to you have taught her things. I'm glad about that. She told me of how her aunt died at 19 many years ago and how she (Carol) would change the subject when her mom tried to talk about that sister she lost at such a young age. She thought she was doing the right thing but through my grief has learned that it's better to let the griever talk...no matter how much time has lapsed.

Today I read a beautiful letter that was sent to the parents of the 19 year old Jesuit grad who died last week from an undetected enlarged heart. Just like you. I'm told his uncle read an eulogy written by his dad that said it was a great analogy to what a big heart Michael had. I've said that same thing about you.
The letter was written by a teacher and coach from Jesuit who knew and loved him in high school. He writes eloquently and I liked what he had to say. Tom Shakely said this: "I’ve read numerous Christian books about death and loss, daily seek the wisdom of scripture and Godly people, and know that the only reason it hurts is because of the love. And I know love wins, that God wins, that our precious children have had the “good fortune” to have met their Savior in life, and return to him for eternity. Still . . . the tears, the pain. Daily, I repeat the memorized sentiment of a small gift which beckons daily with its reminder “that I’m so grateful that Kelsey Burke Shakely blessed my life.” ..... The all-too-familiar tears and breathing choked by sobs that wells up in me as I write this testifies to the power of love and gratitude. Like some law of the spiritual universe, the degree of pain is equal to the power of love. And all my experiences, all my reading, all my faith in, and love of God, cannot spare me from the price of that love. No words can adequately express it, nor make it all better, nor undo what has happened. I’m stuck; we’re all stuck: the blessing and power of Love has a great cost, since on this side of eternity, life is a letting go."

As much as I still hurt, I too am grateful that Ryan Hunter Dickerson blessed my life.

all my love
ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
Today I went to your Facebook memorial site and read many of the entries posted by your friends in the first few days after you died. They made me cry but also helped me feel closer to you. Those days were horrific - the worst of my life but somehow reliving them makes you seem closer. Plus I like to read all the nice things said to you and about you. I was so proud of you and loved you so very much. As I always said...you were the joy of my life.

My friend Margaret from Modesto who lost her husband about 6 months after we lost you wrote to me last night. She said this, referring to her husband..."I miss hearing his name spoken. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who remembers him. And then one of the kids will make a "wouldn't Dad have liked that" comment.....that lifts my spirits."
I know how she feels. People don't say your name often anymore either. I wish they did. Debra still brings you up in conversation sometimes and I love that about her. Occasionally Susan and Stephanie do. But mostly it's just Dad and I who still talk about you daily. I know everyone else hasn't forgotten you...but life goes on...and they don't want to make us (or themselves) sad, I suppose.

I think I'm going to re-watch the dvd of your funeral next week while Dad is at Royal Kids Camp. I know Dad isn't up for that but I want to hear all the things said about you again.

We stopped at In-N-Out after church today while out running errands. It was the one in Roseville where we used to go during polo tournaments at Rocklin. I have so many memories of taking you guys there during breaks. I also remembered the time we stopped at In-N-Out on our way home from Tahoe with Mark and they didn't give him any salt. It was funny at the time and every time I fail to get salt for my fries, I think of Mark grousing about it.

I have homework to do before I can go to sleep so I must get at it. And tomorrow is Monday again. ugh.

Oh yea, someone died climbing Half Dome yesterday. A 40 year old man from the Bay Area. I think it was rainy. It was the first death since 2007 when there were two.

Loving and missing you more than normal tonight.

Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Shortly after picking up the mail yesterday, Dad called and told me of a letter that arrived from a boy who knew you at camp. He choked up and couldn't read it to me over the phone. It was indeed a lovely gift. Here is what it said:

"Dear Mr. & Mrs. Dickerson,
You probably don't remember me, but I wrote you after Ryan's death two years ago. As much as I wish that you have found peace in the turmoil of the last two years, it is my certainty that you haven't. I couldn't possibly imagine the pain that you have experienced, waking up everyday & realizing that Ryan is no longer with you. Rest assured when I tell you the rest of the world is equally saddened. In the seven days that I was blessed to know him, I observed a certain caliber of character that in today's world is a definite rarity. A week after Ryan's death a group of my close friends and I took a trip to the Davis Mountains, where we discussed the impact Ryan had left on Camp Champions in his short stay. His empathy, kindness, spirituality and sense of humor were the main topics of conversation. If you have never been, I hope you can make the trip to stare across the mountain range on top of that picturesque overlook because it is the place that restored my faith in God & allowed me to begin the healing process. It is on this note, that I want to urge you, just as I did in my last letter, not to focus on how he died, but on how he lived. Every couple of days, I visit Ryan's MySpace page to look at the loving remarks & notes that his friends leave him even almost two years after his passing. A person like Ryan is a true rarity in today's world. I, myself, am truly thankful that I was given the opportunity to experience his grace for even such a short period of time.
Always,
Kyle Argerbright

And then today Duke Leffler wrote this on your facebook....
"you have a ton of charisma and i can relate to that but what was extraordinary about you was your character. you were just unflappably good and you touched everyone."

I like that - you were unflappably good. Nice choice of words by Duke.

Boy, do I miss you.
All my love,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there sweet Ryan,
Dad and I just got home from a nice dinner with our friends,Buzz & Kathi. We talked about you, our grief, heaven, and all those things.

Then when we got home and I checked my emails I had this one from Phelps' mom. It made me smile.

"I went to pick up Spenser today at UCI, and when I arrived (in his defense, a LITTLE bit early), nothing was ready. His room was so messy it almost smelled. I felt so bad for Robert Mah, who has roomed with him this year. Anyway, it took us hours to get out of there, between the packing, the cleaning, the trips to the car, his checking out, the returning of his books (which he absolutely should have done yesterday, along with most of this other stuff); and at one point I just sat in the car, fuming. I had awoken at 4:00 AM to be down there in a timely manner, and his room was just a pit, a sty, all of those other words. Then I told myself that you would give anything to be sitting in a college parking lot waiting for your goofy son to get this s**t together so you could haul his miserable butt home. I actually let go of all of my anger in that moment, and felt such a spasm of grief for you...I shared all of this with Spenser on the long drive home, and at the end I tacked on "Although I don't think Ryan would have been sitting in such a mess when his mother arrived, I don't think he was as sloppy as you-" My son looked at me and said, "Um, I think you're wrong about that, Mom, did you ever see inside his car or his swim bag?" We both laughed so hard! So your son brought a rare moment of togetherness and humor to me and mine..."

And he was right. You were many things but neat wasn't one of them. Never in your whole life. I remember when you were about 6 and we visited the Barnards in upstate New York. After a few days there observing your behavior - especially your messy eating habits, Joni said "I don't know what you pay that woman who does your housekeeping and laundry, but it's not enough."
And Ross always got mad if you borrowed a shirt because it was sure to come back to him permanently stained from Taco Truck drippings or grease from Chefs of New York pizza or something. Just last week, Alyssa's mom told me she still has the thank you note you wrote them for your graduation present and she commented on the messy handwriting. But you were a loveable pig.

Love and miss you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Something odd just happened that tells me I'm moving forward as unlikely as that may seem. I walked down to Rite-Aid to buy a couple of birthday cards and as I was checking out, the clerk asked me about my bracelet. He said "Are those your kids on your bracelet?"(I am wearing my 50th birthday photo charm bracelet that my girlfriends gave me.) I said "Yes, they are." Every other time someone has commented on my bracelet I have felt compelled to tell them you died. It always makes people feel awkward and uncomfortable but until today, I couldn't NOT say it. So I guess today was a break through of sorts. Coleen told me I would get to the point where I would make a decision whether the person I was talking to was worth the investment to tell them. I guess I'm getting there.

Brianna sent an email early this morning telling me of a 21 year old girl in Indiana who just didn't wake up on Sunday morning. She is the younger sister of one of Brianna's sorority sisters. She was born in April before you were born in February and just finished her second year of college. She appears to have been a lovely, smart, sweet, accomplished girl. I read all the memorial guest book entries written to her family and carried a little of their suffocating grief around in my heart today. There has been a rash of young people dying over the last couple weeks. I want to envelope each of their moms in my arms and protect them from the awful beating they are taking from life.

Today would have been the 23rd birthday of Matt Prentice - the son of one of my grief friends. Our other friend, Robin, sent the nicest email to both of us today. I loved what she had to say.....

"My morning devotional is the one you gave me Debra which I love. My evening devotional is Streams in the Desert. I particularly liked the entry for June 7th: The scripture was Job 35:10, “Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night?”

The writes asks,

“Do you ever experience sleepless nights, tossing and turning and simply waiting for the first glimmer of dawn?” [uh, yesssssss.] “When that happens, why not ask the Holy Spirit to fix your thoughts on God, your Maker, and believe He can fill those lonely, dreary nights with song?

Is your night one of bereavement? Focusing on God often causes Him to draw near to your grieving heart, bringing you the assurance that He needs the one who has died. The Lord will assure you He has called the eager, enthusiastic spirit of your departed loved one to stand with the invisible yet liberated, living and radiant multitude. And as this thought enters your mind, along with the knowledge that your loved one is engaged in a great heavenly mission, a song begins in your heart.”

I love that; picturing our eager and enthusiastic children, Matt, Ryan, & Kelsey, as part of the liberated, living and radiant multitude, engaged in a great heavenly mission. We don’t know what their mission IS [not WAS] but God does. So, when the external music fades, here’s to the song that continues in our hearts."

I do in fact like the thought of you being liberated, living and radiant while engaged in a great heavenly mission.

I just saw a modbee.com email update announcing Kirk Lindsey's death. He was the big guy who coached the girls in swimming and polo at Beyer. You were always sort of afraid of him though he was much more bark than bite, in my dealings with him. I liked him. So I hope you bump into him in Heaven and the two of you can talk about Natalie. He coached her; you loved her.

And I love you.....more than words can say.
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
In Elizabeth Lesser's book Broken Open, she says "Everything can change in a moment; we have little control over the outer weather patterns as we make our way through the landscape of a life. But we can become masters of the inner landscape. We can use what happens on the outside to change the way we function on the inside.......
When we have been through a trial and survived it - or better still, transformed its terrors into revelations - then we begin to approach other adversities with a different attitude. Change and loss may still knock us off the horse, but soon we are back in the saddle, stronger and wiser than ever. As life progresses, and we continue to transform and refine our consciousness, we gain more insight and humility, greater strength of character, and deeper faith in the meaningfulness of life." hmmmmm...I'm working hard on becoming the master of my inner landscape but that is easier said than done.

Last night while Debra and I were talking about her mom's illness I told her I want to talk to her mom about finding you in Heaven when she gets there. Debra said they have already talked about it. Pat told Debra she prays for Dad and me because losing a child is the worst loss she can imagine. Debra told her that when she gets to Heaven to please look for you and tell you how much we miss you and if possible, send us a sign that you're both ok. I hope that will be possible. I wish I could trade places with Pat. I am sad that she must leave her children and grandchildren too soon and also envious that she's going to see you sooner than I will.

Love and miss you so very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We just learned today that Granddad is in the hospital in ICU. We had been trying to call him all weekend and yesterday. Finally, today Dad called Uncle Larry to check on him. Turns out he fainted at the Belle Jim Hotel last week while having lunch and they carted him off in the ambulance. They haven't been able to figure out what is wrong with him, other than he's 84. I can't believe Uncle Larry didn't call and tell us. Said he didn't want to worry us. Dad said "I'm not worried - just envious." Dad still struggles with a serious death wish for himself. Dad called and talked to the ICU nurse. She said he's doing well and everyone there loves him. That doesn't surprise you, does it?

Today I learned of the death of a 19 year old boy who died Saturday It sounds like what happened to you - collapsed in a pool for no apparant reason and died. He was an '08 Jesuit graduate who had just finished his freshman year at St. Mary's. The story in the paper said this about him, which reminded me of things said about you...."“Michael was always the life of the party, said Scott Krizman, a Sierra Express teammate for four years. “He was 100 percent fun, and the real fun began when Michael arrived.” I hope you are friendly to him in Heaven even though he was a "Je-suit".

Now that school is out the cross country kids are training on our trail. Dad, Scrumpy and I dodged a dozen of them tonight on our walk. They remind us of you. Fresh faced and friendly. Dad and I talked tonight about the year you chose to train with the cross country kids even though you didn't run cross country. I think it was the year you were training for the triathlon. I remember how much fun you had running through downtown and through parking garages. You got to be friends with the Lewis girls and a whole host of new pretty girls joined your entourage. You were always up for an adventure. Dad and I discussed that tonight - how life was one big adventure for you. That's why I loved when Krista Mensonides quoted the Peter Pan line that fit you so aptly...."To die - what a great adventure".

Today I told my grief sister Robin, who lost her 20 year old Kelsey a year ago in March, about Louise Terra's tragedy of losing two kids and two grandkids last month. Robin, who is an asst. DA but a writer at heart said " I think I could not have hurt more, but who’s to say what infinity X 4 feels like." Beautifully put.

I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be

Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
Yesterday was the 13 year anniversary of B's death. I hope the two of you are together now and she's able to grandmother you to her heart's content. It was a role she loved and she waited a long time for it, only to have it cut short because of her cancer and early death.

A good friend from Modesto drove up yesterday and we spent the morning together. On our 7 mile walk down the American River trail we discussed our disappointments, losses, pain, worries, theology, anger, life philosophy and even a little hope. She shared with me the lyric from a song that I can't get out of my head because it is so very true..."We are all just one phone call away from our knees." We've had that phone call unfortunately. I hope we never get another.

There was a fire in a daycare center in Mexico on Friday that killed 38 children. Many are seriously injured and some more will surely die. I hurt for their parents. Someone loses their baby every day in this mean old world.

Today in church we sat behind a beautiful, young family. The mom is very pregnant and they have a little boy about 4 and a little girl about 2. I watched them throughtout the entire service, thinking that's what our family looked like not so very many years ago. (I know you were a boy and not a little girl but you get the idea.) I was jealous of them and their innocence and their wholeness and their future. I wished to turn the clock back 20 years and have those times to do over again.

I'm reading this book called Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. I saw her on Oprah one day with a family who had lost a son. My buddy, Bob Weil, bought the book for me and I have been reading it slowly - one chapter each night, since January. Last night in a chapter called Ch Ch Changes she quotes Dante....."In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself within a dark woods, where the straight way was lost." I realize that's where I've been for almost 23 months..in a dark woods trying to find my way because my straight way is lost.

Love you so very, very much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My heart is heavy today for a family I don't even know personally. My normal weekday routine is to awake at 5:30, check emails, then ride the exercise bike while I read the Bee. I awoke today to the horrible news that our top sales rep in our Rock Hill, S.C newspaper lost her 21 year old son last night in an auto accident. He was her only child and she adored him like I adored you. I have been sad for them all day, knowing the disoriented, hellish state in which they are existing.

My bereaved mom friend in North Carolina, Tammy Garlock, is coming up on the first anniversary of her son's death on June 12. He died while using his cell phone so they are attempting to increase awareness about the dangers of cell phone distraction as a way of honoring his memory. Here's what she wrote in her blog yesterday.

"It took many months of grieving before my family was able to acknowledge a very simple truth. Our beloved son and brother, Brian, lost his life due to a series of seemingly inconsequential decisions that many of us take for granted every day. This horrific chain of events began with a distraction, one that is quite common in our City and beyond. Brian looked down at his cell phone to make a call. He looked up and followed his friend’s truck into oncoming traffic. He died approximately two hours later.

In late March, our family decided to give away 2,500 pink and black silicone bracelets. Pink was Brian’s favorite color, and he loved to wear calf-high black socks while playing golf or wearing sandals…

We are sharing our story and asking any takers to please pledge to not use their cell phone while driving, at least on June 12, 2009, which is the one-year anniversary date.

After Mother’s Day, we began passing out bracelets to family and friends... As parents, we are setting the example for our children; in my old life, I was quite guilty of this habitual multi-tasking in my arrogant, ignorant bliss…

Our greatest hope is that through this effort toward awareness, someone will make the wiser choice and ignore their cell phone while driving. This trivial token in swirled pink and black is an instant message of a different sort… Perhaps it will save at least one life, so that our loss of Brian will not have been in vain, and another family will be spared the pain that is our constant companion. The fact of the matter is this…there is no telephone call or text message that is so important that it cannot wait…until you get where you are going or at least safely pull off the road to decide.

Please, don’t lose your life over the press of a button."

Oh the fragility of life. I am so aware of it now.

I love you bud...and miss you more than words can describe. My life is infinitely darker without you in it.

Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
I ran out of time last night before I could write to you. Natalie and Bryan came to visit. It was great to be with them. I love them both dearly. Ross told a couple funny stories about the two of you that made us laugh.

We had thunder storms and rain last night. Isn't that bizarre? On June 3! I don't every remember it rainiing in June since we've lived here.

We got a lovely thank you note from Nora in yesterday's mail. She was thanking us for the scholarship as well as her graduation present. I especially loved this line. It's so cute and so Nora-ish. She said "I have been looking forward to college since I knew what it was and plan to take advantage of every opportunity, just like Ryan would have."

I stayed up late visiting with Natalie and Bryan and thus slept later than usual so I'm running late and better skedaddle. I will catch up tonight.

Love & miss you so very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I didn't write to you last night. I felt too discouraged and exhausted and went by the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" adage.

I had lunch with my "grief sisters" yesterday. That is always therapeutic for me. We speak the same language, so to speak. They are both much stronger in their faith than I, with no doubts of heaven. It helps me to be around them since my own faith is wobbly. If God is out there, he seems to have forgotten me. It also helps to share my sadness with them without feeling like I'm coming across as maudlin or melodramatic.

Kevin McClatchy stopped by my office yesterday. He asked how I am and I told him the truth - my life is hard. Work is hard and I'm still very sad in my personal life. He shared that when he was 21 his best friend died in a car accident. He was and remains close to Timmy's family. He said he had watched what Timmy's death had done to his parents so he understands how terrible it is to lose a child. I told him what a gift it must be to Timmy's family for Kevin to have stayed close to them all these years. (Kevin is in his mid 40's now.) He said it was years before he could talk to Timmy's mom on the phone without her crying. I explained to him the double edged effect of staying close to your son's best friends. On side one you are so grateful for the relationship and the small piece of your boy it brings back to you; on side two it is painful because it reminds you of what you have lost and will never have again. But at the end of the day, having the friends in your life is much better than losing contact with them all.

Looking forward to the day we're all together again.

love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit Ry - it's June already. Hard to believe this hard year is almost half over already.

Dad had a break down in the gym today. He was doing back exercises and started thinking of how much weight you could lift and what a great back you had and was soon sobbing so much he had to leave the gym.

My friend, Valerie, asked me today what the books say about when we should get to the point we can remember you joyfully without so much sadness. I fear that never will come. The books all say losing a child is different from any other loss and the grief never fully goes away. I'm sure my friends are tired of me being so sad all the time.

There was a Zitz cartoon the other day that reminded me so much of your high school days. In the first frame, a kid goes up to the dad and says "You're out of Pepsi. Want me to write it on the grocery list?" The dad says "Okay, sure" and then the dad goes up to Jeremy and says "Who is that?" Jeremy says "I'm not sure. I think he's in my Algebra class." It reminded me of all the kids who came and went in our Wycliffe house. Remember how you and I used to make fun of Dad for not remembering so many of their names? You or I would mention someone and dad would say "Who's that?" and we would roll our eyes and say "She was here last night. The girl with long blonde hair" or something to that effect. Poor Dad needed a program with a roster to keep up with the throng of kids who passed through on an almost daily basis. But they all loved him - more than me.

Our house is quiet now and our grocery bill is much less. We never look for the cordless phones or the remote controls. We never trip over video game controls left in the middle of the floor. No one ever leaves the house and forgets to close the garage door. I don't wash loads of beach towels anymore. I miss that life very much.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
I was putting away clean dishes out of the dishwasher a few minutes ago and it reminded me of unpacking the moving boxes and putting away our things in July, 2007 - just days before you died. In the same way the smell of chalk and magic markers can take you back to elementary school or a certain song takes you back to high school, putting the cups on the shelf just took me back to the final days of my life BRD - before Ryan died. I remember those days well. I took a couple days off from work to unpack and put together our new home. I wasn't especially looking forward to an empty nest but I did have the clean slate/new adventure anticipation I always get with a move to a new town and a new house. I loved our new house and I was looking forward to the future with hope and enthusiasm. And then the world shattered a few days later and like Humpty Dumpty, it can never be put back together again.

We're often asked, usually by Modestans whom we don't see very often, how we like living in Sacramento. We usually respond kindly and give some lame answer such as "It's fine. Our lives are still sad though." It feels like such a stupid question to me - kind of like asking someone in the throes of chemo how they like their new wig. But I used to ask those same kind of inane questions and avoid mentioning someone's "great sadness" back in my days of naivete. I think there are probably many people who think that after 22 months, we're "over it" and our lives are back to normal. Not even close. We're just trying to find a "new normal", as the books call it, that is bearable.

All the graduation parties are next weekend - some of your protoges - Stephen Macko and Connor Sparkman. We haven't decided if we're brave enough to attend. I still have that image of you, John, Tyler and Terence party hopping on the Saturday after graduation. You had that folded up piece of paper in your pocket with all the parties written on it, making sure you didn't miss one. We ran into you at a few that we were also invited to. I can distinctly remember watching you walk up the Macko's driveway with your posse in tow. You had on that red & blue striped collared Abercrombie shirt and you were having a great day! I was so proud to be your mom.

And I miss you so very much.

All my love,
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

I'm feeling especially close to you tonight because I just read all the text messages in your phone that you sent and received on the last day of your life. You were texting to Natalie and Stevie and someone else (Will, I think) around 3:30pm and we think you died between 4 & 4:30. So eerie. You certainly didn't sound sick or like anything was wrong in the texts. I had never read them before. Dad has been using your phone since it was returned to us with your belongings. He finally had to get a new phone so we were looking at everything of yours on your phone before it is gone. There were some sent to you after you died - one from Natalie saying "Ryan, what is going on?" That was likely after Tyler called and told her and she was still disbelieving. There were a couple more left in the wee hours of that night from friends telling you how much they were going to miss you and how they would never forget you.

My Yosemite hiking trip was only marginally successful. I froze in the tent cabin last night, sleeping in the little bed next to Jim & Coleen. I didn't take warm enough pj's. I slept fitfully and my muscles were clenched up trying to stay warm. We got an early start for our hike and found the trailhead fairly easily. It was about an hour away from Curry Village where we slept. The website had warned about having to "ford a small stream" at the beginning of the trail. Oh my! I had envisioned it being about the width of a double bed mattress and up to my ankles. It was MUCH wider and waist high and freezing cold. It was melted snow,afterall. I was tempted to be a chicken and find a different trail but I thought to myself...Ryan would do this and you would have. So Coleen and I took our hiking books and socks off, took our cameras and cell phones out of our pockets and trudged through the water. It was SO COLD. Our feet and legs were numb for quite a few minutes. It ended up being much too early in the season for the Cloud's Rest hike. We made it half way (about 3 1/2 miles) before deciding to turn back. There was too much snow and you couldn't find the trail in many places. A thunderstorm blew in as we were making our way down the mountain which confirmed we made the right decision. We had to cross many streams using rocks or fallen logs. And our legs caved through the snow several times, all the way to our hips. It was really a fairly dangerous day. I'm glad we didn't break a leg or get hurt. It was fun too though. So we hiked about 7 miles instead of 14 but still saw lots of pretty scenery.

I will sleep well in my own bed tonight.

Love and miss you much
mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
I wish you were here to give me a pep talk. Mrs. Sparkman has talked me into climbing to Cloud's Rest in Yosemite with her on Saturday. It's higher than Half Dome though we'll be starting at a higher point so it won't be as long nor as tough - hopefully. But I'm still nervous. I think it's about a 15 mile round trip to a 9000+ elevation. Yikes. Maybe I really have lost my mind.

I reconnected with an old friend with whom I grew up. I haven't seen him in more than 30 years. He had read my profile on Facebook so he knew about our loss. In his email to me, he said he knew what we are going through since he lost his Dad when he was in his 20's and then both of his brothers in the years since. It almost sent Dad through the roof. After reading the email, Dad, who has lost a brother, a mother and a son, sent me a terse one line response that said "He doesn't have a clue what we're going through." We are definitely grief snobs.

Sometimes someone else puts words to my feelings in a way I can't. My grief sister in North Carolina does it often. Earlier this week she said this: "What does one do to manage everlasting heartbreak? At this moment, I can barely stand breathing… Over the entire span of my life, I have never known this sort of pain… It is always with me, bubbling just below the surface of my carefully crafted façade… "

The words to Alan Jackson's Little Bitty song keep running through my head...."life goes on for a little bitty while." I know that to be true but if feels like so long before we'll see you again.

I love and miss you so much, bud
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I'm listening to an audiobook written by a battered woman. It is a needed reminder that my life could be a lot crappier than it is. I sometimes get lulled into thinking everyone else has a perfect life - full of family and fun and joyful times and high achieving, happy kids. The reason I keep my "suffering journal" is to remind me that I'm not alone in my pain and that suffering is everywhere -even when we can't see it. Listening to this book reminds me to be grateful I've never been smacked around by a man nor abused by a parent. It reminds me of the blessings I enjoy of being financially secure and self sufficient - not beholden to anyone or anything; that I'm strong and capable and competent - even in my crushing grief I'm still a force to be reckoned with if necessary. And I've been corresponding with Louise Terra, the MoHi faculty mom who lost two kids and two grandkids in a car wreck on Monday. I think of our shock and grief over losing you - the unquenchable thirst, the metallic taste in our mouths, the feeling we might throw up at any moment, the lack of hunger for weeks, the "out of body" floating feeling, the fear of lying down to sleep, the awful first moments of waking each morning for months - and I multiply that by 4. I can't imagine the horror.

As I always told you and Ross as little boys - there will always be people with more than us and people with less than us so let's be grateful for what we have and who we are. I guess that same principle applies to grief and loss. We don't have to look very hard to find people with losses even bigger than ours, as preposterous as that seems, and there are those who seem to dance through life unscathed.

All my love,
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,

I just checked my Facebook account and there was a comment on the MoHi school song video of you that I posted a few days ago. It was from a boy I went to junior high and high school with back in the day. So he's actually a 51 year old man now, as I think about it. But anyway, he obviously doesn't know about our tragedy because he made a comment like "Where did you get a crazy young man like that? He must take after his dad's side of the family". I left him a message back and told him that crazy young man died 22 months ago. Now I know he will feel bad -and be embarrassed, feeling like he stuck his foot in his mouth. But really it's ok. Those things happen. When they do, it shocks me a bit.

Today's tragic news is of a terrible thing that happened to a staff member at Modesto High. Yesterday her 23 year old daughter, 20 year old son and 3 year old twin grandsons died in a car wreck. The daughter's roommate was driving drunk and crashed. The driver lived and one of the twins was still alive last I heard but had been declared brain dead. Sad, sad situation. I can only imagine the horror that poor family is experiencing. I can't really place the grandma/mom who works at MoHi though she was in my email address book so I obviously had corresponded with her at one point for some reason.

"But shall the angels call for him much sooner than we've planned. We'll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand." Edgar Guest

Braving the bitter grief but certainly not understanding.
All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
The long weekend is almost over. I love three day weekends. I find myself getting depressed thinking about going back to work tomorrow.

We went to Modesto on Saturday for Mrs. Pugh's 50th birthday party. Brianna and Alyssa were there. I kept thinking how you should have been there - or at least making an appearance and partaking of the good food. As always you would have sashayed in late but with your crooked grin and I would have been so proud to have you there.

This time of year is extra hard - all the kids are either done with school and onto their summer plans or finishing up their quarters or semesters. It's so painful to know they are all coming home or at least passing through and you aren't. Dad and I talked today about how you likely wouldn't have been here much this summer. Maybe you would have gone to Ireland like Brendan or to Italy like Brianne and Julia or Africa like Alyssa. You would have had some grand adventure, I'm sure.

Today in the bookstore, Ross and I looked at a journal that had this quote on the front "Just as the caterpillar thinks he has come to the end, he becomes a beautiful butterfly." I hope that's how it works with the end of this life and the beginning of a better, more beautiful one.

Mrs. Cassidy loves the MoHi school song video I posted on YouTube. She has watched it repeatedly. She said this about it:

"In the two hours Nora and I have been home, I have unpacked, showered, and watched that video five times. I love every second of it, but I especially love when Ryan struts out to the front of the stage at the beginning and also the very end when Ryan elbows Brendan and Brendan just starts to react. I will treasure it always as a glimpse of who those beautiful boys were."

I feel the same way. Dad can't watch it and is amazed I can. I sent it to Mrs. Elliott too and she said "What a memory to have and what a wonderful group! But that was Ryan, the leader cheering on everyone! Thanks so much for sending it - it makes me teary too."

Debra and I talked today about what the Bible promises about heaven. Debra believes that for those of you there, time is very different and that you aren't missing us the way we're missing you. She and her mom have been talking about that subject as they deal with her mom's serious illness.

I find I'm thinking of Memorial Day differently since Daniel Hyde's death. I'm sure it's much more than barbeque and a day off from work for all those grieving parents and spouses and children of recent war casualties.

Love & miss you much,
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud
Not sure why I'm such a blubbering mess this week but I am. I cried on my boss and on two of my colleagues. One of our publishers who doesn't even report to me called to say hello and I cried on her. I think it's this time of year - so many reminders of our last days together two years ago - awards night, IB dinner, graduation party, graduation.

Mrs. Cassidy sent a sweet email today. She said the awards ceremony reminded her of your & Brendan's year and how you planned the birthday party during the ceremony. By the time it was over, you had given assignments to a dozen people in terms of what they should bring to the party. Then she mentioned next week's IB dinner and recalled you and Brendan leading the schoool song. I then found the video of that out of tune, off key, loud rendition of MoHi's school song. It made me sob. I posted it on YouTube so I could send it to Mrs. Cassidy. First time I've ever done that. The video so aptly fits who you were.

I'm glad tomorrow is Friday. And we have a holiday weekend -yea. In our old life, we usually had a Memorial Day barbeque at our house. We're going to celebrate Mrs. Pugh's 50th birthday on Saturday.

Debra sent me this devotional today. It was a good day to get it since I was such an emotional mess. Steve Harper said:

"PRAYER CAN LEAD US to what may be our deepest life experience: the healing of the need to be healed. We do not have to have health restored in order to have hope. We do not have to cling desperately to life in this world when we see life in relationship to the world to come. This life is not all there is. More awaits us, and prayer makes it possible for us to catch a glimpse of eternal life. Prayer becomes a means of grace that enables us to loosen our hold on time so that we can put our hands on eternity."

I haven't felt like God has listened to nor answered many of my prayers in the last couple of years so this was good perspective.

All my love,
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We're home from Modesto where we went to Scholarship night at MoHi and gave scholarships in your name to Nora Cassidy and Ariel Patton. We gave the Ryan Dickerson Award for Character & Leadership to Patrick Ip. All were very pleased. Quinton was on the stage too and waved at us.

I was on the verge of tears from the time we got out of the car and was sobbing by the time we left. Going to that school is just too hard. Parking in the cage - I looked around and could see the dirty old green Land Rover in the spot where you always parked. As we walked in front of the school, I could see you with your backpack slung over your shoulder as you got out of the car and crossed in front of me, flashing me the I Love You sign. And in the auditorium, we remembered you as emcee both sophomore and junior years and then as a recipient senior year. That's when you planned Brendan's Bodacious Birthday Barbeque Blowout Bash - sitting through the long and dull awards ceremony. So tonight was the 5th year in a row we have gone to that awards night. So many memories.

Patrick was especially thrilled to win the award. Along with the $1000 scholarship, we gave him a beautiful crystal trophy thing. Dad said "He will keep that forever. If he becomes President, and he might, that will be in the Oval Office with him." Dad presented it to him and quoted lyrics from What Would JayZ Do? It was very apropos and nicely done. And Dad didn't cry but I did. How about that?!

Gosh, we miss you so much.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I have been especially blue today. Work is hard; life is hard and I miss you so much.

Bryan drove up to Sacramento today and I took him to lunch. Dad and Tyler joined us for the second half of lunch. It was fun to be with them. I love them both and while being with them makes me miss you more, it also makes me feel like you're closer.
Bryan gave me a Mother's Day card. The message he wrote inside it made me cry. Here's some of what he said...."....you're my hero, Lynn. You gave me the gift of Ryan - something that I will cherish forever and ever..."
He spent time with Mark last week while Mark was home a few days. I asked him if Mark ever talks about you and he said "No, but I don't either except to you. It makes me too sad."

Today I read an article about sudden loss by Therese Rando that said this: "In both sudden death and anticipated death, there is pain. However, while the grief is not greater in sudden death, the capacity to cope is diminished. Grievers are shocked and stunned by the sudden loss of their loved one. The loss is so disruptive that recovery almost always is complicated. This because the adaptive capacities are so severely assaulted and the ability to cope is so critically injured that functioning is seriously impaired. Grievers are overwhelmed.

If you are such a griever, you probably are suffering extreme feelings of bewilderment, anxiety, self-reproach, and depression, and you may be unable to continue normal life. You had no preparation and no time to gradually absorb the reality that the world was about to change dramatically.

Instead, there was a sudden destruction of the world you used to know. There was no gradual transition, nor time to make changes in yourself, your expectations about your life, or your world. In sudden death you are called upon to face a massive gap between the way the world should be, with your loved one alive, and the way the world is."

So true, so true.

Today was Kids' Day in Modesto. Another thing that reminded me of special times with you. I remember you in your red Kids Day shirt selling papers on the corner of Scenic & Oakdale with Dad, and even with Chris G once. I always worried that you would get run over darting into traffic or that you would get shot by a gang banger for having that red shirt on at school later in the morning. You always laughed at me for worrying about that.

Tomorrow night we go to MoHi to give the Ryan Dickerson scholarships and the Ryan Dickerson Award for Character and Leadership. It's emotionally draining but special too. You'll be pleased with the recipients.

all my love
ma




Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there sweet boy,
Tonight at dinner, Dad and Ross told Tyler a story about the three of you being at the fancy University Club in Dallas when you were about 2 or 3. It was a funny story - sort of a gross story but a good memory nonetheless. Tyler laughed and said "I guess Ryan did gross things his whole life.'

Later Dad and I were out admiring our tomato plants (you know you're getting old when you start admiring your produce plants every evening) and we both looked up at the windows to your room. There's a great Delta breeze tonight so Tyler has the windows open and the light was on. The room looked inhabited. We didn't say anything but I could tell by Dad's face that we were thinking the same thing - wishing you were also in that room - home for the summer - insulting & arguing with Seymour. Oh how glorious that would be.

"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." says Thomas Campbell.

You will always live in my heart.
Miss & love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I had a big cry today. I don't do that much anymore but find when I do, it's cathartic. Ross, Tyler and Dad were all out running errands. I was reading on the sofa in the family room and picked up the photo book I made for Dad the first Christmas without you. I looked at every picture carefully - taking in every detail of you. Features I knew so well. I can still remember how your feet felt when I would rub them. I sobbed for a few minutes, feeling the loss so deeply. I miss you more than words can describe.

A few minutes ago I was tidying up in preparation for the cleaning people tomorrow. I was going through a pile of Ross' papers on the desk and found one of his spiral notebooks opened to a page written in your distinctive, messy, almost illegible handwriting. It was written on 5/3/04. Five years ago - spring of your freshman year. It's titled Daydream and was written for Ross. Ross had just left for his internship in San Francisco at Hoefer-Arnett. I asked Ross for permission to write it here and he gave it. Here's what you said, the best I can decipher.

"On a quest for pencils/I found myself pouring through your former bedstand./I suppose that since you're gone and all/Do I inherit its contents?/The cheap beer cans/3 Bud Light, 1 Hamms/Quielle toi n'est pas de schlitz,/Tugest pas de bier. (that's not translated correctly.) Then I found your old wallets in the bottom drawer/with a $15 check from '93/I never knew you loved Nanny that much/then I thought of what I keep in my wallet/Leftover lunch money/Gift cards and certificates/Unfinished lyric sheets/slightly less failing attempts at becoming half the writer you are/and the $10 bill you brought me from Hong Kong. /It is only now striking me /Your influence on my everyday being/And my aspirations, emulations, and admiration of you. / My longing to grow up and leave this town and be somebody./ Or at least something/ I think it's only fitting that I write this in your notebook./If you were to suddenly come up the stairs/ you would tell me to stop obsessing/You're only 70 miles away/ And to go find some pencils so I can finish my homework./Learn from your mistakes/So I don't end up stuck in Modesto./ Dont rush/ You'll grow up soon enough./ Enjoy high school./ And don't fight with mom./ Cause don't worry, Ry, you're gonna be somebody."

What a gift for Ross to have found this. I wish I would find something similar that you wrote to/about me. I'm so glad I found it and it was in your Ryan-original handwriting. I read it aloud to Dad and he wept.

Ross told me last night that he's been dreaming about you a lot. I asked if he knew you were dead in the dreams. He said not necessarily though he's always rushing around trying to prevent you from dying. That same thing happens to me when I dream about you.

You were somebody, Ry, even though your special life was cut short. I have no doubt you would have soared at college and in life. Dad and I feel so cheated to have missed out on your college experience and your wedding and your children. Life doesn't always turn out the way we expect.

Love and miss you so much,
Mom

NeverForget 
Mrs. Lynn Dickerson, I am so proud of you. You are such a strong woman, and was and still is so devoted to her son. I wish all mothers were like you.
Dear Ryan,
The One & Only, whose life got cut too short, yet taught those who loved him the meaning of life. I will never forget you.



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We are home from our week in Colorado. It was a nice week - good weather - beautiful scenery - hiking, biking, river rafting, walking, reading, jigsaw puzzles, movies, massages, pedicures, rest. But we're glad to be home. Scrumpy was very glad to see us.

I was remembering a time we went to Colorado on a family vacation when you were about 4 and Ross was about 8. As we were flying into Gunnison, you threw up all over yourself and Dad with no warning. As I was cleaning you up, I told you that you just had motion sickness and everything would be okay. (It turned out that you had a bug and you threw up for the next 12 hours or so and I threw up the following 24 hours, after you so generously shared the virus with me.) But for the rest of the trip you kept referring to it as having "lotion sickness". So for years, when anyone in our family had the throw-up disease, we would say they had "lotion sickness".

At the Denver airport today, Steve asked Dad if he still wants to die. Dad said yes but he knows Ross needs him and that it would be a very selfish act. Then we both said how very much we miss you and how our days will never be as bright as they once were. Debra commented on the sadness she feels from never having been a mother, something she wanted very badly, but acknowledged she will also never feel the agony we have felt for the last 21 1/2 months. Life is full of trade offs.

I survived another Mother's Day. Being away made it somewhat easier. Ross called and I also got calls or emails or cards from many of my surrogate kids whom I love so much - Tyler, Bryan, Nora, Mal, Fallon, Seth Simas, Hanna, Annie, Chris Ho... It helps to feel loved by all of them.

The calendar saying I came home to reminded me of the people who mistakenly tried to 'cheer us up" after your death - in the days when that was impossible. It's from Proverbs.
"Being happy-go-lucky around a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing his jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in his wounds."

There are times when what you need most is for your friends to just be sad with you.

Loving & missing you much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there sweet boy,
Here we are - Mother's Day weekend again. Last year was awful. This year we're leaving town in an effort to run from it. Before losing you, I never thought of how painful special days such as Mother's Day and Father's Day and other holidays are for some people. It's a reminder of what they could never have for women who wanted to be mothers but couldn't conceive or never found a life mate or miscarried multiple times. It's a reminder of what has been lost to people whose mother's have died, especially recently, and to mother's like me who have lost a child. And those poor mothers whose only child has died...ugh...I cringe just thinking about them. And there are many of them, I have discovered through my journey of grief. My sense of compassion has been heightened in the last 21 months.

Obviously I'm grateful to have Ross but I was thinking today how grateful I am to have all these other kids in my life. Friends of yours and Ross' who mean a lot to me and allow me to mother them occasionally. It isn't the same but it does help to fill the big gaping hole in my heart.

This is Jasper Lion's Club World Championship rodeo week. All three of the Shaw kids qualified to "ride with the pros". Bret won the barrels in his age group so he got a buckle. He called and left a cute message telling us about it. And then last night Jasi won the break away roping event and got a buckle. She competed against Lane. He would have beat her had he not broken the barrier. They both had great times and I'm sure it was fun to perform in front of the hometown crowd. You would be proud of the cowboy cousins.

Dad subbed at Rio Americana today. A few minutes ago, he told me he almost cried a couple times during the day. I asked what set him off and he choked up telling me he saw a slender, handsome boy walking across campus wearing cargo shorts. It's funny the things that remind us of you and cause the tears to flow. Young men's calves do it to me. Especially if they are tanned and just the right amount of hairy.

Trying not to think you would probably be coming home for summer this week. You would be finishing up your sophomore year. Hard to believe. Ross and I were talking about time the other day. I said "just think - it has been almost 2 years since Ryan died and we have been miserably sad the whole time, yet it has gone really fast." I don't think it seems as fast to him because he's young. Time marches faster the older you get. I'm grateful for that now.

We're leaving for Vail in the morning for a week. I hope it's warm enough to hike. It's sort of a dumb time to go to Colorado.

I love and miss you so much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today is Scrumpy's 3rd birthday, we think. It makes me sad you don't know Scrumpy. You would like him a lot. He has many similar traits as you - he's friendly to everyone, loves a crowd, skips & bounds with exuberance, adores Dad and is even a messy eater.

Today I walked 19 blocks to a Farmer's Market. It was longer than I realized it was going to be, especially on the 19 blocks back with my heavy bag full of fruit & kettle korn - in heels. That was a bit much, even for me - the walker.

I got a sweet email from Robin Fenlaw today. She said this about you:

"Even though Ryan left WF so many years ago, and boys aren't the greatest at keeping in touch, Frank always had such a special place in his heart/life for Ryan. I think he looked up to him a lot, and was aware and probably amazed at all he was accomplishing, yet Ryan had a way (a special gift) of being right there at whatever level he needed to be in---to relate to other people...he just had a heart for all sorts of friends."

And that is true. One of your greatest traits was being nice to everyone. Today Dad subbed for a special ed class at Rio. While we were walking tonight, he choked up trying to tell me that during the day he kept thinking of how nice you would have been to those kids.

That's why so many people loved you so much. And we all miss you so much.

All my love,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello buddy,
I had the strangest dream last night. It feels sort of woo-woo-ish just describing it. It was like a message from God or an angel or something. Very clearly, the message was that this life is short and is preparation for the next life which is permanent and free from conflict, suffering, and pain. We are here to prepare for that next life - to learn something or accomplish something before we go to the next one. Sounds strange, I know but I found it comforting.

Yesterday Dad told me had "a great dream". I said "Was Ry in it?" He said "No. I was killed in a car accident. I was hit by a big semi truck and I could see my body lying on the ground, face down and I knew I was dead." Obviously he awoke anyway. So your ol' ma and pop are having really strange dreams in their continuing grief filled psyches.

I have been reading a grief blog by a young writer named Megan O'Rourke. Her 55 year old mom died on Christmas day from colon cancer. She posted this poem by Franz Wright.

I basked in you;
I loved you, helplessly, with a boundless tongue-tied love.
And death doesn't prevent me from loving you.
Besides,
in my opinion you aren't dead.
(I know dead people, and you are not dead.)

I relate to that poem. I love you very much, bud.

Mallory sent an email today telling me about the JayZ concert and how much she wished she could have shared it with you. Here's what she said.

"I went to a concert held in my school's football stadium. It was The Veronicas, Third Eye Blind, Kelly Clarkson, and Jay-Z. As social chair I used part of my budget to surprise my sorority by buying block seating at the concert. The seats ended being PERFECT. We sat in rows 8-12, right off center stage. The whole time I was just thinking about Ryan and how I wish he could be there or at least be here for me to tell him all about it. When we were waiting for Jay-Z to come on stage, I was so anxious. I couldn't help but imagine Ryan in the same situation. I assumed he'd be grinning ear to ear and chanting his name louder than everyone in the crowd. I did my best to channel Ryan, and did exactly that- I had NO voice after the concert because I was yelling Jay-Z's name so loudly! He put on quite a performance and at the end he started talking to the crowd and calling people out. Because my sorority was the largest group there and we had matching shirts he called us out! I couldn't believe it. He said, "yo, I see these purple shirts everywhere. Is this some type of school project? Are you ladies in a gang?" I just couldn't believe it; Jay-Z referred to my sorority as a gang! I wanted to call Ryan immediately to tell him. Even though I couldn't call him, I was still happy that I was able to include Ryan in my thoughts throughout the whole experience."

The world just isn't right without you here.

Love
Mom


all my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We got up at 3:45 this morning to see the Carleton gang off. After some bagels & biscuits, they were all packed up and on their way. Dad and I both cried telling Brendan goodbye. For whatever reason, Brendan and Lance make us cry the most. Brendan is headed for Ireland in a month so we won't see him until late summer. It was a memorable weekend for us. I'm so glad we could be their California host family!

Phelps' mom sent 10 pictures of you that she took your sophomore year. They are all action shots in the pool. Most of them are close ups. Dad and I sobbed as we looked at them. Seeing photos we've never seen before is such a gift. You look intense in all of them. In one, you're spitting a big stream of water out of your mouth. It's a cool photo. You would like it.

My friend, George McCanless, sent a sweet story about a family putting their dog to sleep. They decided to let their little boy be a part of the process even though he was only 6. Afterward they marveled at how well he handled the sad task of saying goodbye to his beloved pet. What he said made me think that maybe that's the way it was with you too. Here's that part of the story.

"We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.''

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said,''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?''
The six-year-old continued,''Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.''

Tyler is on his way from the airport with Ross. I realized it was 3 years ago today Tyler moved in with us the first time and 3 years ago today Ross had his serious accident.

I miss you more than usual this week. I would give anything to see you tonight.

all my love
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It has been a busy weekend hosting Brendan and the water polo girls. Dad and I have been cooking up a storm. They are all in San Francisco today and are leaving in the morning at 4:15am so we're done with our cooking. It has been a lot of fun having them. They are all really nice kids.

Joanne forwarded me the essay Megan wrote as part of her application process for the Stanislaus County Leadership Academy. The assignment was to write about something that has made a big impact on your life or something to that effect. Meg chose you. Here's what she said.

"Life can change instantaneously. During the summer of 2007, I was greatly impacted by the death of eighteen year old Ryan Hunter Dickerson. He was a close friend. Ryan died a very tragic death and it was a major reality check to many.

I was in second grade when the Dickerson family moved to Modesto from Texas, and our families became fast friends. My older brother, Derrick, and Ryan were good friends, therefore I became closely acquainted with Ryan. Because of this, I spent countless summer nights at the Dickerson’s home jumping on the trampoline, swimming, and playing hide and seek

Ryan was the type of boy everyone loved. Girls thought he was cute, boys thought he was ‘the man,’ and parents thought he was the total package. He was very involved in school, extra curricular activities, and had a close relationship with his family. Ryan had everything going for him, except for time.

Ryan died while working at a summer camp in Texas. The cause of his death was listed as natural causes, but that is probably the farthest thing from the truth. It is not natural for a healthy, strong, and talented boy to die at eighteen years. It isn’t natural to see young men guiding their pal’s coffin in to church. It isn’t natural to see a mother and father mourn the loss of a precious child. It’s not what we presume in life, but it does happens.

Through Ryan’s death, I have learned that life is unforeseen. Everyday, you have only what you are given and should make the most of that day. You really don’t know what will happen next. You need to concentrate on the here and now because the future is just a mystery.

Ryan was the total package. Even through this tragedy, Ryan left a profound impact on everyone who knew him in any way. Even though Ryan didn’t have to chance to live as long as we would have all anticipated, he lived his life to the fullest."

Lovely job by sweet Megan, huh?

Dad and I both miss you so much, bud.

All my love,
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there sweetheart,
It's raining like it's monsoon season in Northern California. Those poor midwestern girls showed up with their bikini tops and sunscreen and found cold rain instead of warm sunshine. It rarely rains like this. We're in a drought and need the rain, I just wish it had come next weekend or last weekend.

The girls are all really sweet and polite and VERY APPRECIATIVE. Chris G just im'd me to ask if they are "hot". You would have asked me the same thing.

Dad and I did better than I expected being at the pool and sitting in the stands, etc. When we got there, we immediately ran into the McBrooms. Melanie's team from Chico had just gotten beat by CalPoly. It was like old times talking polo in the parking lot. Then when we walked into the aquatics center, Annie B called out to us and gave us a hug. The Carleton girls played UC Davis in their first game and Davis kicked their butts, as they predicted. It reminded me of the old days when MoHi used to play Rio Americana or Jesuit. It was fun to watch Brendan coach though. He's not quite as excitable as Chiavetta ~ :) We took all the girls to In-n-Out afterward. Lauren Young and her boyfriend came to the game and then went to In-Out with us. I liked her boyfriend. Nice guy from Visalia. He's a polo player too.

I bring you up in conversation with these girls all the time. They never pick up the conversation threads. They are all still too young and too uncomfortable to know what to say. I used to be the same way. I'm sure when they are alone they comment on how Mrs. D talks about her dead son a lot. One of the things I'm going to put in my book someday - TALK about the person who died. It's not only okay, it's important!

I have made spaghetti & meatballs and am waiting for the gang to return from their last game of the day. Wish you were here, dear boy.

Love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Bed linens...funny the things that evoke memories and nostalgia and sadness. Dad, Ross and I have been making beds for our 13 house guests arriving later tonight. Much of the bedding was once yours. There are the green striped sheets from your first big boy bed in Highland Village, the denim Ralph Lauren sheets from Wichita Falls and the early years in Modesto, the comforters from the Possum Kingdom condo and the plaid comforter from your jr high days. Dad looked everywhere for your sleeping bag and couldn't find it. Then I remembered you had taken it to camp so it's in the trunk with all the things that came home from camp when you didn't. Neither of us had the courage or strength to open the trunk so we improvised and decided we could make do without your sleeping bag.

I made my pound cake and the filling for homemade cinnamon rolls that I will make in the morning. I have only made those cinnamon rolls once since you died and that was when Brianne and Chris spent the night last winter after the Alan Jackson concert. So many things I cook scream RYAN to me. I consider it a huge step forward that I can make these cinnamon rolls. You always ate a whole pan of them yourself and then wondered if maybe you were gaining weight - as you looked at your profile in the oven door's reflection.

We chose the recipients of your scholarship today. Mrs Rhoads, Mrs Elliott, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Monjure and Mr Beck helped. We're giving three. You would be very pleased, I think. It was tough competition. This class of '09 is very strong. We also chose the winner of the Ryan Dickerson Character Award. Dad and I will go to Modesto on May 20 to make the presentations. UIt will be one of those emotionally draining nights.

Our empty nest is filling up again. Ross is with us for a while and Tyler returns next Monday. I like the tidiness and order of the empty nest but I like the energy and life of the full nest. I'm not sure I'm cut out for the empty nest - not yet anyway. Just wish you were flying home to the nest next month.

We'll be thinking of you over the next three days as we watch Brendan's team play polo. They play UC Davis tomorrow. I think Annie Benisch is on that team. I will be pulling for both sides.

Wish you were here, bud.

Love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Good morning Ry,
21 months ago today you left us. Still surreal sometimes. The other day I was making our bed and stopped to look at the picture of you & Dad on his night stand. It was taken when you were about 18 months old - Dad is holding you in Gran & Bamps' back yard. You are so cute and Dad is so young! I found myself thinking about showing that photo to your children some day and then WHAM! The reality that there will never be any Ryan's children hit me.

Last night I was emailing with a fellow bereaved mom and she said something I totally agree with. She said " Honestly, don't you believe they are better off. This crazy world sucks." I do find myself thinking that often. Right now the whole world seems to be in a tizzy about the swine flu. Not me. Selfishly I don't want Ross or Dad to get it but you won't find me wearing a mask anytime soon.

Krista Mensonides posted this on Facebook last night.
" Miss you still, Ry. I've been thinking about your mama lots lately...I can't imagine what your family must still be going through without you. Keep them company, ok? love you, buddy."

Yesterday our renowned NASCAR writer at the Charlotte Observer died suddenly. He had turned 50 last month. And I learned last night of the death of the husband of a woman I knew through Rotary in Modesto. He died of a brain tumor. He would have turned 46 today. He left a wife and two young sons and parents. So my suffering journal grows.

I love you with all my heart and always will.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there buddy,
We're getting ready to host Brendan and his girl's water polo team this weekend. They are flying in Thursday night and staying until Monday morning. There will be 13 of them - 11 girls and 2 boys, including "Eugene". Dad and I are both honored he asked us for the whole team to stay here. It will be crazy but fun. We're looking forward to it. Ross is going to help drive them back & forth to Davis. I did an inventory of bedding last night - making sure I have enough blankets and bedding for 13 house guests. After the move, in my grief stricken mood, I purged many things as I unpacked. I gave away truck loads of stuff, realizing my old life was gone forever. Some of what I donated to charity were old comforters and blankets and pillows that you and your buddies had slept on - on the floor and on the deck during your jr high and high school years. So many weekend and summer mornings I would awake to find wall to wall boys. I miss those days.
It will be fun to be water polo parents one more weekend of our lives. I am busy planning what I'm going to feed them. I know you would love this. I hope somehow you know and can watch all the chaos and activity.

As I turned my calendar over this morning, I realized it was two years ago today that we had the prom dinner at our house. 29 of you in our rose garden patio. Such a fun, fun night. I will treasure those memories forever.

Last night I emailed back & forth with Dan Hyde's mom. Dan died in Iraq last month. He was 3 days older than Ross. We compared notes on coping with the loss of our boys. She is doing much better than I was at that time in my grief journey. As she pointed out, she knew her son was in a war zone and in harm's way, thus subconsciously preparing her in some way - I thought my son was in the safest 3 weeks of his summer. I appreciate her friendship and benefit from talking to others sharing a similar pain to mine.

Dad is off to teach at an alternative high school this morning. I hope he'll be safe. Ross has a job interview and a follow up appointment at the periodontist. And I'm off to fight the newspaper wars again.

Love & miss you so much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well the weekend is just about over and that makes me sad. The weather was beautiful in NorCal this weekend. After an exhausting, stressful week, I was able to recharge my battery a bit.

On Saturday, Dad and I went to the Farmer's Market and then to the hardware store. The hardware store was bustling with activity. Being there brings back memories of those first few weeks after you died. Dad and I didn't go many places - the post office, occasionally Raley's, and the hardware store. While I was walking up and down the aisles yesterday I remembered that awful vacant, zombie like disorientation I felt for months. I looked awful and felt worse. It seems wrong somehow that we humans can't recognize grief stricken people by some outward sign like we can recognize bodily injuries. Those were really terrible days. Even remembering them is painful but it is a good reminder that even though I still hurt deeply, I have healed some.

Last night we went to a play called Having Our Say about the Delany sisters - Sadie and Bessie. Remember when I read their books when you were a little boy? I remember telling you and Ross about them. Aunt Les and I liked them a lot. The sisters lived together, never married, until well past 100 years of age. There was a line in the play last night where they were describing their nephew's death. Sadie said "Little Hubie's death shook our world. I think we were a little over confident before that. We were Delany's. We thought if we tried hard enough and worked hard enough, we could do anything and protect ourselves. When Little Hubie died, we learned we were just like everybody else when it comes to tragedy & loss." I understood what she meant. I think subconsciously I thought that same thing.

Today Ross was scurrying around, getting dressed for a job interview. He needed a black belt instead of the brown one he was wearing. I got yours out of your shoe box for him but it was too small. I held it up to my face and smelled the leather, remembering how many times it was around your waist in your suit pants. You were so handsome in that suit. Going into your closet is still hard for me. All those shirts and pants hanging there. I cry every time.

I read this line in a novel I'm reading. It was said about a young woman whose mom died when the girl was only 13. "It could be difficult to appreciate what you had - a father, a supportive group, friends - when what you'd lost was so huge." Amen to that. Sometimes I feel guilty that I continue to feel so sad and empty and robbed when by most standards I still have much. But when the loss is so big, it dwarfs everything that is left. Yet I know my life could be much worse and I try to focus on being grateful for what I have left - Dad, Ross, great & many friends, family, creature comforts, good health & an able body & mind - to name a few. But you left a gaping hole that can't be filled when you left us.

all my love
Ma



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Laura Bryan, one of the Arkansas girls you met in France, has been posting photos of you from that trip on her Facebook. Dad and I love seeing these "never before seen photos" yet they make us cry too. You are so young and cute and full of life. We miss you so much.

Dad has been in an especially deep funk the last few days. Tonight we went to Crate and Barrel to buy citronella candles and wine glasses. We wandered the store separately and when I found Dad he was in the glassware section. He looked at me with that sad look he often sports and said "I feel like throwing all these glasses against the wall and watching them shatter. I think it might make me feel better." I told him his relief would be short lived before they hauled him away to either jail or the mental hospital.

Earlier today I was online helping Tyler with something when I came across a story about a 19 year old Grinnell student who left a suicide note in the fall of 2006 but wasn't found until the following April when the pool cover at the local country club was removed. His poor parents had to wander what happened to him for 6 months. It reminded me of what I often say to myself - our tragedy was as good as they get. No shame, no suffering, no disappearance, no one else injured or killed, no violence. And yet it hurts so badly and for such a long, long time. I have enormous compassion for parents who have to go through what we are enduring with one of the other elements added on top. The father of the Grinnellian wrote a lovely eulogy for his son. The ending was especially poignant. Here's what Paul Shuman Moore's dad said at his son's funeral:

"I once had the thought that when it’s the turn of angels to choose which music to play in heaven, they pick Mozart. His music - the melodies, the way a piece would progress -was precise, intricate, and inspired - everything just perfect. But when the souls of
humans get to choose music in heaven, they pick Beethoven. His works are full of passion and energy - things that you can only understand if you’ve lived on earth and experienced the joys and sorrows of life – something the angels will never comprehend.
Today, I think of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony - what we call the Ode to Joy. It starts out with the cellos playing the melody slowly, mournfully. Then the melody is played again faster, with a few more instruments. Then the melody is played a
third time with the entire orchestra – a crashing, joyous, triumphant song. Those three repetitions remind me of life. We start out alone. We walk this earth with others. We die and join that final joyous chorus of souls.
We’ll never know if Paul felt stuck in that first section; or thought he had enough experience with the second; or was just anxious to join the third. But we know that right now, he is boldly – joyously – passionately – triumphantly - creating music."

You weren't very musically talented in this life, taking after my tone deaf side of the family, but I suspect you too are boldly, joyously, passionately, triumphantly creating music in Heaven while those of us who love you are muddling our way through the painful days longing to see you again.

Love and miss you so
M'Ma


Lynn Dickerson 
Good morning sweet boy,
The mini heat wave is over and the Delta breezes have returned. Debra and her sister-in-law, Maria, are staying with us because her mom is back in UC Davis Med Ctr for more surgery. Last night I was in your room, making sure it was ready for Maria. As I was opening the windows to let the cool breeze in, I was admiring the view - so pretty with flowers and trees everywhere. Then I thought of how you should be coming home in a few weeks and how if you were, you would lie in your bed, all sprawled out, taking up the whole thing, and look at that same pretty scene I was looking at. But you are not coming home in mid-May.

Dad and I both have been dog tired lately. It's all we can do to drag our fannies around our 4 mile walk every evening. Not sure if something is wrong with us or we're just old and tired. I find that my survival strategy is to stay busy and productive and most of the time that works but occasionally a wave of futility washes over me and I think to myself 'No matter what I do; no matter how many others I reach out to; no matter how many books I read or speeches I give or letters I write, he's still gone - our lives are still changed forever and nothing I can do will fix it. And it makes me tired. I understand how some get bitter and reclusive after a profound loss. I fight against it but it would be easier.

I'll close with this email I got yesterday afternoon from David Zeeck,our publisher in Tacoma. So sweet.

"Occasionally when I stop at one of my favorite drive through barista stands to get a latte, I give them enough money to buy a free latte for the next person who pulls up. I tell them to tell the beneficiary that the coffee was purchased for them by a young man named Ryan Dickerson. I tell them a bit about Ryan and how he would have done something like that.

I started doing that on his birthday. Just thought you’d like to know."

Off to a tough day at work - the Wall Street analysts at 9 and then an all day budget review session after that. ugh.

All my love,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I awoke this morning to find this little jewel of an email from Chris G. I cried but it made my day at the same time.

"It is currently 3:30am and I am sitting at my desk writing a paper on Conventional Farming VS. Free Range/Organic. I think you already know my position on that. Garth Brooks- Cowboy's Like Us just came on, and I remembered that is the last song Ryan and I ever sang together. He was driving Mr. D's Tahoe, because the Land Rover was broken down yet again(Who would have thought). I was sitting in the backseat because we picked up Natalie. I think that was one of the first times I met her, but none the less I was not happy sitting in the backseat. I really can't remember much after that but I think it doesn't really matter. Owen and I were talking about Ryan last night, and I was very fortunate my best friend moves to San Diego and my new one moves in from Texas. he told me If he had to be replaced he was happy it was Ryan. Over spring break I insisted that Kevin and I find all the old footage and watch it. We watched four VHS tapes of the old days. Ryan was in some of it, if you remember, you wouldn't usually let him film with us. My favorite scene of all those videos was on Kevin's lawn.
Kevin, Jeremy, Ryan, and I were lying on the grass. I convinced Ryan to eat some leaves for the betterment of the film. He did, and there were leaves all over his braces. He laughed harder than all of us did.
He was wearing some outrageous thrift store hat and that grey shirt with the purple three on front. I wouldn't sell that last time I saw him for all the Assyrian crown jewels. Some people ask me what my last words to him were, They were " I hate you and I don't even miss you."
Then they feel bad for me, and I tell them those would probably be his last words to me. Its just the way we were.

1Love,
Mr. G"

I forwarded it to Peggy and to Natalie because I knew they would appreciate it also. Natalie sent this one back to me.

"Thanks Mrs. D.
I remember one night we went to Kevin Luty's house because Ryan reallly wanted me to see the film that Kevin, Dan and Jeremy had been working on. I don't think they were finished with it but Ryan was really excited about it.
The day after Ryan died and everyone went to your house, Chris just gave me the biggest hug and said "I hated sharing him with you". I don't know why I remember that because I can't seem to remember much else from that day, but the line definitely stuck. For some strange reason it was comforting, I guess.

Love you,
Natalie"

We all still miss you so much, bud. I can see you with leaves in your braces (probably 7th or 8th grade) just laughing that loud, goofy, Ryan laugh.

We (our Miami Herald) won a Pulitzer yesterday. Big deal, of course. I so wanted to call and tell you. I remember the time you and I debated on the correct pronunciation of Pulitzer. I was right for once. You looked it up on Wikipedia and it said "pull it sir" - just like I pronouced it. I was so proud to win one with you!

Dad and I have cried twice tonight - some nights are still like that. Sweet things that came in today's mail did it today.

We miss you so very, very much.
All my love,
Mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
Just yesterday I was worrying because my memories of you are becoming soft around the edges and sepia toned. Then I got this email from a friend you made at SSP in the summer of '06. I could see you and hear you perfectly when I read this.

"mrs. d,

I'll share with you my biggest SSP memory with ryan.
it was wed night and we were all supposed to be getting ready for bed but instead all the girls from my church and brianna from yours were reading 17 (magazine) over by our stuff. i remember ryan coming over and being like "ohhh 17 i want in". and then he started reading to us out loud from the magazine and the way he read the article had us all laughing like crazy. and then i remember he found a quiz and he made us each take the quiz outloud with his little side comments, even funnier. and then he just started talking about going through changes and all that jazz and it was super funny and then for the rest of the week we all had lots of inside jokes to share with each other. good times, my friend and i (the only 2 left at church from that group) still use those inside jokes, they have become bitter sweet now but for us we can never forget them or ryan.

i cannot even begin to fathom your pain nor how much you miss him. just seeing that you have found some way to get up every morning is an inspiration to me.
Heather"

I miss you so much. You were so much fun.

Looks like Dad and I might get to be water polo parents one more time. Brendan wrote today and asked if his team can stay at our house in two weeks when they come for Nationals at UC Davis. There are about 15 of them. It made me laugh. Of course, we said yes. We will love it.

Yesterday when I was worried about forgetting things about you, I asked Ross if the same thing was happening to him. He said emphatically.."Nope. I think about him ALL THE TIME. He is all I think about." That is probably true but he is doing so much better than he was for a long time.

Love and miss you so very much,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
"Do you think I'll ever be able to drive down Scenic without crying?" That's what Dad said to me yesterday after we had driven down Scenic and he had in fact cried when we passed the cemetery. We were on the Garden Tour with Tom & Susan. Yesterday was a break- through day for us - we went onto Wycliffe. Three of the houses, including our old house, were on the tour this year. We DID NOT go to our old house. That would have been impossibly hard. But we did go to the other two. One of them was the Clines so being next door to the Vander Walls was pretty tough. I teared up a bit during that time. Dad is really ticked off at the Garden club for the description of our old house in the program. They referred to how the Reeds had brought life back to an old garden. Dad is prepared to sent them hate mail over that comment. He loved that yard and worked so hard in it. He's the one who brought life back to a tired, old, shabby garden. They should have seen it in 2000!

Mrs. Cassidy just emailed me that the girls water polo team that Brendan coaches at Carleton won the Heartland Championship and they are going to Nationals at UC Davis in a couple weeks. She asked if we would put some of the team up at our house and of course, we said yes. You would be proud of Eugene and his winning team.

I find after almost 21 months my grief is changing - lightening a bit - but I also find you are becoming more of a distant memory and I hate that. It's the trade off for the relief from the unrelenting pain though. We have these Spanish lavender plants in our yard and they are magnificent right now. I swear I don't remember them blooming last year. There are so many things that I just don't remember at all from the first year of this new life. I guess it's the brain's way of protecting us from too much pain. Kind of like how we forget how bad it hurts to have a baby. I definitely have a bit of bereavement amnesia.

Ross and I are off to Raleys to buy something for dinner. We have all three been working in the yard all day and it's really warm today. So we're all sweaty and dirty and gross.

Love and miss you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy (I find I now call Scrumpy "sweet boy" and other pet names I used to call you.),

Nine years ago today, our family flew to Modesto to announce we were coming to town and I was going to be the new publisher of the Bee. It was cold and rainy but an exciting, exhausting day. You were 11 and Ross was 15. You, Dad and Ross explored Modesto while I made speeches and met employees. That's the day the inside family joke began about the orchards - "look how straight those trees are. Ya reckon they plant 'em like that?" You and Ross (you, especially) didn't want to move to California form Texas. Ross was much more agreeable about it than you. You cried and dug your heels in when told we were moving. But soon it was your town in so many ways. Now it's hard for us to be in Modesto because it is still "your town" in so many ways.

I got this email from Leah Macko this morning. Made me smile -thinking of the juxtaposition of Ryan Adams and Kanye West. That was you -yin & yang, sweet & sour, tender & crass all at the same time. Here's what Leah said:

"I just wanted to write to you and let you know that I am especially missing Ryan right now. He is never far from my mind and I still frequently have moments where I really cannot believe that he is gone. Tonight I was at the library working on a paper and was listening to my itunes on shuffle in the background. Ryan Adams’ “Friends” came on and I started to tear up since it’s about appreciating your friends knowing that it could all end soon. I’ve always believed that my itunes knows what I’m feeling and plays songs accordingly, and after the song ended Kanye’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” came on which was a song Ryan put on a cd for me a few years ago. I had to laugh at the fact that a serious Ryan Adams song and a Kanye song both immediately make me think of Ryan. We all still miss him so much and I know everyone has little "Ryan moments" like these daily to constantly keep him close."

I love and miss you so,
Mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Yesterday and today have brought tidings of death from all around. Brianne emailed last night that her roommate lost a friend from high school last week in a car wreck. Today I got news that A-Man's dad died last night. He had recently been diagnosed with ALS but they expected him to live 3-5 more years. I called and talked to Angelo and he was very sad. Frances wrote to say Joe Cooper died last night. Remember Joe? He was the sweet, gentle maintenance man from the Times Record News. I never knew a sweeter, more lovely person. And then late this afternoon, I got word that Josh Kelly, the young adult son of our VP of Operations in Columbus, died today after a few years of a brutal disease caused by a genetic disorder. I hope you greeted all of them at Heaven's gates.

I cried three times today. Once when I read an email from Terence where he said "Ryan remains in my thoughts." Later I had an IM conversation with Rachel Griffith. She said Kyle is helping coach swimming at MoHi and "Ryan memories are all around". She said they both think of you daily. Then on the way home I listened to my Alan Jackson Precious Memories c.d. and cried as I sang along to the "when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be". I don't fantasize about killing myself so much anymore but I do still look forward to being with you again in Heaven. Dad nor I have any fear of death anymore.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryanizer,
I have learned so much about the difficulty of life since losing you. I am now so keenly aware of how much heartache and suffering there is all around. I'm actually keeping a suffering journal in '09 where I write down deaths and tragedies of people I know as well as people I just know of. It's amazing how long the list is already and it's just mid April. I learned today that my high school friend who is fighting late stage colon cancer has learned the tumors on her liver are growing and a new spot has shown up. Not good news. And then Debra's mom has a tough battle ahead of her with pancreas cancer. Life is full of suffering. But we human beings are amazingly resilient.

Phelp's mom emailed me about a dream she had of you. It was pretty cool. Here's what she said:
"We were on a retreat, at some large, lovely house in the mountains, pines and sequoias all around, crisp, clean, air, very healthy, the works. Most of the swim team was there, and your whole family was there, and I was there with my son. All of the kids went out hiking, and when they returned, I noticed there was one child whose breath wasn't visible (it was very cold), and I saw that it was Ryan. I turned to point him out to you, but you'd gone. The whole dream was like that: When I was with him, you were nowhere, and when I was with you, you didn't believe I'd seen him. I awoke very frustrated. Anyway, I approached him and asked why I couldn't see his breath, wasn't he cold?? He smiled and responded, "No, I'm dead, I'm warm all the time, perfectly comfortable. I don't get cold, hungry, tired, nothing!" And he beamed at me. "In fact," he continued, "I'm going for another hike, by myself!" And then he flew away, in the style of Harry Potter on Buckbeak, arms wide, grinning ear to ear. "This is great, Mrs. V!!" he called, then he was gone. Then, suddenly, in that way dreams have, we were in the house, and I was showering in a closet, with a drain in the carpet, very weird. You came in and told me to hurry up, or I'd miss--something, I don't remember. I tried to tell you about Ryan, but the dream you wouldn't listen. His flight was beautiful, amazing, yet you wouldn't let me tell you about it. "Don't be silly," as you bustled about the room, "Ryan isn't here". At dinner, I saw him sitting in a crowd of swimmers, but when I turned to tell you, you weren't there. When you entered the room, he was gone, of course. The whole weekend was like that. I finally cornered him high up in a tree (dreams are weird), and told him that you really needed to see him, it would make you feel so much better. Then he hugged me (I've never touched Ryan in my life, but, again, this is a dream), holding up my considerable weight with no effort, though we were really, really high, and a fall would have killed me. He whispered, "I'm not supposed to see her now, only you and Phelps. I'll see Ma later, she knows that". He squeezed me, returned me to my branch, and flew away, leaving me way up in the tree. He was beautiful, sunlight on his face, smiling in the wind. he flew into the sunlight and disappeared. I have no idea how I got down. I just awoke with the impression of having hugged him, and of having him whisper in my ear. He smelled like pool :o). "

I miss that chlorine smell and bleached out towels and sheets and t-shirts. I miss you.

Love
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello bud,
I miss you every day to the very core of my being but today is one of those days I need you. I need your advice and guidance. I'm unsure of what to do next with this friend of yours who has gotten himself in a real pickle. Dad and I talked tonight about how upset you would be about the situation. I think you would be calling me every few hours asking me if I had taken care of "it" yet. I think you would want us to help even though it isn't our problem - only another layer of heartache on an already overburdened pair of hearts. I would be telling you to stop worrying about it and study.

Usually my spam filter catches these but today an email from WashU got through. One inviting me to purchase a care package for you for upcoming finals week. WashU was great about getting us off all correspondence right away - except for whatever organization contacts parents about care packages. Such a little thing that hurts so badly.

I got an email today from Leslie Herrmann saying she was feeling especially nostalgic today - realizing it's spring at home in California and remembering the old days on Wycliffe and especially two years ago at this time when you both were excited about your college choices.

A few minutes ago Natalie sent an email telling me about a dream she had of you a couple nights ago. It was strange as dreams are (you had purple eyes) but it was a good one and she woke up feeling happy. I haven't had one of those in such a long time. Wish I would.

Ross is in his room watching a TV show or movie on his computer. He's laughing out loud. A real laugh. It makes me feel good to hear him laugh such an authentic laugh. None of us do much of that anymore.

Love you so dearly, sweet boy.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan
We're home from Texas where we had a very nice time visiting the family. Your absence was palpable. There were so many things that happened where I found myself thinking how much you would be enjoying the family time. Dad reminded me that you likely couldn't have gone anyway since you would have been at school but just knowing you couldn't made it very sad for us all. We played games, watched Jasi, Lane and Bret rope; dyed & hunted Easter eggs; Dad wrestled in Gran's floor with the boys and gave them horsey rides on his back just like you always did. We went to church with Granddad where he had purchased the altar flowers in memory of you, B and Paul. Abby sat with us. I'm sure she missed you too. We met, Drew, her boyfriend and liked him a lot. Life goes on and we all laughed and had fun but not having you there reminded us all of how special you were and how much fun you always added to the mix.

Dad visited old family friends, the Steeles, who lost their grown son 20 years ago and 7 months after Robin died, his 7 year old daughter was killed in a car wreck. So they lost their son and granddaughter within a year. Dad spent a couple hours with them and I think it was helpful for him. After tragedy strikes, we are much more attuned to the suffering of others.

Granddad has become awfully frail. He is 85, after all, but he is clearly fading. Dad and I both find ourselves envious that he will likely see you much sooner than we will.

I'm reading a novel called The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It's set in the early 60's in racist Jackson, Mississippi and told from the viewpoint of a black maid. It's really good. One of the main characters lost her only son in an accident and here is how she described it.

"I lost my own boy, Treclore, right before I started waiting on Miss Leefolt. He was twenty four years old. The best part of a person's life. It just wasn't enough time living in this world..... By the time I found out, he was dead. That was the day my whole world went black. Air look black, sun look black. I laid up in bed and stared at the black walls a my house. Minny came ever day to make sure I was still breathing, feed me food to keep me living. Took three months fore I even look out the window, see if the world still there. I was surprise to see the world didn't stop just cause my boy did."

She describes it well, in her Southern Negro dialect of 40 years ago. I remember going out for the first time after your funeral and looking at all the cars driving around. I thought "how can the world still spin? How can people still go to the grocery store and the post office and out to eat when Ryan is dead?" Those were the days I felt like I was walking through life with Vaseline on my glasses. A terrible, terrible time.

Debra's mom's surgery was unsuccessful in being able to remove the tumorous part of her pancreas. Not good news. Debra is very sad, of course. I am too for that matter. She is only 70 and a lovely, sweet woman. Another one of those "lie isn't fair" things.

Well dear boy, I've been up since 2am California time so I'm headed to bed. I love you so very much and miss you every minute of every day.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's 3:47am and we're off to the airport for our trip to Jasper. Doesn't seem right that our entire family, except you, will be together for Easter. Makes me very sad.

I got some very upsetting news last night about a friend you loved very much. He has made some very bad decisions and really screwed up his life. You always worried about him screwing up and in fact, he has, in a big way. I'm not sure how we should help or even if we should help at all. I find myself alternating between being glad you aren't here to be hurt by this and wishing you were here so you could advise me of how much or how little to get involved.

Debra's mom is having surgery today for pancreatic cancer. If you have connections with any special angels up there, put in a good word for her.

Happy Easter sweet boy,

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Nora is here tonight spending the night so we can take her to the airport to catch a 6:30 flight. She's off to Carleton, Johns Hopkins and George Washington - her three finalists - for the final selection process.

Chris G called tonight. Was great to hear from him. He had a "Ryan dream" recently and told me all about it.

I read this passage today from Nicholas Wolterstorff's book "Lament for a Son". ". . . If sympathy for the world's wounds is not enlarged by our anguish, if love for those around us is not expanded, if gratitude for what is good does not flame up, if insight is not deepened, if commitment to what is important is not strengthened, if aching for a new day is not intensified, if hope is weakened and faith diminished, if from the experience of death comes nothing good, then death has won. Then death, be proud" This was the very first book I read after your death. I find I hardly remember it. I was so disoriented at the time. Debra calls it "being in the blender" and that is an apt description. I'm reading it again - with a clearer head this time.

Off to bed so I can get up at 4am to take Nora to SMF.

All my love precious boy,

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My new mantra is "life is full of suffering" because it truly is. Debra tells me I am becoming more Buddhist all the time. Today the authorities found the remains of a little 8 year old girl from Tracy who disappeared a week ago Friday from her family's mobile home park. She was stuffed inside a suitcase and thrown in a pond. How horrible. I can only imagine the excruciating pain her family is feeling. I'm sure it defies description by mere words. Our suffering did and surely this is worse. For about 10 days they frantically searched for her, hoping against hope she was okay, all the while imagining the worst. I don't know how you wouldn't go insane during that time of not knowing. At least now they know her suffering is over and she is in Heaven where no one can ever mistreat her again.

In the months immediately following your death, I used to say to Dad that as horrible as our loss was, it couldn't have been any better if you had to die. You didn't suffer; you didn't go missing causing us unbearable worry; you didn't get sick and linger, slowly dying a little each day; you didn't die in shame - you weren't doing anything wrong or weren't under the influence of drugs or alcohol; you didn't commit suicide; you weren't murdered or tortured or frightened; you didn't kill or harm anyone else with your death; we didn't have to raise money to bury you; we were surrounded by throngs of friends & family who loved us and supported us; you were loved, lauded and honored in every way imagineable after your death; and you were happy up until moments if not seconds before you died. And yet losing you was a horrible, horrible thing that felt (and still feels) unbearable. I can only imagine how much worse it is to have one of those added complications. My heart hurts for little Sandra Cantu's family.

I'm reading Don Piper's second book called Heaven Is Real. He says this about how suffering changes us and he's right.
"...through painful experience - and that's the way we have to learn so many of life's lessons. As we understand suffering in ourselves, we can grasp suffering in others...we come out of the experience wiser. We didn't know all the answers to all the problems before our painful, shattering events, but we acted and felt as if we knew most of them. As we reemerge, we feel less confident that we know everything. We're wiser in just that regard. If we've learned, we've become slower to criticize, quicker to listen, and more open to accept."

I had lunch with two of my "grief sisters" today. We talked about seeing or not seeing our dead children after your deaths. One of the moms didn't and wishes she had. The other did and talked about how it felt to kiss her daughter and touch her hand. I told Dad about our conversation and he started sobbing. He said he kissed you several times in the casket. I didn't. I ruffled your hair quite a bit but I don't think I ever touched your skin. I couldn't bring myself to feel the lifelessness. I feel sort of bad about it on one hand and on the other hand I think I would probably react the same way if I had it to do over again. I just remember thinking that you weren't there in that discarded body. The wonderful, lively, joyful, energetic life force we knew as Ryan was long gone by the time we saw your lifeless body. But walking into that room to see your body was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.

When I think about you and who you were and all you were to so many people, I think of that line from the Sound of Music's Maria. "How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?" That was you - a moonbeam that couldn't be caught or contained. And how blessed we were to have you - even for a little while. And how much we miss you now.

Love you so much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
The following was posted on my Facebook a few days ago. I love it that we still get these memories of you from random friends.

Mrs. Dickerson,
Hello my name is Maxine Goynes. I am currently a sophomore at Santa Clara University. I just wanted to take the time to share with you an experience that I found memorable. I went to Johansen High School and was close friends with Leslie Herrmann and Andrea Buzzini. I was fortunate enough to have met your son Ryan through mutal friends when I was in junior high and also had the chance to work at Hollister with Ryan. I always remember the smile he had on his face, or how we would gaze at one another during work because we were tired of hearing the same song on repeat and we'd giggle with one another about how tired the song was. Ryan would always cheer me up because he'd ask about my passion, which is soccer and he would always let me know how awesome he thought it was that I had earned a scholarship to play here at SCU.

When I first came to Santa Clara I met a boy who reminded me of Ryan. I let this student, his name is Mark, and plays on the water polo team know that he reminded me of a friend that I had and had recently lost. I told him how he had went out to Texas, and coincidentally Mark was from Texas. After I told him Ryan's story he stood staring at me and let me know that his girlfriend had worked at the camp with Ryan, your son. I broke into tears because Mark had told me how his girlfriend was touched by your son's spirit, and he heard how amazing of a person he is .

My point in writing you this message is to remind you every person Ryan has come in contact with, has been so touched by the person you and your husband had raised him to be. I will forever remember Ryan, and will keep him in my heart.

Sincerely,
Maxine Goynes

It's a small world, isn't it?

Love you so madly, miss you so badly as Jimmy Buffett says.
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there bud,
I'm home from my week in the Carolinas. It was productive and pleasant and exhausting. I drove to Winston-Salem on Tuesday night and took Natalie to dinner. I love her, Ry. I see why you loved her so much. She was such a perfect match for you - pretty, classy, kind, fun, involved, smart. It makes me so sad that the two of you never got to see where your relationship might go. When I got to her dorm, I found a shiny penny on the floor between her feet and mine. I picked it up, gave it to her and said "here, a Ryan penny." Then later that night when I checked into the Charlotte Westin I found a penny at my feet at the registration desk. Then later when I was in bed, ready to read, I opened my book and there was a penny - inside my book next to my bookmarker. Sure seemed like signs to me.

Today is Chris G's 20th birthday. I can't believe he isn't a teenager anymore. I found myself thinking of the two of you all morning - reliving fun memories. I remember him spending the night before Dodge Ridge ski trips on the Valley bus in 7th & 8th grade. The two of you would talk and laugh long after you were supposed to be asleep. I would go in to shush you and remind you of your 5am wake up time and Chris' antics would make me laugh too. I remember our summer trips to Cayucos with such fondness. Just the three of us - you two body surfing and looking for cutie-patooties, as Matt Miller called them. We had so much fun on those trips. I remember sitting in the Foster Freeze in Morro Bay where we went to get ice cream and Chris made us laugh until ice cream came out our noses. Then the time I got mad at Chris for putting one of your Ritalan tablets in the fish bowl. You were double overed with laughter as I fussed at him for drugging the fish and changed the water in the fish bowl. I remember his birthday dinners at his house each year and how much you loved him mom's Assyrian cooking. I remember Dad always threatening Chris and saying "just wait until you're 18!" and now 18 has come & gone and Dad has never followed through on cleaning Chris' clock. I remember discovering Chris had taken your Robert Campbell Award plaque because as he said "Ryan has so many and I don't have any." I nagged you to get it back but finally you said "Mom - I want Chris to have it." So Chris still has it even though he tried to return it the day after you died. I told him to keep it because you wanted him to have it. There are so many happy memories with Chris in them.

I read a great book on my trip. It's by Elizabeth McCracken and titled An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. It's a memoir about her life before and after her first son was stillborn. She's a gifted writer and does a great job of capturing the pain and sorrow that comes from losing a child. The day Ross was born the receptionist at the Lewisville Leader where I was publisher had a stillborn child. We were in the same hospital, on the same floor. I remember feeling so sad for her but my sadness for her loss was overshadowed by my own happiness over Ross' birth. She quit her job at the paper and never came back. I'm sure the thought of seeing me every day and hearing my stories of my new baby were too much for her to bear. I understand that now so much more than I did in 1985 when I was a naive, unscarred 27 year old.

I dreamed about you last night. First time in a long time. You would think that with so much of my psyche occupied with thoughts of you that I would dream about you every night but I don't. It's a gift when I do.

Love and miss you so very much
Mom

Fallon Atta-Mensah 
Hey Ryan,

I don't really write anymore. But that definitely doesn't mean that I don't think of you. I think of you everyday. One of my friends was in a really dark place. And we were talking about what is the purpose of life. Why are we here? Why do we get up in the morning? And I don't have any answers. I mean I am only 20 years old. What can I possibly know.

But I told him that one of the reasons I get up in the morning is because I know you can't. And I still don't understand why you can't. But I want to live life for the best of us. I want you to be able to question life. To have doubts. To try and find yourself like it seems like we are all trying to do now. I guess I still miss you. And it's been more than a year but it still hurts to remember that I can't call you. That we can't get back together in Modesto over spring break.

I know you are looking down on us all and watching out for us. But I wish you didn't have to. It was too soon for you my friend.

Love,
Your Tiger

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I just read a gut wrenching letter in the Compassionate Friends newsletter from a bereaved Dad written to his daughter on the one year anniversary of her death. She died last March just as she was finishing up her residency and moving back to California to become a doctor, making her immigrant parents so proud. When I read stuff like this, I realize that Dad and I aren't the only ones to feel the kind of pain and profound loss we have endured for the last 20 months. (20 months today.) Here is one short paragraph from the Dad's letter that rang true.

"Both your mom and me are hanging in the twilight zone between life and death. We lost pleasure in living. We go through the
motions and try to keep busy at work. We feel guilty for living day to day even though our friends tell us we have to go on living
for the sake of your brother. We feel baffled and frightened at the extent of this sudden devastation. We wish at all times that no
parent should ever be condemned to endure our fate."

Mrs. Pugh texted me from church this morning to say they were singing Lord of the Dance and she couldn't sing it. She said "I miss Ryan."

Dad and I worked our fingers to the bone in our yard this weekend. As I was weeding today I kept thinking of stories people have told me about you. When we were in Wichita Falls a couple weeks ago, John Daugherty told several great stories about your weekend in the Falls in June, 2007 - just weeks before your life ended. He told how you jumped out of the boat in Hells Gate and swam along side the boat as they slowly motored through the no wake zone. He said when he got the word you had drowned he remembered that swimming feat and said to himself..."no. That couldn't be. I saw him swim."

Nora is setting the world on fire with college admissions. You would be so proud of her. She has yeses from UCLA, Cal, Johns Hopkins, George Washington, UC Santa Barbara, Carleton, Oberlin, Boston University and she's been wait listed at WashU. It renews my faith in the flawed college admissions process.

I'm getting up at 3:30am to catch a 6:20 flight to Raleigh. I'll be gone all week so I won't be writing to you until Friday. I plan to drive to Winston-Salem to have dinner with Natalie on Tuesday night.

I miss you so very much, Ry.

All my love,
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey sweet boy,
I cried driving to work today. I don't know what brought it on - nothing really. I just found myself missing you so very, very much. I was remembering your energy and enthusiasm and joy. I talked to Miss Kanaly from LaLoma this aftenoon. She had a Bee problem she needed help with. I asked her if Daniel Hyde had been one of her students and she got very somber and said "Yes. He was also a Campbell Award winner." Then she went on to tell me that in her 16 years of teaching she has only bought a gift for a student twice. Once for Daniel and once for you. She bought books for each of you. She said she is never going to buy a book for a student ever again. Then she lamented how unfair life is for kids like you and Daniel to be taken when there are so many young men in prison and doing despicable things with their lives. We agreed we will have many questions to ask God when we get to Heaven with you.

Today in my audiobook, the protagonist said her aunt always quoted Luke 12:48. As you would recall that has always been my favorite Bible verse - To whom much is given, much is required. For years, I drilled it into you and Ross and lived by it. Now that I've been given this horrible tragedy, I wonder how I'm supposed to apply that scripture to my life. I guess if I wanted to be bitter and nasty, which I am sometimes tempted to be, I could interpret it to mean nothing else is required of me in this life. But I know that isn't so. I'm afraid it's just the opposite. I think I'm now required to redeem this terrible loss for something good. Easier said than done but it feels like my assignment.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Yesterday in Modesto, we took Howard and Barb by the library to see your tree. They were impressed. The librarians told us stories of how the tree is loved by library patrons and that many people stop to read about you on the plaque.
Then we had dinner at Concettas before going to the State Theater. Saw several people we knew at dinner. That's what I love and miss about Modesto. It's our town. I feel anonymous in Sacramento and I don't like being anonymous.
Dad typed a letter to Robert Earl Keen and enclosed a copy of your college essay, along with one of the "Ryan brochures". In the letter, Dad pointed out how you quoted REK in your essay. Our friend, Barb - ever bold and shameless - took it to REK's bus and made sure he got it.

The concert was good. You would have especially liked it. The warm up act was a guy named Hayes Carll - a drawly Texas folk singer who you would have very much liked. He had clever lyrics and a cute sense of humor. Reminded me of Adam Carroll - that guy you and Ross used to listen to. Robert Earl didn't sing The Front Porch song - just as well I guess since it would have surely made me cry. The Road Goes on Forever almost made me cry.
At intermission I was in the lobby talking to Sue Richardson, the manager of The State who is an old friend from The Bee and I looked over at the concession line and there were Nora and Brendan. I was so happy to see them. They had come to see Robert Earl because of you. Of all your friends, I think maybe Brendan loved you the most. You continue to have a very special place in his heart and I think you always will.

I read an obituary in the Sac Bee today for a boy born 3 days before you - on Feb 13, 1989. From the obit, it sounds as if he was born with a heart condition but his death was still unexpected. I mourn with his parents whom I have never met. Also, earlier this week a small plane crashed in Montana carrying 3 California families to a ski vacation. 7 kids under 10 died. I saw a photo of the grandfather who lost two grown daughters and 5 grandkids. My heart breaks for him. My hairdresser and I discussed it today. She said she didn't think she could survive that much loss and I agreed. I told her of the many, many times I didn't think I could survive losing you - and I still have Dad and Ross. But we do survive those horrific losses because we have no other choice and because God sends us people who hold us up until we can stand on our own again.

I miss you so much.

all my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I didn't write to you last night because we were late getting home from a dinner with my company's Board of Directors. We said goodbye to a retiring board member who has had quite an interesting life. I found myself wanting to tell you about him. He is a lawyer and represented the Hearst family when Patty Hearst was kidnapped in the early 70's. He also has represented Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and the Getty family. He knew Harvey Milk and George Mosconi and lots of famous San Franciscians. His stories are legendary and entertaining and I can just see you listening to him - a liberal's liberal - with rapt attention. There are so many things in my life that I miss sharing with you.

Tonight we're going to Modesto to see Robert Earl Keen at the State Theater. Ross is going with us, as well as some friends from Sac and Steve & Debra. It will be one of those bittersweet times for our family. I am sure we will cry if he sings The Back Porch song. That song will forever be Ryan's song in Robert Earl's repertiore as far as we're concerned.

This morning I was searching for a particular spring jacket in my closet. It was nowhere to be found so I looked in your closet where I sometimes hang out of season "overflow" clothes. I didn't find the jacket I was looking for but I was swallowed up by longing & sadness for you as I stood there surrounded by your clothes. I put my face into a pile of folded shorts and boxers and sobbed. Your room makes Dad cry but not me. Your closet makes me cry almost every time I go in it. Seeing your clothes and shoes and junk squeezes me heart and wrings it out.

We are singing a hymn at church each Sunday during Lent that I am growing to love. It's called Hymn of Promise and it is especially meaningful to both Dad and me and we find ourselves living for eternity. Here is the refrain I like so much.

"In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see."

Love and miss you much,
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Grandpa Robbie died 3 years ago today. Often I think of the two of you being in heaven together - getting to know each other better than you did in this life. I know you must like each other very much. Grandpa Robbie loved people with "hustle" and a strong work ethic. You had both. He always said you reminded him of Derek Jeter, the Yankee baseball player. He was a good man and you were a good boy so you surely are enjoying getting better acquainted. I remember sitting in the Houston airport as we were flying home from his funeral in '06. That's when I learned your Macintosh laptop had been stolen by one of the contractors working on our remodel at home. I was so upset. You had just gotten it for Christmas. As usual, I was much more upset than you were and you took responsibility for leaving it on the coffee table when you went to school. I also remember how proud I was to show you off to my relatives at the funeral. Ross didn't get to go because he had to work so you & Dad flew in together. I was already there. You were such fun that weekend. Gran & Bamps loved having you and the little cousins delighted in your antics and attention. Despite the sad reason we were there, it was a good trip with quality family time. That was the last time you were ever in Jasper - one of your favorite places. We're going to Jasper for Easter and it will be sad to go without you.

I was cleaning out emails today and found one I had saved from Erica. She sent it to me a couple weeks ago when I was traveling. It made me smile because I could see it all happening. It also reminded me of something Julia Solomon told me. She said you used to call her on the weekends sometimes - saying silly, outrageous things. She assumed you were "drunk dialing" her until all the other kids told her you didn't drink. I'm not sure if it was a compliment or not that you often acted tipsy when you were totally sober. Your exuberance for life bubbled over most of the time. Here's what Erica said about you.

"I was reading through your letters to Ryan today between my classes and was reminded of such a funny memory of Ryan. You mentioned in one of your letters that in Ryan's "Three things" one of his favorite drinks would have been mexican sodas. I must say I completely agree with you. One night during Senior Year my parents were out of town so I had some people over for a small party.
I am not exactly proud to say that I deceived my parents but needless to say there were some alcoholic beverages there but those drinks are not what made the night so memorable for me. Ryan came over that night too and instead of asking me for a typical beer he wanted to know if he could have some of the mexican orange soda that was in my refrigerator. He even asked me how to pronounce the name of the bottle and of course completely butchered it. Naturally I said he could help himself, little did I know Ryan would be drinking about 6 of them that night. He was bouncing off the walls by the end of the night frequently telling me how good this stuff was and if he could take the whole case home with him. I couldnt help but laugh that while the rest of his friends were acting goofy because of some alcohol, Ryan was way more goofy and memorable because of several mexican sodas. The day after Ryan had died, I purposely went to my frig and had one of those mexican sodas in his memory."

Love & miss you dearly goofy boy,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
We have had a nice weekend - pretty weather, a little needed rain, pleasant dinners with other bereaved parents who understand our pain and walk beside us on this awful journey, satisfying work in the garden, quality time with Ross. Now a new week begins in a few hours and the pressure cooker heats up once more. Dad has a sub gig tomorrow at a middle school. And I will fight the newspaper wars with all my resources.

Dad, Ross and I raked, pulled, snipped, trimmed, dug and planted for hours yesterday and today. As I pulled all the weeds that have sprung up with the spring rains and warm weather, my mind kept wandering to Daniel Hyde's family. His burial was Friday and his memorial service was yesterday. Jeremy's birthday was Friday and he spent it attending his cousin's burial. What a lousy way to commemorate your 20th birthday. It's been 2 weeks since his parents got the grim news - I'm sure they have been "in the blender" as Debra says. Shock serving as nature's bandage - allowing them to make all the necessary arrangements to bury their boy. Now all the services are over and the guests are probably going home, leaving them with their broken hearts and the pain that can't be described with mere words. I hurt for them and I don't even know them.

Friday night we hosted our bereaved parent support group dinner. One of the moms reminded me of what we have all read about the second year being harder in many ways. I had forgotten that even though I had read it several times during my first year and thought it was a ludicrous concept. How on earth could year 2 be worse than that hellish first year? I still don't believe it is but it is different - and still bad. During the first year you are still a little numb - still walking around like a zombie much of the time - still in shock to some degree. But year 2 - Year 2 is when it kicks in that this is forever. We're not going back to the way things were - ever. Don Piper writes about "markers" in his book Heaven is Real. He says "But life does throw us curve balls. Our plans go awry. People fail us. Accidents happen. Regardless of the cause, life changes. ...Regardless of what happens, our lives are irrevocably affected, sometimes dramatically, sometimes less so. Regardless of the extent, life becomes different.....Growth means we acknowledge the past, accept the present, but look to the future....There must be an accepted end before there can be a new beginning. And there's usually an important empty time between the two. It's the time when we try to make sense of what hit us, especially when we had no warning."

I have decided there's no making sense of what happened to us. It just is what it is. It sucks but it is what it is and there's not a thing I can do about it. We are definitely in that "empty time" right now.

Dad and I were sweeping the patio this afternoon and Dad teared up and said "I really miss our old life." He then went on to reminisce about cleaning the patio furniture and power washing the decks for the first team each spring on Wycliffe. Later I talked to Debra and we lamented how if we still lived there we would have gone to Oklahoma! with them today at MJC and then had dinner in the outdoor kitchen. Things weren't supposed to turn out the way they have. I sometimes feel like it's all my fault for taking the "new job" (which is almost 3 years old now). I often think I caused a cosmic tilt in the universe with that decision.

My library book was due yesterday and I am nowhere near done with it so I must go read. That dime a day fine will add up and you know how that stresses Dad out.

I miss you so much, Ryan.

all my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
Mallory visited us tonight. She is such a dear. I took her to dinner while Dad was at his Hospice bereavement group. She promised to help Ross look after us when we're old. Wasn't that sweet?

I cried a bit earlier tonight while looking around on Facebook. All the seniors are getting their college acceptances and rejections. I specifically went to Nora's page because I'm especially interested in what is sure to be her long list of acceptances. I found myself tearing up as I looked at her swim season pictures and read of her college news. UCLA and Santa Barbara want her so far. It reminds me so much of just two short years ago when our lives were so good - full of hope and promise and excitement. Who would have ever dreamed that just a few months later our world would shatter.

Today my friend Mark Looker posted a link on his Facebook page. It was to a memorial site for the 19 year old son of his college roommate who died suddenly on Monday night after playing a game of recreational soccer at Chapman University in SoCal. He complained of dizziness and was dead an hour later. I'm sure it will turn out to be an undiagnosed heart condition - likely what happened to you. I literally got goose bumps reading the story. It hit much too close to home and I find my thoughts going back to his poor mom & dad over & over tonight. Their lives have irreversibly changed and they are just beginning their journey through hell.

Tomorrow is Jeremy's birthday and he will be attending his first cousin's memorial service. Bless his sweet heart.

As I now always say....life is full of suffering. And the world is too dangerous and scary for anything but love & kindness.

I miss you so much.

all my love
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
Natashia Richardson, one of my favorite actresses, died today after hitting her head while skiing over the weekend. She was the mom in Parent Trap II and after we saw the movie, I tried unsuccessfully for months to get a haircut like hers. I feel sad for her two little boys who will now grow up without their mom.

While on our walk this afternoon, Dad and I came upon a bevy of young boys - about 8th or 9th graders, I'm guessing - playing golf. They seemed like nice kids and they were having fun. Dad said "I'm glad Ry wasn't a golfer. That scene would have made me too sad." I told him it made me sad anyway. Anytime I see a group of boys having fun together I think of you and your posse. I miss having a house full of hungry, loud, messy boys.

Over the weekend Aunt Les, Pam and I were talking about whether the cousins will remember you as they continue to grow up. Bret, who adored you, was only 5 so I'm sure his memories of you will be very dim at best. Aunt Les made a good point though. She said she can't remember much about her kindergarten teacher but she remembers her kindness & how much she loved her. I guess that's what all of us will eventually be left with as our memories fade - the essence of you.

My bereaved mother pen pal in Pennsylvania sent a link to me today. It is a blog written by a woman whose 50 year old husband dropped dead on the treadmill a few weeks ago. The woman is an author and blogger by trade so naturally she is blogging about her grief, much like I have been doing for the last 19 months. She said something that validated my own actions. Amy Welborn said this: "Those of you who think it is strange I am "saying" anything at all just know that I am a writer, a communicator, and that is how I process. Some would process through piecing quilts together or cooking or going for walks or painting - for me it is writing and things don't even begin to make sense for me unless I write them." I know there are people out there who believe my letters to you are either weird or unhealthy. Some people think I'm making my private thoughts too public. Some others think I'm wallowing in my grief and need to get on with living. And you know me - you know how I want to please everyone. Accepting criticism is not my strong suit. So reading that passage helped me realize that writing to you is my way of working through my grief - and it is indeed work - and it is right for me and it helps Dad to read what I write. So I will continue to do it until it no longer seems necessary or helpful. And if others disapprove, I guess that will have to be their problem.

Love & miss you so much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I drove to Modesto today for Alyssa's grandmother's funeral. It was a packed house so I felt fortunate that as I walked up to the church, Mr. Taylor, Alyssa's grandfather, was standing out front alone. I walked up to him, told him how sorry I am for his loss and hugged him. He looked me square in the eye and said "What you went through is worse than this." Then he went on to say "I lost a son too, you know." I told him I did know and that I hope it is comforting to him to know his wife and son are together again. He said it is.

I'm listening to an audio book written by Isabelle Allende. She lost her 28 year old daughter years ago and narrates this book to her. In a passage I listened to today she referenced the 4 year anniversary of her Paula's death. She said she was surprised to still be so sad -and then she realized that there would always be a great pool of sadness just under her skin - for the rest of her life. I, too, believe that to be true. At Mrs. Taylor's funeral today, I did the math and figured out she was about 60 when her son, Doug, died 24 years ago. Living 24 more years seems impossible and depressing to me.

Dad prepared his funeral plans today and emailed them to Debra - pall bearers, songs, speakers, etc. He has a list of regular pallbearers who are all friends of yours and Ross' and a list of honorary pall bearers who are adults. As we were walking tonight, he realized that since he's going to be cremated, there really isn't a need for all those pallbearers. Since most of them are water polo players, he decided maybe his ashes can be put in a water polo ball and the boys can pass it back & forth and then at the end, one of them can make a shot on goal into the grave. We tried to decide who was the best shot in the group....Lance, Mark, Bryan, Stevie, Brendan....?

Ross had oral surgery today so he's swollen up like a chipmunk and sore.

Love you so much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I needed you twice for my crossword puzzle today - the shopkeeper in The Simpsons and the Restaurant owner from The Sopranos. I could have called you for both answers. I also wanted to call and tell you I read in the paper this morning where Bruno from The West Wing died - but maybe you already know that.

I have become email friends with a woman in North Carolina who lost a son last June in a car wreck. She writes a blog twice a week on the Charlotte Observer moms' site and I read it faithfully. She is a gifted writer and often her words ring so true with me that I wish I had written them myself. Her entry from last Thursday was one of those that resonated completely. I know our friends and family have thought I was either melodramatic or mentally unstable at times as I have talked about losing my will to live. Tammy Garlock says it perfectly here:

"It takes every ounce of courage I possess to get up and go through the motions of being all that I am expected to be. Although I am altered, my responsibilities remain the same; obligations must be met, regardless of my indifference. This world still spins as it always has, and the pages of the calendar flip without fail; life all around me buzzes, humming with activity and purpose, despite my pain and struggle to belong or contribute as before… It is extremely hard being one of those left behind…

Everyone has heard tales of suffering and sorrow where a person simply grieves themselves away; I wondered how this could be, why someone would just give up on life. I couldn’t possibly have grasped this before…it was unfathomable to me… But now it is crystal clear…an undesired awareness has been born… I truly understand what it means to die of a broken heart. I know how easily it could happen. Giving up, giving in, not caring anymore, call it what you want. It is a siren song, murmuring your name, promising sweet relief from that which you cannot reconcile… It is the dark shadowy place that offers comfort by virtue of its nothingness and lack of expectation, emerging when you are utterly alone except for your misery... It is the smothering, suffocating awareness of your new life and your inability to change anything about it... It is the long list of regrets and words unspoken, things contemplated that you will never complete or be able to forget... It is the bitter battle fought at the horizon where your future dreams and harsh reality collide, a civil war between your head and your heart… It is the loneliness created in the wake of a loss so incomprehensible, so impossible, that it eclipses your very will to live on in this altered state… It is an outright rejection of the life that has been given to you, for it most certainly is not one you would have chosen for yourself…ultimately it is an unwillingness to submit your will to that of His…

I believe that our survival essentially comes down to acceptance versus denial. We face each day and whatever comes with it, one breath at a time, for that is as much as we can handle. As we confront, endure and conquer these agonizing ‘firsts’, I pray that each will help us to gradually move toward acceptance of His larger plan for our lives. Because I know there is one…

‘Beloved Son, how we miss you so;
We are trying hard to let you go.
Every day, we attempt to face,
This world without you in your place.
Our comfort is that you're not alone,
As God saw fit to call you home.’"

I am tired and discouraged again tonight. I love you very, very much.

Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

I left last Wed for Las Vegas - a despicable,sad place in my opinion. I couldn't help remembering the last time I was there - about 2 years ago. While there in '07, I searched high and low for a World Series Poker shirt for you. Never found one in your size that I thought you would like so I bought you a pair of poker boxers insteaed. Everything now reminds me of happier days gone by.

I flew from Vegas to Wichita Falls last Thursday. We had a wonderful time in the Falls. The Daughertys hosted a reception for us before the Hospice dinner so we could see lots of old friends. It was great to see so many people we love. Many came by. Henry, Clark and Carly were there. Henry is "yoked" as Ross would say. He's huge - in that good way that you boys so admire. Henry is handsome and as sweet as ever. We always loved Henry. Also got to see the McAden boys. They are all grown up which amazes me. They were all really sweet to us. We stayed with the McAdens and in my mind's eye, I could see you bounding up their stairs - stopping halfway up to say something to someone on the ground floor. I could see you slumped down on the couch in the playroom, playing video games with Nic and Jaxon. You had many fun times in that house. We stopped by the Averas on our way out of town. Travis is over 6 ft tall and about to graduate. Again, going in that backdoor reminded me of the many times I went there to pick you up from playing with Jeremy.

My speech at the Hospice dinner went well. Several other people who have also lost children or grandchildren spoke with us afterward and said my comments were helpful. That's my goal - to bring a modicum of comfort to someone else or at least a sense of knowing someone else understands the depth of their pain. One woman shared her story of losing her own 18 year old son 24 years ago in a drowning accident and her 4 year old grandson in a drowning accident 3 years ago. Just doesn't seem right.
On Friday morning we met with the social workers, chaplains, bereavement counselors and other Hospice staff members. All of that nourishes my soul and Lord knows, my soul needs nourishing these days.

We spent the rest of the weekend in Highland Village at Aunt Les' house. We also saw A-man and Shanna and Miss Carol Whites. We played Taboo on Friday night. It was fun and we laughed. It feels weird to have fun and laugh with you gone. But I know you would want that.

I had a nice phone conversation with Mrs. Ashlock while I was in WF. Then today she sent me an email telling me her mother died early this morning. She knew it was coming but she's still very sad. Alyssa's grandmother also died over the weekend.

Scrumpy and Ross were both glad to see us. And we're glad to be home. I hope we see some of your friends while they are home for spring break.

My calendar quote today is from Samual Rutherford and says
Our little time of suffering is not worthy of our first night's welcome home to Heaven.
I sure hope ol' Sam is right. That's what I'm banking on.

Dad and I commented this afternoon on our walk how even though we are learning to move forward with our lives, our happiness meter will never reach as high again in our earthly lives as it once did.

Love & miss you so very much
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
In yesterday's mail were your two final paychecks from Hollister. I have no idea why you never picked them up. I guess our absent minded professor forgot about them. But they tracked us down and mailed them to you. Getting mail addressed to you is still like a punch in the gut. I suggested to Dad that we give the money to Ross since he has none and I'm sure you would like for him to have it. So this morning as I was giving the checks to Ross - one for $54.71 and one for $24.07, I realized they totalled $78.78. Another one of those weird number things that feels like a sign from you.

It's spring break time for college kids again. I remember how hard this month was last year when everyone but you was coming home. It isn't quite as hard this year though I find myself thinking of it often. Mallory and Chris are coming to see us next week while they are home. Brianna is going to Florida so we won't see her. We rarely ever hear from Tyler so I don't expect to see him though it would be a nice surprise if we did. Natalie is in San Diego.

I continue to hurt vicariously for the Hyde family. I don't even know them yet I find myself thinking of them numerous times throughout the day - mourning with them over their profound loss. You and Daniel were similar in so many ways from everything I've read. Surely the two of you have connected in heaven and discussed Jeremy - Laramue to you.

I leave early in the morning for a meeting in Vegas and then my trip to Wichita Falls to speak at the Hospice dinner. Then we're going to see Aunt Les, Pam & Alex. I'll write to you when I return on Sunday.

Love you so very much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello Ryanizer,
I was just in the media room with Ross. I was going through my catalogs while he watched some dumb movie on T.V. I asked what it was and he said Dodgeball. It made me laugh and almost cry at the same time. I remember when that movie came out at the theater and you saw it about 5 times. You thought it was he-larious! I should have known it would be stupid. You always loved stupid comedy. My movie litmus test was if you liked it I was almost sure to hate it. :)

I read all the legacy.com entries for Daniel Hyde today. They remind me so much of all the nice things said about you in the days following your death. From the things people are saying about him, the two of you shared many similar traits. He was even Homecoming King at Downey his senior year. I hurt for his parents, knowing the hell they are going through right now and in the days and weeks and months and even years to come. Losing someone so special - that you love so much is indescribable.

Love you so much bud,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Peggy sent me sad news today. Jeremy's first cousin, Daniel Hyde, who is Ross' age died in Iraq. Peggy compared him to you and said:

"Another one of our brightest stars has fallen. Last night Jeremy got word that his cousin Daniel had died in Iraq. I haven't heard any details yet as to what happened. This was another absolutely amazing child. He and Megan were friends and had been in school together from Kindergarten thru high school graduation. He graduated from West Point in 2007. His mom was Megan's cheerleading coach at Downey. He was such a smart, sweet boy and he had grown into a wonderful young man. I am just devastated for his family and for Jeremy who really looked up to him."

I have thought about his family all afternoon, sympathizing with the indescribable pain they are feeling. I emailed Jeremy to let him know I care. Poor kid - lost you and now his first cousin.

Today's sermmon was another really good one - the second part of When Everything Else is Washed Away: The Things that Survive the Storm. Kathi talked about the scripture that calls for us to die from self. I have never really understood that scripture, truth be told. Kathi explained that sometimes we have to die to what we thought our life was supposed to be. Surrender, if you will. Admit, however reluctantly, that we have been bested. Something important has been lost. And we must open up to the loss - we aren't in the driver's seat with some things. Whatever "self" we have carefully crafted is too small to get us through this storm. But it's ok because God is bigger than the storm. Some things we can't change no matter how strong we are. We are broken open and must face the storm. It takes us to a different shore where we would never have gone before. We must trust and not run from the suffering. Embrace it.

I see your death taking Dad to shores he would never have visited otherwise. In his quest to fill his days with something besides grief and loneliness he is doing lots of meaningful work. He helped bathe his current Hospice patient. Dad's squeamish stomach has come a long way. He holds sick babies every Thursday at UC Davis Pediatrics and is helping lead a grief group for young adults who have recently lost a loved one. He does classroom work with 1st and 2nd graders several times a week. Without even realizing it, he's redeeming your death for good in the world.

After church we went to Cal Expo to the Home & Garden show (it was a waste of our time and money) but we looked across the parking lot at the water park and remembered that early summer day in '07 when you, Cody, Sean Towers, and Michael Richitos (sp) spent the day there and had a great time. We commented on how you had friends from every high school in town and connected people to each other. Just yesterday Mallory and I were talking about Chris Glynn. I asked her if they were friends from high school and she said "I only knew him through Ryan." Dad said to me today "How did he know all those kids?" That was one of the traits that made you Ryan.

We love you so much.

Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's a beautiful almost spring day here - the kind of day you loved. A day promising warm weather and the easy living of summer just around the corner.

Mal just called to tell me about her RAKs for your birthday. It was a long story involving many different people and a late night. She said "It was so much fun - the most fun I've had in college." You would like that. When I told Dad,it made him cry. I know he is thinking, like I am, that you were cheated out of your fun college times.

You were in my dream last night. We were at a party of some sort for Stevie. Everyone was waiting for someone to get there so the program could start. Turns out we were waiting for you. You came walking in, with your big, crooked grin and that little skip in your step. You were wearing a blue & white striped button down collared shirt. You sat down next to Stevie and then you got up and became the emcee of the event. I don't remember anything you said - only that you looked and acted really happy.

Dad and I miss you so very, very much.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
I had a big, long cry tonight. I was attempting to make some room in Ross' closet by moving all your and my books into a different closet. Going through your books was an emotional experience. I flipped through most of them and looked at the various things you used as bookmarks - a picture of you & Hanna at the VanderWalls' Winter Formal dinner, a rub-on tattoo that said MOM, cd booklets, ticket stubs and BART tickets. I found a few things with your handwriting and that made me sob. Ross was helping me - I think it upsets him when I cry. He offered to finish for me but I wanted to do it. Ross wanted to keep all your books in his room.

I also found your Othello game from 1st grade. I still remember the Christmas you got it and how excited you were. You punched your fists in the air and said "YES! Ah-th-Low!" that's how you pronounced it. It was a favorite memory for Aunt Les and me.

Tonight I found a website for a boy who died last June. He was 23 and swept away to sea by one of those rogue waves. I read his web page and like many who die too young, he seemed to be a really neat kid. Someone described him as "a hunk of spunk". I thought that was cute. You were also a hunk of spunk.

I miss you so very much.
All my love,
Mom

Wake Forest Kappa Delta 
Hi Mrs. Dickerson.

I am a Kappa Delta with Natalie at Wake Forest. From reading your entry I can see that she has already told you of this, but once I found this website I just wanted to let you know. During our pledge retreat we all had to bring 3 items that represent us or are meaningful in some way. It was not long after we had all gotten bids, and nobody had truly made close friends with the girls we were now supposed to become sisters with. One of my closest, lifelong friends died in a car crash at 16 years old, and I debated for a very long time whether to bring one of his shirts or a picture as one of my items. In the end I chose not to as I did not feel comfortable knowing that I would have to stand up in front of 50 people and share my worst experience with them. Natalie, however, did have this courage. She stood up in front of all of us and showed Ryan's bracelet as she explained this has taught her to live each day to the fullest without taking anything for granted. She said she wears it every single day. This is true. A few days ago during our sorority initiation, the only non-white article was her bracelet.

I am thankful I came across this website and was able to tell you about this experience. Ryan Dickerson will never be forgotten.

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Oh my, it has been a 3 ring circus around here tonight. Reminds me of the old days when crazy things used to happen in our lives because we had so many kids, dogs, neighbors, friends and critters around. Our lives are very quiet now so nothing much exciting ever happens. It's too complicated to thoroughly explain but it involves Scrumpy bolting out the door in pursuit of a deer in our yard; Dad and I chasing after Scrumpy while Scrumpy chased after the deer; the deer fatally injuring himself; the neigbors's gardener's son backing his car into Ross' car as Ross was trying to let the deer out of the gate; a geyser erupting from the sprinkler system next door - likely because the frightened deer ran over it and broke it. It was quite a chaotic evening. Poor Dad just came in from fixing the sprinkler. Scrump is in the dog house - figuratively. Tender hearted Ross is very sad about the deer. And it all started with me opening the front door to shoo away the deer who was eating our roses.

I got word a few minutes ago that Dave Gilchrist's dad died today. Dave said he was a typical Midwesterner - didn't say much, worked hard and was very honest. I'm sad for Dave and his mom. I told Dave I hoped you were there to welcome his Dad to heaven and tell him what a good guy his son was. We parents never tire of hearing good things about our children. I am sure that is still true in the next life.

For my birthday Julie gave me the greatest gift - postage stamps with you picture on them. I used one on a thank you note I sent my friend Sara. She said her husband, Brett, commented on the photo and said "“What a handsome child. You can look in his eyes and tell he grabbed life by the tail.” I told her you did indeed.

Natalie sent me some photos of a snow covered Wake Forest today. She said this: The other day they had a spring break theme in the pit and there was music going and lots of decorations. There were football players just dancing and talking into a microphone, either telling people to dance with them or singing along. Sigma chi made some of their pledges dance with the football players and there was one pledge in particular who had some really funny/ borderline dorky dance moves. It reminded me of Ryan so much, although I'm sure Ryan would have done something like that voluntarily.

I told Natalie that I often wonder what college would have been like for you. I am fairly sure you would have had a great time. I feel so cheated that you had to miss out on that experience.

Love you much
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
The sky looks like a stormy Texas sky tonight - not like a California sky. It has been raining for days. We need the rain and I like it but I know the gray, dreary days aren't good for Dad and Ross.
The sky reminds me of the one and only voice mail from you that I have saved on my phone. You left it from Texas when you were there visiting Ross Parker and Henry a few weeks before you died. In the message you tell me about the weather. You say "It's nice here. Like in the 70's or 80's and there's this big cumulus nimbus cloud - you know those big clouds we learned about? It's very cool. It makes me reminiscent of my time here, you know what I mean?"
I love the message and listen to it about once a week.

I finished The Geography of Bliss today. Here's what the author had to say about happiness at the end of the book.

Love is more important than happiness.
Money matters but not as much as you would think.
Family is important - so are friends
Envy is toxic
So is excessive thinking
Beaches are optional
Trust is not.
Nor is gratitude.

I wonder often if I will ever be happy again. Can't imagine that I will as hard as I am trying.

I am speaking next week in Wichita Falls at the annual Hospice dinner. I have my speech written but I'm not happy with it yet and I have been so busy that time to edit it has been scarce. I want to convey a message that is more than one of profound loss and grief but also one that speaks to the value of friends and family when unspeakable tragedy strikes. I'm looking forward to seeing our old friends. But like everything else we do for the first time since losing you, being in Wichita Falls will be hard. Memories everywhere.

Love you, love you, love you dear boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Tonight on the way home from work I was listening to the audiobook The Geography of Bliss. The author told a story of a good friend dying suddenly while playing the computer game, Tetras. He had already described the friend in glowing terms. This is what he said that I loved - "The official cause of death was a massive cardiac infarction but I believe his heart was so big and generous that it just gave out from over use." I thought to myself, as I heard that line, Hmmm...maybe that's what happened to Ry. His heart too was big and generous and could easily have succumbed to over use. I like that thought very much. I remember the night Moak called to tell me you had drowned. I called him right back, just minutes after I had hung up the first time, and said "We have to donate his organs. We have to give that big, sweet heart to someone else." He then told me because you had died at camp an autopsy was required so your major organs couldn't be donated. That seemed like such a waste.

These days my work is akin to running a marathon without a water break. I'm so tired. And the stock market went down another 300 points today. The fact I'm worrying about it must mean I am improving. In the first year after your death I didn't care about much of anything, including our investments. Now I at least care whether I'm going to live in poverty in my old age. Though I'm still hoping I won't ever see old age.

Today I sent an email to Dad thanking him for doing something for me. I said "fanks. Fanks a lot" like you used to say when you were little. Dad responded with one line - I miss him so much.

I do too. We miss you with all our hearts.

Much love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
We woke up this morning to a rainy, cool day. It would have been a perfect day to skip church and read the paper and a good book in front of the fire. But my dutiful self prevailed and I'm so glad it did. The sermon spoke to me in a meaningful way. It was entitled "When Everything Else is Washed Away: The Things that Survive the Storm". Kathi used sea glass as a metaphor throughout and it resonated with me. Sea glass is one of the only things of beauty that starts out as litter/trash in the ocean. But after being tossed about in the sea - it becomes smooth, polished and beautiful. I guess that is what I hope happens to me when this storm I'm weathering subsides. Maybe on the other side - the calmer shore that I hope to find someday - my character will be smoother, calmer, polished and beautiful - the rough edges from this devastating loss sanded away.

It was also communion Sunday which ALWAYS makes me think of you. You never failed to pray at the altar railing after taking communion. In my mind's eye I can see you in your ragged blue jeans, on your knees at the far corner of the railing, praying with such earnestness. Often I would position myself beside you and pray too. I almost always finished before you did. You were a good pray-er and never self conscious about it or too cool to pray in public. I admired that about you.

Kathi invited the congregation to fast from trivial conversation during Lent. I love that idea. It means resisting the urge to gossip or criticize others or complain or be sarcastic or judgemental; to refrain from cursing or lying or speaking impulsively or using a harsh tone. I'm going to give it my best shot.

Tonight Dad and I watched a documentary about forgiveness. I read about it in the Compassionate Friends' newsletter. I'm sure it was aimed at parents whose children have been murdered or killed at the hand of someone behaving irresponsibly. We don't have anyone to be mad at about your death but we watched it anyway and it was very good. One dad, whose 20 year old son was murdered while delivering pizza, spoke. The dad described his son so much like you. He said he was charismatic and had a million friends. He said he was a magnet for people - all kinds of people and lived life to the fullest. And he said his son was an old soul in a young man's body. You were also all those things.

Love & miss you so much sweet boy. I wish I could dial 209-324-7400 and hear you say "hey Ma...what's up?"

I love you to the moon and back.
Ma


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I didn't write to you over the last couple of days. Not sure why. Sometimes I think I should stop these letters since you never write back. (a little like it was when you went to Camp as a little boy). And I worry that I sound so maudlin and pathetic. Maybe it would be best to just keep my sad thoughts to myself. But then I find myself back at the computer or thinking about what I'm going to say to you in my next letter.

Last night we had dinner with two couples who have also both lost children. It was a lovely evening - good food & wine, a nice fire, and pleasant conversation. And we all "get it". When we talked about wanting to die to be with our child, we didn't worry that the others would find us melodramatic or call the psychiatric hotline. We all understood. All 6 of us have that sadness in our eyes that will likely never go away. But yet, we laughed and talked about normal things too - movies, the dreadful economy, our careers. It is comforting to me to have friends in this same terrible club. One of the couples is coming up on the 1 year anniversary of their daughter's death on March 5. The other couple just passed the 5 year anniversary of their son's death. Both the moms have incredible faith - much stronger than mine. They are confident our kids are in heaven and that heaven is real. I still struggle with doubt so it does me good to have an infusion of that kind of solid faith.

Hope is in short supply for me these days. I feel hopeless about so many things - the newspaper business, the economy, the stock market, our family's future, my prospects for ever being happy again. And then I woke up yesterday to find this encouraging message of hope on my computer - written by the grandmother of a young girl battling cancer.

HOPE...when we feel we can't go on we only have to lift our head up and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel...and know that God is there. He gives us the strength we need to carry the heavy load...because of HOPE we are able to keep pushing. It is the HOPE that tomorrow will be a much better day...though today was not so good...we have HOPE to get us through. Looking at a very bad situation it is HOPE that whispers.."It is going to be okay." In the midst of turmoil...it is the glimmer of HOPE that helps us make it through another day. During sorrow and sadness it is HOPE that gives us the encouragement that the pain will be easier to bear tomorrow. When we feel our world has come to an end as we know it now...God speaks HOPE through one of His angels that shares HOPE with us. When we need to hear from God and we have not...it is the HOPE of tomorrow that keeps us moving and not falling by the wayside. ONLY through God can we have HOPE...we cannot find hope in the world...because we are in this world not of this world. May you have the peace of God and the HOPE for a blessed tomorrow.

So I am trying to be hopeful. I know you would want me to.

Because you always gave something up for Lent, I have done so this year. I was always impressed with your commitment to your sacrifice. I always told you I was going to give up nagging and you would always say "ain't gonna happen" and you were right, of course. Nagging is too ingrained in me. But this year I have given up eating after 6pm Sunday through Thursdays. I've made it two days now.

Dad just mailed a big box of Girl Scout cookies to Tyler. He bought them from a girl at the school where he volunteers. You and Tyler were our Girl Scout cookie eaters and you're both gone so off to Iowa the cookies have gone.

I'm reading a book called The Geography of Bliss. It's about where in the world the happiest people are. Yesterday, I got to the part where the author said his research shows the death of a child causes the most devastating grief among all the cruelties of life- a crushing grief that some never recover from.

Dad just came in with the mail. There was a letter from Abercrommbie & Fitch saying they have been trying to find you to give you your last paycheck.


We're having guests for dinner so I better get busy. I love and miss you so much, Ryan.

love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
Tomorrow is Brianne's birthday. She was always 10 days younger than you and now she has passed you up. Doesn't seem right.

Dad was especially sad today. Missing you more than usual. There's a new thing going around on Facebook. Three Things. Dad just read Sean Towers' and came in to talk to me about what yours would be. Three Names you are called - yours would be Hottie D, Ryanizer, Ry probably; Three Favorite TV shows - The Office, The Sopranos and The Daily Show (and those horrible poker tournaments in Las Vegas) Three favorite foods - Fettucini alfredo, sushi, chicken fried steak (not dad's grilled chicken); Three Jobs You Had - American Chevrolet, Hollister and babysitter for Jackson; Three Places you Lived - Highland Village, Wichita Falls and Modesto; Three Places You went - Paris, New York, Hawaii; Three Pets - you only had two Spooner & Sarah (maybe you could claim Chris' cat that always made you sneeze); Three Favorite Bands - your friends would have to answer this one though I think Say Anything would be one of them. Three Favorite Teams - Modesto High Panthers, Texas Aggies and Johansen Vikings; Three Favorite drinks - purple Gatorade, lemonade, Mexican sodas.

We sure do miss you sweet boy.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I'm home from another grueling day at work, just listened to the Prez and was honestly inspired, took Scrumpy for a short walk to clear my fuzzy brain and burn a few calories and soon I'm heading to bed. I was in bed by 8:30 last night and probably will be tonight. That is sort of embarrassing.

John called Dad tonight. He was thrilled to hear from him. They chatted a few minutes and Dad laughed a lot. Then he hung up the phone and sobbed. We didn't really talk about it, other than him telling me he loves John and it made him feel good that John called.

I'm reading this book I heard about on that Oprah episode that featured the parents who lost their twin son the day he was coming home from a study abroad experience in New Zealand. The book is called Broken Open - How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. My sweet friend Bob Weil bought it for me. In the chapter I read last night a rabbi who was seriously injured in an accident wrote about suffering. He said "If I could distill all the great writings on suffering down to a few words, I would simply say that suffering and crisis transform us, humble us, and bring out what matters most in life. Accidents open us to a world of meaning. Still, it is a hell of a way to be blessed."

I will never believe your death was a blessing but I'm doing my best to redeem it for good in my world. I would still give all I own or ever hope to own to have you back. Every once in a while, I play a little game in my mind where you return and for those few seconds I feel such great joy. I would never complain again about anything if we could have you back. But alas, that will never be. All I can hope for is to be with you in the next life.

Your tired Ma is off to be now.

I love and miss you so very much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I am exhausted. I could literally curl up on the floor of my office and sleep through the night. I have been here since 7:10 and participating in back to back calls with my publishers since then. I am worn out. Maybe it's age - maybe it's my hard job in this challenging environment - maybe it's grief on top of my age on top of a hard job in a hard industry. But that energetic person I used to be has disappeared.

You would remember me telling you about Marquita, my partner in the NAA Breakthrough program. She is a young African American journalist from Tennessee and I was her mentor for a year. She is now in Liberia training Liberians how to be journalists after a civil war. It has been quite an experience and one you would have loved hearing about. She participated in the Random Acts of Kindness project last week and sent this email today. I wish I could forward it on to you because you would love it. Here's what she said:

"I'm such a smuck. Here's my late Ryan report. I traveled to Nigeria on Ryan's birthday. And, that place is absolutely wild. I had limited e-mail access there, so I'm just getting to write you My first random act of kindness was I picked up a lady on the road who was heading to the airport. She worked for Kenya Airways. She couldn't believe I stopped to give her a ride. She even hugged me when we arrived at the aiport. I told her to thank Ryan. She did, although she had no idea what I was talking about.

Once reaching Nigeria a lady had a set of twins and toddler trying to deplane. I wrapped one of the babies and carried her on my back like a REAL African woman. She was so very thankful. And, I now know how to tie the babies on. (I've been curious for some time about that.)

Lastly, I gave the guy who helped me with my luggage a tip of 500 Niara. ($4 US dollars) He smiled and smiled. He said thank Mrs. Ryan. Totally, blew that one. But he was grateful just the same. "

So I guess we can now say your RAKs were international as well as all throughout the U.S.

The stock market plummeted again today. I'm beginning to worry about this. If you were still here, I know I would be worrying about the $50k/year cost for WashU. But oh how I wish I had that to worry about.

Love and miss you so much,
Ma




Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet Ryanizer,
It's a rainy day here. We played hookie from church because I had lots of work to do. We took Scrump for a long walk in the rain. I wish you could see Dad and him. They love each other in an Al & Macy kind of way. What a blessing for Dad to have a velcro dog who adores him.

I've been watching the Academy Awards. I didn't watch last year because it was too hard to look back on what had happened in 2007. 2007 will always be a tainted year for our family. Dad and I now use movies as an escape from the real world so we have seen many of the nominees. We didn't see Frost/Nixon because we saw the Frost/Nixon play with you and Tyler in New York on our last vacation together. Dad and I couldn't bring ourselves to go to the movie - too many painful memories. Otherwise, we saw all the nominees this year.

I noticed the common theme in the dozens of birthday greetings I received was "life is a gift" so live it to the fullest. I think that is one of the reasons we parents struggle with our children's death so much more than with deaths of other loved ones. All good parents try to give their children the best gifts possible. We give our chlidren things we never had; things we would never splurge on for ourselves. We give our children gifts even if it means doing without ourselves. We give gifts that we hope enrich their lives and bring pleasure and joy. And since life is a gift it doesn't feel right for us to have it and our children not to.

Dave & Sally called tonight to tell us of their Random Act of Kindness for your birthday. It turned into a big ordeal. Dave said "When I get there with him, I'm going to say Ryan! You owe me, pal." We commented on how you would be laughing if you could hear the story. Chris Howey also emailed his RAK story. It made us laugh and reminded us of Chris when he was 8 years old and called Ross to warn him about getting his camp physical.

I love you so very much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Your ma is 51 today. So weird. I feel sad all the time, but I don't feel old. And yet even saying I'm middle aged is a stretch. I don't know many 102 year old people. So I think I'm old.

Yesterday my business associate Mary Jacobus died. She held a similar job to mine in the New York Times company. On Feb 2 she went to work like any other Monday morning but suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at her desk that morning. While in the hospital fighting for her life, she turned 52. She died yesterday afternoon, leaving behind a husband and triplets who will turn 16 tomorrow. I didn't know her well but Frank did and he was very fond of her. He cried when, on the airplane yesterday afternoon, he told me she had died. My heart breaks for her family and their shattered dreams.

I find that now that the initial shock of your death has worn off, what I mourn most are my shattered dreams. My life is not playing out the way I envisioned it would. It is hard to let go of thosee dreams. But I know that is the next step in my healing - to accept the hand life has dealt me and make the most of it.

I have received dozens of cards, emails and facebook birthday greetings - many of them from your friends. So see, you continue to bless me even after you are gone.

Debra came up last night and spent the night and all day today with me. Sort of a grown up sleep over. It has been a special birthday treat to have her here. Dad baked a cake for me and tonight we're going to dinner.

I love you so much sweet boy.
Mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today I sent an email to some of your favorite teachers, inviting them to be on the selection committee for the Ryan Dickerson Memorial Scholarship. I also asked them for nominations for the Panther award in your name. In my email I said "That award is intended for someone with many of Ryan’s traits – (the good ones – not the procrastination trait or the always losing things trait or the tardiness trait :) )". Mrs. Monjure's response made me smile. She said:

" I would be honored to help choose this year's recipient of Ryan's schlorarship.
He is always in my mind, and I will always miss him.
I do, however, think we should look at his procrastination trait as one of Ryan's positive traits, since his excuses were always so sincere and endearing.
Thanks for including me,
Maggie Monjure"

I'm leaving bright & early in the morning for a business trip so I won't be able to write to you until the weekend. I will carry you in my heart as I always do.

love you so much
Mom






Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
All through the day I have received emails and Facebook posts from friends telling me of their Random Act of Kindness yesterday or today. The stories are amazing and heart warming. You would be so thrilled. I can just see your grin if you could hear the stories. We are blessed to have so many people who loved you and love us and continue to honor your memory.

Aunt Les sent this message to me today.

"It’s been a tearful day… I sat in the grocery parking lot crying, looking at my Speed Racer key chain from Universal Studios remembering the sweet, fearful little boy that turned out to be big, brave but still sweet. Some days I just ache for all the things I still want to share with him, all the Hannah Barberra moments yet to be… knowing it’s our loss- he’s leaps and bounds ahead of us. Sharing in even better things.

I said to Alex last night (after she was so excited about a new “boy” in her life) we would’ve been calling to sing and to ask him, “Ry are you focusing on your studies and NOT your social life and GIRLS???”

Tonight at the therapist's office she told Dad and me that even though we smile and have a pleasant demeanor, she can see the sadness in our eyes. She talked a lot about the sad aura we have around us. I suppose her observations are probably correct. We try to "fake it til we make it" with the happiness thing but it's hard to fake all the time.

An old friend of ours from Lewisville was buried today. She was a lovely, gracious lady. I'm sure she's in heaven with you now. And I am jealous of that.

Love you dearly sweet boy
Mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Happy 20th birthday Ryan Hunter Dickerson,
20 years ago today I worked until noon, then got my hair cut and reported in to the hospital to have labor induced at 1pm. You were born at 5:55 pm and weighed 8 lbs. The nurse said "It's a boy. Does he have a name?" I told her Ryan Hunter and she said "That's a good "dress for success" name." And for the next 18 years, 5 months and 13 days you blessed our family immeasurably. We will miss you forever and never, ever be as happy or whole.

I came across this passage in a novel by Jodi Piccoult that I'm reading. "when a child is killed, two people die, I think. The only difference is that his mother still has to suffer a heartbeat."
So aptly put.

I have cried more in the last 24 hours than I have in months. I don't cry much anymore - just lug around the unrelenting sadness. But I have cried a lot today and last night. Reading your birthday letter made me cry. Leslie Herrmann called this morning and we cried together. We reminisced about how she took you to your surprise party two years in a row. Your 15th birthday at Chefs of New York and your 16th at FLIX. She remembered how you all rode around the parking lot in the rain in your Land Rover after you got the keys. That was a fun night. Then I cried when I got a text message from Brianna telling me about her RAKS. Her last line was "I miss him everyday."

Dad and I went to Modesto to do our Random Acts of Kindness. First we had coffee with our octegenarian friends, George and Iris, who are pretty much house bound. George especially is bored and lonely and depressed. I hope our visit cheered him up. Then we had lunch with Steve & Debra at The Barking Dog. Afterward we went to Denny's and bought 60 $5 gift cards. It was apropos to get them from Denny's since that was always your "after prom" dining spot. We walked around Modesto in the cold and drizzle for a couple hours giving the gift cards away. We gave most to homeless folks but some went to people at the Laundromat and a few to senior citizens. We told them all we were doing it in honor of your 20th birthday. Most people were really nice and appreciative. One bedraggled looking fellow saw us as we came back around his corner an hour or so after giving him a card. He said "I already used mine. I got a root beer float!"

After that we took some flowers to your grave. Going to the cemetery is hard for both of us but especially for Dad. He cries his heart out. It hurts me to watch. There were flowers there from your pretend girlfriend, Mal and some others without a card. Aunt Les also sent some in a Texas birdhouse.

There have been many reports of kind things done today in your name all across the land. We've had reports from Georgia, Texas, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Arizona, New Jersey,Florida,and of course, California. I cried when I saw how many of your friends wished you a happy birthday in their Facebook status line and several of them changed out their profile picture for today to include one with you in it. You are still loved and missed by many sweet boy.

Ross is very sad tonight - missing you and all the times you would have had together. He feels as cheated as we do.

I hope you can look down and see how much you are still loved and how you are stil changing the world little by little.

Missing you so much.
All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
from Mrs Ashlock, Ryan's 3rd grade Math teacher. They had a mutual love for each other.

Ryan,

You are on my mind and in my heart so often, especially today. I love to think of you looking down on us today and knowing in our own way we are sharing your kindness through actions we randomly do on your birthday and will continue to do in your memory. I know you are smiling.

I remember the exact spot where you sat in room 18 in math. It was as close to my desk as possible. I think you told me you wanted to sit there to keep you on track but I wanted you to sit there because we were close and could share the little quips you threw at me to make me laugh. Six years after you sat there,a special, sad, little African American girl sat in the same place. It was her first year at Ben Franklin and she had been taken from her mom because the mom's boyfriend had physically hurt and abused her. She had burn scars on her body and some on her face that looked like permanent tears. I think she sat in that place because I wanted her as close to me as I could get her. How I loved that little girl! Guess what? Today is her 14th birthday. It seemed only right that I called her and took her out to celebrate her birthday. I told her about you and how special you were to me and that you were in my heart like she is. I told her to be happy and to take advantage of every opportunity she has. I know those opportunities seem small to her now, but I pray God will open up doors for Janiescia. She still seems sad but even though they barely make it day to day, I know her great-aunt loves her and her sisters.

Happy Birthday, Ryan. I can see you dancing around Heaven today and always, always celebrating. I miss you.

Love, Mrs. Ashlock


Lynn and Ron, Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. I found myself smiling all day. I love ROK and am so thankful for parents like you. Just to share in your love for Ryan is such a great gift to me. God bless you all today. I know you smile through tears.

Love, J. Ashlock


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
You were born 20 years ago tomorrow. Such a big birthday - no longer a teenager - and you're not here to celebrate. Almost 500 people have signed up to participate in a Random Act of Kindnesss in your memory tomorrow. I know you would like that a lot.

I have cut and pasted your birthday letter from your 18th birthday below. I just re-read it for the first time since I wrote it in February of 07. It's kind of eerie to read it now. I am so sad you never got to read your birthday letters. I sometimes wish I had put them in the casket with you. You were looking forward to reading them on your 21st birthday as we had planned.
So posting them here is the best I can do.


February, 2007

Happy 18th birthday Ry – my man boy! I truly cannot believe you are officially grown. All those years Dad and I worried about who would take care of you guys if something happened to us. Now that’s a moot point. You’re a grown up in all the official ways. YIKES!

What a sweet and precious boy you are. I love you so much that it’s almost unhealthy, I think. I tell you all the time that you are joy of my life and that is so true. You have made me so proud with all your accomplishments and most especially with your outstanding character and charming personality. When I allow myself to enter that dark place of worrying about something horrible happening to you, I literally almost start to hyperventilate. I don’t know that I could go on if something bad happened to you. So I just keep asking God to protect you from needless tragedy and to keep you safe and free from harm.

As I write this, I am living in Sacramento during the week while you, Dad, Tyler and Ross live in Modesto in the great house on Wycliffe Dr. Tyler has been with us since last May 3 and in many ways he has been another brother to you.

Your 18th year was a good one. After last year’s spaghetti celebration after swim practice where 40 or so of your closest friends came over for dinner and cake, you had a good spring. You swam on the swim team, mostly swimming the 500; you were selected to interview for Boys’ State and I was so proud (Brenden was chosen but you were later added to the roster from the alternate list), you competed on the Debate team, emceed the Sr Awards night at MHS again, represented MoHi at Camp Royal (RYLA); went to Prom with Annie Benisch; broke up with Leah Macko and started dating her good friend, Lauren Willey; and played a lot of poker. You and I were scheduled to take a big spring break college trip to Boston, Nashville, St. Louis and Providence, RI but you got sick and we had to cancel our trip. We toured Berkeley instead and had a fun day.

Late in the spring Tyler moved in with us and Ross had his serious car accident.

Summer arrived. We went to Maui and took Lance with us. The Sparkmans and Pughs were also there. It was a very fun time even though Lance hurt his shoulder riding waves. We came home and you had a very busy summer. You played summer polo and became good friends with Bryan Wilson. We took a trip to St. Louis and Nashville to visit WashU and Vanderbilt. You liked them both and were conflicted about where to apply, finally settling on WashU at the 11th hour before the Early Decision deadline. You had a great week at Boys’ State, even though you didn’t want to go when the time came. (Very typical of you!) You also went on the SSP trip to some Northern California Indian reservation to do mission work with the youth group. You came home filthy but fulfilled. We later learned there were two boys noticed by the SSP administration and earmarked as future leaders. Of course, you were one of those two. You dated Lauren most of the summer and got a job at Hollister toward the end of the summer. You also baby sat for Jackson Kerr on a fairly regular basis. Summer wound down and naturally you were behind on summer homework. (Not because your mother didn’t give you plenty of friendly reminders, threats and cajoles to no avail!) You ended up pulling an all nighter the night before school started so you could finish your history summer homework. You were late with your English summer homework but luckily Mrs. Johnson loved you, like all teachers did, and gave you some additional time.

Your senior year of high school! Wow – so surreal for Dad and me. As I write this, it is over half way over. It has been a great year for you. Water polo captain, Coach’s Award winner, fun times on tournament trips, debate team, SAT tests, working on Extended Essay. You missed being a National Merit Finalist by two measly points (one question, as you always say). We were both disappointed but c’est la vie. At least we weren’t counting on that for a full ride to college. We were very proud of you anyway for coming so close. You received hundreds of brochures in the mail from colleges all over the country. I saved them all and I bet the box weighed over 50 lbs by the time I threw them all out. You worked with Linda Rue on college essays and applications, finally narrowing your list down to WashU, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, UCSB, Penn. You applied early decision to WashU and got in! A very exciting day – December 14. You were in a lock down in Mrs. Garvin’s class when you went online and checked your application status. It was a gratifying answer since you had personally called the admissions officer and plead your case after making less than stellar grades on your first report card.

You went to Winter Formal with Dana Bondi as a favor to Will Countryman who was sick with some awful sinus cloggation problem. Dana was your good friend so you had fun. You had gone to Johansen’s Winter Formal with Morgan Kelly a few weeks before on a blind date of sorts and had a great time.

Your good friends are Tyler Seymour, Bryan Wilson, Terrence Musca, Steve Giahos, Mark VanderWall, Cody Alkire, Tim Ju, John Byron-Fetz, Sidney Lara, Brianne Sparkman, Brianna Pugh, Hanna Nilsson, and dozens of others. You are a dear, kind, compassionate person who is fun and funny. You make the world a better place just by being in it.

You are still absent minded. You still kick dirty socks off at the end of your bed so that when I change your sheets I find lots of gross socks. You still take long, extended poops with your computer in your lap or a book. You still lose stuff though not as bad as you once did. You still love to look at your profile (especially your abs) in the mirror. You still ask me if I think you’re getting fat while eating a handful of M&Ms or Doritos or a big bowl of Waffle Crunch. You are still ALWAYS late! Time management is your weakest area. I’ve often said to Dad that with all your many talents and skills, if you were a good time manager you would really be hell on wheels! But unfortunately you’re still working on punctuality and time management. I still have hope.

You recently joined The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom staff because you thought the staff’s answers each week were stupid. So instead of just criticizing it, you decided to do something about it! I like that about you.

There are many things I like about you. And I miss you lots already. I’m sad because I feel like I’m missing much of your senior year and last year at home by being in Sacramento for my new job. And in just a few months you will be gone – off to college and to spread your wings and fly. I have no doubts you will be incredibly successful and happy. You’re hard wired that way!

I love you, Ry. Thank you for redeeming me as a mother and bringing so much love, laughter and joy to our lives. We are richer because you’re in our lives.

Much love,


Mom


It makes me cry to read this letter now. I often tell people I loved you too much. And I always lived in fear of something happening to you and it did. Maybe somewhere deep inside I knew that would happen - kind of like when you see a movie and you know a beloved character is going to die. I don't know. I just know losing you was as bad or worse than I ever dreamed it would be. My world is so much darker without you in it. I look forward to being with you again someday.

If you were here, I would say to you, as I always did - Today is the last day you'll ever be 19.

All my love plus some,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Happy Valentines Day Ry,
Ross just showed me the Zits cartoon in today's paper. Like all of them, it was right on the nose and reminded me of you. It showed Jeremy and Pearce and his other buddy rushing to get in the store at the mall before they closed to buy their Valentines. The metal curtain thing was lowering on their hands as they pleaded with the store clerk to let them in for one quick purchase. I remember taking you to Longs or Savemart several years in a row on Feb 13 just before bedtime so you could get candy and a card for that year's girlfriend. Planning ahead was never your strong suit but you always came through.

Mrs.DeFord, our friend from Highland Village sent us a letter to you today. Here it is:
Dear Ryan,
Happy Valentine’s Day! It has always been my most favorite holiday. I think it stems from decorating a Valentine box in school and then the thrill of delivering and receiving so many love notes. As an adult, it’s justified to continue this loving tradition because the Bible tells me so. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
After composing my annual Valentine’s letter, (that fell by the way side the last few years but that’s another story) the one addressed to your parents sat on my desk for a week. It will be late, with no handwritten note because I couldn’t find any words to express the deep heartfelt sadness I have for them. I think it must be every parent’s worst fear to lose their child and without personal experience, I feel at a complete loss to try and console their pain.
I have to tell you, I can’t help but smile when I think of you! Big brother Ross was a tough act to follow but somehow you held your own, without even flinching. Funny the memories we retain, but I can see you on one of those “turtles” at Highland Village Elementary on Field Day. Those stupid gizmos that were like a bicycle seat with roller skate wheels and handle bars, of which you put your feet on the handle bars and the whole contraption, sat 3 inches off the ground. You had to move the handle bars back and forth to build momentum to get the things rolling. Poor Evan and Ross worked so hard to get 10 feet across the black top and thought they were gladiators. Even your dad and I gave it a try, I’m not sure about your dad but I know I left all the skin off my knuckles on the concrete. From then forward, I always hated those goofy things! While busy serving water to a bunch of hot school kids, you hopped on and did circles around the whole play area. Gosh, I think you were still in diapers. Those first signs of an overachiever that made it look soooo easy.
When I learned of your passing, like everyone, it was too shocking to believe. How could this have happened? During phone conversations while enduring frequent business travel, Kalena would often tell me she had been to your web site and read your mom’s letters. She would be in tears telling me about how hard the day had been for “Mr. and Mrs. Dickerson” and would always end with, “Mom, they need to publish these letters in a book. It would be such a gift to help others.” As I spend more time reading these treasures myself, I know Kalena is right.
Well Ryan, when the time comes, I’ll be in line with your folks to ask God to help me understand why He called you home so early even though I already know His plan is perfect. I am thankful that your awesome parents did set you on the right path early in life so no one needs to worry about where you are right now. And it’s obvious, you got the whole “love” part of the scripture because you have so many love notes posted here that the biggest-ever heart decorated shoe box couldn’t contain them. I suppose it’s the rest of us that will continue to work on strengthening our faith and hope. And if you wouldn’t mind, can you ask Jesus to send a mega dose of the peace that passes understanding to your parents? I know they are going to need it in the upcoming days as they celebrate your 20th birthday without being able to hug you.
Love,
Jean DeFord

That was our nicest Valentine.

We're off to the movie. We are trying to see all the movies nominated for an Oscar this year. We only have two to go.

Love & miss you so much.
Ma


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Bryan and Lauren are here tonight. It's good to be with them. I have missed you more than usual today. I did the USA Today crossword puzzle while I ate lunch at my desk. It had all kinds of Abe Lincoln clues and there was one in particular that I didn't know but knew you would have known. I wanted to call you and ask. And then, while driving home I thought about how much I miss hearing about your college life. I often wonder how you would have done. Would you have procrastinated but still pulled it out? Or would you have been forced to manage your time better at such a hard school? I wonder if you and Natalie would still be in love or if you would be dating other people. I wonder if you would have liked WashU and St. Louis or wanted to come back to California for school. I'll never know any of those things.

You were born on this Thursday night 20 years ago. The 16th was on a Thursday in 1989. It was a very special day.

Dad went to see his new Hospice patient today only to find out he died two days ago. And tonight he helped lead a grief support group for young adults. He's doing lots of good work with his life. I'm jealous. I'm just fighting the brutal newspaper war.

The RAK idea continues to grow. So cool. You would love this.

Love you & miss you so much,
Mom

Debra Brady 
Remembering that Ryan was a big Abe Lincoln fan, I'm especially remembering him on the 200th anniversary of this president's birth. In this amazing political time in our history, I would so enjoy hearing Ryan pontificate on the various topics regarding the challenges and reponses of the current administration! I'm sure Ryan has a crowd gathered around him in heaven. Maybe he's even celebrating with Mr. Lincoln himself! If so, say hello for me, Ry. I wonder what 200 earth years is in heaven years.

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
I am bone tired tonight. I have always been a hard worker but my work has never been harder or more stressful. Today was especially exhausting. I had to go to a reception at the Capitol tonight for CNPA. Ross went with me since Dad and Scrumpy had obedience training. Ross was delightful. He was his most charming self and I really enjoyed having him with me. I talked to John Giaramendi, the Lt Gov. I thanked him for the note he sent when you died. He said "What happened? Did you ever find out?" I told him all I know but the mystery remains.

Dad subbed today for a class of special needs kids. They played Duck, Duck, Goose for 45 minutes since their regular activity was cancelled. Dad said they loved it. He gets rave reviews from the kids where he subs. Can't you imagine that he's such a fun substitute teacher?

It is only 8:42 but I'm going to bed. What an old lady I have become.

I will leave you with another quote I found in that book. It's another good one.

"Some die without having really lived, while others continue to live, in spite of the fact that they have died." Anonymous

I think that describes you.

Love you so very, very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad subbed at an elementary school today. He was the P.E. teacher and enjoyed it. Later at our counselor appt, we were talking about all the things Dad is doing - volunteering at Hospice, Make-A-Wish, UC Davis Pediatrics, Deterding Elementary and substitute teaching - I commented that if you hadn't died, Dad would be very happy with his life. He said "yea, I would be real happy." But he's not real happy because he misses you so much. Last night I walked into the kitchen and he was sitting at the bar with his computer, sobbing. He was "talking" to Lance and another of your friends online. I hugged him for a few minutes and tried to share the sadness load for a few minutes. It is a heavy load to lug around all day.

Annie Benisch emailed today to say she has spread the Ryan's RAK word to her sorority at UCDavis. There are a bunch of Princeton kids signed up so I'm guessing Fallon recruited them. Ditto with Arizona kids and Mallory. Kris Murphy has enlisted dozens of her friends all over the country. Susan Lily and Susan Pugh were going to tell Omega Nu about it at the meeting tonight. There were almost 400 participants on Facebook the last time I looked. My old friend Patty Lucas, from Plano emailed to say she is buying art supplies for a daycare that serves low income kids and kids with disabilities. Her daughter works there and when Patty told her, Jessie cried. I'm awed at all of this. And grateful. As Annie B said in her email "Ryan would be so proud."

"Your heart has brought great joy to many. Those hearts can never forget you." quote by Flavia Weeden

Love you so much
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
The Random Acts of Kindness for Ryan initiative continues to grow. Over 300 people have signed up to participate through Facebook and many more have emailed me. One friend wrote tonight to ask if Oprah knows our story. :) She doesn't but I suspect even Oprah would be impressed with all the good things that are going to happen next Monday in your memory.

I found another entry I loved in the book the Sparkmans gave us. I may have posted this one before but it's worth repeating.

"In a harbor, two ships sailed - one setting forth on a voyage, the other coming home to port. Everyone cheered the ship going out, but the ship sailing in was scarcely noticed. To this, a wise man said, "Do not rejoice over a ship setting out to sea, for you cannot know what terrible storms it may encounter. Rejoice rather over the ship that has safely reached port and brings its passengers home in peace." And this is the way of the world. When a child is born, all rejoice, when someone dies, all weep. We should do the opposite. For no one can tell what trials await a newborn child, but when a mortal dies in peace, we should rejoice, for he has completed a long journey, and there is no greater boon than to leave this world with the imperishable crown of a good name."

I often think how grateful I am you died in peace and that 99% of your short life was very happy. Not many of us can claim that. And you certainly left this world with a good name. And I also take solace that you will never suffer or struggle in this world that is full of suffering and struggle.

Natalie wrote to say she went on a weekend retreat with her sorority. She had to bring three things that represented the important things in her life. She took her swim cap, a picture with friends and her Ryan bracelet. She told the group her story - your story.

I wish you could see Scrumpy. He loves Dad SO much! When Dad hugs me, Scrumpy gets jealous and squirms his way in between us. It reminds me of how when you were a little boy, you would yell out "hey, I'm in the family too!" and come get in between us for a family hug. Scrumpy has many of your personality traits - honestly!

I love & miss you lots
Mom

Love you so much
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's a rainy Sunday night here in Northern California. The badly needed rain has finally arrived after being predicted all day. I am dreading the week ahead. Work is really hard these days and this week is going to be especially challenging.

Matt Miller is here tonight. I made lasagna and the four of us had a fun dinner, reminiscing about Ross & Matt's high school days and his many crazy stunts. You would have loved it. I could almost hear your giggle. It was the kind of night with your brother and his friends that you loved.

299 people have signed up on Facebook to do a Random Act of Kindness on your birthday. My heart is touched by some of the name - people you went to Lakewood with or were in Boy Scouts with or knew in Wichita Falls or Dallas. The internet can be an amazing tool for something like this. Patrick Ip emailed tonight to say he's organizing a Random Act of Kindness - Friendship Day at Modesto High on Feb 17 since Feb 16 is a school holiday. Matt M started his RAKs last night by giving away a pizza to a homeless guy near Oakdale & Scenic. You would like that - I remember stopping at Walgreens one Sunday afternoon after leaving LaParilla. I went in to get a prescription and you waited in the car. There was a panhandler out front and when I came back out, you had given him your "to go" food from LaParilla.

I have been re-reading a little book the Sparkmans brought to us on the night you died. For the first few nights after that horrible news, I read a few pages from this book before my sleeping pill took effect. I found it comforting then but now that I'm re-reading it, I find I can't remember much of what I read then. My poor brain was in the blender with the puree button pushed. So I read with fresh eyes. There are many good ones. Here is one.

But when God sent you to me
He never said that you were mine,
That I could keep you always -
Only borrowed for a time.

Now, He's called you home,
I'm sad and I shed tears.
Yet I'm glad He loaned you to me
And we had these many years.

by Edna Burch from Missing You

I love and miss you so much, bud
Ma



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
This Random Acts of Kindness thing for your 20th birthday is having all sorts of unexpected side benefits - for me. Not what I expected but I take them all with gratitude.

I reconnected with Kris Hunter Murphy. Kris married Brent Murphy, our Highland Village neighbor when you were only 5. We "helped" them get engaged by arranging a full page ad in the Lewisville Leader for Brent to propose. Anyway, they were darling high school/college kids when you and Ross were babies and little boys. Kris gave Ross swim lessons when he was little and he & Clint used to spy on them when they kissed in the car out in front of the Murphy's house when they were dating. I remember Ross referring to Kris as Kris Killer once (he confused the Hunter with Killer - it was cute) They have been married 15 years now and have two beautiful kids of their own. Kris' dad died tragically when she was 15. She now has a blog and I read some of it over the last couple days. In one entry she talked about writing a letter to the son of a friend of hers who died. She talked about the importance of sharing stories of lost loved ones with their survivors. It rang true to me because I, too, love to hear stories of you that I've never heard. It gives me a little piece of you that I didn't have before. And since you'll never make any new memories for me, that's all I have. This is what Kris said in her blog.

"I CHERISH beyond WORDS when people share memories of my dad. I have run out of new memories...I love when others share them w/me."

Amen, Kris, amen.

Another blessing from the RAK outreach came from Alex Negranza. He wrote a long email, sharing stories I had never heard (thank you Alex). Dad and I both cried when we read his email. I can see it all happening in my mind's eye - you, Fallon, Alex and Rebecca sitting at a table in Mrs. Malekos-Quick's 6th grade GATE class, you walking between classes at LaLoma, etc. Here is some of what Alex said to us:

"Hello Lynn.

I'm really glad I got this e-mail.

My name is Alex Negranza, and I went to Lakewood and La Loma with Ryan. I don't know if you remember this, but I went out and had two arrows tattoo'd on me in memory of Ryan. I've wanted to take some time to write you, but never actually did. So, here it is. I remember when Ryan first moved to Modesto and joined us at Lakewood. Before, Keith Becker and the likes were my best friends. Keith and I jumproped together w/ the Jazzy Jumpers and Gloria was my coach. I had heard about this new Texan boy who had moved here and how cool he was. So naturally I couldn't wait to meet a real cowboy on the first day of school in 6th grade. Alas, the first day of school,...and no cowboy hat. What? Did he get scared and run away from the ocean and beaches and go back to the ranch and horses? Then class started and this blonde haired white boy introduces himself as Ryan. I don't exactly remember how exactly it came up later that year, but I do believe that some combination of Ryan, Fallon Johnson, Rebecca Zellman, and myself all got to sit at a table together in the back of our 6th grade class towards the spring.... I remeber specifically one day that we were trying to figure out everyone's middle name because for some reason we had nothing better to do. We figured everyone's out except for Ryan's. Fast forward to 7th grade. Naturally, with a new school year, you don't get to see or talk to people as much as you want to or used to. Me trying to figure out Ryan's middle name was an ongoing joke throughout the year. Then 8th grade happened. It was the beginning of the fall quarter. I remember the Advanced English and History classes had to switch rooms between 2nd and 3rd periods. We'd all meet in between the classes, talk and then ruuun to class as the bell rang. It was always fun. One day, and I remember this as if it were slow motion and in a movie, Ryan walked past me and pulled his arms up and pantomimed shooting an arrow at me through a bow. It hit me, HUNTER! The story makes me laugh at the sillyness of the whole thing.
When a friend told me that Ryan had died, I immediately ran out the door to the backyard and started crying. I couldn't believe it. I spent the next weeks constantly reading about him. Researching Camp Champions and waiting to hear more. I foraged the internet for hours at a time trying to find out more. I went to Ryan's funeral and still couldn't believe it. I couldn't deal with the thought of grieving and I couldn't forget Ryan. I wanted to celebrate him. He showed me how to live a good life. It was at Ryan's funeral when I decided to adopt a new life philosophy and to truly live by it. I wanted to live my life to the fullest. I wanted to live my life as if it were my last day. I longed for compassion on a deeper level. I wanted to be a positive influence on every person I met. I wanted to pick up where Ryan left off. February 16th last year I went into a Seattle tattoo shop and made an appointment to get my first tattoos, two 'Order of the Arrow's, one on each forearm. People ask me all the time what the significance of my tattoos are. When customers ask me, I sometimes say "They're a memory," or even, "It's to remember a friend." But when people in general ask me, I tell them this...

"Do you know that ONE person in your life? The ONE person that you've met that is different than every other person. You know that this ONE person is going to change the world somehow. Cure Cancer or Aids. End Poverty and Hunger. Bring World Peace because that ONE person is the President of the United States. That one person is a friend of mine who died way too young. Fresh out of high school and the perfect son for amazing parents living the American dream and getting through the day with each other. Ryan was the guy who always did what was best and was a positive influence on everyone. He lived his life to the fullest. These tattoos are for his memory."

I am now living in Seattle as a competitive professional barista, barista trainer, industry consultant, and cafe manager. I have traveled to Vancouver, Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego for coffee and worked with some of the most important people involved in the world's 2nd largest traded commodity, coffee. I compete in barista competitions and latte art championships. I'm also an industry consultant for many businesses and restraunts around Seattle. I am confident that this is because of my new life philosophy brought on by Ryan. I try to do a "Random Act of Kindness" everyday in Ryan's memory. I know it's not much, but as you already know, Ryan was an amazing human.... I grieve with you. Know that you're never alone and there's always some out there with you.

I will be sure to e-mail you my random act on Ryan's birthday...."

There are hundreds of people committed to a Random Act of Kindness on your birthday now. You would think this very cool.

All my love dear boy,
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
You continue to make a difference in this world. Yesterday I had an idea of how to acknowledge your birthday this year. I sent an email to lots of your friends and mine asking them to each perform a Random Act of Kindness on your 20th birthday in memory of you. I told them how in our family we always called them RAKs and shared with each other when we had done one of which we were particularly proud. I have been overwhelmed with the response. At last count 130 people had signed up via Facebook to participate. I have had dozens of emails from friends saying they are honored to participate and are passing it along to their kids, their mom's prayer group, their friends, posting it to their blogs,etc. It's viral marketing at its best. What a cool thing that on Feb 16, there will people all over this country doing something nice for someone else in honor of you and your beautiful life. Extending the essence of Ryan far and wide! I KNOW you would love it.

Uncle Donnie died this morning. He has been sick and nearing death's door for a long time. Bamps is very sad and for that I am sad. But I'm not sad for Uncle Donnie. I'm jealous. He is free from his suffering (and his suffering has been great) and he's with all of you who got there first. I feel very differently about death now.

Things now happen, out of the blue and for no apparent reason, and often end up blessing me in some way. For instance, through the Carepages for the daughter of one of our ad managers in Georgia, I accidentally got signed up for the Carepages update for a young woman from Houston who was born the same year you were. She is fighting cancer. So even though I don't know this girl or anyone in her family, I get a daily update on her condition and I read it with interest. Today her aunt posted a YouTube video of some Christian singer who read scriptures about how great heaven is going to be and then sang a song to the same effect. I probably never would have known about that YouTube clip otherwise but it brought me great comfort. I love it when those things happen.

I'm very glad it's Friday. I am tired and as Jimmy B would say "I must confess I could use the rest." We have a quiet weekend ahead and I'm glad. Ross is meeting Jeanne in San Francisco so Dad, Scrumpy and I will enjoy the much needed rain and recharge our batteries.

I forgot to tell you a funny thing that happened to Dad last week when he subbed at Rio. Two different kids in two different classes told him he looked like John McCain but sounded like George Bush. I don't think he was flattered by either. It has given me a chuckle though.

Love you with all my might,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
Dad turned 54 today. Seems weird that I'm married to a 54 year old guy but then I'm an almost 51 year old gal so I guess that works. We went to lunch together and mostly talked about you and how much we miss you. We also talked about how strongly (or not) we believe we'll be together again. Dad is more confident in it than I am. I hope he and the Fundies are right. I want to be together again so badly - in a place much better than this one. Miss Carol Whites sent this Billie Graham quote today and I really liked it. "Heaven will be the perfection we've always longed for. All the things that made Earth unlovely and tragic will be absent in heaven."
Won't that be great if it's true?

This birthday month is hard on me. I'll be glad when it's over. On the day Dad celebrated his 34th birthday, we were anxiously awaiting your birth. You were due on Feb 15 and I was sure you were a girl. I remember feeling just a tinge of disappointment when you were a boy. I feel guilty for even that split second because you ended up being such a blessing in my life. You were the girl I never had in so many ways. You shared your life with me and I will miss that forever.

Last night we had a session with a new counselor we're seeing. She picked up on something we had said the week before and asked us to elaborate on it. Dad had told her you had the very best traits of both of us without many of our bad traits. So we got to tell her how inclusive and friendly you were; how you could work a room and feel comfortable in almost any situation; how you were a high achiever and a hard worker; how you were fun and funny but never in a mean spirited way; how you had a "never say die" attitude in sports - Dad told her your teams never lost - but sometimes the clock ran out when your team's score was behind. We talked about your sense of duty and responsibility in spite of your ADD and procrastination tendencies. We told her how many friends you had and how much they loved you; how your teachers loved you in spite of your antics and lateness; how you lit up a room wherever you went. And we told her how very much we miss you.

Dad and I are off to obedience school with Scrumpadumpalous. And then maybe we'll have cake with Ross when we get home if he's around. And I hope Dad will feel your presence with him somehow today. As Jimmy Buffett says, "if the phone doesn't ring, it's me." Sadly there won't be a call from you in St. Louis wishing Dad a happy day.

Loving you much
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan
Charles Dickens once said "And can it be in a world so full and busy, the loss of one weak creature makes a void in any heart so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up!"

It is so.

Last night as I was going to sleep and worrying about forgetting all the little things about you, I thought of how the first great loss in my life was Papa, my maternal grandfather. He died when I was 18 1/2. Then 31 years later, I suffered the greatest and most profound loss in my life when we lost you. You died when you were 18 1/2 so I had each of you in my life for 18 1/2 years. And though I don't remember every little thing about Papa I remember the essence of him and I can still see his grin and picture him in his Lazyboy recliner and hear him cough. I can still see him walking up the hill toward home with his lunch pail after his carpool partner, Silas, dropped him off in the afternoons. I can see him sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee with Nanny. I can remember how much he loved me and how much I loved him. That reassures me that even if time fades my memories, you will never fade away, leaving me with only the pain of this loss.

Tomorrow is Dad's birthday. Feb 4 was also MawMaw's birthday. She would be 99 if she was still here. So if you're with her up there in Heaven, give her a shout out for me. Tell her I still love her and think of her often and I'm grateful for who she was in my life and the many things she taught me. I find comfort thinking you are with my grandparents and B and Grandpa Robbie and your uncle Paul. All people who you never got to know in some cases and didn't get to spend enough time with in other cases. I know you love getting to know them.

I love you so very much bud
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Some days when I'm feeling especially sad and despondent over your death, I google "bereaved mothers" and read stuff on the internet. Sometimes it helps me a little. It at least gets me through the worst moments. Today I found this Emily Dickinson quote that I really liked.

“And if I go while you’re still here…know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure, behind a thin veil you cannot see through. You will not see me, so you must have faith. I wait for the time when we soar together again, both aware of each other. Until then, live your life to its fullest and, when you need me, just whisper my name in your heart. I will be there.”

I whisper your name in my heart often. When my computer screen blinks at me or I see a green LandRover or find a shiny penney on the street or my digital clock displays a palindrome, I say softly but audibly, "I love you, Ry" and sometimes I hug the empty air in front of me, pretending you're there. I miss you so much it hurts.

Sometimes I think I'm healing and that I may one day again find the will to keep living and maybe even find joy in life again. But other times, like today I'm just so very pissed off that you died. I am angry that you - YOU of all people - died. It still sometimes feels unreal. But mostly it feels too real. Too real and too painful.

I love you with all my heart,
Mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Ryan
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit - Feb 1 once again. Our birthday month. One more painful reminder that you're gone.

My calendar saying for yesterday was a good one by Peter Marshall.
"Those we love are with the Lord, and the Lord has promised to be with us. If they are with Him an He is with us, they cannot be far away." I like that thought.

Last night we went to Modesto for the annual Pub Party Trivia contest at Tim & Aundrea Ryan's house. Three different young moms commented on your tree at the library and how much they & their kids love it. Ernest Gallo's wife, who is named Ryan coincidentally, came up to me before the games started and introduced herself. She said "Isn't it your son the tree in the library is named for?" Then she said what a wonderful tribute it is to you. I told her you were as extraordinary as the tree is. Then a young woman on Dad's team told of how she was writing an article about the new tree at the library for her children's preschool newsletter. When she realized Dad was your dad, she began to cry. So then Dad cried too. He brought her over to meet me and they both cried. It was a tender moment. She said she had read the plaque just yesterday and thought to herself that she hoped her son would grow up to be like you. So the tree is doing what we had hoped it would do - keeping your memory alive and extending the goodness of your life to people who didn't even know you.

One of the answers in one of the trivia rounds was identification of the album cover London Calling. It reminded me of how you plugged that in for our home number in your cell phone. I didn't recognize the album cover but you would have.

Love & miss you so much sweet boy
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,

We had several "Ryan moments" today. I found a shiny penny beside my chair at lunch. Dad substituted at Rio Americana and we took Ross for sushi for dinner.

Dad enjoyed his day at Rio. He told a couple of his classes about your healthy competitive dislike of Rio. For the longest time, it made me sad to drive by the school because of you.

You would love the Dragon Fly sushi restaurant we took Ross to for his birthday. I remember those many Sundays after church when you, Tyler and I would stop at Savemart and you guys would buy $40 worth of sushi and eat every bite of it.

I am so glad it's Friday. This was a busy, demanding week at work - even more so than usual. We have a full weekend but at least I get to sleep in a bit tomorrow morning.

I continue to practice mindfulness - just focusing on being present in the moment. It's a survival technique for me. Looking back hurts too much and looking forward hurts too. So I just focus on the moment and try to make the most of it.

On the way home from the restaurant tonight Dad commented on how much we would be enjoying Sacramento if you hadn't died. I said "no, we would be worrying about the newspaper industry and my job and our falling portfolio value and our falling home value and all those things that used to seem so important." It took losing you to make us realize all those things are just things but we wouldn't have that same perspective without the great loss. It's unfortunate one can't learn the lesson in an easier way. Funny how life works. I look around and see my friends still fretting over things that seem so insignificant. I guess that's why older people have more wisdom -generally they have suffered more losses and gained more perspective. I sometimes fantasize about how wonderful my life would be if God would give you back. Oh my, how great that would be! And then sometimes I have fears of dying and you not being there (wherever "there" is). It scares me. I'm not afraid of death because I expect to join you and that's something to look forward to. So I get freaked out when I have those "can't find him" fears.

You better be waiting for me when I get there, pal. That won't be a time for you to be late. Hear me?

All my love,
Mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's been 18 months - a whole year and a half - since you died. It just doesn't seem possible. Against all odds, I have continued to put one foot in front of the other and get out of bed every day and work and go through the motions of life. So much of the joy in life came from living vicariously through you. Joy and fun bubbled over in your life -supplying enough for all of us. We miss that.

I have learned many things in these hellish 18 months.

I have learned we are stronger than we think we are.
I have learned wanting to die isn't enough to make it happen.
I have learned that time doesn't heal all wounds.
I have learned who my real friends are.
I have learned a person's capacity for suffering is enormous.
I have learned that helping others helps me.
I have learned not to sweat the small stuff in life.
I have learned that tragedy is everywhere.
I have learned to never underestimate the power of human kindness.
I have learned to be grateful for those I love - especially Dad and Ross.
I have learned to be mindful and to live in the present.

I heard from several people today who remembered it was the 29th. Mal wrote to say as busy as she is at college, she never forgets you. Debra and Coleen both wrote to say they were thinking of us on this hard day. Marilyn Kilmer remembered, as did Solange Altman. Nora Cassidy wrote and said "I think about Ryan everyday. Thanks for sharing him with me." Kyle Simas wrote and said ""Ryan was and will always be close to our hearts and everyone who knew him."
We are blessed with many people who love us and you were blessed with many friends who loved you. So many of them have extended their love for you to us. We appreciate that.

Smelvin turned 20 today. They are growing up without you, bud.

I love you so very, very much
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I went online today and looked at photos of the big snowstorm that has blanketed the midwest and East coast. There were several pictures from St. Louis. It made me sad thinking how you should be there - snowed in - but probably having fun in it.

I had lunch today with a new bereaved mom friend. Her 20 year daughter was hit by a car last March. She's still in that horrific first year of grieving. We had much in common and I'm glad to have her as a new friend. Before moving here, I was concerned about how I was going to make friends in Sacramento. Now I realize almost all my friends have come about as a result of your death. That wasn't in the plan.

With today being Ross' birthday, I reminisced about the days you guys were born. What happy days those were. Then I thought if we knew how much heartache and peril lay before us, none of us would ever dare have the courage to have a baby. We go into that very normal stage of life believing all will be good. We'll have beautiful, healthy, happy, smart babies who will grow into beautiful, healthy, happy, smart children and eventually into that same kind of adult. We know the world is a dangerous place but we always think somehow we will be exempt. We believe that if we love our children enough, all will be well. And unfortunately it isn't so.

I love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Oh Ry,
A very sad thing happened. You would remember Taylor Moseley from your childhood. She is a year younger than Ross and we used to be friends with their family when we lived in Highland Village. On Sunday her 10 month old little boy choked to death. I can't stop thinking about their family. Just 23 years old and facing such grief and sadness. Knowing what lies ahead of them saddens me. I remember Debra telling me how Patty Stone felt she couldn't talk to me in the early days after your death because she knew what the next year of my life was going to be like since she had lived the nightmare 20 years earlier. That's a little bit how I feel toward Taylor and her husband. I wrote them a letter today and hope I said things that will comfort and encourage them but who knows. The truth is I know how hellish their life is likely to be and I wish I could shield them from the suffering. At least I was almost 50 before "the great sadness" took over my life. 23 is much too young to be saddled with that enormous suitcase of grief.

On a happier note, Vas called to tell us he was chosen for Boys' State. I'm so proud of him and know you would be too. I wish I could call and tell you.

I talked to Bryan tonight. He's coaching a 16 & under water polo team. They have a tournament this weekend in Rocklin. He told me about getting red carded at the last tournament for smarting off to the ref. It was a pretty funny story, I must admit. But I fussed at him for being disrespectful as you would expect me to.

I talked to my friend Joan today. She lost her husband of 50+ years the day before you died. When I asked how she's doing she said this second year is harder than the first. I understand how she feels.
We both really miss our "boys".

Tomorrow is your brother's 24th birthday. Seems so weird for him to continue to get older and you to stay 18.

I love & miss you so much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Vas called a few minutes ago to ask for pointers on interviewing for Boys State tomorrow. I know you would be so proud of him. I gave him the same advice I gave you three years ago but I think he listened more attentively. I hope he gets it. He has followed in your footsteps in so many ways - this would be another one.

Scrumpy has been outside barking wildly at something in the trees for over an hour. We fear it's a skunk. We can't get him to come in. Dad is getting crankier by the minute.

I met another bereaved father today via cyberspace. A friend of Mary Wagner's lost his only son to a cardiac arrest. He said: "We miss him terribly. He was only 39 years old." They buried him on Dec 20. Christmas will forever be sad for them.

I also got an email from Aunt Les telling me Taylor Moseley's baby died. I don't know the details.

And I connected with the woman in Charlotte whose son died last June.

Dad just captured Scrumpy and he has been sprayed by a skunk so I need to go help. yuk. We have definitely started drawing the "you lose" cards in the game of life.

love you lots
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We have a new TV in the family room and Dad learned how to show photos on the TV screen so we have been looking at big TV sized photos of you all afternoon. We have cried buckets. I am grateful we have so many photos of you - with every expression under the sun. They help me remember nuances about you that I fear I am forgetting. But they also make me miss you so very much.

I got an email this afternoon from a really old friend in Texas to whom I sent a birthday card earlier this week. She wrote to thank me for the card. As I was reading her email I realized she didn't know you had died. She asked about dad and "my boys" - saying she still rememered you both as little boys. It's rare that I run into someone this far into our loss that hasnt' heard. I wrote back and told her. It's still hard to type those words and I know it made her feel terrible to get the message. She surely felt insensitive for her email even though she shouldn't have.

Dad and I went to Modesto last night for the Movin' Out performance at the Gallo Center with Tom & Susan. We stopped by Annie's house first and visited with her and her mom for a while first. It was great to see her and hear about her adventures in South America. She just had a birthday and is now 20. It sort of freaks me out that all your friends are turning 20 and you would be too - in less than a month. Smelvin's birthday is this week. It makes me so sad and mad that you were snatched away from all of us.

I am feeling especially blue today. I guess those pictures intensified my longing for you. I often wonder if I will always feel like I'm wearing a heavy backpack of loss/grief. The books say it will get better if I do my part. I'm trying but I have no idea if I'm doing the right things. I just know that when I awake each morning, sadness washes over me.

Today is Grandpa Robbie's birthday. If your spirit is soaring around with his, give him my love.

Love you so much bud,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I didn't write to you last night because I was exhausted. Midway through the afternoon yesterday, I had a major sinking spell, as we would say in East Texas. Dad and I had planned to go to the movie last night but stayed home instead. We were in bed by 9:30 and I slept straight through until 7:30 this morning. I think the stress of my career and worry about our future, on top of the unrelenting grief, are taking a toll on me physically as well as psychologically. I've always been tough as a boot but maybe even I have an "enough is enough" point.

I read this passage this morning in Catherine Sanders' How to Survive the Loss of a Child book. "...I almost drove myself crazy thinking that I was going crazy. Since then I have come to know that most bereaved people feel that way at one time or another - that they are going a little crazy. I have also come to realize that it takes a long time to move from one reality to another. If we try to do it too quickly, we end up nowhere - having lost the past, but not searched long enough to find the new person within us or the new beginning."

Earlier this week Ross told me there's no such thing as a "nervous breakdown". That's good. Now I don't have to worry about that happening! :)

I'm listening to an audiobook called "Beautiful Boy - A Dad's journey through his son's meth Addiction". It's a heartbreaking story and makes me realize how much I have to be grateful for.

I got an email last night from a friend who lost her son 5 years ago. She said she was especially missing Matt yesterday. The Sparkmans are approaching the 10th anniversary of Kendall's death and they continue to miss her deeply. We never get over losing our children.

love you so very much
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there sweetheart,
Debra sent a youtube link to me late this afternoon that made me sob. I wanted to email it to you at your WashU email address - you would have loved it. Someone has made a video using the West Wing music and intro with the Obama cast of characters dubbed in for Bartlett, CJ, Leo, Josh, Sam, Toby, Donna, and all our WW friends. I hadn't heard the West Wing theme song since before your death. It's a song that evokes emotion in me anyway and now it reminds me of you and our old life. I miss those days so much.

My friend, Sara, a fellow member of this lousy bereaved parent club who has been so supportive of me in my grief sent me this messsage.
" I remember telling you to beware of year 2 - and I remember you saying it couldn’t be worse than 1. It’s not really worse, you are just processing on a different level than year 1. All of the numbness and shock and disbelief are gone. You have to accept death on an intellectual level as well as an emotional one. I found that extremely hard." She puts it well.

I have a new office at work. With Howard's retirement I got to move into his office which is much bigger and nicer than my old one. I have yours and Ross' senior pictures where I see them a lot now. I stared at you both today and admired both of your good looks. It still feels surreal that you are gone forever.

I have been reading a blog on the Charlotte Observer's Mom's site written by a mom whose 16 year old son died in a car wreck last June. She updates it every Monday and Thursday. I eagerly await her latest post. It's uncanny how I relate to the behaviors and emotions she describes. I still find comfort fraternizing with others who have suffered this same calamity of life. It helps me to feel less alone in my suffering, I suppose.

I should go spend some time with Dad and Scrumpy now. We miss you so much.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there bud,
Dad and I took Scrumpy to Obedience Class tonight. He did pretty well at everything except sitting. We still have work to do. I thought about how fun it would be to share our stories with you. I can hear your sweet laugh in my head. Not the loud goofy laugh but the real one - the one you used when your cousins did something cute or Sarah amused you in some way.

Dad taught 2nd grade today. Two little girls wrote a note telling him he was their favorite teacher EVER. He had fun.

Today was a very good day for Ross. We FINALLY found a college counselor who knows just what he needs and is eager to help. He is almost euphoric. He said to Dad "Where has she been all my life?" and then he told me that without him even telling her, she knew exactly what he needs and that he's never felt this good. He starts classes tomorrow and is going to tutor a young woman who has a head injury from a car wreck. I feel hopeful and lighter.

I'm reading a book called How to Survive the Loss of a Child by Catherine Sanders. The author interviewed 120 bereaved parents for her research. So much of what she says rings true for me. Such as "The death of a child ranked overwhelmingly as the most significant loss anyone can ever experience.....the pain cannot be circumvented. It must be borne in its full vengeance, with awareness....in most cases of bereavement, the shock phase is over in the first few weeks after the loss. Not so in parental grief. The death of a child takes much longer to process because the factors involved are compounded...when a child dies, the parents grieve not only for the deprivation of being without their child, but also for the lost aspects of themselves...their future has been interrupted or stolen....because parental grief takes so long to resolve, it often feels like a chronic state that will last forever."

I had lunch today with Kathi McShane, our new pastor. We talked about how I have to abandon the vision I had for my future because it's gone and until I turn loose of it, I will keep mourning that loss too.

Life isn't supposed to be this hard.

Love and miss you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Well, Ry, today was inauguration day. A day that would have had you bouncing off the walls with excitement. Many who knew and loved you thought of you today and wished you were here experiencing the hoo-rah-rah. YoYo Ma, the famouse cellist played Lord of the Dance right before the swearing in. We played that song at your funeral. It sort of took my breath away when I recognized the tune. Debra emailed to say Steve wept in the shower this morning thinking of you and how you would be watching it all with rapt attention and excitement.

Dad emailed and said "Just watched the President enter Statuary Hall for the luncheon. He reminded me of Ry and how he would be so gracious and work the room so well."

Your absence in our lives and this world was even more enormous than usual today.

Love and miss you so very much.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I'm back home from my WIT weekend. We met in Austin, Tx on the same lake in which you drowned. I have to confess I was a bit freaked out flying into the Austin airport and then spending time near that same body of water. I couldn't help thinking as I walked through the airport that you had flown into there on your last flight while alive and then your body was flown out of there after you died.

I had lunch with Holly on Sunday. It was great to see her. It was the first time I've seen her in 8 years. I cried a lot. I asked her to tell me about her experience of sitting with your body in the Marble Falls funeral home and then riding with your body to the airport. She did. She said the man at the funeral home was very compassionate and nice. She spent a couple hours with you - talking to you, ruffling your hair (she said "he had such great hair.") and writing a letter to you. Then the next day she met the funeral home man in the Home Depot parking lot across the street from where we had lunch. She rode with him to take your body to the airport. She said she went as far as they would let her go when dropping you off and told the cargo men to take special care because that was truly special cargo. I am crying as I write this and imagine your beautiful but lifeless body being loaded in the cargo section of an airplane to come home to California. I tried to thank Holly for what she did though I was crying so hard I couldn't do it very well. She said it was an honor for her. I know you would have been pleased that it was Holly with you. You always loved her. And she taught you to water ski in Possum Kingdom, remember that? At Connor's 8th birthday party. And you got homesick and Brady sat up all night with you looking at airplane books.

I still feel sort of guilty that we didn't go to Texas to retrieve your body. We didn't know what to do - we were so disoriented and shocked. It seemed like we were better needed here. There is no insruction book on what to do when your child has died. But I'm so appreciative of Holly's lovely, generous act of love. I will never forget her beautiful, selfless act.

The women in my group this weekend said I looked "alive" again. They all commented on how much better I look than the last two times they have seen me since your death. I guess I'm making progress.

I wish you were here to watch the inauguration festivities. Patrick IP is in Washington. You would be proud of him. And I know you would love this historical event.

I love and miss you so very much, bud.
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
You became an Eagle Scout 5 years ago tonight. I remember how nervous you were about your Board of Review at the Kilmers. You did great though and passed with flying colors. Marilyn had a cake for you and we all celebrated and took pictures afterward. That was a big day for all of us.

I got a Facebook message today from my old piano teacher from a few years ago. She had looked me up earlier this week and messaged me asking if I still play the piano. I responded and told her no and asked if she knew we had lost you. I explained that I haven't touched the piano since your death. It reminds me too much of life at the Wycliffe house. You would come through and encourage me on my pathetic playing. You would often say "Good job Mom. You're getting better." Once, I recall you called down the stairs and said "Hey Ma, you're getting really good." But it was Tyler at the piano, not me. We all got a chuckle out of that. Anyway, Janelle, the teacher said some really nice things when she responded to me. Her comments made me feel proud. Here's some of what she said:

"Lynn I am so very sorry for your loss. I can clearly remember that morning reading that first article about Ryan. I had just given birth to my new son on the 23rd. After a scare and a brief stay in the NICU we brought him home Sunday morning.
I remember reading the news, feeling shocked and so saddened. I walked over to my son, collected him into my arms, held him and wept. Only a mother for a matter of days, I wept for you. I wept for your pain and suffering, a mother who lost someone so precious and special.

No, I didn’t have the privilege of knowing your son, but I did have the honor of being able to be a guest in your home where I could see and feel the love you have for your sons. I can remember brief passings of one of your sons, not knowing which one he was, but I could see the love shining in your eyes and the pride of your voice when you spoke to him or about them. I do remember the large beautiful handsome photos aligning the wall, and atop of furniture. From where I sat I had a great view especially of his Eagle Scout photo. That photo was used in the ModBee article I read, and it caught my breath seeing it again. I quickly recognized him.

As time passed my thoughts would turn to you. Just this Tuesday I passed by the Wycliff house and I wondered how you and your family were doing.

So as brief as our lives had mingled, how amazing it is that I picked up on something that is so beautiful, touching and important as a Mother’s Love for her child. Again I am so very sorry for your loss. I do however thank you for allowing a stranger to catch a glimpse of a wonderful mother/son relationship. It was an experience that burned into my memory as well as my soul. What a wonderful example you set for a new mother such as I. What an imprint those brief moments many years ago left on my heart, a stranger. I can’t imagine the impact it has on you and your closest friends and family."



I'm leaving really early tomorrow morning for my Executive Women's weekend. I don't want to go and am dreading the travel. When I told Debra that tonight she said "Ryan got that same trait from you. Remember how he never wanted to go anywhere but then he always had a great time?" She's right. You were that way and so am I. I'll be gone until Monday.

"Alzers' turns 13 on Saturday. I wish you were here to call and wish her a happy birthday and warn her of the dangers of flirting with boys. She misses you too.

All my love, sweet boy, and happy Martha Luder Keen day.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi there sweetheart,
My bereaved mom pen pal in Pennsylvania emailed today telling me to watch Oprah. She said "It's us." So I watched it in my office since we don't have tivo at home. She was right. It was us. It was about spirituality and "opening into brokenness". Oprah had a family on who lost a 20 year old son nine years ago. Eric, the boy who died, was a twin and his twin brother, Ryan, was on, along with the mom & dad. It's uncanny how I can relate to the feelings they describe. So much of it is universal, I suppose. An author of a new book called Broken Open was also on and she said "grief is an expression of how well you loved." The mom talked about how in the early years of their healing they felt the need to give back to their community since their community had showered them with love & support during their loss. (That certainly felt familiar.) She said "when you help, you heal." That is a beautiful way to articulate what I've been trying to do. Helping others through their losses definitely is healing for me. And then the book lady talked about when we experience loss, our souls are like a tight bud on a plant. Opening into the brokenness is how we blossom. If we ignore our grief or suppress it or hurry through it, the bud shrivels and falls off the stem.
Believe it or not, today was the first time I've ever watched an entire Oprah episode. I am surely the only 50 year old female in America who can say that! And I watched it at work. My dutiful self feels sort of guilty about that but it was important and I didn't have a choice.

Yesterday I emailed that newspaper column to all my bereaved parent friends. There were 25 of them. I only knew two of them before you died - the Sparkmans and the Wilcoxes. I was shocked at how many kindred spirits I have connected with over the last 18 months.

I made an appointment today for Dad and I to start counseling again. I think we need someone to talk to again about losing you and all the other worries in our lives. I gave her the Reader's Digest condensed version on the phone. I'll give her the $145/hour version next Tuesday.

I love and miss you so much, sweet boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today our editor in Raleigh forwarded to me a column written by a fellow bereaved mom. Donna Howard does a great job of putting words to many feelings I have. I want to shout out YES! to her comments about others saying they don't know how we do it. Of all the things said to me over the last 17 1/2 months, the only thing that really offends me is someone saying "I couldn't bear it if it happened to me." My interpretation of that comment is that they love their child too much to let them die. I want to shout at them or punch them in the nose and say I CAN'T BEAR IT EITHER! DO YOU THINK I HAVE A CHOICE?

Here is what Ms. Howard had to say. And to it I say Amen.

http://www.newsobserver.com/105/story/1364949.html
How you can help those who are hurting
By Donna Howard, Correspondent Comment on this story

If I've heard it once, I've heard it hundreds of times since Drew died: "I don't know how you do it; I sure couldn't do it."

What does that saying really mean?

It seems to be a backhanded compliment. I assume the speaker admires our strength in moving forward.

Often though, as anger and resentment fester inside me, I hear an insinuation, a slight suggestion, a hint that the speaker loves his or her child more than we loved our son. The statement seems to imply a judgment of our love.

Does moving forward indicate a lesser love? Does lingering in emotional destruction and gloom indicate a greater love?

Drew contracted a virus; no one knows how. Pathology reports pointed to an unknown virus that caused seizures and destroyed his healthy heart in seven days. Where did it come from? How did it happen? How did we let this happen to our son? Why didn't we protect him?

These are all the questions we've asked ourselves and are sure others have asked as well. Healthy boys just don't get sick and die. The horrible truth is that sometimes they do. We did everything "right," and still our son died.

Having buried one child, my heart breaks every morning as I read the newspaper and learn of another mother who is now just like me. Through a traffic accident, drug overdose, suicide, murder or illness, another mother's child died. And that mother will have to endure her own internal questions coupled with statements, questions, and judgments from others.

Those who have kept up with my stories of Drew and his sisters know that my goal has been to bring hope to our hopeless situation. Today I want to give hope to the hurting mothers.

Statistically and sadly, some of you reading these words will be a part of our group one day. For that, I am so sorry.

None of us asked to be in this situation. None of us knew how we would survive even 10 seconds without our child. Some of us learned shocking things in the process. Some of us tried to prevent the turn of events. Some of us were never given the chance.

All of us are now living out the life we all refer to as "a parent's worst nightmare."

Yet, having been a part of it for 27 months, I can assure you that that's a false idea. A nightmare is a brief fright from which you will awake. On this earth, this pain will never leave any of us.

Many mistake a smile, laughter, or forward movement as "getting over" the child's death. Never be confused: That is an impossibility. Out of my love for my son, and as a testament to the character and will he showed, I choose to follow my faith, to succeed in my happy marriage, to love my wonderful daughters, to show diligence in my job.

I try to use my pain to find empathy for others. As I assume more of his outstanding attributes, I cherish his name and contribute to his legacy.

As others watch my grief, I hope they see all hurting mothers with new eyes. I hope that in tomorrow's headline, whatever tragic circumstances arise, you will look beyond the story. Look beyond the inexperienced driver, the slain college student or the young wife. See the broken hearts of a mother, a father, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who all wonder how they will survive, or who did survive those first 10 seconds.

Instead of asking them the unanswerable, pray for them. Send them money for the countless expenses, mail an anonymous sympathy card, drop off basic supplies, flowers, or food on their front steps; donate to a charity in the child's name. If siblings are involved, commit to a monthly visit with that brother or sister. That child will need special attention that the parents may not be able to provide.

Our front porch steps held toilet paper, dinner, cookies, cleaning supplies, and a pumpkin. Drew's name went forth on a music scholarship, soccer balls, wells, even a goat in an impoverished country. Our daughters have had dear friends take them on special outings. Doing any of these things will help each one survive for 10 more seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and I pray, for 10 more years in their pain.

Hurting people ask enough painful questions of themselves. They don't need your questions, too.

The hurting need strength from those who aren't hurting. Help them. Help us.

In the process, you'll help yourself.



love you
mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Ry,
I'm writing to you for the second time tonight because I just came across this passage in Kelly Corrigan's book that I finished tonight. I loved the book and I loved this passage.

"Someday, some later day, I'll find out what it is to be an adult - to bury someone so essential, someone you don't think you can live without, someone attached in so many places you almost fall in after them."

You were that person to us. I guess we're officially adults now.

love you
ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
It was almost like spring in Northern California today. A day you would have loved. A sunny day hinting that spring isn't far behind. In our old life, it would be almost swim season.

I had lunch with my friend from North Carolina whose 49 year old wife died in October. I heard his story and we talked about loss, faith, hope and grief. Seems like that's about all I ever talk about anymore except for falling ad revenues. Spending time with other hurting souls is good for me though - helps me remember I'm not the only person suffering.

Aunt Les sent me a copy of a sermon/talk given by Rick Warren, the Purpose Driven Life Guy who is also a big mega church preacher. Generally I find him a little too conservative for my liking but I really liked this message. I have read it multiple times and sent it on to some of my other "hurting" friends. Here's some of what he had to say:

"People ask me, What is the purpose of life? And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.
One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me.
I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.
We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.
Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.
The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort.
God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.
We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.
This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.
I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.
Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.
No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.
And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.
You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems.
If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness,'which is my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.
We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her.
It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.
You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life."

Good message, don't you think?

I love & miss you so much,
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
I recall reading how the second year after losing their child was worse for some parents than the first. At the time, I thought that was surely hogwash because I was hurting as badly as I thought was humanly possible. But I must confess this second year is very hard - different and the pain isn't as fresh and raw - but excruciating just the same. I am in constant battle with my unwelcome friend, depression, and must be ever vigilant that I don't allow it to overtake me. I am so tired of feeling sad all the time.

I have found the best medicine for the debilitating depression is to try to help someone else so on Saturday Dad, Ross and I participated in a secret Home Make-over project for a woman from work who tragically lost her 45 year old husband in August. She has gone to visit her son for a week and while she is gone, her dear friends have organized a complete re-do of her home and yard. New carpet, new kitchen flooring, new paint, new furniture, new light fixtures, a total clean up of the yard, etc. We spent about 6 hours helping on Saturday and it was good for all three of us. I wish I could be there tomorrow when she comes home and finds it. It is an amazing transformation and will surely be helpful to her in her healing.

Last night we went to dinner with the Grovers at a Moroccan restaurant, complete with belly dancers. I couldn't help but think what you would have had to say about the belly dancer. She was very pretty and very skillful with her art. You would have thought she was "hot", unlike those chubby belly dancers we used to see at the International Festival. You are never far from the forefront of my thoughts.

Tonight John "friend accepted" me on Facebook so I looked at his photos. They made me cry. There are lots of you and I cried at every one of them. You were so handsome and full of life and energy. I also cried at the ones you weren't in because I'm sad you're missing all that fun. I feel left out for you. I hope Heaven is real and all it's cracked up to be. I so want to believe that you are in a much better place than all of us.

Loving and missing you madly,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today was an especially blue day for me. Ross did a great job of talking me out of my despair. He said "You know, Mom, other than losing Ryan, our lives are really good." I agreed but said "that's kind of a big thing though." He said yes it is but then he said something really insightful. He said "We're fortunate we have the luxury of being able to be devastated." We aren't starving or hiding in fear or fighting for our survival in any way other than emotionally. I often think of the parents in Gaza or Iraq or Africa whose children die in awful ways and the parents have to mourn while fighting for mere survival themselves.

And while I was sweeping out the garage tonight I had one of those "lyrics in my head" experiences. It has happened to me multiple times since your death. I will just hear lyrics of a song in my head -usually songs I haven't heard in a long time so there's no reason I should be hearing the song. The lyrics always give me a message of some sort. Tonight it was that church hymn "It is well. It is well. It is well with my soul." When I told Dad about it he reminded me that song was written by a grieving father whose daughter died. I like to believe it's a message telling me your soul is well.

A colleague forwarded a link to the New York Times website. It was a column about a dad who lost his 8 year old son seven years ago. The dad writes letters to his son. I was glad to know I'm not the only one because sometimes I wonder if I'm weird for doing this.

I love and miss you so very much bud,
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today I read about a 22 year old who was murdered the day after Christmas in Southern California. His dad is a pastor of a big mega church. As I read the story, I was taken aback by this strange coincidence. He is survived by his Dad, Ron, his mother Deborah and one brother named Ross. Isn't that weird? Ryan died and the dad was named Ron and brother named Ross. Creepy. Thank goodness the mother wasn't named Lynn.

I had lunch with my new friend, Debra, who lost her son 5 years ago. I enjoy spending time with her since she and I have so much in common. We are members of the same miserable club. After we finished lunch, she took me to the cemetery to see her son's grave.

It was 12 years ago this week that you & Ross started school in Wichita Falls. I vividly recall that first day of school at Ben Franklin. You had little round John Lennon glasses and your eyes were as big and round as the lens of the glasses because you were so scared. I remember dropping you off in your second grade class. Ross, as usual, acted much braver than he felt. I worried about you both all day and hoped your first day went well. It wasn't long at all before you had a million friends and were very happy there.

I miss you so much, bud. I wish you were here to meet Scrumpy. You would love him. He's being a very good companion for us, especially Dad.

I love you very, very much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I went back to work today after being off for almost 2 weeks. Talk about a shock to the system. I am hopeful business will improve soon but so far, it's still tough.

I have been reading about John Travolta's son's death. The descriptions of how John and his wife are responding sound so familiar. It' a very different experience than it was in my old life when these tragic things only happened to other people - back when I read about them the same way an uninvolved motorist gawks at a roadside accident. Back when I could only imagine how horrible it might be - not know it first hand. I've been tempted to post something to the family on one of the blogs or memorial sites but I feel so insignificant. Obviously I don't know them personally but I do know their pain. I am reminded of 1977 when my good friend, Jan Hancock, wanted to send flowers when Elvis died. Her mother and I both laughed at her and told her what a silly idea that was. But here I am wanting to write to John and Kelly and say "You're right. Your life as you knew it ended last week. And no, you won't ever be the same again. And no, you won't "get over this" anytime soon - maybe ever. And yes, I know what it feels like to lose a child that was "the best son two parents could have". It sucks. It hurts like nothing you've ever felt before and there aren't even words to describe it. And it's going to hurt really badly for a very, very long time.

Love you dearly sweet boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there bud,
Dad and I saw another movie today - Slumdog Millionaire - our 5th since Christmas. It was a hard movie to watch but very good. I almost asked Dad if we could leave about 20 minutes into it. I'm glad we stayed for the ending. Last night I finished reading Water for Elephants. Maybe those two gritty stories are supposed to remind me to count my blessings and realize my life still has many good elements in it and to stop wallowing in my despair.

I learned this morning that John Travolta's son died yesterday. I have felt sad for John Travolta and Kelly Preston all day. I'm sure they would give all their fame and fortune to have their boy back. It's tempting for "regular people" to think a loss like that doesn't hurt as much for movie stars and rich people but I know it does. As Debra always tells me - the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Poor kids die; rich kids die. Bad kids die; good kids die. Life is precarious and fleeting.

My devotional the other night was based on Matthew 10:39 - about abandoning our own agendas - what we have deemd will please and fulfill us - so that we can embrace the kind and quality of life that God gives. Nancy Guthrie, the author, said " The problem is, we don't realy believe that God's plan for our lives could be better than the one we've crafted. We don't believe we could be as fulfilled by the life he offers as we would by the one we've planned. It takes a step of faith to believe God will supply satisfying life now and when we die." That really hit home with me because I realize that is what I am now forced to do - to give up the plans I had for my life and live this new one that has been forced upon me. I had plans for you & Ross to go to college and marry nice girls and have grandchildren for me to love. I envisioned big, happy family holidays; summer vacations together. Dad and I had even planned to own two homes in our retirement - one where you & your family lived and one where Ross and his family lived. I always told that to people who would ask me where we were going to retire. We wanted to go to our grandchildren's little league games and ballet recitals. We wanted to be involved in their lives like our grandparents were in our lives. But things definitely aren't working out the way I had planned. Our little family has been shaken like a snow globe and we're watching the flakes swirl all around.
I don't really know if it was God's plan for you to die at 18 or just some random awful thing that happened. I don't know if God had other plans for our lives. I like to think it was part of a grander plan - it doesn't feel quite so wasteful when I think of it that way.

The renewal for your driver's license came in the mail yesterday. Ouch.

I love & miss you so much Ryan
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Happy New Year Ryan Hunter Dickerson,
I awoke very depressed this morning. I think the thought of starting this new year without you made me feel hopeless. The day improved though.

We ate cabbage and black eyed peas and cornbread and scalloped potatoes and Eady's corn casserole and ham. You never liked ham and I only served it on New Years - never any other time. Our new friends, the Wrights, came over and we had a nice day. We played games after we ate and it was fun. Once during the games, I thought of how if you were here, you would have been champing at the bit to go to Modesto and I would have wanted you here with us. I also thought of a New Year's day when we lived in Wichita Falls and the Fords joined us for dinner that day. We played Cranium afterward and you impressed Dr. Ford with your big brain.

The other night at the Pughs, Tyler told a story about you on the SSP trip. It was a story of how you forgot to take your swimsuit to the showers so instead of walking all the way back to the sleeping area to get it, you just looked around, put that determined look on your face and strutted into the shower buck naked. As he imitated you, Dad and I could just see you. I am amazed at how your friends can imitate your facial expressions and body language so well. It's like a gift when they do it -it brings a little morsel of you back for a moment.

I cried today when I was showing Diana Wright our house. She stopped to look at the pictures on the piano and I pointed out the one of our family taken on the last Mother's Day you were alive. She hugged me and I cried a little. I miss you so much.

I have ominous feelings about '09. I hope I'm wrong and it proves to be a good year. If you can help with that, please do.

All my love,
Mom

carol whites 
Happy New Year Ryan Dickerson,

2009 in Heaven, I just cannot imagine that. It is hard to believe
that you are gone since I read your Mom's blog almost every day
and I see your picture every time I go to your website, so to
me it seems like your still here but I know to your friends
and family the reality of your passing is a huge thorn in
their hearts.

Well what can I tell you that your remarkable Mom does not keep
up with. First of all it is a beautiful day in North Texas, The
sun is shinning brightly and the air has a crisp clean feel. It
is the kind of day a young man would probably want to be outside
engaged in some kind of sporting event or walking in the
sunshine with his best friend. I wonder if you have days
and nights in heaven? I wonder a lot of things about you.
I wonder if my mom came to meet you, I asked her to.

You know a funny thing somehow I feel a connection to you probably
because of your Mom's blog. The last time I was with you was
at my Son's wedding and even though that was almost 9 years ago,
I can still see your face, like it were this morning. You
know you didn't change a lot as far as facial features go and
people say that your eyes are a mirror to your soul, so when
I look at your photo and see your beautiful blue eyes I can
see why people loved you so.

Your mom is doing some better, her voice came out of the bottom
of her feet for a long time but I talked to her this past
week and she sounded a little less like a groundhog and more
like Lynn Dikcerson.

Well young man, here we are in a brand new year. The older
I get the more I realize how special relationships are and
how fragile we human beings are. I have learned a lot
through these past 17 months probably the most important
thing I have learned is that time is so short in the living
years that it makes no sense to spend any of it with anger
or fear. I learned that from your Mom, and a lot of other things.
Your Mom always says what a special gift you were, well your
Mom is a special gift that you had during your 18 years on
this earth.

All my love
Miss Carol Whites





Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well here we are on the last day of 2008. A year in which you never lived on this earth. Seems unreal. Also a pretty crappy year in almost every measure. It was clearly the worst full year of my life both professionally and personally. 2007 will forever be tainted with the awfulness of being the year in which you died but the first half of 2007 was full of many happy events - your 18th birthday, diving season, swimming season, our trip to New York, prom dinner at our house, IB dinner, your graduation party, Aunt Les & Alex' visit, graduation, lots of kids hanging out in our house & outdoor kitchen, jumping off the balcony and other antics. The second half is charred to ashes but the first half was good. All of '08 was hard and sad. So I bid adieu to '08 with no nostaligic feelings, only good riddance. And I hope '09 will be a better year all around. You will still be gone but maybe we'll get better at living without you and just carrying you around in our hearts.

Here are Mrs. Cassidy's comments from yesterday's dedication ceremony. She did a terrific job delivering them too.

"Ryan was my son Brendan’s great friend. They met each other on the first day of junior high. They took most of the same classes at La Loma and later at Modesto High where they played water polo together, swam on the swim team together, worked out at the SOS together, studied (or not) together, and talked about everything with each other. One of the things they talked about was books. They both liked to read, and I remember that Brendan always gave Ryan a book for his birthday and Christmas. Some of those books became Ryan’s favorites, and they are included on the library’s new booklists, Ryan’s Reading List for Kids and Ryan’s Reading List for Teens.
Ryan read a lot, and he often studied at the library surrounded by a group of friends, but his most flashy connection to the library began the summer after his sophomore year, when the library put on one of our famous series of Harry Potter programs. For these events, the library’s auditorium was turned into a credible version of Hogwarts’ Great Hall, and the lucky kids who attended were sorted into one of the four houses to compete with each other for prizes in potions and quidditch. My kids had attended these programs from the beginning, but were now finally old enough to help us run them and I asked Brendan to recruit some boys who would be willing to serve as prefects. He said he would ask Ryan, and I remember telling him that if Ryan agreed to help, he could have his choice of houses. Naturally, I assumed that Ryan would choose Harry Potter’s own house, Gryffindor, and I’d have to talk the other boys into taking the other less desirable houses, but it seemed worth it to get some of Ryan’s energy at our program. Ryan didn’t hesitate to agree to help, and at first he said any house was fine but then said….”Wait. Wasn’t Cedric Diggory a Hufflepuff?” Brendan said yes, that’s right. “Well, I want to be Hufflepuff,” said Ryan. For the three of you out there who haven’t read these books, Hufflepuff is NOT the cool house. In fact, the only thing cool about Hufflepuff is Cedric Diggory, who was the Big Man on Campus during Harry’s fourth year—the kind of boy who would have been Homecoming King if Hogwarts had such a thing. Two years before Ryan would be named Modesto High’s Homecoming King, he was already identifying with the part.
Anyway, it took Ryan about five minutes to turn Hufflepuff into the hottest house in the library’s Hogwarts. Dressed in his yellow robe and topsiders, Ryan leaped about, cheered wildly, and never stopped talking or smiling. The kids in his house were mesmerized, and the kids who initially had been glad to be Gryffindors were no doubt wishing to be Hufflepuffs by the end of the evening. He repeated this performance four times that summer, and, when we held another series of programs the summer after he graduated, he came back for a repeat performance. Ryan is indelibly etched into the memory of all the library staff that worked with him, but I am quite sure that none of the hundreds of kids who attended our Harry Potter programs will forget him either.
This tree, built in Ryan’s memory, will make this building full of wonderful books, this library, unforgettable to the thousands and thousands of children who will come here in the future. And that is only fitting, because of all the many adjectives I can think of to describe Ryan, the first is “unforgettable.”"

Doesn't that make you proud?

One strange thing about today is that I don't have to worry about you being out on the roads with the drunks as I always did. I know you're safe at home in heaven when no more ill can come to you.

I love you so much dear boy
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
This afternoon we publicly dedicated Ryan's Reading Tree at the Library. There was a packed house on hand. Lots & lots of your friends were there. Nick Howell and Crazy Rachel both sang and did a fabulous job. I was so impressed. I never knew Nick could sing. I have no idea how many people were there but it was hundreds for sure. The tree is magnificent - everyone agrees. The plaque was unveiled and it's impressive too. Your memory will live on at the downtown library for sure. Jeff Grover said nice things about you. Mrs. Cassidy's remarks were perfect. I'm going to ask for a copy of them so I can post them here. She did a great job giving the audience a flavor of who you were and why we all think you were so special. Dad and I both spoke as well. Here's what I said:

"I want to tell you the story of how this tree came to be. To do so I must start at the darkest time in my life – the weeks & months following Ryan’s death in the summer of 2007. Losing a child is surely life’s worst blow. The pain is deep, searing and unrelenting. I thought I couldn’t survive it and prayed many times that I would die too. One of my great fears was that Ryan would be forgotten – that after the first few months of grief and mourning, everyone except us would go back to the business of living their lives with Ryan only a distant memory for them.

As I was sitting in a meeting one day in the fall of '07, I had the idea of creating some sort of memorial to Ryan at the library in Modesto. You see he really loved this library. In addition to helping with the Harry Potter events over two separate summers, he spent a lot of time here doing homework, reading, and avoiding chores at home. Ryan had Attention Deficit Disorder which he managed quite well most of the time. But time management and organizational skills weren’t his strong suits. He was very bright though and smart enough to realize that doing homework at home was much harder for him. At home there were many distractions – mainly his computer and his friends accessible to him on that computer. So he would come to the library where he could focus better and he knew we weren’t going to say “no” to going to the library, for goodness sake.

Ryan was a voracious reader. I still don’t know how he found time to read for pleasure as much as he did with his IB work load but he was interested in lots of things so he often checked out books from the library. But Ryan being Ryan – our absent minded professor – he rarely turned them back in on time. We were forever receiving those little over due notices in the mail from the library. Once I recall he gathered up a huge stack of over due books and returned them. I later asked him how much his fines were and he said $30. I said “$30!!! Do you realize what a waste of money that was?” He looked at me incredulously and said “Ma, how could that be a waste of money? Think of it as a donation to the library.” And I guess he was right.

So as I sat in that meeting in the fall of last year, I thought maybe we could get the art dept at Modesto High to create some kind of colorful paper mache tree for the children’s dept. I emailed our good friend Susan Cassidy, a children’s librarian here and the mother of one of Ryan’s best friends, about my idea. In her gracious, sweet way she encouraged my idea to honor Ryan but said “there really isn’t room in the library for something like that.” But then she went on to say she had read about a company that makes really magnificent life like trees. She figured they were expensive but she would look into it. She emailed back a few hours later and said “ugh. They are really expensive!” I said “how expensive?’ and she said “Like $85,000 expensive”. Then I said “ugh” . "Well we certainly can’t do that. We’ll have to keep thinking.” Then Ron entered the picture. You see, Ron is the dreamer in our family. I’m the pragmatist. He said “Let’s see if we can raise the money for that tree. We can match all the donations dollar for dollar effectively contributing half and maybe we can raise the other half.” It seemed like a huge undertaking to me – at a time when the economy was faltering and I barely had energy to get out of bed and go to work each day, much less ask for money from all our friends and loved ones who had already been so generous during our loss. But we decided to try it. And here we are, just a little over a year later and the project is complete. I am humbled and amazed at the generosity of this community. The money seemed to come in almost effortlessly. It sort of reminded me of the final scene in my favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, where George Bailey’s friends hear he’s in trouble and the money pours in to help him. In our situation, our friends heard we needed money to build a fake tree to honor Ryan and the checks poured in. In record time and in the worst economy any of us have seen in our adult lives, we raised $85,000 for an art tree. Our family is incredibly grateful for your generosity and love and support.

Ryan has been gone 17 months now. In some ways it feels like a lifetime and in other ways, I still expect him to come bouncing through the door with that crooked grin on his face. I miss him every second of every day and still have moments where I think “This cant be true. and I can’t survive this.” But my new approach is to try and focus on what I had rather than what I lost. Ryan was truly a gift to me, (anyone who knew us knows how much I adored him); to our family and to many of you who knew and loved him. So as Ryan was a gift to us, this tree is a gift to the community and the children of this county who will come here to check out books and possibly keep them until they are overdue, and read. I hope they will look at this tree and wonder about the special boy who inspired it. Ryan would like that. He would like knowing he is, in some unconventional way, encouraging kids to read and love the magic of books as much as he did.

So with the love and generosity of Ryan in our hearts, we present this beautiful, amazing work of art to the library and its patrons in memory of a beautiful, amazing boy we loved very much.

Thank you"

Once again, we were affirmed by the huge outpouring of love from so many, many friends in Modesto. When Dad and I parked in the parking lot, someone was driving by in a dark Land Rover. I took that as a sign that you were with us - looking down and basking in all that love for you and our family.

Miss you so much, bud,

All my love,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
The year is coming to a close. Even before losing you I always found myself a little melancholy at the end of the year. A whole year already gone, never to be again. But I always felt excited about the new year ahead. A clean slate; a fresh, unblemished new year in which to do things better; get it right this time. I was usually excited about what was ahead - new school years, graduations, vacations, visits from friends, the upcoming February birthday marathon, MoBand in the summer, water polo in the fall, all the elements of our full and blessed lives. All those things gave me reason for optimism and hope.

Now I look at the new year ahead and know it will be a year filled with tragedy. People will die; get sick; lose their jobs; get divorced; get pregnant when they don't want to be; not get pregnant when they want to be; hurt each other. Homes will be destroyed by foreclosure, fire, floods, drug & alcohol abuse, violence. It may not happen to our family this year but it will happen to someone. And probably to someone we love. Losing you has made me aware that only those who haven't yet experienced loss or tragedy are naive enough to think they are immune from it. To live is to suffer, say the Buddhists. And I believe them.

A few minutes ago I was thinking about this week after Christmas from a few years ago when we went to Tahoe with the Pughs, Sparkmans and Mark. We played games and skiied and went to the movies and had such a fun family time. I miss those times. I miss feeling unfiltered happiness and joy. I miss watching you from a distance and being so proud of you.

I love & miss you so much sweet boy.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there bud,
We saw another movie today. The third in three days. The Curious Life of Benjamin Button was very good. There were several poignant parts that were especially meaningful to us after our experience of losing you. A hummingbird plays an important part in the movie, just like it did in our lives shortly after your death. Dad and I just looked at each other with wide eyes during that part. There is one section of dialogue that I especially loved. I wish I could find it written somewhere.

Last night my devotional said this and I liked it very much.

"...this life is not all there is! This life is just a rehearsal for our real life, our forever life in the presence of God....As the song "Glory Baby" by the duo of Watermark says, "you'll just have heaven before we do."

I sure hope that is true. That's what keeps me going - putting one foot in front of the other.

You would so love Scrumpy. He has your personality - joyful, playful, sweet, loveable and mischievous enough to be fun - and he's a noisy, messy eater. He is the perfect dog for us. We feel so blessed to have him. (thank you Valerie)

Love you darling,
Mom





Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
Dad and I saw Marley & Me this afternoon. I didn't just cry - I sobbed. Dad didn't really want to go because he had read the book and knew it ended sad. I talked him into it and didn't think I would cry. After losing you, all other sad things pale in comparison so I really thought I wouldn't be affected. But I was. It reminded me of when Sara got old and sick and we had to put her under. I remember you telling her goodbye on the stairs of the Wycliffe house. She put her little paw on your arm like she knew it was the last time she would see you. Marley's last days reminded me of Sara's last days. It was a very good movie though. It feels a little odd crying about something other than you but then I think your absence colors everything else in my life. Your death broke my spirit and now my entire life is painted with a layer of sadness.

Earlier today I re-read some of our Christmas letters from years gone by. It was painful to read of our lives when they were whole and full and happy. I couldn't bring myself to read most of the holiday letters we received this year. Dad wouldn't even look at the cards. It feels as if everyone else has a complete family and our family has been dismembered. I guess it's a little like it would feel to watch runners cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon if you were a runner who had just had a leg amputation. Maybe it will get better with time.

On the way home from the movie, Dad said "With yesterday (Christmas) behind us, does it feel like a huge weight has been lifted?" I said yes.

I'm trying to give some thought to what I want to accomplish in 2009. I need to re-engage in life and do something meaningful. I can't allow this paralyzing grief to control my life. I fear 2009 will be a year of big change for me whether I'm ready for it or not. I hope God shows me what I'm supposed to do next.

All my love, bud,
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Merry Christmas sweet boy,
We survived another one without you as implausible as that seems.

I got over my cold just in time to catch a nasty stomach flu. I was really sick Tuesday night and all of Christmas Eve. I had to miss church and dinner at the Pughs - the parts of Christmas I was actually looking forward to. I stayed home in bed and Dad took a wreath to your grave and then had dinner with our friends at The Pughs. Ross stayed with me and we actually had a nice time together. From my perch on the couch, I coached him on how to make the cornbread dressing. He did all of it by himself and it was very good.

Someone sent a lovely gift to us. I'm not sure who it came from. There was no note or anything identifying the sender. It was the two posters promoting the first school dance of the year in the fall of 2005 - the Hawaiian themed dance. I remember the Leadership Class roped you into posing in Hawaiian garb. I asked you several times to get a copy of the posters for me but you never did. So this morning, I opened this tube that came in the mail and there was the poster of just you & Julia and then a group photo of a bunch of you guys. I sobbed when I opened it but what a treasured gift it is. I hope I can figure out who sent it so I can thank them. There was also a cassette tape included that has your name and some numbers written on it. I haven't played it yet - have to psyche myself up for that first.

My fellow bereaved mother in Pennsylvania emailed this morning to say how hard her Christmas was without David. She had found this poem I had sent her months ago and she re-sent it to me.

On the Other Hand

By Genesse Gentry



On one hand,

you have died; you're gone.

On the other hand,

I feel your essence, know you live on.



On one hand,

I'm drowning, see the abyss.

On the other hand,

you make contact, send eternity's kiss.



On one hand, I grieve, lose hope miserably.

On the other hand,

your happiness comes through to me.



On one hand,

I'm so hurt, broken apart.

On the other hand,

you're connected straight to my heart.



Yes, I do understand

you are happy and free.

I'm not crying for you, now,

I'm crying for me.


I believe this Christmas without you was harder than last. Maybe I was still a little numb last year. It seems impossible that I have lived almost a full calendar year without you. Our little family of three feels so small. I know Ross misses you enormously. He put Balance Bars in Dad's stocking as a way of making fun of him for all those years while on vacation he wouldn't order breakfast in the restaurant to save money, insisting instead he would later eat a Balance Bar. That is something the two of you would have teased Dad about this morning. Instead, poor Ross had to do it alone. He never wanted to be an only child.

We love and miss you so much, Ryan.
Merry Christmas sweetheart.
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Whoa bud,
We are not doing so well. All three of us have sunk into a major depression. I haven't felt this bad in weeks. I really thought I had turned a corner with my grieving but I seem to have slipped back to the edge of that awful abyss. Ross is really sad too. And Dad as well. I'll be glad when Christmas is over. I'm sure that's making it worse. There is nothing for us to look forward to. If you were home, our house would be full of laughter and energy and fun and chaos. In my old life, I loved the week of Christmas - all the anticipation, the songs, the smells, the friends stopping by, the relief that school was out for a couple weeks. All of that is now gone. I can't begin to tell you how dark and sad our lives are now.

I am not even going to visit my facebook account until all your friends have gone back to college. Seeing the pictures they are posting breaks my heart. You should be here. You should be at those parties, seeing your friends, enjoying your winter break. This is all so very unfair.

Yesterday I was searching for a fever thermometer. We used to have 5 or 6 but I couldn't find them. So I went into your bathroom and looked through your drawers. Big mistake. I haven't thrown away any of your toiletries. Your cough drops are still there; your hairbrush, your retainer; your skin stuff from The Body Shop that you liked; your toothbrush; two of your broken watches. I wept as I rummaged through the drawer.

I love and miss you so much, Ryan. This is too, too hard.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well,the Remembering Ryan Reunion appeared to be a success. About 85 people who love and miss you came. Mal came early and helped me and I really appreciated her help. My cold kept me from having my same level of energy and productivity so she was a big help. Scrumpy was the perfect gentleman with all those "new friends" here. Stephanie and Susan kept commenting how he has your spirit. He never barked or growled or jumped on anyone - he just sprawled out in the middle of party and made everyone feel welcome. He was totally comfortable with all the guests. Stephanie kept saying how much his personality reminded her of yours. Later I told that to Julia Soloman and she said "Nope. Much too mellow to be Ryan." That made me laugh because mellow you were not.

It was great to see all your friends. They are growing up and changing. And you'll be 18 forever. Mrs. Garvin, Mr. Peters and Ms. Taylor-Cameron came. There were kids from lots of different social cliques. I thought about it as I was washing dishes - everyone one of them was your friend, yet many of them don't know each other very well. You had a great "cross over" ability.

This morning, I cried as I looked through the Guest Book. Jeremy signed it Larameux. I think next year, I'll ask every one to write down the nickname you had for them next to their real name.


Dad and I are both sick today. Dad is sicker than I am. He has the stomach flu and a migraine. He's been sleeping in the dark all day. I went in the laundry room looking for a tray on which to serve soup to Dad. You know how sometimes when you feel bad, everything goes wrong. Well today was one of those days. As I was getting the tray down, I dropped and broke a glass cover for a cheese board. It shattered into a million pieces - glass everywhere. As I spent the next 15 minutes cleaning it up, I thought how that is what happened to our lives on July 29, 2007. Dad, Ross, and I were whole and intact, just like that glass cover, and then in a matter of seconds, our worlds shattered into a million piece. We have spent the last 16 months picking up the pieces but just like that broken glass, there are shards everywhere and even when you think you've swept it all up, you step on a piece weeks later and your foot bleeds again. And there was no way I could glue that glass object back together - I had to throw it away and now I'll use the cheese board without a cover. Just like there was nothing we could do to bring you back so we have to live this life we're left with the best way we can.

Mallory gave us a Build a Bear with a Boy Scout uniform and when you press his paw, there's a 10 second recording of you talking. We sobbed when we played it the first time. Mallory is such a thoughtful girl.

I hope you were watching over us at the party last night. There were at least 5 ex-girlfriends here and so many people who carry a little bit of you around in their hearts.

All my love,
Mom

Anonymous 
It's still so hard to believe you're gone Ryan. I wish so much that you could've been there with us tonight.. I'm sure everyone else did too... but I could've sworn I felt your presence. I don't know if it was my mind playing tricks on me, but I like to think that this feeling was real.

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there bud,
I'm bone tired as I write this. My cold makes me feel puny and I have been cooking and getting ready for the Remembering Ryan Reunion since I got home from work. I find subconsciously I think you're going to be here tomorrow night, along with your friends.

This morning Dad and I went to the elementary school where Dad volunteers. We did a "Ryan Christmas project" there with two second grade classes. A few weeks ago we asked the two teachers Dad works with to choose one boy and one girl from their respective class that might need a little extra Christmas this year. We shopped for them and then had a "drawing" in each class this morning to see who the winners were. We gave gifts to the four kids and explained to all the kids in the two classes that we were doing this in memory of our son, Ryan, who died summer before last. Dad began telling them about you but got choked up and I took over. The second graders had MANY questions about you and how you died. Kids are not nearly as inhibited as adults when it comes to talking about death. The four kid who won were really thrilled and it feels good to give something to someone who really needs it. It was emotional for us but rewarding.

Poor Dad had a tough time in Raley's tonight. He started crying at the barbeque sauce display. I stopped and hugged him for a few minutes and he said "I miss him so much." I know how he feels. Then in the produce section, he broke down again when "O Holy Night" came on the p.a. system. It wasn't a good night at the grocery store.

Thank goodness for Scrumpy. He's bringing Dad a lot of joy. And so far, he's a perfect dog for us.

I am so tired I feel disoriented so I better go to bed. Big day tomorrow remembering our sweet boy.

love you so much
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I went to the Michael W Smith Christmas concert in Modesto last night wtih Susan and Debra. It was very, very good. I only cried once - when he sang O Holy Night - during the "fall on your knees" part, as I remembered your relentless teasing of Dad for singing that so loudly in the shower every year. Dad no longer sings that, or anything, in the shower nor can he even stand to hear the song. Some memories are still too painful to allow in.

I struggled to stay awake as I drove home last night. My Starbucks latte worked until Lodi and from that point on, I was miserable. I rolled down the window even though it was 37 degrees outside; I slapped my cheeks, I chewed gum; I tried everything and still I was dozing off. Finally I called Dad and he talked me home. It was just like your last night in California in July of 07 when you stayed too long in Modesto and fought to stay awake as you drove to our house in Carmichael well after midnight. Dad kept calling you every 10 minutes to make sure you were awake and okay. Finally I stayed on the phone with you the last half hour of the trip to keep you awake. Dad was so cranky that you had stayed so late in Modesto and put yourself in that unsafe condition. He told me he was going to "chew your a-- out" when you got home. But like always, we were so glad to see you and so grateful you were ok, all was forgotten and you charmed your way back into our good graces with little effort. I often think of the many times I worried about you and Ross over the years. My big fear was car accidents. I thought your time at Camp was the safest 3 weeks of that summer. But as I have learned, life is unpredictable and precarious. We never know what the future holds.

I have begun reading a blog on the Charlotte Observer's mom's site. It is written by a mom whose 17 year old son died in a car crash in June. Her writing is good and her pain palpable. From her blog, I went to another woman's blog. The second woman's son was friends with the boy who died. That woman tried to help him deal with the loss of his friend and relayed how she, too, lost a friend in high school. She wrote of how she has never forgotten the boy and still thinks of him often even though it has been many years. I wonder if that is how it will be with your friends. So many of them still miss you much. John's facebook profile picture still has you in it, which I think is very sweet.

Nick Howell and Crazy Rachel are going to sing at your tree dedication on the 30th. I'm so pleased about that. The county wanted someone to sing the Star Spangled Banner. I'm happy it will be people who knew and loved you.

I wish you were here to meet Scrumpy, the new pooch. We LOVE this dog! What a blessing he is being to us already. Ross just walked through and said "He's such a good dog."

I hope I feel better tomorrow because I have to get cooking, literally and figuratively, for the Remembering Ryan Reunion.

We love and miss you so,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We were very late getting home from Modesto last night and I have caught a cold so I went to bed instead of writing to you.

Yesterday was a big day. Scrumpy arrived at the airport around noon. All three of us love him. He's cute and has a sweet, confident disposition. Ross really likes him too. I can't figure out how he ended up in a shelter. He seems well loved and trained. Maybe you sent him to us somehow.

Dad and I went to Modesto for the Mock Trial Awards last night. We stopped by the library first to see your tree. My, it's spectacular - just like you were. It was special to stand back and watch all the people, especially young kids, walk up to it and touch the bark and look at it. It is an amazing piece of art.

We had a quick dinnner with Bryan at the Barking Dog before going to SCOE for the Mock Trial awards. Bryan was in a grumpy mood - worried he got one B mixed in with all his A's from the first semester. If he has all A's, he gets a full ride next semester. I'm incredibly proud of him even if he ends up with that one B. We recalled eating at The Barking Dog together after one of your Mock Trial competitions two years ago. Bryan went with us that time too.

Being at Mock Trial is hard. All that energy and excitement and youth. So many memories of you an your competition two years ago this month. Modesto and Johansen were in the championship round and MoHi won by .33 points. It was incredibly close. Tatiana Altman won The Ryan Dickerson Award for Excellence and Leadership. She, as well as her mother, were thrilled. Solange cried. Maggie Sniffen was the finalist from Johansen and Kevin Sutherland was the finalist from Downey. I really like it when someone who knew and loved you wins. The finalist from Turlock was a boy named David Carr and he told us he competed against you in Debate.

Dad and I presented the awards. I didn't cry this year, as I did last year, but Dad said he did. He was standing behind me so I didn't see him. I noticed Mrs. Giahos and Mrs. Macko crying in the audience.

I talked with one of the librarians who lost a son 15 years ago. He was in a car accident when he was 18 but lived 7 months on life support, dying at 19. She said to me "You never get over it but you learn to integrate it in your life." I guess that's what we're doing now.

You are still missed and loved by many. I gave Mr. Beck one of the bookmarks Julie made for me to give out at the Reunion on Saturday. He smiled sweetly and put it in his inside pocket and patted his chest. He said "I will definitely use it."

The Modesto High team did the "Who Are We? MoHi! Where are we from? West Side" cheer in your honor, according to Mrs. Altman. Tati led the cheer. Dad and I both teared up. We don't know if you made that cheer up or just perpetuated its use. It seems to be associated with you in many people's minds though.

I wish you were here to meet the new dog and enjoy winter break with all your friends. Sometimes I fantasize about this all being a big mistake and you walking in the door. My, how I would give EVERYTHING I have for that to happen.

Love you lots
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there bud,
Our pooch arrives tomorrow on a Delta flight from Atlanta. Dad will be at the airport to get him. He had to turn down a substitute teaching gig so he can retrieve Scrumpy but that's more important. We are both really excited about this dog. I don't think either of us has been excited about anything in over 16 months so what a nice change. It will be bittersweet though, like everything, because I know you would love him.

All your friends are dribbling home after finishing their finals. The "coming home" thing is so hard for me. I want so badly to go to the airport and retrieve YOU. I remember being stranded in the Atlanta airport last year on Dec 20 due to weather delays. I had to sit there for hours and watch college kid after college kid depart their flights - home for Christmas break. It was excruciating.

Tomorrow night we go to Modesto to present The Ryan Dickerson Award for Excellence and Leadership in Mock Trial. I think Ross is going to make the presentation. One of the nominations said this: "In the true spirit of Ryan, her leadership is naturally modest, without conceit or pretension." Another one said this: "She is bright and has a sweet heart. From what my son tells me, having known Ryan, she fits the bill when it comes to quality of the heart and strength of character." Those comments made me proud of you.

I love you fiercely dear boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi sweetheart,
We just returned from the Sacramento Choral Group's Christmas concert with Bette Belle & Jean and their family. I didn't cry this year. Last year during the sing along part, I wept. I remember sweet Bette Belle putting her arm around me and holding me while I cried through several songs. I did much better tonight though it's still heartbreaking to go through this season without you.

Jean just turned 89 last week and Bette Belle will be 88 next month. I said to Dad a few days ago - who would have ever imagined that Bette Belle would out live Ryan? Just seems unbelievable still.

I thought about your man, Abraham Lincoln, today. His quote -"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go." - was on my calendar. I thought of him and how he lost several children and his wife went mad. Poor guy - imagine the suffering he endured in his lifetime. John Wilkes Booth probably did him a favor by putting him out of his misery, if the truth were known.

Steve G posted this on my Facebook account this morning. I called Dad into the study and read it to him and we both sobbed. He said "Mrs. Dickerson I went to the library in Modesto today to study for some finals and I went over and saw Ryan's Tree. It is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. This young librarian was talking to me about the tree and how beautiful it was. Then this young couple walked in with two young boys who were very excited to see this tree in the middle of a library. They asked the librarian who put it in, and the librarian told them it was a young man named Ryan Hunter Dickerson. She preceded to tell about Ryan and how he was always here. At that moment I was proud that I knew Ryan. He would of loved that tree, just as those two young boys loved it. I am quite suprised how real it looks. It is amazing. See you the 20th."

Loving & missing you madly,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hi there precious boy,
Our friends we met through the bereaved parent's group just left. We get together once a month or so. They have become good friends. Dad and Ed, one of the other dads, are grieving so similarly. They both still cry a lot. Our dinners are fun and we laugh a lot and tell jokes and act like normal people but we also cry and we talk about heaven and "signs" and about how we're different people than we were before we lost our children. I'm glad we have them in our lives.

There has been a flurry of emails, cards, etc with sweet comments about you. The installation of your tree has caused many people to write to me with thoughtful messages. Dana's mom sent a Christmas card that said: "Thinking of you and as always, missing Ryan. Dana visited Ryan the other day. She still misses him so much. The MoHi graduates played the traditional after Thanksgiving football game on Friday - and Dana was quite sad without Ryan."

Mrs. Cassidy wrote about the tree this morning and said "The tree is just unbelievably beautiful, and it seems to me it is something Ryan would have really really liked. I am exhausted from the emotions of watching it take shape, and I keep thinking about when I can go see it when no one else is there (early some morning)."

Pam Burks from Wichita Falls wrote today. Remember her brother was your baseball coach one year? She said: "Wanted to drop you a note and let you know I have thought of you guys a lot lately. 1st because it is the holidays and because my brother James and wife Kim were here Tuesday night and we talked about Ryan. Kim always sat on the bench and kept score for their baseball team and she told me she remembered Ryan the most from that team because he always made the games fun. She said he always made his teammates laugh a lot."

Frances said this in response to seeing the picture of your tree: "It is astonishing - I'm a little dumbfounded. My mouth dropped open when I saw it. Even so there is nothing out there that could really do justice to Ryan - he was too special."

I do think you would be pleased with the tree - maybe even a little embarrassed about the hoopla. It will be a beautiful and lasting tribute to such a beautiful and swell guy.

Dad had his first substitute teaching gig today - jr. high algebra in a tough school district. And Ross worked at Roxy's. So we all three were gainfully employed today.

Bryan called a little while ago. He's spending the night in Salt Lake City - on his way home from his first and successful semester at BYU Idaho. It's hard to believe the semester is already over. Seems like it was just the other day we dropped him off.

Love you so much bud,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I'm home from my trip to Georgia. Several people told me I look better than I did when I was last there - in March, I think. Someone said I was "less drawn" and my face was no longer gray. I suppose that's progress.

Guess what I did in Georgia? Adopted a dog! My friend,Valerie, has been unrelenting in her insistence that Dad and I get a dog. She has emailed to me pictures of dogs in the Columbus shelter for months now. I kept telling her what a crazy idea that was - how was I supposed to get a dog from Georgia to California?!! Well, under the ruse of a "market tour", she took me to the shelter where I met and fell in love with a 29 lb black & white terrier mix named Scrumpadumpalus. I think we'll call him Scrumpy for short. He's very cute and you would really love him. Valerie is going to lots of trouble to get him to us. He arrives on a Delta flight next Monday night. Isn't that something? Grandpa Robbie would shake his head and say we have more money than we have sense if he heard this story.

I feel a little guilty getting a dog since you wanted one so badly after Sara died and we kept saying "no way. We're going to be empty nesters. We don't want to have to worry about a dog." Well, things didn't work out exactly like we planned so it now feels like we need something to love that will love us back. I know you would be glad about this.

I read another grief book in one sitting on the plane home today. It was written by a woman who lost her husband and only child in a car accident a long time ago. There were several nuggets of wisdom that I found helpful. You would think after all the books I've read that there wouldn't be anything new to "learn" but I usually find something that helps a bit. The author, Paula D'Arcy was 3 months pregnant when the accident happened and she said this about her baby who was born 6 months into her grief. "As I look at her I see that she is a gift. She is mine to hold, but not to possess. It makes all the difference. You treat a gift differently than you do a possession." I have been trying to think that way about you. You were a wonderful, joyful, fun, beautiful gift that I got to have for 18 1/2 years. Another pertinent thing she said was this: "There is one advantage to having your life cut through to the bone. It swiftly eliminates all the distractions and all the illusions. The clarity of my sight is fierce. I see what matters and what does not." So true!

Well, your tree at the library was installed this week. I haven't seen it yet but I have been sent several photos and told by numerous people that it is spectacular and a fitting tribute to you. Poor Dad has cried all week as he helped unload it and watch it be erected and read the comments from the many people who have emailed about it. The Bee even ran some photos of it on B1 yesterday.

I love you lots Ry. Sure wish you were studying for finals and frantically writing papers like your buddies are.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there dear sweet boy,
I have to get up at 3:30am to fly to Atlanta so I write to you now, knowing I won't be able to do so again until Thursday night.

Ross and I went to the Galleria today. I hate shopping, especially at the busy, bustling mall but Ross likes it so it was my act of kindness and a way to spend some time with him. I melted into a puddle of tears in The Gap - right in the middle of the sweaters and shirts. I had one of those split second experiences where I thought "Oh, Ry would like this. I should get it for him for Christmas." Then, of course, the reality of the situation smacks me in the face. Later, Ross and I sat in the parking lot of Whole Foods and discussed how much we miss you, and cried. Our family feels so incomplete. And it's so hard to find any holiday joy.

Dad seems especially sad these days. I think it's the holiday thing and the gray days. I'm glad Ross is here with him so he won't be alone while I'm gone to Georgia this week.

We had dinner last night with some Modesto friends, including Mr. Abby. I was hopeful he would tell us some stories about you but he didn't. I think he's one of those people who mistakenly things it would be painful for us to talk about you. If people only realized tha all we have left of you are memories and stories. When I write my book someday, that will be a major theme - PLEASE DON'T STOP TALKING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO DIED!!!! Mr. Abby did say that he thought the world of you or something along those lines.

I talked to Frances today. She said to me "you are going to be okay again, aren't you?" Then she went on to say that she doesn't read my letters to you often because it's just too hard to read them. People tell me that all the time. I find it amusing that experiencing a bit of my pain through my writings is too painful. I want to scream at the top of my lungs - if it's too hard for you to read what I write, imagine how hard it is for me to feel what I feel!

I love you Ryan and as hard as this is, I'm glad you were ours and we had you and all that made you you for 18 years, 5 months and 13 days. We were blessed.

I'll be back in a few days.

Until then, remember how much I love you.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It's Saturday morning - my favorite morning of the week. I love being able to wake up when I want to rather than when my alarm goes off. It's cold and foggy in Northern California today. A Christmasy day.

Last night we had new friends over for dinner. A couple who lost their 17 year old son almost 5 years ago. He died in a car accident coming home from his girlfriend's house during Christmas vacation of his senior year of high school. I had lunch with the mom a few weeks ago but we met the dad for the first time last night. We had a lovely dinner together. We all cried at various times during the night as we recalled you boys and the pain we have endured since losing you. Their son, Matt, was also an Eagle Scout. They are very strong and faithful Christians and completely believe in Heaven. It doesn't take the sting of the loss away, of course, but it does offer them hope. Hope is something Dad and I badly need.

In yesterday's news there was a new report out about happy people and how they make others around them happy. I thought of you everytime I heard it or read it in a different news outlet. As you said in your essay...."I'm Ryan and I like to be happy and make other people happier." That was one of your many gifts and it is missed by many. Even though we are all surviving somehow without you here, our worlds are not as bright and joyful. The "Ryan factor" your friends describe is definitely missing.

I love you with all my heart,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I have felt upbeat today. It's rare so I cherish these times.

Julie is helping me make bookmarks to give out at the Remembering Ryan Reunion. Actually Julie is doing all the work, of course. She had them on her computer screen today so we could proof read them and as I looked at your handsome face, I said "He looks so alive, doesn't he? It's hard to believe he's gone." She agreed and said every time she looks at my computer wallpaper picture she thinks the same thing. She said "It just isn't right." And it's not.

Dad and I had a good cry last night. We were preparing food to freeze for the RRR and I asked Dad to put on some Christmas c.d's. I was trying to be brave and face the sadness Christmas music causes. He put the Joe Scruggs c.d on - the one we have listened to every year since you were about 2 or 3. When the song about putting the baby Jesus in the manger came on, Dad yelled at me and said "Quick, change that song!" I wasn't really paying attention but then I took notice and started to sob. We both cried and hugged each other for a while, remembering how it was always your job in our family to set up the Nativity scene. You hid baby Jesus until Christmas morning and only then would you put him in the manger. Sometimes Stephanie would find him in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as she dusted, and she would place him in his little bed. You would be so irritated to walk by and see him in there before Christmas morning. I doubt we'll ever set up the Nativity Scene again.

When I told Aunt Les about it, she said Tuesday was especially hard for her as she remembered sitting on the porch swing on Sandy Hook with you in her lap. She recalled how you would laugh and throw your head back, bursting her lip with your exuberance & joy.

Ross' first day at his new job went great. He really liked it and is excited about it. I'm so happy for him. Maybe that is why I have had a lightness in my heart today.

I have always said a mother is only as happy as her least happy child. Well now, I only have one so as Ross goes, I go. Pretty big burden to put on ol' Ross though, isn't it? You were usually always happy and I often lived vicariously through your happiness. I miss you so very, very much.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi sweetheart,
I cried today when I went online to Facebook to wish Mark a happy birthday. I noticed he still has a Top 10 friends thing and you are one of the 10. It really touched me, especially since Mark has kept his feelings about your death very private. Obviously he still thinks about you and misses you even though he doesn't talk about you. I remember so many of Mark's birthdays - the one where his parents rented a theater at Brenden Theaters for all you guys to watch Remember the Titans is my favorite. I think that was the year we moved to Modesto.

I cried again when I saw photos posted on Facebook from the Thanksgiving football game at Snyder Park. That was one of your favorite things. I remember dropping you off there before you had your license and then telling you goodbye when you drove yourself in the later years.

On top of those tearful moments, Ross called to say he got the job he wanted. I'm SO HAPPY for him! He starts work tomorrow at a very cool, trendy restaurant on Fair Oaks.

I love you dearly sweet boy.
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I'm dashing out in a minute to get ready for tonight's Holiday Dinner with the McClatchy Board of Directors. I recall last year's holiday dinner and how fragile we still were. I am seated with Joan Lane tonight. Joan lost her husband, 85 year old Mel, the day before you died so we always talk about how much we miss our "boys". Even though our losses are so very different, it helps me to be with someone who understands how great this loss is.

We aren't putting up a Christmas tree this year so I asked Dad to put little white lights on the Ficus trees. When he plugged them in last night, he cried. It's hard to describe the little things that cause memories to come flooding back. But plugging in Christmas lights is obviously one of them for Dad.

The nominations came in today for the Ryan Dickerson Award for Excellence and Leadership in Mock Trial performance. We will present that award on the 16th. Three of the finalists are people you knew and liked very much.

I love you and I miss you more than I can describe,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there Ryanizer,
It's a rabbit, rabbit, rabbit day - the first day of yet another month. It's amazing to me that 16 of them have passed since that dreadful day we got the news that shattered our worlds. Time marches on regardless of how much we're hurting. Your friends are all turning 20 and 21 and you'll be 18 forever.

Bob Trache called today to check on us. I quizzed him on heaven and afterlife. As you know, not only is he a priest (or whatever the Episcopals call them) but he's really smart and well educated. He believes strongly and said the older he gets, the more he believes. Then he told me about a conversation he had with Stephen Hawking several years ago. Stephen Hawking also believes our souls go on living after our bodies die. I like hearing that.

Ross and I are going to the mall tonight. I hate going to the mall. But at least your brother, who likes to shop, will go with me. You and Dad were never very good shopping partners.

Loving and missing you loads,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Well Thanksgiving break is over. I do believe my favorite 5 days of the year are Thanksgiving holidays. All the extra frozen fruit salads are still in the freezer, waiting for you to eat them. I can still see your excited face when you would ask "Is there anything to eat?" and I would say "there are some leftover frozen fruit salads" and you would say "YES!" and dash out to the freezer in the garage to get one. I miss you so much.

I just went on Facebook to leave a happy birthday message for Hanna and saw where the Peters' have put out an invitation to their annual holiday party. I almost started crying. You loved that party and went every year and jumped in the pool for the Polar Bear Plunge. I know you would drive to Modesto for it this year if you were coming home.

Hanna's Facebook message tonight is "Hanna is missing Ryan. RIP my love." Your mom is missing you too. And your brother. We talked this afternoon about how much we miss you.

Ross went to Lance's birthday party last night. Everyone there was your friend. It hurt me to hear the names of everyone there, knowing you should have and would have been there too - livening things up as only you could do.

I love and miss you terribly.
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there bud,
I have been baking all night, preparing for the Remembering Ryan Reunion on the 20th. It seems weird to bake all the stuff you like and you not be here to eat any of it.

Today is Lancey's 21st birthday. His new H is 21. Isn't that amazing? There's a party for him tonight and Ross has gone to it. It makes me sad to know you would be there too if only you hadn't died. He called earlier tonight and told me about a dream he recently had of you. In it, you weren't dead, but had been hiding from all of us and thought it was a funny joke. He got really mad at you and started yelling at you, telling you how much grief you had caused us all. Then he woke up and felt so bad that he had wasted his Ryan dream yelling at you.

Mrs. Pugh is always great about acknowledging our loss and remembering you. Yesterday, after they left, she sent me an email and said this: "I know it was a hard day for you three and I know when everyone walks out the door you probably get sad then too thinking that it is yet one more thing that you had to plough through without Ryan being there. I walked through the house all day just looking at all the pictures of him and remembering what a wonderful child he was. I only knew him for four years of his life but I will remember him for my entire lifetime and I know Tom, Brianna and Tyler will also."

Today I got out a few Christmas decorations. I still can't go through our boxes but I did dig out a few more things than last year. The one thing I can't do yet is listen to my Christmas c.d's. And you know how much I loved them. You made fun of me for it. The memories they conjure up are still too painful.

I love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Happy Thanksgiving sweet boy of mine,
You were missed today. It was a good day - full of laughter and food and conversation. There were 16 of us -the three of us, Valerie, the Pughs, the Lepplas, Ramada's mom, and the Pachers. I remembered that you had told me on Thanksgiving of 06 that next year we should invite Julia and her family. Who would have thought that would be your last Thanksgiving but it was. In my grief filled haze of last year, I didn't remember to invite them but this year I did and they came. It was a joyful day. We lit a candle and put it in a frozen fruit salad for you. We talked about you and included you in the blessing. There were some tears but not as many as last year. You were on all our hearts.

I love you so very, very much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I have been preparing "the feast" all day. Setting the tables, making the dressing, the sweet potatoes, the homemade rolls - all the things you loved so much. I am so sad you aren't here to share it with us. It seems surreal that you are gone FOREVER. And I can't believe it is already Thanksgiving again already.

Natalie and Bryan came by last night. It was so good to see them both. It seems such a shame that you and Natalie didn't have more time together. She is a lovely girl - so pretty and classy and smart and sweet. Just the kind of girl I would have chosen for you. :)

My friend, Valerie, arrived from Georgia. We've been looking at pictures of you tonight. She keeps commenting on how handsome you were. And she's right.

I love you so very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there bud,
I believe today and tomorrow are the two hardest days of the year in terms of missing you. I keep thinking just how VERY happy & excited I would be in anticipation of your homecoming.

I awoke this morning to find this precious email from Margie Camarda. These messages are such gifts to us. Especially to still get them 16 months after your death.

Dear Mrs. Dickerson,

I don't claim to have been one of Ryan's best friends. I went to school with him, so I saw him at parties, football games, in the halls of MoHi. But Ryan didn't have any casual acquaintances; instead he had a world full of friends, because his spirit and genuineness made the day a little brighter for all who came in contact with him.

Today I lost my Ryan bracelet. I was in a hurry to catch my plane, and I guess I didn't notice it fall off. I looked around the terminal at the sea of people, and realized I'd never find it. For a moment I felt a wave of panic. And then I remembered the last time I was in the airport.

It was July and I had just decided to take a semester off of college to work in England. I wanted independence and adventures, but as my plane touched down in London, all i could think about was how far I was from my friends and family. In that moment, I felt very young and scared.

Then I looked out my window and saw on the runway dozens of RyanAir planes, sporting the RyanAir logo: I was surrounded by dozens of golden angels. I thought of Ryan and wondered if it was a coincidence or a sign from him. I'm not sure if I believe in the afterlife. But I'm writing this as I fly back home from England. And though I'm not flying RyanAir this time, I sure like to hope that 36,000 feet in the air I'm a little closer to the real golden Ryan angel.

I realized that I need not have panicked when I lost my bracelet today. It is a symbol of the way we keep Ryan in our hearts, but at the end of the day it is a band of rubber. The magnitude of our love for him cannot be conveyed by such a symbol, or even by our most heartfelt words.

I am writing because if you have more bracelets, I would love a new one. But more importantly I am writing to tell you that to this day, Ryan remains a presences in the lives of ALL who knew him. When we are sad or scared, we somehow feel him with us, feel the support of a friend. And when we are happy we remember his laughter and channel his fun-loving spirit. Not a day goes by that we don't think of Ryan, and we are forever holding you and your family in our hearts.

Sincerely,
Margie Camarda

Of course, I'm sending her a new bracelet.

Loving you with all my heart.
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
This Thanksgiving week is hard. We miss you so much and would give everything we own for you to fly into the Sacramento airport from St. Louis on Wednesday.

Dad dreamed about you last night. When he told me about it this morning in the kitchen, he sobbed, so I did too. You were a little boy in the dream and Dad scolded you for banging on the door instead of just coming in. You said to him "Let's go home and have some chicken soup and be a family again."

I came across this passage in a novel I'm reading by Curtis Sittenfeld. So very true.

"...it had become hard to suppress thoughts about the unreliability of luck. I WILL NOT BE THE ONE IT HAPPENS TO - this is what we all believe, what we must believe to make our way in the world each day. SOMEONE ELSE. NOT ME. But every once in a while it IS you, or someone close enough that it might as well be you. People to whom a terrible thing has never happened trust fate, the notion that what's meant to be will be; the rest of us know better."

I find myself easily irritated with people who say "everything happens for a purpose" or "what goes around, comes around" or "there are no coincidences." I used to say those stupid things too. Now I think they are b.s. Bad stuff happens every day to good people who don't deserve it. And rotten people go unscathed. Life is not fair and we're silly when we think it is. I now really hate that Life is Good line of t-shirts and I used to think they were really cute. Life isn't good. Life it hard and we do our best to navigate through it with the least amount of damage as possible.

I promise I won't go into a rant like that when I say the Thanksgiving prayer on Thursday.

I love and miss you so much, Ryanizer.

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
Yesterday we went to Modesto for Home for the Holidays at our old church. We feel so loved and missed when we go back there. I saw Miss Taylor and she said she has some pictures of you for me - old ones from speech tournaments. Yesterday was her 2 year anniversary of being cancer free. I know you would be happy about that. You always worried about her health. Last year we donated our wooden Christmas soldiers that PawPaw made all those years ago - the ones you claimed each holiday season as your special job to line up along our sidewalk. Dad and I knew we'd never be able to put them out at our house again - too many memories - so we gave them to Home for the Holidays. They looked very cute standing sentry at the front door of the church.

Last night we went to the Alan Jackson/Trace Adkins concert at ARCO Arena with Chris & Brianne. I quietly cried several times (I was glad it was dark in the Bee suite) when certain songs were sung. Chattahoochie reminded me of when you sang it in the Highland Village Talent Show the year before you started Kindergarten. Ross, Michael and Eric were supposed to do it and they all backed out so you did it alone. You were so cute. I can still see you in your cowboy duds on the stage belting it out (off key and loud, of course). I cried during "When Daddy let me Drive" as I watched a tender moment between Al and Pauly and was reminded of how you and Dad had so many of those special moments but now they are all gone. And I cried during the song about how fast time flies -"You're gonna miss this"- because it's true and I do miss our old life so much. But in spite of the tearful moments, we had fun. It's always fun to be with Chris and Brianne. Chris and I reminisced about our summers in Cayucos and we listened to Piece of Work from the Jimmy Buffett License to Chill c.d. We all miss you so much, Ry.

I'm now making homemade cinnamon rolls for the first time since you died. Every time I do something like this,it's one more step toward stepping back into life, I suppose. You and Tyler could, and would, eat both trays of cinnamon rolls in no time flat. I will eat one for you this morning sweet boy. and I'll remind Chris, Brianne and Ross how much you loved them.

Love you with all my fingers and all my toes.

Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We met Solange Altman in Elk Grove tonight for dinner. She's grieving her Dad's death so we talked about loss and signs we get from you guys who have gone on ahead of us. She told me she was at Mr. Pickles having a sandwich the day after you died when Matt Pacher came in and told her the news. She wouldn't believe it - felt it was a sick teenage joke - until she read it in the paper the next day.

Scooby's mom emailed me today and told me how Scooby recently went by your grave and "talked" to you about his future plans. She said: "You have raised such a special boy that his friends still look to him for guidance and advice."

Dad laughed, really laughed, maybe for the first time, tonight watching a YouTube video of Sarah Palin at a turkey farm in Alaska. It made me feel good to hear him laugh.

Tomorrow is Home for the Holidays at our Modesto church. We're going to go even though it will remind us of our old life and make us sad.

All my love sweet boy
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
It's been an especially sad day today. I have lots of big worries on my little mind. And I'm so sad that you are gone.

Bryan called tonight and said he and Natalie are coming to see us next Tuesday night. I'm thrilled. When I told Dad we both cried. We held each other and sobbed for about 5 minutes. We never said a word but both knew what the other was thinking....our boy should be coming home next week too.

I read something yesterday that upset me. It was a passage from CS Lewis' book A Grief Observed where he says our visions of reuniting with our loved ones in Heaven are just something we get from bad hymns - and isn't biblically based. I asked Debra about it tonight and she confirmed the Bible is pretty vague on Heaven and doesn't clearly say we'll be with our loved ones again. Fundamentalists believe we will and quote scriptures that support their beliefs. But at the end of the day, none of us know what happens when we die. It depresses me even more to think I may never be with you again. I just have to believe we will. I might go totally batty if I don't.

I love you very, very much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I heard from three of my bereaved mother pen pals today. It seems we're all missing our children even more with Thanksgiving around the corner. One mom said this to me:

"I know the holiday is so bittersweet because even though we have a bounty of food, friends, beautiful homes, etc.there is an empty place setting at our tables.

I keep you in my prayers, especially with the holiday approaching.

Meanwhile, may you have the peace that can only come from knowing that this life is not all there is and the heavenly reunion with our sons will be for eternity."

I look forward to that reunion.
Missing you much.
love,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I read the following quote on the carepages for my friend in Georgia whose little girl has cancer. A newspaper columnist wrote about Gini's daughter and another boy in their community who was paralyzed in a car accident last week. The quote was meaningful for me. People tell me often how your death has brought about good things. While I am glad of the byproduct of this horrible tragedy, I still wouldn't have volunteered for the assignment.

"Most of us spend our lives trying to avoid suffering. And when it comes, we fight to be free of it. Yet life teaches that each of us making the earthly journey will get our fair share. And somehow, the God who suffers with us brings life out of the suffering. I still don't want it. But I see God doing something beautiful with both of these families, and with our community."

Stephen Macko sent this message tonight. Made Dad and me cry.

Mrs. Dickerson-
I got your invite on facebook and it really made my day. I just got back from a jounalism convention in st. louis on monday. I had a great time but the city seemed to have something missing, Ryan. I saw the signs for Washington University and even talked to kids from the journalism school. I so badly wanted to pick up my phone and call Ryan. I did wear the travel tag that you sent me with the picture of Ryan and me. Everyone asked about it and I told them it was my friend that died. Mock trial is starting up and this year's case is an arson case. The defendant is a fun loving musician accused of starting the fire. Ryan would be the picture perfect character I could just see him getting up on the stand and start rapping the song that is in the witness testimony. Stephen

And Natalie is missing you extra much too. We all do. Our lives are a less joyful, less fun, less meaningful without you.

All my love sweet boy
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there sweet boy,
The world is really a mess right now. There's an economic meltdown, there are wars and awful things happening all over the globe, the ice caps are melting and the fish are dying and the climate is changing all over the place. I can't recall a time when more things seemed wrong. And those things are true for people whose precious child didn't die. If Jesus is really coming back, now seems like as good a time as any if you ask me.

Brianna just finished a 36 hour dance marathon at IU, raising money for the Ryan White AIDS Foundation. We gave a donation in your memory and I asked her to dance some famous Ryan Dickerson moves for you. I'm sure she was a tired girl by Sunday morning.

Tried to call Tyler tonight but his voice mail is full. We haven't heard from him in ages. Bryan is still doing great though and checks in regularly. I'm so proud of him and you would be too.

I'm starting to get ready for the 2nd annual Remembering Ryan Reunion on Dec 20. So hard to believe we're about to experience our second set of holidays without you. Your tree dedication is going to be on Dec 30 at the library. So you will be remembered a bunch in December.

Mallory sent a sweet email this morning. She said:
"I have to tell you, last week we took our composite shots for the sorority. The photographer took six different pictures of each girl and we were able to choose the one we liked the most on the spot. I had an easy time choosing which photo I wanted to use. I chose one where my arms were crossed in front of me and my Ryan bracelet was very visible. I was so excited! Twenty years from now, girls in ADPi will see the bracelet. They won't know what it's for or who it is, but I still think it's pretty cool. Ryan has become a part of us. You can look through any of our pictures and see Ryan. It's been almost sixteen months, but none of us have forgotten or taken off our bracelets."

Love you so very much, bud
Ma


Bryan Wilson 
I miss ya like hell

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Dad is feeling a little bluer than usual tonight - his Hospice patient, Ray, died last night. Dad had visited him yesterday and knew he wasn't doing well so he went back today. When he got to his room, it was vacant. He went to the desk and asked about him and the nure said he had "gone home". At first Dad was confused thinking he had gone back to his little mobile home but then she explained he had "passed" and "gone home". Dad had told him lots about you so maybe he'll find you somehow.

Steve and Debra came today and stayed for dinner. We haven't seen much of them lately so it was great to be with them. At dinner we talked about how I used to call you on Friday or Saturday nights when we were headed home from some community event or the movies or dinner. They laughed about how you were always bargaining for somethign - 30 more minutes added to your curfew; permission to go somewhere with someone, etc. When we finished talking about it I commented on how much I miss you and Debra said she sometimes has moments when she wonders if it's really real. She said she asks herself, "can Ryan really be gone?"

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of David Morris' death. Chris G emailed me a few minutes ago. I'm sure it will be a hard day for all who loved him. Anniversaries are tough.

Love you so very much sweet boy
Mom

Sakara Seng 
Hi Ryan,

We had the end of the season water polo party last night. It was at Erica Austin's house. I'm not a sophomore anymore, but I feel like it as I'm writing to you. Despite that, I'm technically a senior. I got my towel last night; it was white with two red stripes and the MHS logo. I remember the polo party at your house where you and your class got the black towels. I sat on the diving board watching. You guys all looked so cool and experienced and suave. Maybe I was just being a silly underclassmen, or maybe I wasn't. You all really were very cool. Last night, as I stood in front of the parents and jv kids getting my towel, i felt pretty fake. I didn't feel extra cool or anything of the sort. Did the jv kids look at me the same way I looked at you? probably not, but I still thought about it.

I only really wanted to tell you that I have a towel like you now too. =]


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan
12 years ago today I was named Publisher of the Wichita Falls Times Record News. It was a big day for our family. You were a precious little 2nd grader with round glasses. Neither you nor Ross wanted to move but it turned out to be an easy, good transition for you. It was much harder for 6th grader Ross. But we made many good friends there - many of whom have been alongside Dad and me through this terrible loss. I feel blessed we had that 3 1/2 years there.

Last night, Debra and I went to the theater and saw The Color Purple. I loved it. I cried during the final scenes and the curtain call. Celie and Nettie's reunion made me cry - their relationship reminded me of how Aunt Les and I once were. I also cried when Celie made her curtain call. Her triumph over a lifetime of suffering, abuse and oppression touched me in a tender place. Even though I've never been abused or oppressed, I related to her suffering and her feelings of abandonment by God. When she wrote her letter to God telling him she had always been a good girl and asking for a sign explaining what was happening to her, I related to her pain and dismay.

Dad went on an outing to the wine country yesterday with a group from Gallo. He was Kevin Leppla's guest, as he was about this same time last year. I recall how fragile we were last year when he went and recognize the strength we have regained in a year's time. That year over year perspective is encouraging. It's easy to feel like we are stuck in our grief, not making much progress toward healing but comparisons such as that one help me realize we are inching forward.

My friend, Sara, who also lost a child about 15 years ago, recently told me she can't remember much from the first 18 months after she lost Haley. Books she read, movies she saw, decisions she made, etc. I think I am going to find the same to be true with me. And what a shame because I have read SO many books!

It's almost Thanksgiving again - my favorite holiday. I'm trying to capture the joy and not think about how you should be flying home.

I love and miss you very much, bud.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Yesterday Bryce Aquino posted a photo of you, Brendan and Lance on her Facebook account. It's of the three of you with your arms around each other, horizontally. You are in the middle, looking right at the camera. She titled it Love and that's an appropriate title. It is a wonderful image of friendship and love. Made me sob.

Tonight Dad and I went to the elementary school where he volunteers to see his 2nd graders in their Thanksgiving play. As we sat in the overheated, stuffy, smelly auditorium with the parents, grandparents and squirming younger siblings, we both teared up, remembering the many times we sat in just such a place watching you and Ross perform. We remembered you being the white rabbit in Lakewood's Follow the Rabbit, Tarzan in Wichita Falls, singing "I Shoulda Been a Cowboy" in Highland Village. So many memories.

There is a memorial ad in today's Sac Bee with a verse I liked. I feel the same way about your absence. It is by Lamartine and goes like this:
SOMETIMES WHEN ONE PERSON IS MISSING,THE WHOLE WORLD SEEMS DEPOPULATED.
I told Stephanie on the phone this afternoon that I just miss you so very much. And I do.

all my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
This email from Nora Cassidy popped up on my screen a few minutes ago. I know you would love this and be so proud of her.

"One of my favorite stories about Ryan is one that Brendan told me. It was during swim practice and the set was so grueling and Ryan was trying so hard that he actually threw up in the gutter of the pool. Then, instead of getting out like anyone else would, he finished the practice with I am guessing the same intensity. I was always in awe of this and have always hoped to somehow live up to this so I could settle my conscience, but I never thought that I would be able to.
This last Saturday we (varsity girls water polo) played in the first round of sections against Davis of Yolo (who will probably win the section). We lost 3-13, but the reason that it was not 3-14, was a field block of mine at the beginning of the second quarter. Although it was a pretty and successful block, I hurt my fingers and figured that I had jammed my pinky and ring finger on my left hand. I decided that I didn't want to give up and get out so I played for another 2 and one half quarters until Chiavetta started subbing the starters out. After the game, my mom took me to the hospital for an x-ray and it turns out that I probably have a hairline fracture on my hand right below the knuckle of my left ring finger. So now I am walking around with a splint that looks scarily like a cast, which goes from my finger tips to my elbow and am waiting for it to heal.
Everyone is making jokes about going out with a bang, but I was still pretty annoyed at the whole situation. That is, until I realized that in my mind I had finally matched Ryan's feat, and could stop feeling guilty about giving up or taking the easy road. So now, thanks to Ryan, I am proud to be sitting here, typing with one hand, doped up on advil.
I just signed up to help load the tree into the library on the 9th and am looking forward to seeing you both. I miss you both and think of you and Ryan frequently. Thanks for sharing him.
Love,
Nora"

I also learned that Patrick Ip was crowned Homecoming King last Friday night. He admired you so much - I know following in your footsteps was a special thing for him.

I just finished a long conversation with Jim Daugherty, our VP of HR in Columbus, Ga who lost his wife of 32 years on Monday morning. He is so sad and feels cheated. I commiserated with him because even though I can't know how he feels, I know he feels awful. And there's nothing any of us can do to make it better. Life is full of tragedy.

I love you so much sweet boy,
Ma


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Through your death, I have become so much more aware of all the suffering in the world. It's everywhere I look. Just this morning I got a phone call telling me the 49 year old wife of one of our VPs in Georgia died last night of a massive heart attack. She and her husband have been married since they were 17 and were still very much in love. He is devastated. Last week, one of our managers in Macon, Ga learned her 4 year old has Ewings Carcoma - bone cancer in her leg. I got a lovely letter from my high school friend, Sue Smith, telling me that, yes, the rumor I heard about her is true. She has in fact been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer which has metastisized into her liver and abdomen and she is told she is incurable. She just turned 50 like I did.

I remember saying to Debra on New Year's Eve that even though we didn't know what it would be, we knew the year ahead would bring much sadness and sorrow. People we loved would die; couples would get divorced; people would get sick; children would go astray; businesses would fail and jobs would be lost. All those things and more have happened in 2008.

I guess it's always been that way but back when my life was full and good and intact, I didn't notice so much. Before my own bone jarring loss, I didn't pay as much attention to other losses in the world. I knew they were there but they were passing thoughts. Now that I am one of the sufferers, I pay much closer attention. I guess that's what makes old people wise.

Lorrie Freitas sent a video to me this morning called Happy People Dancing. It was of a young guy dancing in different places around the globe with the native people. It reminded me of something you would do. I miss my happy, silly boy.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi there sweet boy,
We took our guests to Sonoma today. We walked around the square and shopped a little, at a nice lunch and visited a few wineries. We finished up by stopping in Petaluma. There is the greatest candy store that you've ever seen. You were the candy eater in our family and I so wanted to buy some for you.

I had another one of those dreams last night where you weren't dead yet but I knew you were going to die. I was trying everything to prevent it from happening. I awoke feeling sad, realizing you are in fact gone from this life forever.

It's late and I'm tired. I love you so much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My calves are throbbing as I sit writing to you. We hiked in Tahoe today with Terilyn and Hobie, my roommate from A&M and her husband who are visiting from Texas. It was a beautiful day and it always does my psyche good to spend the day outdoors.

Last night we drove to Modesto to hear a guest speaker at Community Hospice. She is a chaplain from the East Coast who Debra heard last year and really liked. Her talk was called A Message of Hope. It wasn't what I thought it would be but it was interesting nonetheless. The one subject she addressed that hit home with me was describing the different ways we each give voice to our suffering. It dawned on me that writing to you in this blog is one way I give voice to my suffering.

I read the following passage in my Joan Chittister book a few nights ago.

"No one comes out of struggle, out of suffering, the same kind of person they were when they went in. It's possible, of course, to come out worse than we were when we went into the throes of pain. Struggle can turn to sour in us, of course. But is is equally possible, if we choose to reflect on it, to come out stronger and wiser than we were when it began. What is not possible, however, is to stay the same."

That's for sure. Dad, Ross and I are definitely not the same. I hope we don't sour but at the same time it doesn't feel right to become stronger and wiser because of something so horrble as losing you. But I guess that is what will be.

loving & missing you with all my heart,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey buddy,
Sorry I didn't write to you last night. It wasn't a good night at our house.

I awoke at 4:30 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. Too many worries crashing through my brain. So I got up and checked emails and did the crossword puzzle and the Jumble (tell Nanny I do the Jumble every day in her honor.) And now I'm writing to you.

I heard from Annie yesterday. She said this about you:
"I don't think I will ever stop saying this...I can't believe it and I can't believe how much time has passed already. I listen to his voicemail on my ipod and I remember that I have to live every day to the absolute fullest and not be afraid to take risks because I want to be able to have his death have some kind of significance...to me it means that I can't live an ordinary life, it must be EXTRAORDINARY and go against the norm and to not settle for anything less than what makes me completely happy. He was a huge part of the reason I came to Peru. I had been talking about coming back here since I left, when I was 13. And after he died, I was like .. well, what the heck I am doing talking about it? It is time to GO! I didn't care that you're only supposed to go abroad junior year, or if my Spanish level was good enough or WHATEVER, it didn't matter. I knew that I wanted to go and could go, so why not? So I think about him all the time when I'm here and I tell people that is why I am here."

I heard from several of your friends who thought about you on election night, lamenting that you weren't here to revel in the excitement. Fallon and Erica, Kyle Griffith, Lance, etc. Lance said some other sweet things about you. He said:

"he would have loved it. (referring to the election)

i wanted to tell you that i went to san francisco for a japanese speech this last weekend. i talked about ryan and our friendship. unfortunately, in the middle of it, i got really emotional...which i wasnt expecting to get...but i did. i ended up going off on a tangent and not following my speech because it just felt right at the time, but it made me blank out...i looked down at my cue cards but i couldnt comprehend anything because i dunno, i was just shaken up. i ended up just saying sorry and walking out. i felt really bad that i couldnt finish telling my story about ryan and our friendship, but im going to try again in february.

i miss him so much. writing a speech about him was so hard. it felt so wrong. he shouldn't be dead. he's my best friend and ALWAYS will be."

We all still miss you so much, Ry.
All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Boy, we're sure missing you tonight, Ry. Debra said in an email to me today: "I've been thinking about you both all day. I wore my Ryan bracelet to the polling place this morning thinking of him. I think I pretty much voted all the ways he would have!

I know how much you are missing him every day but especially on a day like today when he would be bouncing off the walls with excitement about the election. Just wanted you to know how much I care and that I know how much you miss him."

You would, in fact, be bouncing off the walls. I can see it in my mind's eye. I hope you and Tim Russert are looking down from Heaven at all the excitement in the ol' US of A.

Tonight Ross and I were putting some of his stuff away. He is staying in the guest room with your old furniture. I opened the drawer in the armoire to put some of his stuff in it and there were all your school supplies from years gone by. Pencils and pens and highlighters and satchels from 5th grade, index cards and push pins and rulers & containers of Elmer's Glue from elementary school with your name written on them. I wept. Ross was so sweet. He hugged me and cried too. I was going to put the stuff elsewhere and Ross said "No, leave it in there. I want it to stay there." I have also found that as we're going through his things and I'm trying to convince him to give stuff to charity, he won't give away anything that was yours. There are lots of t-shirts and jerseys that once were yours. So we're saving them all.

Eady texted a photo of Bret with his first deer he killed. He was obviously proud. I thought of how you would have called and congratulated him and teased him in that sweet way you had with him. He adored you and you were such a sweet big cousin.

I'm glad the election is over for many reasons but not the least that it's one more thing we had to endure without you. I guess we can check one more thing off the list that we survived.

Loving and missing you so very much.

Ma



Lynn Dickerson 
Hey sweetheart,
Today was a day of bereaved mothers and widows for me. I had lunch with a new friend - a woman whose 17 year old son died in a car crash almost 5 years ago. We each told our stories to the other and cried. Her son was also an Eagle Scout. The last words he ever spoke to her were "Mom, it's under control. Don't worry." Sounded so much like something you would have said to me. And then he died on his way home from his girlfriend's house over Christmas vacation in 2003. I liked this mom a lot. I hope we can be friends.

Later in the day I received a phone call from a friend in Arizona who lost her grown daughter a year ago to suicide. She was in tears - having a very difficult day with the anniversary. She and I have never met but we have a strong bond now because of our shared losses. She is a friend of a Lewisville friend.

Both those women have an incredibly strong faith and believe Heaven is real and that you're all there - living joyful, productive lives. Their faith inspires me and gives me comfort and hope.

Later in the day I spent a little time with a recently widowed co-worker. She is new to this enormous grief - just a little over 2 months. Her pain is complicated by the difficult way in which her husband died. She is experiencing the phenomenon we all encounter - people, even close friends, avoiding talking about our lost one for fear it will be upsetting to us when in fact it is more upsetting for them to stop saying your names and mentioning you in conversation. Even Natalie wrote to me about how that happens to her. It makes others feel awkward so they avoid or change the subject. When I write my book, there's going to be a long chapter on that.

Dad has been especially sad these last few days. I think sometimes it hits him that you and the relationship he had with you are gone forever. It's such a huge and painful loss.

Tomorrow is election day. You would be excited.

I love and miss you so much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Our Sacramento church acknowledged All Saints Day today. I put a ribbon with your name on it on the board. Dad became too sad and had to go to the car.

When Ross met our friends, Cheryl & Brad, today, he told some Ryan stories and it made me both happy and sad. They were funny stories and I smiled at the memories but then it makes us all so sad that there will never be any new memories to share.

Mal called tonight from Arizona. She said a really nice thing about how you are the glue that holds your friends together, even now. I wish I could remember exactly how she said it because it was lovely. Something to the effect of how they will always have a special bond because they all knew & loved you and your memory is the tie that continues to bind them together.

I'm having lunch tomorrow with a woman who lost her 18 year old son 5 years ago. He, too, was an Eagle Scout and an extraordinary person. Our coming together has been through a confluence of "small world" things. I look forward to meeting her.

All my love,
Ma

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
It was a rainy day in Sacramento today. Ross and I did loads and loads of his laundry. We're dog sitting for our friends, the Dells. They have a Westie and a Scottie. Both are so cute. Dad, Ross and I like them very much. Makes us want a dog even more. Maybe we'll finally make it happen now. It would be good for us to have a new love in our lives.

It's hard to believe it's November again. I can't believe the holidays are upon us once again. We didn't know how we were going to survive them last year but we did. Now here we are once more. Time doesn't heal all wounds but it does numb the pain somewhat.

My daily grief devotional today was encouraging. It said:

"Another aspect of heaven is the presence of endless joy.

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psalm 16:11).

Joyful moments on earth are just that—moments. They seem to end so quickly. In heaven joy is eternal."

I liked reading that, especially since I've been sad that you're missing the Halloween fun on your college campus this weekend.

A friend of mine in North Carolina lost his wife last week. Her funeral is tomorrow. She was a year younger than I. Her family is devastated and wonders how they will go on without her, I'm sure. I was thinking tonight how we are capable of surviving so much more than we think. One should never say "I couldn't bear ______" because the truth is you can and you will because you have no other choice. Sometimes you would rather not, but you do because you have to.

So far it's nice having Ross here. I like knowing he's safe, under our roof.

Love and miss you so very much, sweet boy.
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Happy Halloween Ry,
I'm home from the Carolinas. It was a good trip. The travel is tiring but I really like being at the papers. Much more fun than being at corporate. I didn't have a free night on this trip to visit Natalie. Wish I could have. I found my busy week distracted me from my sadness a bit. I fretted over Ross a good bit though. He and Dad emptied his apartment this week and moved him in with us. I'm glad I was out of town for that experience. It wasn't pleasant, as you can imagine.

I was thinking about Halloween a few minutes ago and remembering one time when you were a little boy. In the days leading up to Halloween you kept asking me what I was going to be for Halloween. I kept saying "I'm going to be a mommy." And finally in exasperation, you said "But I want you to be a beautiful princess!"

I read the following passage in a novel on the plane home today. It's a very accurate description of how we feel after we lose someone we think we can't live without.

"The problem with grief is that it doesn't go away. As time ticks on, the rawness dissipates somewhat, and you find yourself settling into the pain, becoming accustomed to it, wearing it around your shoulders like an old, heavy scarf."

Dad is off visiting his new Hospice patient. He still has Ray and now this new one. This fellow requested someone "intelligent" so Dad is flattered they assigned him. He just called me on his way home and said he thinks he passed muster. They spent several hours together this afternoon and I guess he passed the IQ test.

We're off to our Bereaved Parent group tonight. I have to make a salad and I'm running late.

Love you so very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello Ryan Hunter Dickerson,
We are home from Southern California where we have been since Wednesday. It feels like we were gone a month. And I leave again in the morning on a 6:30 am flight and won't return until Friday. No rest for the weary, as they say.

After our conference was over yesterday, we drove to Simi Valley and spent the afternoon and evening with our old friends from Highland Village, Bob & Pat Pergler. I think you would remember them but maybe not. Ross does. They were our friends when you were born. We hadn't seen them in about 11 or 12 years. Their only son died 2 1/2 years ago so we share a heartbreak. He was in his 30's and had lots of health issues so the situation is different. But still very sad for them. We enjoyed spending time with them.

While waiting for our plane in the Bob Hope airport this morning, I read a story in the LA Times about a soldier from California who was killed in Iraq recently. His friends' description of him sounded a lot like how your friends talk about you. The soldier's name was Bruno and one of his fellow servicemen said this about him. "Everybody always had a Bruno story. It was like hanging out with The Fonz. He was the coolest guy you ever met."

And speaking of your friends, I've heard from several over the last few days. Fallon wrote and said:

"I am currently up a little late working on a paper for my African- American studies course. It is on W.E. Du Bois's "Souls of Black Folk". Definitely one of m new favorite books! Anyways there is a part of the book that reminded me of Ryan and I thought I would share it with you.

Its in the chapter "Of the Passing of the First Born". I just think that Du Bois has such an eloquent way of writing things. He said "and then his little soul leapt like a star that travels in the night and left a world of darkness in its train." That particular quote reminded me of how someone said that they thought they had seen a white bird fly off into the sky the day that Ryan died. I had always thought that that was really beautiful.

The other passage from the book was
"'She who in simple clearness of vision sees beyond the stars said when he had flown, 'He will be happy There; he ever loved beautiful things.' and I, far more ignorant, and blind by the web of mine own weaving, sit alone winding words and muttering, 'If still he be, and he be There, and there be a There, let him be happy, O Fate!''

I really miss him a lot."

Queenie wrote, wishing you could come to Santa Barbara for Halloween with John and Terence. She said "I'm pretty sure Gus is going to try and make it up from SD with his roommates/housemates so all in all it seems like it'll turn out to be a pretty good reunion with old friends. He probably wouldn't have been able to fly out here just for Halloween but you know your boy would have loved to see us all together again."

So many things happened at my conference that hurt. The entertainment one night was a comedy/singing act by 3 young guys - one was pretending to be French so he spoke in an "over the top" French accent. He was young and cute and had great hair, just like you. Reminded me of how you used to put a French accent on English words, along with your "French" hand gestures when you made a presentation in class and didn't know the French word you were looking for. Kids still talk about what a crack up you were in French class and how you designated yourself Class Captain.
And it ALWAYS hurts to overhear people talking about their college aged kids. That is the hardest for me. I almost have to leave the room when that happens.

And I had a Ryan dream one of the nights in the hotel. So realistic that I could actually feel your shoulders as I hugged you.

I'll be gone all week so I won't write to you until Friday. I'm carrying along with me, in my heart, to the Carolinas.

All my love
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear friends who read my letters to Ryan. The following essay was in this month's Compassionate Friends newsletter. I am pasting it below because the author successfully communicates how we bereaved parents feel in the early months and years. I suspect it is also how widows and widowers also feel. Or anyone who loses someone so close to them that they feel like a part of them has been amputated. I don't personally know the author of this message but his feelings and pain resonate with me.
Thanks for your love and support for all of us who are living through a loss so profound it feels unbearable.
ld



Friends -
Please listen to me for a few minutes. Let me finish what I have to say. These are random but connected thoughts. I can say
these things to you because we are close friends. My comments are made in the spirit of friendship.
I am deeply troubled. Except for Bill (who lost a child), no one knows what I am experiencing. I was ignorant until Larry died.
This is the worst personal experience of my life. I look for support to those with whom I have a long relationship.
Almost no one asks me anything but a superficial “how are you?” The same greeting that I previously used with Bill. Last year I
apologized to Bill for using this greeting. Now I want to scream when asked. I have searched for a decent answer. What I often
say is, “I am getting through the day,” which is the truth. Last week I cried when Sam said to me, “What can I do for you?”
Almost no one mentions Larry. My family and I talk and think about him 24 hours per day. Can you imagine yourself with such
a significant event and people around you whom you have known for decades saying nothing? I am a black cloud entering every
room. I make people feel uncomfortable because I am very sad and my experience is too close to everyone. Other people’s discomfort
makes me feel very uncomfortable. I have difficulty handling that discomfort. I want to avoid it.
I want to tell you a little about my life since Larry died.
I have to force myself to be social. Most of the time I avoid social contact. I consider you to be closer than other social friends.
I cannot tolerate other people’s happiness or sadness. I do not go to movies, musical performances, theater, or other places where
I might have to answer the “how are you?” question, or the subject matter may make me uncomfortable. I don’t’ watch TV, read
papers or magazines, except for Mancha. I cannot tolerate stress, even listening to a Kings game.
When I do go out, I think about how I will handle the embarrassing moment when someone asks, “How are you?” or does not
know what happened. Going to the farmer’s market is now a well-planned trip of avoidance.
I cannot deal with stress. I try to avoid it. I read history books where I know content of stress, violence, sadness or happiness.
It is very difficult to call anyone. I appreciate calls to me.
Sleep is a challenge each night. I am an emotional wreck. Intense grief floats in and out like the wind. My stomach is frequently
doing weird things. I now know the grief diet.
I tell you these things because I know you are uncomfortable asking. I behaved the same way until Larry died. I am forever different.
My point in telling you all of this is that it is OK to talk to me about Larry. I is OK to talk to me about my experience. Don’t
dance around it. I will not break. My entire circle of friends is a part of my recovery team. I need conversation about Larry and
the horror I am experiencing.
I don’t want to monopolize conversation. I also don’t want to be ignored. It makes me very uncomfortable.
Again, I tell you these things because of our long relationship.
Help me.
Tom
Submitted by
Tom Frankel
Yolo Chapter Member

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We had our Grief Share group tonight. Dad really didn't want to go and I could have been talked out of it pretty easily but we went, being the dutiful folks we are. I'm glad we did. Tonight's segment was on bereaved parents. (last week it was on losing a spouse.) On the video, many parents were interviewed. It's validating somehow to hear others describe the same feelings we have. At least we realize we haven't gone totally mad. They even described the feelings of wanting to die and be with your child - just as we have felt so often.

Tomorrow we leave for Southern California for the CNPA annual conference. I end my reign as President after a 15 month term. Yea! I will surely go down in history as the most ineffective President that organization ever had. You died only 16 days after I was inducted so I've been pretty worthless. I so vividly remember you, Ross and Tyler sitting at our table at the luncheon. I was so proud to show you all off. You were very handsome in your suit, as always. I'm so glad you were there.

We're going to visit Bob & Pat Pergler while we're down south. They were our good friends in Highland Village when you were born. Back when Ross changed his name to Eyeball Dickerson for a brief time. They still call him Eyeball. They lost their only son in a car accident a few years ago so we are members of the bereaved parent club. It will be good to see them and hear how they have survived the last few years.

Ross moves in with us temporarily next week. I hope that will be good for all of us.

My calendar saying for today reminds me of your legacy.

"Every noble life leaves its fiber interwoven forever in the work of the world." Ruskin

I love and miss you so much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello there dear boy,
Today I wrote a letter to a high school friend I haven't seen since we graduated 32 years ago. I recently learned she has Stage 4 colon cancer and has moved back to East Texas so her mother can help care for her. I assume she doesn't have too long to live though I don't know for sure. Before your death, I would never have written the kind of unvarnished letter that I wrote today. I ended it by telling her that if she gets to Heaven before I do, to look you up and tell you your mother loves and misses you so much.

Dad read tonight that both Nostradamus and the Mayan Indians believe the world will end on Dec 21, 2012. I hope they are right. Even though that will be Stevie G's 23rd birthday and he might not want the world to end on his birthday. I spent half my childhood worrying about the world coming to an end (way too much Southern Baptist influence, in hindsight) and now here I am wishing it would happen.

Bryan called this afternoon and we talked half an hour. I'm so proud of that boy. He's having a great experience and doing so well. You would be proud of him too. Tonight he has a date with the East of Eden girl, as we call her. He met her because he was reading it. Her real name is Sarah, I think. Tyler is in Colorado on Fall Break with some Grinnell friends. I hope he's having fun.

Tomorrow is going to be a brutal day at work. I need to go to bed now so I can rest up.

I still can't believe you're dead sometimes. It still washes over me in waves of disbelief even after almost 15 months.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there sweet boy,
Dad and I played hookie from church today. Instead we rode our bikes into midtown (about 12 miles, I think) and had breakfast at Cafe Bernardo. Then we rode home. It was a nice outing.

Tonight we went to the movies and saw Nights in Rodanthe, a chick flick. Good ol' Dad - he's such a good sport about seeing movies I want to see but I never go to movies I don't want to see. There is a grief scene in the movie and I felt the directors did an excellent job of making it realistic. It's a scene where the main character receives a box of her loved ones belongings after his death. The way she reacted reminded me of how we reacted when we got your things from camp. She held them close to her heart and clung to them, just like I still do when I come across something of yours that I'm not expecting to find.

A strange thing happened earlier today. I picked up Dad's copy of Reader's Digest to take it from the office to Dad's reading table . I never read Reader's Digest. When I picked it up, it fell open to a story called Beyond Tragedy, written by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert Kennedy's oldest daughter. It was a very good article about all the death she has experienced in her life. You know, those Kennedys are more cursed than the Dickersons. Maybe only because there are so many more of them. She said a lot of things that I concurred with. For example, she said "I don't like the saying "Time heals all wounds." It is not true. Years later, people can still be terribly sad and miss their mother, father, child, sibling, friend. Scars remain unhealed."
And she included a letter written by Joseph Kennedy, the patriarch,
to a friend of his who lost a son. He said:

"Dear Jack,
There are no words to dispel your feelings at this time, and there is no time that will ever dispel them. Nor is it any easier the second time around than it was the first. And yet I cannot share your grief, because no one could share mine.
When one of your children goes out of your life, you think of what he might have done with a few more years and you wonder what you are going to do with the rest of yours. You never really accept it; you just go through the motions.
Then one day, because there is a world to be lived in, you find yourself a part of it again, trying to accomplish something - something that he did not have time enough to do.
And, perhaps that is the reason for it all. I hope so.
Sincerely,
Joe"
And then she tells the story of her dad speaking in Indianapolis on the day Martin Luther King was killed. Interestly Gary, my boss, had pointed out this same quote to me on the anniversary of MLK's death. Anyway, Robert Kennedy said this and I find the quote fitting for our situation too. He said: "My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote, 'Even in our sleep, pain which we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our own will comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

So I think I was meant to see that article in the Reader's Digest. Funny how those things happen sometimes.

I love and miss you so very much Ry.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
We hiked to the top of the Peak in the Jack London State Park this afternoon. It's about 4 miles up and 4 miles back down. I thought after Half Dome it would be a piece of cake. It wasn't. It was hard. Dad and I both huffed and puffed. Took us 2 hours to get to the top but only an hour to get down. It was beautiful though and nice to be out in the great fall weather. We stopped in Sonoma and had pasta at a cute restaurant afterward. We're both dog tired now. I always say I can't run but I can walk til the cows come home. Well, the cows are home. And I'm going to bed.

Ross met a girl last night whose step-brother died a month ago from a drug overdose. He felt a kinship with her because of their common loss. I feel for the family. Losing your child is so horrific. I can only imagine how much worse it is when the circumstances are shameful.

On the way home tonight I said to Dad "I sure hope there is a heaven and it's a wonderful place." He said "me too. Me too."

I had an email from Mrs. Altman tonight telling me her elderly dad died on Thursday. It wasn't totally unexpected but it still hurts. I told her I hope you have met him and told him his daughter was your Mock Trial coach and she asked you to sing the school song at the IB dinner and that you used to play poker with his grandson, Nick and that you played water polo and swam with his granddaughter, Tatiana. I have no idea how it works but that's how I hope it works.

I love and miss you mightily.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi sweetheart,
Dad and I went to the movies tonight and saw The Secret Life of Bees. It was sooooo good. We both cried all throughout it - probably more than most people because our hearts are more tender than the average bear's. I both read the book and listened to the audiobook a few years ago. I loved them both and I loved the movie tonight. August Boatwright is my new hero. Kind and strong. A good combination.

Today I sent a donation off in your memory to SSP. I looked at the list of 2007 donors to see if our donation in your name from last year was listed. It was, as well as one in your memory from Tom and Debra Buckles. That made me cry. So sweet.

We got a sweet note from Annie Benisch earlier this week saying she thinks of you EVERYDAY and prays for us. And then Diana emailed to say she misses you and wishes you were having a college experience with the rest of them. Lance emailed and updated us on his adventures at UCLA.He said so many funny things that you would get a kick out of. Wish I could call and tell you. And Mrs. Cassidy wrote and described how she watched Quentin kiss the #6 on the back of the water polo cap before the game last week. She said she knows we hear from lots of kids who miss you but she knows there are many others who miss you and don't tell us. I'm sure she's right.

I went to the trophy shop today to begin the process of ordering the plaque that will hang in the library near Ryan's Reading Tree. It's so weird to conduct business with people who don't know me or you. It's obvious by the wording on the plaque that you died young and we have the same last name, but the man was all business and so was I. A year ago I would have been compelled to tell him the story and I would have cried on him. I didn't today. It was a "just the facts, ma'aam" kind of encounter. I guess that is a sign of progress.

I'm glad it's Friday and I can sleep in a little tomorrow morning. Dad and I are going to Sonoma hiking since our trip to Florida got cancelled. The fall colors are supposed to be in full splendor.

I love you so much, Ry.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
Susan Pugh mailed us a photo she took in Maui in the summer of '06 when our three families were there on vacation. It's of you, Dad and me. I have my arms around both you and Dad. We all look so happy. Susan said in her note that she found the picture and wanted us to have it even though she knew it would make us cry. It did. She also said she wishes we could go back to that time so we could have you back again. Amen to that.

Last night I cleaned out the chest of drawers in one of the spare bedrooms so Ross will have somewhere to put his things when he moves back in with us later this month. The drawers were filled with your white undershirts and sleeping pants and work-out t-shirts. Dad had gone to the hardware store while I did that chore. When I came across them, I buried my face in them and wept. I still haven't thrown your toothbrush away. I miss you more than words can describe.

You would be so proud of Bryan. He is thriving at BYU-Idaho. He sent a long email last night, telling me how great he is doing and how much he likes it. I'm so happy for him. Here is an excerpt from his email.

"Mrs. D life is awesome. Things are going so well. I finished my two block classes and got A's in both, I'm really excited for the future. I really miss Ryan, and I know you do 100 times more then I. We talk a lot about death in my religion class. Strangely my mind always turns to him first, not my mother. I can't explain why. Our prophet Thomas S. Monson gave this talk a couple of months ago on death. Though you do not know or believe in him I know his words are true. I believe, with no doubt in my mind, that this man receives inspiration from God. I hope his words bring comfort and peace to you Lynn."

This is the ending of the talk and I liked it:

"May we resolve from this day forward to fill our hearts with love. May we go the extra mile to include in our lives any who are lonely or downhearted or who are suffering in any way. May we “[cheer] up the sad and [make] someone feel glad.” May we live so that when that final summons is heard, we may have no serious regrets, no unfinished business, but will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

You did all those things and that brings me a modicum of comfort in this ghastly journey of mourning that I am on.

All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Ry,
There is a story in the Modesto Bee today about Tim Richard and Downey's good polo team. First time in many moons that Downey has had a good water polo team. I'm pretty sure Tim is Kris Luis' half brother and I remember you telling me what an amazing swimmer he is. There's a quote from him that I suspect refers to you. Here's what the story said: "Academics loomed as a potential obstacle between Richard and college a year ago, but he believes a series of life-altering events has put him on the right scholastic track.

"I had some good friends pass away last year, and it got me thinking a lot about my future," he said. "I've got this opportunity, because of swimming and water polo, and I don't want to waste it. I was almost ineligible, and that really forced me to focus more."

When I read the story, I once again wanted to email it to you or call and tell you to go online and read it. You would be proud of the ol' Knights - nudging their way to sections for the first time in ages. They were so bad when we used to play them.

Anyway, I think this is one more example of how your life and death have made a positive difference in someone else's life. You would like that very much.

Love you much,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Boy, have I ever had a lousy day! On top of my unrelenting grief is my job. Today I feel like a terrible boss and an ineffective leader. Life should not be this hard. I have to make some important decisions soon. Something in my life has to give.

I just read this passage in my Joan Chittiser book. It is so very true.

"Struggle is a very private thing. It happens in the very depths of our souls. It comes with the loss of what we have thought to be of such significance that we cannot abide the thought of life without it. Other people commiserate, of course, as they watch us struggle with the pain of losing, the meaning of endings, the shock of great change, the emptiness of the present. But they cannot really share our pain because what we have lost, however significant to us is not really significant to them. What we lose is ours and ours alone; our dreams, our hope,....Our friends look on caringly, of course, but there's little else they can do. They advise but they cannot possibly know the cost of every step. It is not their arms that are heavy, not their legs that have gone to lead, not their knees that are weak....Those who stand at the edges of our life at such a time as this cannot realize the sense of deep, deep isolation that comes when life as we have known it has been suddenly extinguished. There is no one who can take the pain away because the pain cannot be taken away. There is no one there to ease it because it simply cannot be erased."

There was a story on the front page of the Sac Bee Sports section today about the Jesuit water polo team. (the G-Suits, as you would call them) I took special note of #6 in the water looking up at the coach. It made me sad and nostalgic.

Chris G just called and we talked about how much we miss you. He said he would do anything to have you back - if someone said "here, cut off your arm" he would do it.

The world is a sadder place without you here, bud.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
We are having a tree problem here at the new house. Two trees have died and tonight we discovered a big oak tree along the fence line next to the golf course fell over today. Just came right out of the ground and crashed over the fence, knocking the wrought iron fence completely down. Now I'm worried all our trees are going to die from some weird root rot or something. Haven't we had enough bad luck, for crying out loud? Our child dies, our trees die - all for no apparent reason. I feel cursed. There was even a giant rock slide in Yosemite last week the day we left the park. I tried to think of that as good fortune since it happened after we left but maybe my being there caused it. The newspaper business is struggling mightily too. Maybe anything I touch is tainted. I haven't had much to do with the housing industry or the banking industry though.

Annie sent an email tonight and said "I miss Ry so much! There really is no one like him in the whole world." I feel the same way.

Lauren's family bought a seat in the UC Davis football stadium in your memory. They have been so generous in honoring you.

Tonight I was talking to a friend who is going through a hard time. She lamented how it's hard when other friends talk about their happy, successful kids. I totally understand. I feel those pangs almost every day. Just today I heard one of the attorneys in our office talking about what his 3 little boys are going to be for Halloween and that poked me in a tender place. Another friend is preparing to visit her daughter at parent's weekend at college. Another friend is going through the college application process with her son and making dinner for his football team every week. I don't begrudge them those joys of life - I just wish I still had them too.

Love and miss you so much
Ma


Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
It was one year ago this weekend that you were inducted into the Modesto High Hall of Fame. I remember it so well We were still so fragile. Using that intensive care metaphor, we were barely out of the hospital. I look terrible in the pictures. Debra said to me the other day, when talking about how I looked in the weeks & months following your death "You were gray, Lynn. Your skin was literally gray." And I can see she was right.

I went to Greg Laurie's website tonight and he posted this quote on his blog. It rang true.
"People want to know when you will “recover” from your loss. One person who lost three members of their family in a tragic car crash once wrote, “We recover from broken limbs, not amputations. Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past, which is gone forever; only going ahead to the future, which is has yet to be discovered.”

Could we ever "get over" this? No, instead we are new people, doing the best we can and trying to redeem your life and death for good. People don't really get that unless they have suffered a profound loss. We all experience loss but some of it is definitely worse - and more life altering - than others.

Dad and I went to the movie tonight and saw Ghost Town. It was about people who die who are still trying to get a message to a loved one. We liked it.

I love you so much, Ry.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi sweetheart,
Tonight Dad and I had dinner with Ramada's mom and Mr. Leppla and then we strolled around Sac's Second Saturday Art Walk. It was a nice evening.

Dad has been working all afternoon in the media room, hanging the drapery rod for your quilt. It has turned into a big project. I showed Ross the quilt when he was here the other day. He really liked it too. He commented on almost all the shirts, remembering you wearing them.

In today's mail, there was a card from Gary & Susan Williams from Modesto telling us they bought a Heifer International animal in your memory. Dad opened the card in the car while we were sitting in a parking lot and I was talking to Tyler on the cell phone. I heard him crying and looked over to see what had happened. We are still so very touched by people's kindness. It means a lot that friends are still doing nice things to memorialize you this long after your death.

I have always been an obit reader for whatever reason but now I am much more obsessed with reading them every day. In today's paper there is a memorial with a photo of a very handsome boy. I think this mom loved her son like I loved you. He died two years ago today and was 19. She said: To my precious son and the joy of my life, my love is forever and ever. I miss you with all my heart.
Until we meet again,
xoxo Mom
I wish I knew her - I think we would be kindred spirits.

I look forward to the day we are together again, sweet boy.
Love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
What do you do in Heaven on Friday nights? I can't help but still worry that you're missing out on all the fun.

Someone left this sweet message on your myspace last night.
"Ryan, I was thinking about you today. About how you could make the most insignificant people feel like they were the most important people in the world. I really miss you man."

Today I ordered an mp3 copy of the voice mail message I have from you on my phone. For some reason, it is going away tomorrow. I have talked to everyone at Verizon and they have all told me it shouldn't but yet it says it is. So to be safe, I bought a copy of it. I sent it to a few of your best friends in case they want your voice on their i-pod. It makes me cry to listen to it but I also love hearing your voice.

Today's mail brought a note from Ann Foults from church with a photo of the FUMC CREW taken several years ago. You look so sweet and cute in the picture. Dad and I both sobbed when we looked at it.

Loving and missing you as much as ever,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today I boxed up all your Good Times dvds and sent them to a friend at the Modesto Bee who mentioned to me that was one of her favorite old shows. She still has several kids at home so I am hopeful they will enjoy them. Santa brought them to you for your last Christmas. I know you would want someone else to laugh and JJ for you.

I had lunch with Diana Wright today - the lady who was on the SSP trip with her Sacramento youth group last summer when the Modesto FUMC kids got word of your death. She told me of the wailing and crying and how the energy in the gym changed when the sad news was told. She said she remembers thinking "whoever this was must have really been loved by a lot of people to have this kind of effect on so many." I told her just how special you were.

I got an email from Sydney a few days ago telling me how much she misses you. She ended the email with this: "The main thing is, I still love Ryan and he'll always be a part of me and I think I'll get to where I'm supposed to be with him helping me along the way."

I only cried for you twice today - once when I read an email from Peggy Luty telling me how she had told someone how special you were and once when I made a list of your favorite childhood books for Mrs. Cassidy. All those books brought back so many good memories of reading together as you were growing up.

You were special, Ry and we all miss you so very, very much.

Love,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
Mrs. Altman sent an email today telling me the MoHi girls beat the JoHo girls in water polo for the first time EVER. I wanted to pick up my phone and call you. I read about it online and saw where the MoHi boys also won. Chris Gallardo is the star this year. He got 3 kick outs so he was out of the game after that. Reminded me of another aggressive water polo player I used to know. Boy, do I miss those days.

Ross is here tonight. I made pasta with Serpa sauce and Italian sausage. It reminded me of making that same dish for you and Tyler many times and for your birthday the year you were 17. As I browned the sausage, I longed for our old life. At dinner, we three talked about how much we miss you. We all cried. Ross recalled a time he stood in your room in '05 or '06 and told you that he loved you and that he would give his life for you. And then we talked about how sometimes it still doesn't seem real - that we want to call you or we expect you to come home.

We got a package in the mail from Mallory today with a sweet note. She said "Mr & Mrs. D, Thank you so much for everything you do! I appreciate it all very much. I've said it before, but Ryan was so lucky to have you as parents!" That made us feel good, of course. She made a darling scrapbook of all the R's your friends decorated at Ryan's Relay.

I'm going to have a rough day at work tomorrow so I need to go to sleep now. I love and miss you so very much.

As you would say - 1 Love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Well sweetheart,you would be so proud of your old mom. I made it to the top of Half Dome. It was brutal but I'm glad to say I've done it. I will NEVER do it again but I am proud of myself for making it. It was the most physically grueling thing I've ever done. The cables were much worse than I had imagined them - longer, steeper, scarier, harder. Once I tried to sit down on a granite ledge while on the cables so I could re-tie my shoes. I started sliding down. It was pretty darn scary. If I had known how dangerous the cables are, I would have been a nervous wreck about letting you go in the summer of '04.

Debra and Coleen were stronger than me on the way up - they had to wait on me while I rested numerous times. I kept up with them on the switchbacks and the cables and on the way down. I was the only "injury free" one on the way down. I was just thoroughly fatigued.

We left my car in the day lot at 6am Monday morning. It took about 30 minutes to get to the trailhead. We reached the summit at 12:45p.m. We left to head back down at 1:35pm and got back to the car at 6:35pm. More than 38,000 steps and over 12 hours later.

I called Dad from the top and when I hung up I told Debra and Coleen that the other person I wanted to call was you. I said I knew you would be so proud of me. Then I started to cry. So I sobbed a bit on top of Half Dome, missing my boy.

Every muscle in my body is sore. I am walking around like a very old, very arthritic person.

We probably saw 50 other people doing the hike during the day. Only a handful of them were older than us. We told all the college kids and young adults that we were 50 and commemorating our birthdays. They were really sweet and encouraging to us. And they were proud of us for making it.

I hope somehow you know.

I love you so much.
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Well bud, I'm off for Yosemite. We're starting the big hike at o'dark thirty tomorrow morning. I hope you'll be with me, pushing me along. I'm really nervous.

I love you so much
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Oh Ryan, I wish you could see the quilt our friends, Margaret Barker and Olive Vinande, made for us out of your favorite t-shirts. It is spectacular. They brought it to us today. All 4 of us sobbed as we looked at it. They put so many special touches on it - they embroidered words all around the border - special words that mean something to us - Hottie D, manly workouts, Ryanizer, abs, always late, Ry, hey bud, 1000 watt smile, goofy, never ending kindness, etc. And across the top, it says The gift called Ryan. I knew it would be special but it exceeded my expectations. We are going to hang it in our t.v. room and treasure it forever.

Dad and I had dinner with our old friend George Cogswell and Ken Lewis tonight. Ken said your funeral was the most special funeral he has ever attended. It's weird to get compliments on a funeral but there have been many about yours.

We went to REI for the third time tonight for last minute supplies for my big hike. I sure hope I can do it. I'm really nervous.

I love you so much,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Every morning Dad goes to both your myspace and facebook accounts. Your friends still occasionally write messages to you. This one today was lovely. I'm not sure who it's from - someone named Jade. You had so many friends and I knew lots of them but I have found since your death that I only knew a fraction of them. Anyway, here is the nice thing Jade wrote:

hey ryan

yesterday in my comm class we had to make life maps talking about important events that have made us who we are.
when i came to the summer of 2007 and i said my friend ryan died, i had to try so hard to keep from crying in the middle of class.
the people in my group asked me what you were like. it was hard for me to put it into words. i just kept saying that you were this completely amazing person who could make everyone feel better no matter how they started out their day feeling. i told them how you could always make anyone laugh, how you were just such a happy person who loved life and could always make things better even if you weren't trying.
i felt like i couldn't put into words the kind of person you were. there aren't any words to describe it. i feel like the only way people could truely know and appreciate how awesome it was just to be around someone who was always so happy would be to meet them.
wish you were still here. everyone really misses you. hope you're watching over all of us and helping us to keep the laughter in our life.
thanks for always being you ryan.
it could always make me smile
Jade

And Natalie sent an email a couple days ago with a great Starbucks quote that she and I both liked. Here's what she said.

"Hi Mrs.D

I'm in the library right now, I know it's late but tonight will be a long night for sure, that's just been the nature of this week. I stopped at starbucks (we just got one put in our library-- smart move, wake) to help me through my work. Anyway-- this is all relevant, I promise-- you know how there are those "The Way I see It" quotes on every cup? I absolutely love them and I enjoy reading them, even when I don't necessarily agree. I probably appreciate the thoughts more than the drink. I think this current cup is special though, I really want to share with you the one on this cup. It reads:
"The way we get to live forever is through memories stored in the hearts and souls of those whose lives we touch. That's our soul print. It's our comfort, our emotional nourishment at the end of the day and the end of a life. How wonderful that they are called up at will and savored randomly. It seems to me we should spend our lives in a conscious state of creating these meaningful moments that live on. Memories matter."
--Leeza Gibbons

Seeing how Ryan touched EVERY person he met, he must be living louder than ever these days. But as comforting the thought, I still miss him more than anything."

You definitely left a giant soul print, Ry. When I was crying in my office on Thursday, I tried to explain to my colleague and friend, Heather, how just seeing you or being in the same room with you brought joy to my life. It is hard to describe to people who never knew you.

I'm nervous about climbing Half Dome on Monday. I'm afraid I don't have the stamina to do it; I'm sad I can't share the experience with you and I am determined to do it for you because I know you would be so proud of me for doing it. I remember the year you did it. When you got home that night, you were literally brown with dirt and more exhausted than I've ever seen you. You didn't even take a shower - just went to bed filthy. I couldn't do that but I'm sure I'll be just as tired. I hope your spirit will be with me, pushing me on when I think I can't go any farther.

I love you with all my heart.
Ma


No Matter 
Darlin' I'm tired, and I should be leavin', leaving tonight. You know I'm tired, that I should be leavin...leaving tonight."

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there sweet boy,
I have cried buckets today. I've just been a blubbering mess all day long. I melted down on everyone who came into my path. That darn Vice Presidential debate was the cause, I believe, though I never know for sure what sets me off on bad days. With the debate held at WashU in St. Louis, Dad and I were both thinking of how you should be there - how excited you would have been to be a part of that event. How we would have been so proud that the debate was held at our son's school; how we would have been scanning the audience looking for a glimpse of you, how we would have talked on the phone afterward and discussed who won and what it was like to be there. But instead it was another reminder that you aren't where you're supposed to be. Another reminder of all we have lost.

I'm going to bed now and will try again in the morning. We are meeting with our financial planner tomorrow in San Francisco. Sure to be a sobering, depressing meeting. But I'm going to try to make tomorrow a better day.

I love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Today has been a very hard day. I told Dad I'm tired of feeling so sad all the time. Lugging this enormous grief around is exhausting. I feel like curling up in a ball under my covers.

I remember reading in some of my grief books that the second year is harder than the first. That isn't true but it's not much easier either. The wound is still open -sore and oozing and bleeding.

I'm tired of everyone thinking I'm strong. I guess I am strong but I'm tired of being strong. I am both flattered and offended that I'm perceived as such a super woman. It's all an illusion.

I'm sorry for being such a cry baby tonight. I know you would hug me and cheer me up if you were here. You would make me laugh and you would say "Hey, let's go for a walk." I miss you so much Ryan and the thought of living the rest of my life without you here is overwhelming and depressing.

Love you with all my being,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Oh my gosh, Ry, I just talked to Stephanie. Stevie was robbed at gunpoint last night in his dorm room at Cal. Two guys broke in during the wee hours of the morning, woke the boys up, demanded their computers, shouted at them, etc - all with a gun in their hand. You can imagine how upset everyone is - including me. I'm grateful Steve wasn't physically hurt but I'm furious that such awful things happen to such good kids. It's not lost on anyone that Steve could be dead like you right now. Life is so unfair! Of all the thousands of kids at Berkeley, why Stevie?

Dad and I went to REI tonight to get my Camelback and new hiking shoes in preparation for Half Dome next Monday. I was sad being there - thinking how we were planning to go there with you last August to get all the things you needed for your pre-orientation camping trip in the Ozarks.

Our world is in a mess - maybe it's better that you don't have to experience all the terribleness going on. Our country is on the brink of a financial collapse;there is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and Georgia (not the Southern US one; tourists are being kidnapped in Africa; mothers are drowning their 2 year olds in Sacramento; pirates are looting ships near Russia or somewhere. It is a screwed up world.

Tomorrow is Bryan's birthday. They are all growing up without you.

I just talked to Stevie. He said he is asking himself "if this had happened to Ryan, what would Ryan have done? Would he have gone back to school?" He said "I know he would have so I should too." Bless his sweet heart. I am so angry this happened to him.

Love you so much darling boy
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Ryan
Today is the 29th again - we lost you 14 months ago today. I had a particularly hard day - maybe that's why. Kathi McShane, our new Sacramento pastor called to check on me this morning and I broke down and cried on the phone. Why is it that when you are feeling sad and someone is nice to you, you cry? And then right after that, Ross called. He asked if I was okay and I started sobbing with him. He was so sweet. He said "Mom, I'm so sorry you lost Ryan. I am sad I lost him too but I'm especially sad that you lost him." I then explained to him about a mother's love and how I would be grieving just as deeply had it been him instead of you. I know he deals with survivor's guilt sometimes.

I went to a business dinner tonight with a group of employees in town for training. We were tasked with doing an ice breaker exercise at our table -to find things we had in common with each other. 3 of the 6 people at the table were young parents - still naive and confident of the permanence of their intact families. One of the "common things" they threw out was that we each had at least one son. They kept talking about it in one way or another for what felt like a long time to me. Being the corporate office at the table, it would have been totally inappropriate to run out of the room in tears but it took all my composure and grace to sit there and listen to the inane banter about each of us having "at least one son". I almost said "I have two sons - one in Turlock and one in Heaven." Until you go through one of life's most awful tragedies, you don't realize how hurtful little things you say can be. For instance, I now cringe when people use the expression "dead in the water".

After my meltdown on the phone this morning, Kathi McShane dropped a book off for me called Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan Chittister. The preface said this:

"When struggle comes, as struggle does to every life, it's never easy to go on. It often seems that not going on at all would be the better thing. The easier thing. The only possible thing. Pressures from outside us, pressures from within, hang heavy on our shoulders, weigh us down and dampen our hearts. Then the spirit is taxed beyond belief. Then all the pious little nosegays we've ever learned turn to sand. Then we begin to question: What is the use of all this pain? What is the purpose of all this struggle? How can anyone possibly make sense of such unremitting heartache?"

Well said.

I can't describe how much I miss having you in the same world with me.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We had a dinner party tonight and there is lots of yummy tenderloin left over. You and Tyler would love it. Makes me miss our old life so much. You loved the leftovers from dinner parties - tonight we cut the German Chocolate pie into 8 pieces rather than saving a slice for you as we always used to do. :(

I fear my life will never be good again - just bearable.

all my love,
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I dreamed about you last night. That has only happened a handful of times in the last 14 months, amazingly enough. You would think I would dream of you every night since you rarely leave my mind. In the dream you asked to go visit Brianna at IU. There was some kind of an event or exhibit or something that you wanted to see with her. You said to me "I know I didn't work this summer so I don't have any money but I would really like to go." I remember worrying in the dream -worrying about your safety if you went to Bloomington. And you wanted to see Natalie. She came to where we were and brought along a friend from Wake Forest. You smiled that big, pretty smile when you saw her. I walked away so the two of you could have privacy and then the dream was over.

Dad and I rode our bikes to the farmer's market today. The El Camino High school water polo team was having a car wash. Dad stopped and gave them five bucks. It made me cry. All those cute, exuberant kids - having fun - just like you and your teammates did every year.

Tonight we went to dinner at the Wrights. They are the family who was on the same SSP trip as the FUMC Modesto kids when they got word about your death last summer. Then serendipitously Dad met their daughter, Danielle, while volunteering at UC Davis Pediatrics this past spring. One of those small world things. Ross went with us tonight. He was in rare form so no one else got many words in edgewise but it was a fun evening. He was very entertaining.

I miss you so much. It makes me sad to make new friends and meet new people who will never get to know you.

All my love,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hey there sweet boy,
Dad and I had our Bereaved parent group reunion tonight. We really love these other two couples we met at the Hospice support group from January through March. We bonded. I felt sad all day - missing you so much - and I feel better now after spending the evening with them. There is something validating about being with others who feel similarly. It's uncanny how many of the same feelings we share. We laugh as well as cry when we are together.

Today I organized my computer files and I found several things that were poignant to read now. I read our Christmas letter from 2006 where I said how much we were going to miss you the following year when you were gone. Wow -little did we know just how gone you would really be. And I read a letter I wrote to Holly Oman on her birthday where I said you were an amazing kid and the joy in my life. And I found this little poem I wrote to put in the high school year book ad your senior year. I ended up not using it but the poem shows how we felt about you.

Ryan Hunter,
Hottie “D”,
Chunky Lover,
A special guy
I’m sure you will agree
Smart and funny
Handsome & Sweet
Goofiest Kid you’ll ever meet
Life to the fullest he always lives
His total heart, he always gives
Very supportive and a true friend
Ryan can be counted on through thick & thin
To his parents he has brought so much joy & pride
So at the end of these four years, we say
Ry, thanks for one heck of a ride!

Zzzzzzzzzzt!

With all our love
Mom & Pop Squat


It was a heck of a ride and I'm glad we were able to go on it with you.

All my love,
mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
The weather is glorious this time of year - warm days, cool nights, the leaves starting to turn. But it reminds me of water polo season. I miss leaving work early every Tuesday and Thursday and sitting in the stands with the other parents, proudly watching my boy in the pool. I miss seeing you spot us from the other side of the pool deck and give us the I Love You sign language sign. I miss you looking into the stands after every goal you scored to make sure we saw it and then you trying not to grin with self-satisfaction as you swam back to the other end of the pool. I miss going out to dinner afterward to celebrate your team's victory or your individual goals and listening to your debrief of the game and your day. I even miss the smell of chlorine.

I need to begin getting my things together for my climb up Half Dome a week from Monday. I need new hiking boots and a head lamp and a camel back and gloves. I know you have some of those things in your Boy Scout supply bin but I just can't make myself find it and look through it. I would rather spend the money and buy new stuff than rip the scab off my heart again.

Mallory called tonight from Arizona. She is homesick and lonely. I wish I could make it better. I sent her a puzzle and it arrived today. You would make so much fun of me (and Mallory both) for turning her into a puzzler like me.

Bryan called today. He's doing great at BYU-Idaho. I'm so glad he's there. I KNOW you would be proud of him and how well he's doing. Before we left him on Sept 4, I told him to find a misfit and befriend him, like you would have done. A couple weeks ago, he told me had done that - made friends with a nerdy guy. He really likes him though - he talked about him again today.

Tyler called Dad last night. He's doing well too. He has a heavy work load and lots of reading. At your grave back in August, Tyler said he's doing his best in college for you and I believe that.

Dad is warring with the wild turkeys that wreak havoc on our yard. They scratch mulch out all over the drive way and dig up plants. Last year we were fighting deer and now it's turkeys. We feel like Stan and Marlin from Wild Kingdom. I told Dad to get the bb gun after them but he's afraid that might kill them and then what would we do?

I listened to a sermon on heaven today online and it made me feel better. I'm starting to feel more confident in it again.

I remember people telling me I wouldn't remember much of the first year after your death and I thought they were wrong. I thought "how could you ever forget hurting this badly?" I now think maybe they were right. Today I drove by Mercy Hospital and I vaguely remembered going there for something last year and I can't remember what it was.

Loving & missing you with all my heart,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I was better today. Early this morning I got an email from the Pastor who is facilitating the Grief Share group in which we're participating. He said " I have prayed for God’s touch to be felt in a palpable way in both of your lives today." And you know what? It was. First I got a call from a fellow bereaved mother in Arizona that I reached out to several months ago but only heard back from recently. She called me for the second time in a week and we had a good conversation and shared some common feelings. Then I received two packages in the mail - one from another bereaved mom that I emailed in December and had never heard back from. She sent me a book, a lovely letter and lots of info about her son. And my friend, Allison, in Columbus sent an article that was helpful.

This new approach of typing my prayers is working out really well. I find I can pour my heart out to God without getting distracted. At the end of today's, I had a laundry list of people I was offering up for healing or comfort or protection or blessings of some kind. It reminded me of how you used to say "And God, bless everyone in the whole world." when you said either the blessing at dinner or your bedtime prayers. It always made me smile because it was such a sweet, little boy thing to do and you did it until the very end of your life. You sincerely cared about everyone.

I also thought of you today as I left a restaurant at lunch with the other half of my sandwich in a doggie bag. I recalled how you often gave your doggie bag to a panhandler before you ever got home. I can still see your sweet smile and your little half skip movement as you would hand it to the person asking for spare change. You were a precious person, Ry.

Natalie emailed me tonight to say today was a hard day for her. She missed you a lot and had a particularly sad day. Her hardest day yet at school.

Today's mail brought a wonderful note from a Camp Champions friend. She said:
"As I'm packing up for my freshman year at Santa Clara University, my mind keeps wandering to Ryan. I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be here about to start colege and how truly unfortunate it is that Ryan never had the chance. I first met Ryan at Camp Champions two summers ago. A big group of people our age were sitting at the lunch table and he came right up to me and introduced himself. We began talking about colleges and he was telling me how excited he was to experience this new change in his life. He was so personable and open about everything. In the short time I knew Ryan, I was literally in awe of his kind demeanor. He was one of those people I knew had a truly pure heart from the very first conversation we had together. I think of Ryan every single day and how blessed I am to have been given the chance to meet and talk to him. As I look ahead to the future, I plan to live my life as Ryan did. I hope to someday impact someone's life the way Ryan has for me so that I may leave a legacy behind as incredible as his.....
With love, Becca Katz

I wish Hanna was still at Santa Clara so I could ask her to look Becca up. They could discuss you and share stories. Maybe when Hanna gets back from Sweden she can find her.

I love you so much Ry.
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
I'm way past exhausted but I still have a yen to write to you. Dad and I went to the Grief Share group tonight. The ice breaker question was "what is your favorite ice cream?" The facilitator said Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby. I immediately turned to Dad and he had already begun to cry. We both thought of the many times we bought Chubby Hubby for you, one of your favorites, and how Dad teased you that if you kept eating it you were going to be Rotund Son. There are little land mines everywhere that we step on, blowing new holes in our already riddled hearts.

One of the questions posed to us at the group tonight was "How will your life be different now that your loved one is gone?" I didn't even answer because it was impossible to list the myriad ways. No college graduation, no wedding, no daughter-in-law, no grandchildren. No proudly watching your achievements. A huge hole in our family that is especially noticeable at holidays and special events. There are so many things we miss already. I miss talking to you everyday and hearing about your day. I even miss washing your dirty clothes and picking up your messes.

I told Dad tonight that I fear your memory is fading. He said it isn't with him.

I love you so much sweet boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
I love you so much. I still have moments when this all feels surreal.

Tonight I went to Greg Laurie's blog and read his sermon from yesterday, dealing with his son's death a few weeks ago. Many of his words could just as easily have been mine. Such as:

"One thing often asked of someone when they have had someone close to them die is “How are you doing?” Please know that is the hardest question to answer.

Can I just answer for all people who are grieving a recent loss right now? Not very well.

Please don’t hold that against us. It’s just that we are missing that person badly. We are very, very sad.

We have moments of peace, even joy, but more moments of sadness. We are suffering, yet learning. Grieving, yet rejoicing. Mourning and occasionally laughing. But a good part of the time, we are sad.

It hits us really hard when we are not expecting it. Little landmines we step on, filled with memories.

So, if you happen to catch us at such a moment and ask, “How are you doing?,” you may not like what you see and hear.....

There is a lot of weeping when a loved one has died, especially if it was unexpected. They simply will not “get over it.”

When a person has been a part of your life, like our son Christopher was for us for 33 years, you don’t just “edit” them out of the script. You notice that empty chair at the table. They are still so much a part of you, yet they are just gone.

That is very hard to comprehend.


So, instead of asking “How are you doing?,” maybe you’re better off just saying, “I am sorry for your loss,and I am praying for you!” Or smile and say, “Love you!”

The person may want to talk about it, and if they do, listen, don’t talk. Job’s counselors had that right. It’s when they started talking that the problems began.

You see, when you are mourning, you are vulnerable. The armor is down, and you are sensitive to the right and wrong things being said. You can be easily hurt and, at the same time, helped by what people say and do.

Having said that you should not say the wrong thing, do say something! The only thing more painful than having said the wrong thing is saying nothing.

I know you might be afraid the person will cry if you mention their loved one. But they might resent it if you don’t.

Crying is not necessarily a bad thing anyway. There can be tears of joy.

You need to know that when people are grieving, they are “not themselves.” You don’t know how you will react to things, and thus people do not know what to say.

If someone tells me a story about my son, or shares a memory, I like to hear that. I have been getting a crash course in this, so it’s all very fresh to me. I have lost my grandparents and my mom, and as hard as those were, nothing is like this.

So please be patient with mourning people. Give them time. Don’t forget to keep praying for them. Store these thoughts up in your mind, like a squirrel would store up nuts for the winter. Because someday you may need to know them for yourself."

I say amen Greg.

I had a good, long phone conversation with your brother tonight. That always helps my spirits. He described the last year of his life as "hell". I echo that sentiment.

We all love & miss you so very much,
Mom










Anonymous 
It's taken me awhile to work up the nerve to write anything. I suppose maybe I didn't feel like I had anything to say or that I was really a friend or acquaintance to you. Now I like to think that I do and I am.

You were truly one of a kind and though you once said that you had no tact, I'd argue that point today. I wonder if people really can look down and see how everyone is doing here on Earth and some days, harder days, I like to think they can. If you could see how many people loved and respect you, you'd know you lived life well. When we realize what little power we possess over our futures, I think we start to see how our decisions today shape the rest of our lives.

We didn't know eachother well, but you made an impression on me and on everyone around you. Miss you.

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
We had visitors from Texas this weekend. It was a fun, full weekend which helped keep my sadness at bay. We took a 10 mile hike on Saturday morning (I think I almost crippled poor Kevin who has a bad knee) and then drove up to Apple Hill. We bought cobbler and apple donuts and an apple pie. Ross joined us for dinner last night and regaled us with funny stories and imitations. He did the George Bush/Al Gore Prairie Home Companion schtick and it felt so wrong for you to not be here to chime in wiht your "It was an organic stuffing." line. You are always in our hearts.

After Kevin & Barbara left today, I sank into a deep pit of despair - feeling hopeless about so many things. I feel like my prayers are falling on deaf ears so I started a new practice of writing them down. I'm hoping that will prevent me from drifing off in the process and maybe help God hear them more clearly.

Today when we were driving our friends around Sacramento, there were two war protestors in front of the Capitol. One was holding a sign that said One Love. That was your silly saying. I need to call Chris G and tell him about it. Everytime he emails me, he signs it One Love.

We got a postcard from Annie in Peru and email from Hanna in Sweden. Both are having great experiences. I miss them both but am glad they stay in touch. I often wonder where you would have done your study abroad program. It would have been a great adventure, I am sure.

Adios, for now, dear boy. I'll be with you again soon.

love,
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
This grief business is funny, Ry. Some days I'm just so painfully sad and some days I'm fighting mad. Today was one of those "mad days". I raged at God all day. In the last two days, two different really good friends have been on the receiving end of my wrath against God. One happened to comment that God is good and I told her my theory that God is neither good nor evil - just an observer, a bystander who watches what happens but rarely intervenes. The best we can hope for is that he sends his followers to comfort those of us who experience tragedy. That is how I have experienced God through all this. I think he feels sadness and compassion for us when we're suffering but he doesn't stop the suffering. And the other friend expressed her belief that when I trust God in the depth of my soul, I will get some relief. I wish it were that easy.

So after ranting at God all day, I came home to a lovely note and devotional from my friend, Rufus Friday, in today's mail. The devotional calmed me down and made me feel better. Maybe this was God speaking to me after all - like a loving parent tending to an out of control child. Here's the part I liked:

"In the midst of our pain, we entrust our lives to God's sovereign direction, but we also realize that gnawing sadness will always reside in our hearts. Indeed, God has promised that He will wipe away all tears in heaven, but until then the healing will be incomplete. Grief lessens but does not dissipate."

I look forward to having all these tears wiped away. And I feel bad for snapping at my friends who are only trying to help.

We got a letter in the mail today from the new Superintendent of Modesto City Schools asking us if we want to dedicate next year's Ryan's Relay to the Fields of Green project. I love that idea since I'm the one who started that project. It will make me happy to think you are helping the Johansen football field get new artificial turf. It's badly needed. I'm also glad to have the school district behind your Relay next year.

I had several signs from you today. Thanks for those. Maybe you were saying "Mom, calm down." like you used to when I nagged about homework.

Mrs. Garvin wrote to say you are still remembered at MoHi and that you continue to inspire her to be a better teacher.

We all love and miss you so much Ryanizer.

All my love,
Mom

Cindy Ramos 
Dear Ryan,
Today Modesto High had our second water polo game of this season against Davis High. The girls varsity team won! I had 2 goals in today and as promised they were for you. Each goal i made brought your memory into my mind. Every time i felt weak or tired i thought of you and it gave me the strength to keep going. I miss 2 years ago when i was a freshman starting polo and i would see you, being the goofy Ryan everyone talks about today. I also miss seeing the #6 cap out in the pool during Modesto water polo games. I know we will meet again one day.
I will ALWAYS have you in my memories.
Love,
Cindy.6

Lynn Dickerson 
Hello dear boy,

One of the things you learn about grief is that while in its unrelenting grasp, your brain doesn't work right and you often do crazy things. We find that to be true with us. Just this morning, Dad went to Raley's early to get bread so I could pack my lunch. About half an hour after he returned, I went into the garage to put something in the recycling can and there I found the car still running. Dad had gotten out of it and left it running. Then when I came home tonight, his brand new expensive bike was laying in the driveway. I thought "oh no, he's really losing it." Fortunately he remembered putting his bike there. I was tempted to tell him he would have fussed at you or Ross if you had left your new bike in the driveway.

My old friend & boss, Larry Franklin, called today from Texas. Just checking on me - knowing I'm not only a bereaved mother but a newspaper executive. Two very difficult things to be. He has become quite a devout Christian in the past decade and it was comforting to hear his assurance that you completed your work here, learned all your lessons and moved on to a much greater place. I desperately want to believe that and I love to talk to people who believe it with such surety.

I cried at my desk today - first time in quite some time. Brianna emailed some pictures from IU. In one she was wearing a purple formal dress. She told me she picked a purple dress because it reminded her of how much fun she had at prom. Tears streamed down my face as I looked at the pictures of her and her date and her sorority sisters. I am so sad you are missing all that college fun. I commented that her date was cute but not as cute as that other guy in the purple tie that matched her dress. She said she misses that guy in the purple tie too. YOU!

I got a pedicure tonight and the lady doing it told me she had just finished the last Harry Potter book. So I told her about you and your love of Harry Potter. I wonder when I'll get to the point where I stop blurting out to everyone - strangers and friends - that my precious 18 year old son died last summer.

I love and miss you so very much,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Tonight Dad and I started a new grief group. Actually Dad started it last week while I was gone but tonight was my first night. I am afraid I am a grief snob. I find myself thinking no one else's loss could possibly be as bad as ours. Everyone else in the group lost either a parent or a spouse or a friend. Most of them were elderly. Most of them got to live fairly full and long lives. No loss of children in this group. I try to remind myself that to them, their pain is awful but I can't help thinking to myself....you think that's bad. Come live this nightmare for a while. I'm ashamed of myself for even feeling that way. I guess everyone thinks their loss is the worst.

Peggy Luty emailed me today. She said she misses those Saturdays when she would wake up to jr high boys sprawled all over her floors. We both lamented that we would turn back the clock and stop time if we could.

I am exhausted tonight and my library book is already 2 days over due. The fine is up to a quarterr so Dad is pressuring me to finish it up so he can return it. So I'll go read now and hope I dream about you.

Love & miss you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi sweetheart,
I realized this morning that it was one year ago this Monday that I went back to work after taking 7 weeks off to grieve. That first day back was awful. I was in tears before I made it to my desk. Julie was so sweet to me. She came in my office, put her hand on my shoulder and said a really sweet prayer for me. She said something like.."God, we know you can't fix what's wrong but just give Lynn the strength to make it through today - just today." I cried a lot in those first months back at work.

I found out today that one of the librarians from Modesto High posted this message on a librarian list serve.

"I am compiling a list of book selections that will be donated to the
library to memorialize one of our best and brightest IB students who
died unexpectedly this year. I would like book titles that represent
Ryan, who was an enormously popular young man.
Please send any suggestions that would fit the following criteria:

* 9-12 high school

* Ryan was a great swimmer and water polo player

* Poetry w/themes around sports, friendship, inspiration, etc.

Two of Ryan's favorite authors are Chuck Klosterman and Chuck Palahniuk."

It gladdened our hearts to see that message. After almost 14 months, people don't talk about you so much anymore and the money has been raised for the tree and over $50k is in your scholarship fund. It feels like many things are "done". So it feels good to know someone is still thinking of you and doing something positive in your memory. I sent her a list of a few of your favorite books.

Miss Carol Whites also sent a message to me today that made me say "amen." She said “I know you are missing Ryan more than words can describe but I wonder if Ryan is missing it here.  I really expect not.”

Dad and I both love and miss you so much.

All my love,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I'm finally home from my whirlwind trip across the country - Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I'm tired and glad to be home.

I drove up to Winston-Salem on Tuesday and took Natalie to dinner. I LOVED Wake-Forest. What a beautiful campus! I liked Natalie's roommate too. She is really cute - like Natalie. I told them their dorm room got more than the average quota of cuteness. She has your pictures up. I really enjoyed being with her though it makes me sad too. I can see why you liked her so much. She is the whole package - just like you were - smart, beautiful, nice, fun, etc. When I walked in her dorm, there was a quarter, a nickel and a dime laying on the floor just inside the door. Since Dad and I believe the coins we find are signs from you, I took that one to be a "way to go Mom. I'm glad you're there" sign.

Dad met me in Boston on Thursday night. On Friday, we walked over 14 miles through the city. We walked the entire Freedom Trail. All that historical stuff makes us miss you even more, knowing how much you would enjoy talking to Dad about it and how much you would know about it all. (much more than me, for sure!) Dad drove to the Holy Cross campus on Friday night and took Lezzliee to dinner while I was at my meeting in Bristol, RI. It pains us to be on those campuses and see boys your age. But we face it anyway, hoping that hitting the pain head one will someone take some of the sting out of it later.

I longed for you a few minutes ago when Dad was on the phone with Uncle Larry getting a Hurricane Ike damage update. He was talking in his Jasper accent and voice, like he does when he talks to Uncle Larry. I laughed at him and wished I could pick up the phone and call to tell you about it. You would have made fun of him like you always did and it would have been fun.

I love you so very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I'm having one of those days where I can't believe you're really dead. It keeps washing over me like new news. It still feels so wrong.

Yesterday I cried going through the aisles of Raleys. The Boy Scouts were selling popcorn out front and a cute, aggressive Scout approached me as I was walking in. I promised to buy some when I left and I did. It reminded me of you and your popcorn selling days in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. You were never a super star in terms of popcorn selling. I think Thomas Kilmer was the popcorn king of Troop 49. Those memories of happy days gone by are still painful.

We drove to Modesto last night to take the Cassidys to dinner before Brendan left for Carleton. He wasn't feeling well so the dinner wasn't much fun for him but I'm glad we got to see him. Dad and I cried when we hugged him goodbye as we always do. He's Captain of the Carleton club water polo team this year.

I made birthday dinner and cake tonight for Steve V. I meant to get some short socks for him from you but ran out of time.

Tomorrow I leave for a week. I'm flying out at 6:30 to Ft Worth, then on to Charlotte on Tuesday, Boston on Thursday afternoon and Bristol, RI on Friday. I'll be home Sunday night. I dread being gone so long. I'm hopeful that I can have dinner with Natalie Tuesday night at Wake Forest. I'm waiting to hear back from her.

Today I looked in the cover of the book Dad and I bought on Friday night from the woman who wrote about why she believes there is a heaven. She autographed the book but we didn't read what she wrote until tonight. She said "Ron and Lynn, God cares for you and He'll watch over Ryan until you see him again." I liked that.

I can't tell you how much we miss you. Words fail me.

Talk to you when I return from my big trip.

love you so, so much,

Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well, we're back from Idaho. We drove all the way across Nevada to get there. What an ugly state. We left at 6am Wed and arrived at our Best Western room at 5:45pm. 11 hours and 45 minutes later. It was a good trip though. We talked some, laughed some, read some, stopped at lots of little wide spots in the road for gas. Thursday morning we took Bryan to campus. As we were standing in line for his registration packet, I picked up a little card with a message from the president about appropriate dress and behavior. It told of all the things that aren't allowed - flip flops, shorts, facial hair, caps. I turned around and looked at Bryan with a three day beard, wearing shorts, flip flops and a cap. It was funny. I told him we were already breaking 4 rules and we had just arrived. Dad also was wearing shorts and hadn't brought any long pants so he had to stick out like a sore thumb all day. Luckily there were a few other disobedient dads there also, but not many. Lots and lots of clean cut, cute Mormons.

We took a trip to the Rexburg, ID WalMart and stocked up on lots of stuff Bryan will need. Once, toward the end of the shopping excursion, I asked him if he needed something in particular. He said "I don't know. I didn't know I needed any of this stuff!" Your mom was in action.

I only cried twice. Once when I was helping Bryan fold and put away his clothes, I found a navy JCrew zip up sweatshirt like you always wore. I said "Was this Ryan's?" and Bryan said it was. I held it to my face and cried in it. Bryan was so sweet. He came over, hugged me and said "Don't cry, Lynn, you can have it." I told him I didn't want it - I wanted you. And then Dad and I sobbed when we told him goodbye and pulled away to head home. We were sentmental about leaving Bryan and mourning not being able to take you to WashU.

I'm very glad we went. It was a blessing for us to be able to share that experience with Bryan. I feel great that he's there. It's a good place for him to be and he's going to bloom. I just know it. We met and liked two of his three roommates. Bryan was very happy when we left and just sent an email saying today was a great day.

We drove seven hours to Winnemucca, Nevada where we spent the night last night in a comfy Holiday Inn Express last night. We drove the remaining 4 hours this morning. We're both pretty tired and glad to be home.

Stephanie called this afternoon to say she was driving by your Eagle Scout fountain, Glynn Fountain as we affectionately refer to it, and saw a homeless guy coming out, having just washed in it. She thought to herself...Ryan is still helping the needy.

I talked to Susan Pugh earlier tonight and she reminded me that this is the weekend of the Rocklin water polo tournament. Brought back good memories of being there for 4 years in a row. If we're feeling strong tomorrow, maybe we'll go watch the MoHi Panthers play.

Dad and I drove to Davis tonight to hear an author speak on a book she recently completed about why she KNOWS there is a heaven. She left the church for 20 years but has gone back since her husband died in 2004. The book is about the many signs she received after her husband's death that she felt were messages from God reassuring her that her husband still lives somewhere else. We have had many of those same kinds of signs. It was nice to hear others talk about it since we often think people believe we've gone nutty. There was one man there who compared his grief over losing his cat to our grief over you. We stayed calm and didn't attack him or anything - you would have been proud.

All my love, bud
Mom

anonymous  
I still think about you Ry. Every single day. For some reason I've been thinking about you more often than not... it still boggles my mind.

I remember getting the phone call from my brother that day and hearing his voice crack, knowing that his heart was broken. I drove him and friends over to Maddie's house where everyone gathered... I didn't fit in there, all I truely had in common with many of them was being their classmate, but at that time, it was missing you... and being swept off my feet in shock and utter disbelief.
A year and a week ago, the memory of you brought me close to someone who I loved dearly, but unfortunately didn't love me the same way back. It was a Thursday afternoon, and I was reading your mom's letters to you, as I usually do. I was just sitting in my room at the end of the hall bawling, not being able to stop myself, just as I am right now. You meant everything to my brother, you changed my father's life. You have touched so many people... have helped so many people. You've touched my life, though we never really talked and I didn't really know you. It drives me crazy sometimes too, because I never really got to know you, I just got to see you in action, but that still doesn't change the reality that you're gone.

Over the past few months I've been reflecting a lot on the concept of death, especially since I'm training to become an officer, which is something that I never dreamed of doing. It's hard for me to go and train sometimes because I fear for the lives of all of my friends, marching in cadence beside me, imagining them being shot at, or having to shoot at someone.
I could never take a life. There's no way I could do it. All I would be able to think about is that someone, somewhere, would be losing their world, their shining light. I wouldn't be able to extinguish that flame, their loved one, especially not after what I saw happen with all your friends and family. Yes, I know that you were a special boy, but that still doesn't change the facts, it's still a loss of a life, someone has to do without a loved one.
You make me think so much about life and death, about how to make my life better. Sometimes I just sit and play with your bracelet, a subtle reminder to me that you're truly gone. Most days I can't even believe it, don't want to believe it. I'm not going to lie, most days I wish it were me... I wish that your mom had you back and wouldn't be in so much pain, as selfish as it sounds. You should have lived longer, should've had more time to touch more people, to do greater things. It's not fair that you got taken away so quickly! You had so much more to give and you can't... or at least directly. All that can happen now is for people to spread your memory, which I try to do everyday.

I still can't believe that you're gone. I wish that you could be here, taking and giving all that life has to offer. You were so wonderful, Ryan. I hope that one day I can be as incredible as you once were. I struggle with this everyday... believing that you're gone. There's just no way.
I still hope that I can wake up from this nightmare. I thought it was someone's idea of a bad joke once upon a time... I wish it could've been, have you walk out and say just kidding. How wonderful our lives were thing.

... but I guess that everything happens for a reason, right?
I just wish it didn't have to be you...



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
A weird but good thing happened to me this morning. When my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I hit the snooze button. As I was lying there, half asleep, half awake, I very clearly heard this sentence...Ryan Dickerson saw God. It's hard to describe. I didn't really hear a voice - it was more like a very clear thought was put in my head. It wasn't a dream. It was very clear and distinct. And it made me feel better.

Dad and I are leaving early in the morning to drive Bryan to BYU-Idaho for school. It will be about an 11 hour drive each way and there's a lot of wide open, empty space between here & there. It will be bittersweet to move him into his dorm as we will be thinking of how we never got to do that with you. But I'm glad we can help Bryan and share his excitement. You would want us to, I know.

Mr. Giahos and I exchanged emails earlier today and I told him I wish you were here to give Stevie advice about settling into Berkeley. He's a little homesick. Mr. Giahos said "I know what Ry would tell him - to man up and go out and find some hot chicks." It made me laugh because it's probably true.

The Jasper family made it through the hurricane fine, it appears. Aunt Les' birthday is Thursday. Maybe you'll send her a sign.

Love & miss you so much,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hello sweet boy,
I feel like I wasted my holiday feeling crummy. I awoke with that same headache and didn't feel well most of the day. Dad and I worked in the yard and later took a bike ride. Dad visited his Hospice patient, Ray, for an hour or so. While he was gone, I went into your room and lay on your bed and cried. My headache got better after that. Maybe I needed to let the sadness out.

As I was pulling weeds today, I thought of the time when you were in 8th grade and Ross was a senior and Ross came home around 11:30 p.m. one Saturday night, quietly roused you without waking us, and had you follow him -driving at the ripe old age of 13 or 14- while he drove home some girl who had had too much to drink at a party. You followed him, driving his truck or my car - I forget which - while he drove her home in her own car. I remember flipping out the next morning when you told me about it. You were so proud that you were able to assist your brother in a good deed and thought I was totally missing the point by concentrating on your under age driving rather than on the fact Ross didn't allow the drunk girl to drive herself home and that you helped. It was one of those family stories that got more amusing with time, after the scare subsided.

It's interesting now to think about how much I worried about you two. I still worry about Ross all the time. I guess it's a mother's job to worry about her kids - especially when you know first hand how dangerous the world is. Now I don't worry about you anymore - I just hurt because you're gone. And the pain is even worse than I imagined it would be back in those "I couldn't bear it if something happened to one of my kids" days. The naive days.

I think maybe one of the reasons I was especially sad today was because we always had a Labor Day barbeque to celebrate the end of summer when we were in the Wycliffe house. Labor Day was a joyful, fun day in our family for many years. Today was not.

Love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I miss you so much. I don't think I'll ever stop missing you and hurting for you.

I have had a killer headache for two days straight. I went to bed last night hoping it was an aneurism that would kill me in my sleep but here I am - still here and still with with a splitting headache. During church I made a list of the songs I want sung at my funeral just in case.

Kathi's sermon was based on the movie, The Bucket List, and was about living your life to the fullest since we don't know what happens after we die and we don't know how long we have to live. I don't have anything on my Bucket List other than wanting to see Ross happy & fulfilled.

I'm grateful tomorrow is a holiday.

Love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi sweet boy,
We had guests for dinner last night and it was enjoyable. Before they arrived I was feeling lethargic from depression - just so very, very sad. But then I put on my hostess mask and ended up having a very nice evening.

As I read the Bee this morning, I saw where the October presidential debate is going to be in St. Louis at WashU. That makes me so sad. I am mad that you have to miss such a historical event. I know you would have done whatever it took to get a ticket to the debate and likely would have been one of the students who stood up at the end and asked a question. Dad and I would have been watching with rapt attention, hoping for a glimpse of you in the audience. I won't be able to watch it now because you won't be there.

Hurricane Gustav is bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico, headed toward Jasper. All our family is preparing to evacuate. I talked to Gran this morning and she was in a dither because she couldn't find her one and only house key that she keeps hidden somewhere. Jeff Foxworthy could have fun with that one - you might be a redneck if you only have one house key, never use it and only look for it when you're evacuating for a hurricane. Dad called Grandad and they discussed the "herrican" as Grandad pronounces it. He's headed to Uncle Miles' house tomorrow after Sunday School. I hope their homes are spared. I'm hoping the same about our newspaper and friends in Biloxi. The last thing we newspaper people need is more trauma in our lives.

Dad and I both miss you so much, Ryan.

Love you so very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Ry,

I found this quote today in an article written by Billy Graham. I really liked it.

"Victor Hugo in his old age said, "When I go down to the grave, I can say, 'I have finished my day's work,' but I cannot say, 'I have finished my life's work.' ... The tomb is not a blind alley; it is an open thoroughfare. ... The tomb, which closes on the dead, opens the firmament. And that what on earth we call the end is the commencement. Death is the portal of life."(8)"

I get great comfort from thinking this life is the "pre-life" and because you did it so well, you got to go to the "eternal life" before many of the rest of us. I look forward to us all being together again soon.

love
mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan
I received this cute email from Nora Cassidy last night. I'm glad to see Mr. Chiavetta is still giving you crap even after you're gone from this earth. At least he's still talking about you and helping your memory remain alive.

"Well, senior year has started and I still don't feel old enough. Mr. Chiavetta is my history teacher and yesterday he was talking about how we need to complete our study guides and that we need to highlight the key terms in our answers. He said that one of his most vivid memories of Ryan is Ryan highlighting the entire answer and saying that he was sure there were some key words in there, he just was not sure where.

I think about Ryan all the time and always look carefully at people's plastic bracelets to see if they are his."

I found out yesterday that Greg Laurie, the famous evangelical preacher from Southern California, lost his 33 year old son in a car accident last month. I spent a good bit of time on his website last night reading his thoughts and listening to his talks. He's not my flavor of preacher but I was comforted by much of what he said and his assurance that his son is alive and great in heaven.

Dad accompanied me on my walk last night and I asked him to share with me the "slide show of Ryan" in his head that he pulls up as he thinks of you. We then talked and cried and shared specific moments and snippets of your life that are etched in our memories. We both fear the fading of those memories - just as real photograpsh fade over time, surely those in our memory will too.

One thing Greg Laurie said that resonated strongly with me is that even though he is sad that every day takes him further away from the last time he saw, touched, felt, smelled his son, every day takes him closer to seeing him again. I have to hang onto that thought or I think I would lose my mind. I still think I am losing it some days.

I keep forgetting to tell you about the cool thing Kalis Kim has done with your bracelet this summer. She took photos of it in all sorts of famous places - on the Great Wall of China, the the Forbidden City, in Coliseum in Rome. They are great photos and you would be so honored and awed.

Better get ready for another hard day in the salt mines.

Love and miss you so much,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I had a brief visit from you in a dream last night. It was a strange dream - as many are. I was in a grocery store and my job was to retrieve crate after crate of Pink Lady apples for some woman. I specifically remember they were Pink Lady apples -isn't that weird? Then I was talking to someone who I perceived to have insider knowledge on heaven.(maybe the apple lady - not really sure.) I asked her if you were able to meet and befriend Kendall in heaven and she said yes. Then I asked if a person was a messy eater on earth, were they messy in heaven. She said no. About that time, you walked around the corner of the grocery aisle and you were very neat and tidy -with your hair combed in a Brad Harden sort of way and a dress shirt tucked in. I sort of did a double take and then realized it was you. I hugged you and then the weird dream was over.

For some reason, I'm having a big crisis of faith - worrying about whether there is an after life or if this is it. I just finished a really depressing novel that suggested we just cease to exist. And my current grief book is written by 9 mothers who have lost children. Only 2 of the 9 believe in heaven. So as an antithesis to all that, I listened to the Alan Jackson gospel c.d. that Debbie K recently sent me. It made me feel better.

Patrick Ip is at the Democratic National convention in Denver. You would be jazzed to hear about it, I know.

love you darling
mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ryan,
Oh how we miss you. Dad and I were both especially melancholy today.

Today would have been Kendall Sparkman's 18th birthday. I was sad for the Sparkmans all day, knowing how much they miss her. They should be sending her off to college this fall instead of mourning another birthay without her. I told Jim I have to believe that when we die we go on somewhere else – somewhere better where there is less suffering and less evil and more joy. And I firmly believe that if such a place or state exists, both you and Kendall are there – making it even better with your sweet, open, loving spirits. I like to think you have met and joined up – that you are serving as Kendall’s surrogate big brother telling her stories of making Connor walk to the corner to be picked up, of working out together at the SOS, of diving on the MoHi team together and stories of how much you loved her big sister and all the fun times you two had together. Somehow those thoughts bring me a modicum of comfort in this otherwise hellish existence.

The Dave Mathews Band concert was cancelled because the saxophonist in the band died last week. So we didn't get to see Robert Earl afterall.

Today was the first day of school in many places - your cousins all went back, the Modesto and Wichita Falls kids went back and lots of your college friends started classes. I hate this back-to-school time now. It reminds me of taking yours & Ross' picture on the first day of school every year and all the excitement of a fresh new school year. New school supplies, new shoes, new jeans. It also reminds me of how we never got to take you to college like we were looking so forward to.

I had lunch today with my octegenarian friend George Gaekle and dear Kenni Friedman who drove him to meet me. George wanted to talk about you. He wanted to know what you wanted to be, what you were like, etc. He said he always thought losing a child would be the worst thing possible. I told him he was right about that.

All my love,
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Stevie moved into his dorm at Berkeley today. He excitedly called to tell us one of his suite mates used to live in Wichita Falls. The boy moved away in 3rd grade and didn't know us but Steve thinks maybe it's a sign from you nonetheless. I like to think so too. I hope you have a way of looking out for him. He will need you for a while. Stephanie and I just had a good cry on the phone. She acknowledged how she thought of me as she made Steve's bed and helped him set up his dorm room. I never got to do that and I was looking so forward to it.

Michael Ryan is home from Marine basic training. He wrote on your myspace - I'm sure he would love to tell you all about his big adventure.

Dad and I spent most of the day angry at the world. Fortunately, not at each other. We feel so robbed.

Dad has already sent a care package off to Mallory and now he's putting one together for Natalie. If we can't send cookies to you, we'll send them to those you loved.

Tomorrow night we're going to see Robert Earl Keen open for The Dave Mathews Band. Another part of our lives we're living for you since you can't do it yourself. If he sings The Front Porch Song, we'll be a mess.

Love you so much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Well we're home from the Carolinas. We had a nice trip. The Biltmore is lovely. We got up early on Friday before my meetings started and hiked the grounds for an hour. We both wished we were staying longer so we could enjoy that beauty & serenity. We drove to Greenville, SC on Friday afternoon and had dinner with our friends, Kevin & Jennifer Craig. Wow - what a great little town Greenville is. Dad commented that being there felt like being in a movie- a wholesome, clean cut, All American movie. We didn't fly out until mid-afternoon on Saturday so we got up Saturday morning and walked about 6 miles on wonderful trails and through parks and their vibrant downtown. There was a downtown Farmer's Market with a street musician. Dad and I both fell in love with the town. I stopped and put a couple dollars in the musician's collection basket, thinking how you ALWAYS did that. I do those things for you now. I can actually still see the way you moved your body and how you would sort of nod your head and smile a kind of shy smile when you did things like that. I'm glad those images still pop in my mind easily. I worry so much about forgetting the little things about you.

We spent a little time with the couple who recently lost their 23 year old son. They are grieving very differently than we were at that point in our awful journey. The dad is very stoic with a "life is hard and you have no choice but to accept what gets thrown your way and keep going." The mom is a little more fragile and open with her grief but they are both much stronger and more together than we were. When I think about it, I think our loss was especially hard because we hadn't yet officially launched you. We were still accustomed to being with you every day and talking to you often even when you were away. The umbilical cord hadn't quite been severed yet. We were just weeks away from that launch but it hadn't happened nonetheless.

The Zits cartoon in yesterday's paper was a "Ryan" moment too. It shows Jeremy slouched in a big chair, reading three different books at once, muttering, "Stupid summer reading assignments" and the Mom saying to the dad, "I think I'll have that glass of chardonney afterall." Reminded me of us every summer around this time when you were frantically finishing your summer assignments and I was worrying and nagging you. You would get aggravated at me and say "Calm down, Mom, just calm down!"

Yesterday was August 23 - Brianna & Christy's birthdays, Gran & Bamps' 40th anniversary and the day you & Leah Macko started "going out" summer before Junior Year. I always remember that for some reason.

Obama chose a running mate yesterday - Joe Biden. I read a little about him and found out he lost his wife & daughter in a car wreck in 1972. It made me feel a kinship toward him and I really know little about him or his politics. I just know he's felt my pain which makes us members of the same bereaved parents club - a club that crosses all political and economic and ethnic and cultural boundaries.

I so wish this had never happened and that I could turn the clock back.

Love you so very, very much,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Hi sweetie,
Dad and I are packing for an early morning trip to Asheville, NC. I have a board meeting there and Dad is going with me. We will be home Saturday night so it's a pretty short trip. We hope to see Reid & Lisa Ashe who lost their 23 year old son in the skydiving accident on July 26. They are scheduled to be there though I don't know how they will be able to do it. Dad and I certainly couldn't have done it less than a month after we lost you. We could barely get up and take a shower during those days.

The last time we were in Asheville we were dropping Ross off at Warren Wilson. You called in a panic from home because you had lost the Randazzo's dogs that you were pet sitting. You and Steve V searched & searched for them to no avail. Luckily they were finally found a couple weeks later. Needless to say, they never asked you to pet sit again. You felt really bad about it though. :)

When I got home tonight Bryan, Stevie, Pantalese and Bun-Bun were here visiting with Dad. It was good to be with them. I asked Bun-Bun to tell me how he met you so he told about coming to our house for a poker game and then for your 18th birthday celebration and other parties. He remembered that I was doing a jigsaw puzzle when he met me. He said he had been warned that I was mean. Where does that come from? John must have told him that story about me telling John not to wear your shirt home.

Of all the dozens of grief books I've read the one I am reading now is possibly the best one. The dad who wrote it, in reference to March 1 - the day his son died, said "March 1 became our 9/11." That sums it up pretty well. July 29 is our 9/11.

Love you lots & lots dear boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ryan,
On my way home today I drove by Rio Americana High School and saw middle school aged boys practicing football. It reminded me of the year we moved to California and you still had football in your blood from being a Texan. You were bound and determined to play Pop Warner even though we were advised against it. You were put on the Empire Eagles with a whole host of future gang bangers. I would go to practice to pick you up and there would be all these rough looking boys and you - you would be jogging along with them wearing your Wichita Falls Country Club swim team t-shirt. The other moms would be talking about their boyfriends and brothers being in jail. I knew we were in the wrong sport on the wrong team!

Dad and I are starting another grief group tomorrow night. This one lasts 5 weeks. If we weren't so pitiful, it would be amusing. All this frantic searching for the glue to mend our broken hearts - every book we can find to read, every online bereavement devotional, grief support groups, individual counseling, reading, writing, talking, praying, crying, walking. And at the end of each day, we're still so sad. I see how people become bitter and reclusive. It might be easier.

I love you with all my heart,
Ma



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ry,
Dad and I went out to dinner for our anniversary tonight. Dad asked me if I felt the same way he does about the years. Instead of it being 29 years, it's 28 + 1. Our old lives ended last year and a new one began. Sort of like a novel broken into parts. Part I of our life is over and we're now one year into Part II. We talked at length about you and your life and how joyful and full it was. We talked about how we can't imagine ever not being ready to die and cross over to be with you. We talked about just how special you were and how much we adored you.

Then we got home to find a letter in the mail from Susie Baskin at Camp Champions, confirmation that we aren't the only people who think you were something else. Here's what she said.

"Dear Lynn & Ron,
We've thought about you often these past weeks. The memory of Ryan is so fresh here at camp, especially during this third term. Many of the campers who loved him dearly are here and we've talked openly about how much we miss him. I missed him most of all during our vespers service. The day that Ryan passed was a Sunday and we had vespers service that night. Even though that first Sunday of third term fell on the 27th, I still felt his presence most keenly that night. At our "sweat" (we hand built a sweat lodge for our senior campers), we honor people who have been influential in our lives and a number of people honored Ryan. We flew our flags at half mast on July 29th. It was a sad day, but also one full of wonderful memories as we celebrated the life of a truly spectacular individual.
I continue to feel bitter that some group of young boys has been deprived of what surely would have been one of the greatest counselors in Camp Champions history.
Please know that our truly heartfelt prayers are with you and Ross right now.
Most sincerely,
Susie"

In the envelope was a copy of the thank you note from the people who were responsible for the Sudanese refugee children who went to camp on the Ryan Dickerson scholarship. You would like this note a lot. She said:

Dear Steve & Susie Baskin,
Words cannot begin to tell you how grateful we are for giving Kafuki and Mogga the opportunity to attend your camp. They still talk non-stop about what they experienced. Both of them have changed - grown up,and have a lust for life and a deep regard for friendships they made.
You and your staff are outstanding. You are wonderful examples of what Christians are all about.
Please convey our deep thank you to the scholarship provider. they have given two children a lifetime of wonderful memories.

You would be so thrilled to know those two kids got to go to camp because of you.

I feel a little like Steven Curtis Chapman's wife described when interviewed on Good Morning America a couple weeks ago. When talking about the death of their 5 year old daughter, she said "I know lots of good things have come about because of her death but selfishly, I really just want her back." I feel that same way but I do find a modicum of solace in knowing you continue to touch lives in a positive way even though you are physically gone and have been for more than a year.

Tonight I was remembering once when you were a little boy and we lived in Highland Village. I was at the computer paying bills and you came over by me. I hugged you and ruffled your hair and said "Ry, you are such a great kiddo." You said "Mom, you're a great adulto." Well I know you would have been a great adulto too. I'm so sorry you didn't get the chance to be one.

All my love
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I have cried many times today. It was just a waterworks day for me.

We met the Pughs in San Francisco today to go to an art show at the Fort Mason Center. We went to the same show with them last year on Aug 11 - the day you were supposed to have flown home from Austin. We all knew it was going to be a horrible day so Susan insisted we meet them in the city. We walked around like zombies. I said to Susan today "I don't think I looked at much last year." She said "You didn't. I just led you around to keep you moving." We had a nice day today though. I cried a couple times during lunch talking about you and your special friendship with the Casey family and another time or two. Then I cried telling Brianna goodbye. She's leaving in two weeks and we likely won't see her before she goes. The kids leaving for college is almost as hard as it was last year. You should be going too.

Then we got home and I went into your closet to look for Cody Howell's Cody for President shirt that you had for a while. He asked me about it yesterday and although I didn't think we still had it, I looked anyway. Your closet is my Achilles heel. Seeing your clothes hanging there and remembering you in them just about does me in.

My fellow bereaved parent friend, Nancy Switzer, recommened a book that I started today called Life After the Death of My Son. It's written by a pastor who lost his son in 1991. I read it aloud to Dad all the way home from the city. It really hits the nail on the head for both of us. He said their unrelenting grief lasted 5 years before they began to feel some joy and happiness again. How discouraging is that!

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary - 29 years. Last year, we didn't even acknowledge it except Julie, my super duper wonderful admin asst, brought dinner to us. We are at least going out to dinner tomorrow night.

I'm talking to Chris G online right now. I feel you in different ways through your different friends. I feel you a lot through Chris - his wit and goofiness, his charisma and energy. He could always make you and me both laugh so much. I can still see you lying on your bed, doubled over in laughter. with him lying next to you, with that feigned look of innocence on his face, when I realized he had put an Adderall in the fish bowl. I was so mad at him and you thought it was sooooo funny. And then I remember sitting in that Foster Freeze in Morro Bay while Chris did his Sal Rosenberg prank calls, making us laugh until we cried. In my head, I can still hear you laughing.

I love & miss you so much,
Mom




Lynn Dickerson 
Dear sweet Ry,
Wow, today was a really big day. Dad and I got up at 4am and drove to Modesto for Ryan's Relays. It was a hugh success! Over $10,000 was raised which pretty much puts us at our goal for the tree. How amazingly wonderful is that! Especially in this difficult economy. I was worried not many people would show up but I was wrong. There were lots & lots of people there. I think over 200. So many people worked hard on it and I'm so glad it was such a success. Mal made all these R's that she had people decorate for $1 each. I had 50 buttons made with your picture on them and they were very popular. I should have made more. Mark & John came, even though they had told everyone they weren't going to for some reason. Your harem` was there wearing matching shirts with your special nickname for each on the back. Brendan and Jody Hanson each had on a shirt with your picture on the front and Hottie D with your birth & death dates on the back. I only cried 3 or 4 times during the day. The first time was when I saw Brendan's shirt. Another time was when Rod Long, the head football coach told me how great the Downey high field looks with the new artificial turf that I helped raise the money for. He then told me how sorry he was about you and I just started to cry. Talking about the football field made me miss our old life so much. Mrs. Monjure participated and she stopped me to let me know she was there and to say "I still think of that sweet boy every day." There were many, many special moments. The one time when I really lost it and was walking around the track alone, sobbing, Marcia Herrmann joined me. I told her you should be there and she said "I think he probably is in some way, Lynn." I hope she is right. It was a day full of love and generosity for you and our family, once again.

Afterward we stopped at Roden Farms for blueberries and as I was paying, the young girl working the register looked at my photo buttons on my shirt and said "I went to Jr. High with Ryan Dickerson" sort of like you were a celebrity or something. I said "I'm his mom" and she said "Really?" I felt quite famous.

The Ryan Dickerson Memorial Poker Tournament was also a success. We left before it was over so I don't know who won. When we left those still in were Tyler, Dan R, Farris, Derrick, Will and Nick A. I texted Tyler to find out who won but I haven't heard back from him.

Natalie made it safely to Wake Forest. She was both excited and nervous. She sent this message in an email a couple days ago.

"These last days seem so weird. Now I can relate to what Ryan was feeling right before he left, and now I know why he kept going on and on about it too. Just a few months ago it seemed like I couldn't wait to get out of Modesto, and now I feel like I've been trying to hang on to these last days here as much as I can. I'm so excited for Wake, but there's no denying that I'll miss being a "citizen of Modesto" as Ryan put it.
As I'm saying goodbye to all my friends, I can't help but think about how sincere Ryan's goodbyes were to his friends last year. I remember waiting downstairs while Ryan had his individual "man talks" with each of the boys that came by for the last time. I still have no idea what they talked about, but just knowing that he spent the time to do that shows that he really cared about them and that they all meant something to him."

Dad and I stopped by the cemetery and visited your grave today too. That is very hard for both of us but since it was a day all about you, it seemed only right that we drop by. I don't think of you being there though.

I'm very tired so I'm going to bed now but I hope there's some way for you to know just how many people turned out today because they loved you so much. You would be so very, very proud.

I love you with all my heart.
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
My relatively new, but oh so constant companion, depression has stuck to me like velcro this week. Not sure why I'm sadder than normal - maybe because all the kids are leaving for college again. Natalie leaves tomorrow; Annie left on Tuesday; Hanna left late last month; Madison, Tabby & some of the Berkeley kids leave on Saturday. You would probably be leaving this week or next.

Yesterday a vendor came to our office to make a presentation. They were from St. Louis. For a split second, I had the urge to say "My son goes to college in St. Louis - at WashU" but of course I didn't. Then I sat through the presentation trying not to cry. The weirdest things set me off.

I'm reading a good book that my friend, Pam Burks from Wichita Falls sent to me. It's called Disappointed With God. It really hits the nail on the head in terms of asking some of the same questions I've been asking for the last year.

Eric called today to warn me that the lifesize Ryan photo he ordered to make into a lifesize replica for Ryan's Relay turned out to be a little too realistic. He was afraid it would be upsetting for us and your friends to see it. We discussed and decided it's probably best to leave it rolled up in the mailing tube.

Your man Phelps is kicking butt in the Olympics. Every time he wins a race, I think of you and Spenser Vaughn, your "Phelps".

Last night Dad and I had dinner with a friend who was widowed two years ago. She said she thinks the second year was harder. I hate hearing that because I cannot imagine how it could be. Maybe it's harder because you expect it to be easier and when it's not, it feels harder. Convoluted sentence, I know, but surely people who think that have brains that have forgotten how hard the first year was. Whatever it is - it depresses me. I am so tired of always feeling sad. But yet, I can't imagine that I won't always.

I would do absolutely anything to have you back.

All my love,
Your sad ol' mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Hey bud,
Ross came for dinner tonight. I suggested that maybe we go away for Christmas this year since Christmas really isn't Christmas anymore without you. He and Dad both liked the idea so then we started brainstorming about where we might go. That led to Ross making fun of family vacations when you guys were little. He was funny, as he often is, and I was sad you weren't here to chime in with him as you would have done. The two of you were always really funny when you ganged up on Dad and me, reminding us of stupid things we did during our on-the-job training as parents.

Calli Herzog "friend requested" me tonight on Facebook and then sent a really nice message. She said:
"Hey ryan's mom,
I didnt know if you would remember me or not so i figured, hey, i can just write you a message to clarify. I was in Ryan's class at Lakewood and in some of his classes at La Loma. Maybe you remembered me, maybe not. I mean, Ryan knew so many people i can see how it would be hard to remember all the names. So yes just a little reminder :) I hope your family is doing well. Though i didnt really keep in touch with ryan all that much in high school, he was able to make an impression on me and to this day I try and live life like Ryan. I try to demonstrate things that i saw in ryan. I try to just be myself, be nice to everyone, and as ryan said "I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of a little self-confidence. Even if it’s fake, acting like you know what you’re doing is usually better than surrendering to inability. If you can sound like you know what you’re talking about, you’re money, baby" I actually memorized that quote i loved it so much. He was truly one in a
million. To this day i frequently think about ryan and your family-who remain constantly in my prayers. I was blessed to have known him and thank God for having placed him in my life.
Calli"

I'm stressing over this weekend's Ryan's Relay and the Ryan Dickerson Memorial Poker Tournament. So many people have worked really hard on both and I'm worried not many people are going to attend. But as you always said - worrying is one of the things I do best. So hopefully it will all work out okay. Rachel, Mal, Ethan, Eric Johnston, Jim Pfaff, Mr. Rodriquez from school, Dad and others have invested a lot of time and energy. Ms. Altman is planning the poker tournament and is preparing food for 50. So many people loved you and continue to honor your life.

I was particularly sad today and missed you more than normal. I began my day by crying while I watched Michael Phelps' mom interviewed on the Today show. They showed her in the stands cheering and then leaning over the rail, giving him a hug after his relay. It reminded me of sitting in the stands at your games & meets and how you would come by and lean into the stands, hug me, thank me for coming and get me all wet. I never minded though.

I will miss you til the day I die.

All my love,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,

"One of the many moods of grief is a kind of numbness, a despair so deep and pervasive that nothing seems able to ripple its surface. This is perhaps a benign form of anesthesia, giving our senses time to rest a bit before we re-enter the whirlpool of torn lives, of shattered dreams, of anguished tears." That was my daily mediation a couple days ago - so aptly said.

I'm beginning to feel selfish for continuing to grieve so deeply. I know there are many others in the world who are also suffering. It's hard for me to imagine anyone hurting worse than us, but I'm sure there. Just tonight I got an email from a long time friend who is about my age who never married nor had children and lives alone. She said something that brought me up short and reminded me once again to spend more time focusing on what I have left, rather than what I lost - as profound and horrible as that loss is. She said "Your cross is unrelenting grief.....mine is loneliness and isolation. everyone is nice....great neighbors and friends and a great church. But I feel like I am in a Halloween costume I can't get out of."

I often think of how very blessed I was until you died -I had a beautiful family; strong, happy marriage; hard but great job; lots of friends; good health; a lovely home and lots of material things - a very full & rich life. And then in just a moment, it all changed. I still have it all except you but what a difference that one subtraction makes in the equation of my life.

Dad's 35th class reunion is coming up but he isn't going. I think he can't face his classmates with your death in his heart rather than his brag book of all your & Ross' accomplishments in his pocket. Somehow, as strange as it sounds, we feel like we failed miserably by allowing you to die. Irrational, I know but I find myself feeling that way often.

Earlier tonight Dad contacted a man he grew up with who lost a son about 5 years ago to suicide. Dad had always meant to write him but never did until now. That's something else a loss like yours does - it makes us act - to stop with the good intentions and get on with the thoughtful acts.

Just got done watching Olympic diving. They are slightly better than you were. :) But I enjoyed watching you much more.

All my love,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
I cried through most of church today. Our church hosted a summer musical for under privileged kids and today they did one of their numbers during worship. They concluded with Lord of the Dance and as I watched that rag tag group, so full of joy and promise, my heart overflowed with aching for you and trepidation for them. Life holds so much peril and heart ache and for many of those kids especially. It still feels so unfair that you were taken when you had so much to give.

Last night we drove through Jackson on the way to Ironstone Vineyards. Dad and I commented on your 18th birthday escapade to Jackson Rancherio that you never told us about. You little stinker, you!

Dad wrote to you a couple days ago about the serendipitous encounter with his new friend at UC Davis Pediatrics whose mother was at SSP last year when the FUMC Modesto kids got word about your death. Today, Danielle's mom sent this email.

Dear Ron & Lynn,
I am so sorry about your son, Ryan. I have thought of sending you this note for over a year and I'll just start by telling you how I came to know of you and your beautiful son. My husband and I were in Pendleton, Oregon, with a group from our church last July, when the pastor from Modesto informed her group of Ryan's accidental death. I didn't know Ryan but many of the campers (from Claremont) knew him from the year before when he had spent the week with them. That night there was sadness I have never known. Weeping, sharing, holding, and praying. Stories were shared with the rest of us about his confidence, personality, athletic ability, and good looks. I remember thinking of you, his parents. I thought about the loss you must be feeling and how it might comfort you to know how much he was loved. I resolved to contact you when I got back home to share these things with you. The next morning the group from Modesto packed up and drove home. Those of us that remained, continued to honor Ryan through conversations about him, prayers, poems, and cards. I don't think there was a prayer said all week long that didn't include Ryan. This year, as I was packing to go on the mission trip, it all came back and I was reminded that I never sent the note. I thought, as soon as I return from mission I'll write that note and maybe it will comfort Ryan's parents to know that even though it's been a year, people like me, who never knew him still continue to think of him and hold you in prayer. Much to my surprise, the day I returned from mission, I was driving to the Bay Area with my daughter, Danielle, when she began to tell me about her internship at UC Davis and about a really nice man named Ron and the story of his son, Ryan. I asked Danielle if this family was from Modesto. You can only imagine our disbelief when we figured out it was the same family who I had been meaning to contact for a year. Somehow, I know that Ryan has managed to make a heavenly connection with us via Danielle and Ron. I understand we have a date on Sept. 27 for dinner at our home and I look forward to meeting you. It might interest you to know, that Danielle has never taken the initiative to invite anyone who wasn't her age to dinner. This is a wonderful tribute to you and Ryan's memory. God Bless you both.

Isn't that something?

Phelps is doing great at the Olympics - at least one gold medal so far. Every time those swimmers finish their event and hoist themselves out of the water with their big, broad shoulders, I long for my chlorinated boy.

Love & miss you so much,
Mom


Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Last night we met the Giahos family in Stockton at Papapavlos for dinner. I had lamb chops & Greek rice for you. We talked about where they were when they heard the news about your death and how everyone responded. Dad got up and left the table, presumably for a bathroom break but I know that conversation is hard for him. I am always interested in where others were and what they were doing when they heard. Not Dad - just makes him sadder. I have decided there is sort of a JFK effect - like how everyone in my generation can tell you exactly where they were when they heard President Kennedy had been shot. Everyone who knew you or us can do the same about your death.

The Olympics began yesterday. I find that makes me sad too. I remember so vividly watching the opening ceremonies in our outdoor kitchen 4 years ago and you flitting in and out, commenting. Topaz was just a puppy and new in our lives. You liked her so much. Everytime I hear or read something about Michael Phelps or the 41 year old swimmer, I want to talk to you about it. I'm sure I'll never stop missing you or wanting to share my life with you.

We're headed up to Murphys to see Steely Dan at the Ironstone Vinyards. You will be in my heart, as always.

love you so much,
mom

Ron Dickerson 
Hey Ry,

Wednesday, I was volunteering at Make-a-Wish. I do that every Wednesday. They have had a lot of turnover so when someone said “tomorrow is Tiffany's last day.” I said “another person is leaving?” I was then told she is a Summer intern and is going back to school. The lady said, "Tiffany is leaving for St Louis. Have you ever heard of a school called Wash U?" Turns out she is your age so she would be in your class. I went over and asked her how she liked it and told her about you. A friend of hers went on the pre-orientation backpacking trip you were going to go on last August I just thought it was amazing that I ran into her. It made me cry, of course. I called Mom to tell her about it. She could tell by my voice that I was upset and immediately worried that something bad had happened to Ross.

Today, I volunteered at UC Davis Medical Center in the children's area, as I do every Thursday. There are several volunteers - mostly college students that are required to volunteer a certain number of hours for their classes. (I do think that all of our future doctors are going to be female.) There is one girl I really like named Dani (Short for Danielle.) She is very nice and has a quick wit. She has also offered to teach me how to text, but I keep leaving my phone in the car. Maybe I will remember it someday. I had told her about you and what happened, but not a whole lot. Just that you were a very special person. Today, I was pushing the media cart from room to room. Basically, this is a cart with DVD's in it so the kids, siblings and parents can have some entertainment while staying in the hospital. She came up to me and said that she wanted to ask me a very strange question. I thought she was going to want me to be a participant in some kind of a class project, but she asked if we attended a Methodist Church in Modesto. Then I thought, "Wow, how did she know that your mom had preached last Sunday?" I told her yes. She then told me that her mother had attended Sierra Service Project last year and was there when the Modesto group received word about you. She heard stories about you from other groups and had wanted to write to us. This lady thinks of you everyday. She never even met you, but you have had an impact on her life. Dani's mom told her a group from Los Angeles picked that particular SSP session last summer because they had hoped you would be there.
Speaking of SSP, Cindy Hamilton called last week to say Katelyn, who is on staff this year, called to say the kids from Claremont, Ca dedicated their worship service to your memory the night before. I think that is the group you had convinced you were an Abercrombie model in the summer of 06. You touched so many lives. Lives of some people you never even knew.

I gave our address, emails and phone numbers to Dani so that her mother can contact us. I hope she does. You are still my hero...

zzzzzt
Pop Squat


Lynn Dickerson 
Hey sweetheart,
Mrs. Pugh sent me this poem this morning. I like it very much, except for the last line. I want to see you at home in Heaven, not in the earth. But otherwise, what a lovely message.

by Merritt Malloy:

When I die, give what's left of me to children and old men that wait to die.
And if you need to cry,
cry for your brother walking the street
beside you.
When you need me,
put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give to me.

I want to leave you something,
something better than words or sounds;
look for me in the people I've known or loved.
And if you cannot give me away,
at least let me live in your eyes
and not on your mind.

You can love me most
by letting hands touch hands,
by letting bodies touch bodies,
and by letting go of children
that need to be free.

Love doesn't die; people do.
So that when all that's left of me is love, give me away.
I'll see you at home in the earth.


And all that is left of you is love but boy howdy, is there a lot of that!
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
Every night I read a Daily Meditation for working through grief. Last night it had a quote from someone named Terry Kay and it reminded me of what Dad might say when my time to die comes. Mr. Kay said "My wife of 57 years was buried today beside our son, who died in 1941 as a result of a truck accident when he was hitchhiking to take a job. She has longed for him all these years and now she is with him. I know they are embraced in happiness."

Brenda Morris recommended an article in this month's Oprah magazine. It is written by a woman who delivered a still born child. I love this passage written by the author, Elizabeth McCracken:

"I want a book that acknowledges that life goes on but that death goes on, too. Your friends may say, Time heals all wounds. No, it doesn't, but eventually you'll feel better. You'll be yourself again. Your child will still be dead. The frivolous parts of your personality, stubborner than you'd imagined, will grow up through the cracks in your soul."

Yesterday I wrote a letter to Reid and Lisa Ashe, the newspaper people from Richmond, Va whose 23 year son died in a sky diving accident a week agoo Saturday. I find I can't stop thinking about them and empathizing with them for what I know they are going through - this first week after the funeral of their child. ugh - too awful for words.

My day at work yesterday was brutal. I often wonder what a nice girl like me is doing in a life like this. And now I must go do it all again. Send me a sign you're with me today.

I love you so much,
Mom



Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Ry,
You have been gone more than a full year. Now when I think back on what was happening at this time last year, this nightmare had already begun. That sort of slaps me with the "foreverness" of this awful loss.

Last year at this time, Dad and I were barely functioning. Everyone had gone home. The hub-bub had died down. All the friends and family who had been here for days had gone home. And here we were alone with this unbearable pain and gut wrenching loss. We were pretty pitiful. The shock was wearing off and the intense grief was settling in. We walked the 3 mile trail behind our house every day because Erwin Potts, who went through this 23 years ago, told us to get major muscle exercise every day to help us sleep. We cried and cried and cried. We didn't talk much. We ate very little. I wrote thank-you notes and we read sympathy cards. It was horrible beyond description. Lots of people checked on us and cared but there was nothing they could do to ease the suffering.

As I look back on it, it hurts to remember. The longing for you is still so strong and the pain of the loss still stings but clearly time has had a softening effect. As I say to everyone, we will never "get over this" but it's true that time does ease the suffering.

Queenie sent a sweet email today saying how hard the 29th was for her and how much she still misses you. She said we raised "a keeper" in you and she is right. I wrote back and told her that as sad as I still am, I was blessed to be your mom. And I mean that.

Love you so much, sweet boy,
Mom

Lynn Dickerson 
Dear Friends,
As we acknowledge the one year anniversary of Ryan's death and funeral it seems appropriate to say thank you to all of you who have steadfastly supported us during this worst year of our lives. It really does make a difference so thank you very much for every card you mailed, every email you sent, every prayer you prayed, every visit you made, every gift you sent, every phone call you placed. We can never repay you but we will do our best to pass along to others the kindness you showed us. Unfortunately life is full of tragedy so there is never a shortage of opportunities to show compassion and love to someone who needs it. We will do all we can to redeem this horrible tragedy for good in the world.

Below I have posted the talk I gave this morning at FUMC Modesto. It was the third in a three part sermon series on Matters of the Heart. Depression, Anxiety and Grief. Debra preached the first two, of course.

Grief

It was one year ago to the day that my family and I were in this very sanctuary for the funeral of our precious 18 year old son, Ryan. Shortly thereafter, as I was trying to regain my footing in the world, I asked Pastor Debra to consider letting me deliver a sermon some Sunday. I wanted a chance to talk about just how much this congregation meant to us during the darkest days of our lives. Lo and behold, she took me up on my offer and on the anniversary of one of the hardest days of my life to boot.

I am here to talk about grief, a subject on which I have become quite an expert in the last 12 months. I jokingly say I could begin a new career as a grief/bereavement book reviewer. I’ve read them all, I believe.

But before I jump into grief, I want to talk for a moment about the Body of Christ. That’s where you come in. I have been a Christian
all my life and for most of my life I have heard the term “body of
Christ” but never really understood it completely, being a rather literal thinker. After the events of July 29, 2007 and the actions of many of you in the ensuing days, I now understand what “the body of Christ” means. Because I saw it in action.

When Ryan died, our family had just moved to Sacramento. We had tearfully said goodbye to our friends at FUMC Modesto a couple Sundays before. The moving van had deposited our worldly possessions at our new address in Carmichael just 10 days before our world shattered. When that horrific phone call came, there were moving boxes everywhere and our lives were in chaos. Needless to say, we hadn’t had time to even visit a church in Sacramento, much less become part of a church community. When I got that phone call that changed our lives, I was home alone. Ron was on his way home from Yosemite where he had hiked Half Dome earlier that day. He didn’t have his cell phone with him. So the first person I reached was Debra Brady. In our years in Modesto, Debra had been not only my Pastor but my neighbor, walking buddy and very close friend. I can still hear her response when, in between gulping sobs, I told her Ryan had drowned. She said to me “I’m on my way.” And she was. A little over an hour later, she and Steve arrived and in many ways, they have never left.

Those next few days and weeks are a painful blur in my mind. There were phone calls and cards and flowers and food and visits. We were literally and figuratively propped up and propelled forward by so many people who loved us. And this congregation was a big part of that wave of love & support.

On Friday, August 3, the funeral was held here – still our church even though we had officially said goodbye. I remember knowing it was an incredibly hot day though I really can’t recall feeling hot or cold – just numb and empty and thirsty. I was so very, very thirsty for days on end. I later read that in times of great trauma, your body emits some sort of enzyme that dehydrates you, making you very thirsty.

Over 900 people came to pay their respects to Ryan and our family on that hot August Friday. Obviously most of those people weren’t First Methodist regulars. But you regulars gave up your pews for them. You set up chairs and fans in every nook and cranny of this church and even under the shade trees on the lawn. You took care of the 4 or 5 people who fainted. You cleaned up vomit from a friend of Ryan’s who was overcome with emotion and threw up in the Narthex. You put on those hot choir robes and sang. You brought cookies and fruit and cheese trays and sandwiches for the reception. You washed dishes and tidied up. The next morning, Yona was here to clean the fellowship hall. Normally families are expected to pay for the additional custodiala help after a wedding or funeral. He approached Pastor Debra and said – “that boy who died. He was my friend. I don’t want any money for this.”
Ryan had driven Yona to the airport a few months earlier for his annual pilgrimage to Cambodia and Yona remembered that act of kindness and reciprocated with his own lovely gesture of Agape love.

You hugged us and loved us and told us you were sorry and meant it. He was one of you and you felt the loss too. You sent us cards with sweet messages of encouragement and remembrance. You recalled seeing Ryan come in late to church Sunday after Sunday. You remembered his great, shaggy hair and his pretty smile. You remembered how he went straight for the cookies at the coffee bar as soon as the service was over each week and some of you described how he would stand near the cookies & powdered sugar donuts, putting one after another in his mouth as he talked and laughed with the other young people who had been at church that particular Sunday. You recalled how he always went to the altar railing to pray after taking communion – one of the few teenagers to do that regularly. You took notice of how much we loved him and how much he loved us back and you commented on that. All those things mattered to us as we were desperately trying to hang on to every little morsel of Ryan that remained.

With every one of those acts of kindness, you were the Body of Christ. The Bible tells us that faith makes its power known through love. There was a profound faith expressed all around us in your countless gestures of love. You were Jesus with flesh on to our family in those awful days last summer.

Since Ryan died, I have fanatically read every story of tragic death in the newspapers and I mourn with mothers I’ve never met. One such story in the Sacramento Bee quoted a friend of a bereaved family saying “Shock is nature’s bandage.” That is so true. In the early days of loss, before true grief can set in, the shock numbs us enough to allow us to keep moving on to the next thing that must be done. In his book A Grief Unveiled, Gregory Floyd, whose 6 year old son was hit by a car and killed while playing with his action figures in his front yard, says in his book, “ we feel like actors in someone else’s drama. This happens to other families, tragic or heroic families. But not to us”.

But those things do happen to us and gut wrenching grief follows. My dictionary describes grief as emotional distress caused by bereavement; mishap; disaster. It’s all that and more when you’re in the midst of it. My friend, Coleen Sparkman who also lost a child 9 years ago, said she saw the world in black and white the first year after Kendall died. Sometimes grief soaks the Technicolor right out of our lives.

I found myself thinking in metaphors all year. I thought of my grief like lugging around a heavy suitcase. I longed to set it down somewhere so I could rest but that was impossible. The handle of that grief suitcase was permanently attached to the end of my arm. I often thought the best I could hope for was that someday the suitcase of grief would no longer be a big roller bag but a small carry-on instead.

I thought of myself like an egg. Some days I was a raw egg, easily cracked and liable to ooze out all over everyone around me. Some days I was soft boiled and occasionally I would even have a hard boiled day.

Often I felt like I was wearing one of those lead aprons they lay over you for x-rays at the dentists’ office.

One of the many books I read described living with a profound loss similar to learning to live with chronic back pain or going to a party with a toothache. The pain is always there but somehow you
learn to go on with your life – laughing and smiling at the right times, making small talk, taking care of the necessities of life even though your heart is broken. The grief becomes incorporated into who you are.

Early on I read that it wasn’t healthy to deny the grief but instead to feel every painful bit of it – lean into it, if you will, and let it wash over you in the waves in which it comes, knowing the waves
will subside for a while only to return later. I also learned that healing from the kind of deep sorrow I felt was not a linear
process. It wasn’t something that got a little better every day. It was more of a 1 step forward, 2 steps back; 2 steps forward, 1 step
back process. Eventually with time, the pain softened and changed but it never went away. Gregory Floyd said in his book: “There is
a difference between early grief and later grief. Early grief smacks, stings, punches; later grief is more gentle. Early grief is crags and crevices; later grief is furrows softened by the passage of time.”

Another thing about grief is that it is universal. None of us will get out of this world without experiencing grief. Granted it comes in different intensities and everyone deals with it in their own way. I had experienced grief before – I have lost my dad, all four of my beloved grandparents, Ron’s mom, even my dogs that I dearly loved. Ron lost his own 18 year old brother 38 years before when he was only 14. We grieved over all of those losses but as Ron said in the early days, those losses felt like trips to Disneyland compared to losing
Ryan.

The experts say losing a child is perhaps the greatest loss one can suffer. And having become a member of that fraternity no
one wants to join, I believe those experts. I believe a part of us also died on July 29. Our challenge became “what now”?

As I read and talked to experts, desperately seeking the secret to surviving my profound loss, I learned much about how people grieve. Some stuff their grief and sorrow down somewhere deep
inside and move on, appearing to the world to have “gotten over it”. That wasn’t even remotely possible for me. Others become totally incapacitated – losing their ability to function in the real world. They stop bathing regularly, rarely leave their home, stop paying their bills or answering phone calls. Some resort to drugs or alcohol to numb the unrelenting pain. Some people stop eating and lose lots of weight. Others seek comfort in food and gain lots of weight. And some, like me are highly functioning but suffering mightily, as they go through the motions of life, looking as if they
are fine. The hollow eyed, gauntness eventually fades and on the outside they look “normal” again. But they are far from normal.

Grief is ugly. And I believe the depth and intensity of our grief is proportionate to the depth and intensity of love we had for the
person we lost. When you love someone as much as we loved Ryan or as much as you loved the one you lost, how could you
expect for your life to ever be normal again? How could you not hurt to the marrow of your bones every minute of every day?
Intense grief is the price we pay for love. As C.S. Lewis says in The Four Loves – to love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.”
Our hearts were broken. Shattered into a million pieces.

I cried every day for months and then after about 5 months, I began to have a few days without tears – just the constant heavy sadness. I would awake every morning and ask God for his grace to make it through the day. I was traveling on business a good bit during the fall and I would walk through airports like a zombie, just repeating
over & over “God, please grant me your grace.”

I didn’t - couldn’t- pray much in those early days, weeks and months. I still can’t pray in the same way I used to. For a long time, I would just ask God for strength, hope, peace, grace and courage. That was all I could do and even that took all the effort and focus I could muster. My prayer today is to ask God to redeem this horrible tragedgy for something good in our lives and in the world.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says “God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” Our loss felt unbearable –it was relentless and terrible and isolating. Even though we were surrounded by friends and loved ones, no one could take our suffering away, even for a moment. Apart from the process of dying itself, grieving is described by some as the most solitary journey one ever makes.

I confess my faith faltered in those early days. I felt abandoned by God. I kept asking him why. Why Ryan, someone who was so good and full of life? Someone who treated others with kindness and compassion, was so much fun to be around and had so much potential to make the world a better place? Why us? Why we who had tried all our lives to be good people, good parents, good Christians? We felt punished.

My constant prayer since our boys’ births had been to ask God to protect my children from needless tragedy - I prayed it every day - and he had failed me.
Where was God on that Sunday afternoon when my little boy, who
was a strong swimmer and a water polo player, drowned in 3 ft of water in that lake in Texas?

I struggled mightily with a crisi