Today I want to tell you about the best companion that I had for only 22 days of my life.
Ryan Nathaniel Ward was paired up with me on the first day we both were sent down to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah back in the summer of 2004. At first, I thought Ryan was just some quiet weird kid from Layton who hadn’t been given the memo that pocket protectors were never the “in” thing to wear. But as time went on I realized he was his own man, and he didn’t care what anyone else thought of him. And I respected him for that.
The kid was consistent. For three straight weeks he only ate Bran cereal. That’s right kids, nothing but Bran cereal. We all used to wonder why he had such a stomach for six bowls a day, and he would just give us back his quirky smile and say, “I just love Bran. Don’t judge me.” To this day I still can’t figure out why he ate so much Bran cereal, but out of anyone I have ever met, he had the most consistent bowel movements. Don’t tell me that’s something you wouldn’t be proud to flash on a resumé.
Ryan had a great heart. One bigger than most Grandmothers are at Christmas. He loved and cared about everyone he came in contact with. I knew the kid loved me when after only being together ten minutes I decided to scare his pants off with an unplanned seizure. Waking up in a drool, all Ryan did was wipe my mouth off with his tie and help me get back on my feet. The guy stuck by my side, and cried with me whenever I felt down. He was a giant walking bear hug.
Ryan had a deep respect for the music industry, punk music to be specific. I think he loved music even more than he loved Bran, which says a lot. When we met, digital music marketing was in its prime with many of us, including myself, pawning off free downloads as quickly as possible. “You probably live off of Napster and Limewire don’t you?” I asked him. “Nope, not at all.” He said. “Out of respect for the musicians and the hard work they put in, I’m not going to ever succumb to that kind of stuff.” You tell me what average 19-year old who wants free stuff says that.
But that’s the thing, Ryan was never average.
He is a kid of your dreams. The kind of friend you would sneak out of your house to play Ninja Turtles video games with at 1 am. A kid that would go with you on late-night drives filled with Taco Bell and venting sessions about bad dates. He’s someone who you want on your team no matter what the contest is. He is a man that you want your little sister to meet at a church dance and hopefully fall in love with so you can legally call him your brother, he is that kind of a man.
The last time I saw him was this past summer when he made the trek down to St. George to meet with an academic advisor, and look to transfer down to Dixie State to wrap up his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, which was less than a year away. “I want to get my Master’s and then go on for my PhD.” He told me. “I think it’s interesting how people behave and act, and I want to pursue a career in that field, and do all that I can to help others.” Again, he had a heart of gold, and wanted to give everything he could to serve. In today’s world people like him don’t exist.
A few days ago I found out that Ryan had been given a bad dosage of body building supplements that entered his bloodstream and made his heart stop beating before the ambulance could make it back to the hospital in time. News like that makes you want to want to curl up into a ball and sob like a little girl. Ryan is a man who was unfairly taken too soon, stunning everyone around him. Hearing about him dying makes me want to give you a hug.
Life goes on, people change, we all adapt to the circumstances and fortunes that are handed down to us, that's just the way things go. As for Ryan Ward, he was a man who I admired, who I respected, who I loved, and who I will always remember as the best companion I had for 22 days. Being around Ryan made me want to be a better person. And I’m willing to bet you feel the same after reading this post. Time will pass and I can guarantee I am not the only one who will miss the loving person he was to everyone that surrounded him. Truly, he was a giant among men.
Love ya buddy.