Tuesday started as it typically does. Tapping the snooze button at least three times, then a bleary look for my phone. I hit Instagram on auto-pilot for all the latest news and was hit with devastating news. Jacqui, from Baby Boy Bakery, lost her precious three year old son last Friday night in a tragic accident. Here is something you should know about me and Jacqui: we are not friends. Sure we have commented on each other's pictures on Instagram, but I have never met her. Yet I spent the better part of Tuesday crying for her son, Ryan.
The thing about Instagram is that it allows you to get a glimpse of a person's life. It allows you to follow them on their adventures, on their life's journey. I've been following Jacqui for two years, and so I've seen her with Ryan. I've seen the complete joy and adoration in her eyes when she looks at him in pictures. I've seen the excitement in his face at Disneyland. I've seen their family of three, enjoying every single minute of each other. And so I feel like I know them. I feel like I can completely understand the love, and now the devastating loss. That's the thing about Instagram, it allows you to connect in a way that is so intimate, without ever meeting someone.
You may think that Instagram is another waste of time. Like Facebook or Pinterest. Hell, I'm sure many people in my life believe that this blog is a complete waste of time. Today, I can tell you, without a doubt, Instagram is a community. It's a collection of people who communicate and love and share their lives. It's a community of mothers and fathers, sisters and friends. It's a place where we cheer, we congratulate, and, as we did today, we mourn. But we did not mourn quietly, no, that is not the Instagram way. We mourned openly, thoughtfully, and tearfully. And while we could not make sense of this tragic loss, we didn't let it sway us in our faith, and with no words to offer Jacqui and Dan, we went to work.
I am so proud to be a part of this community. This community, my community of bloggers and Instagrammers, that crashed Alissa's website well before noon pacific time today. Before the days end, countless shops had designed t-shirts, necklaces, and prints among other things, in Ryan's memory. An auction or two cropped up. With all proceeds, one hundred percent of them, going to Jacqui and Dan. For whatever they could need. Even though what they need, we cannot buy.
As I drove around Fresno on Tuesday I was overwhelmed by the journey the Saldana family has ahead of them. Selfishly, I do not envy them one bit. Because Grief has shown up on their door step like an unwelcomed house guest, with heavy luggage and no plans to leave. He will linger over every single thing they do, cloud every bit of their life. Grief has no plans to leave anytime soon. His friends, Anger and Anguish will come over from time to time, and unpack their heavy bags. When they leave, they will leave things worse than when they found them. One day Grief will tire of being on call every day, and will take a break leading them to believe that he is gone. But Grief will sneak into their lives in the moments when they least expect it, because that is the trouble with Grief, he never really goes away.
I thought about all of the little things on Tuesday. The little things the Saldanas will have to face. The toys still scattered in the house. The uneaten snacks or the cups still filled with juice. The tiny clothes in the laundry baskets waiting to be done, but never to be worn again. The songs that will never sound as sweet, the books that will go unread. I thought about the quiet that will consume their house, now that Ryan, whose photos showed a child so full of live and love, is gone.
Like I said, I didn't know Jacqui or Dan or Ryan. I just feel like I know them. I know that Jacqui was a beautiful bride. I know that when she posted a photograph of her and Ryan, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I know that they are suffering and trying to make sense of the most horrible thing any parents have to go through. I also know that I have no words that will comfort them. I have nothing to offer them but prayers and condolences. But if I could say one thing to them, Jacqui and Dan, I would say thank you. Thank you for sharing the most beautiful child I have ever seen. A son, who was brighter than the sun. Ryan who was so full of life, who had a curious look in his eye, and a smile that brightened up the best Instagram feeds. I would tell them that perhaps he was a gift, and perhaps that he was just too precious for this life. And I would tell them that I'm so incredibly sorry that they have to begin this long journey without their precious, beautiful son.
Join me and this wonderful community on Instagram by following #redballoonsforryan.