The Ryan Suenaga Effect

@postaday 115; #postaday2011

What are our last seconds here on earth like?

Yesterday, while quite consumed with Ryan Suenaga’s death, I kept thinking what that 150-foot fall from an Olomana precipice must be like. Or what it might be like when a parachute doesn’t open, or the impact of getting hit while riding a bicycle. Being killed doing something you love, I guess, is probably an OK exit strategy.

I also keep thinking that this is all a mistake and that the Medical Examiner will tell us Ryan came to. Of course, it won’t happen. And it has been lovely that the roiling fast-paced current that is Twitter kept the spirit of Ryan afloat as we all came to grips with the reality of Life Without Ryan. He’s still important. He should remain important. Won’t we continue to learn more about the quiet and positive effect he had on our world?

Yesterday, John and I had a meeting at Koko Head School about our fourth grader Charlotte. She lags in math, but she also has her own ideas about the way life in the class should be conducted. Did you read between the lines that she’s a ‘spirited’ child? Exactly. And the woman we met for the first time, who grew up in Hawaii Kai, worked with Ryan at Kaiser Permanente before she joined Hawaii’s Department of Education. For a moment the three of us sat there. Quiet. Because the best words are the ones that just hang in the air, unsaid.

We all know each other. In Hawaii, the degrees of separation are most likely fewer than six.

It would be a waste of time, a waste of skin, a waste of breath, to live life as though one were the center of the universe. Ryan’s life was the opposite of take, hate and fake. If he were to respond to our outpouring of respect and honor, it would be with disbelief. Yet, no amount of words can convey the spirit of this fine man. Some of us cling to the thought that Ryan lives on. I do.

About this blog. I always wish that I’ll get 25 hits a day. That’s my goal. On weekends, when I post about my bicycle rides and link my Garmin stats, I hardly ever hit it! And yet those are my proudest moments! Look what I did! Look at my stats! I had so much fun riding today! I’m pretty sure Ryan checked. He was one of my bicycle buddies. He knew how to stoke my fire.

Yesterday I got 1,472 hits. That is amazing. That is the Ryan Suenaga Effect. He was so well loved, and people wanted to read all they could about him. I like to write and to reflect and to honor those who deserve it. I’ve got a face for print, so this is my medium, this is my little soap box, this is my blog. I know I’ll never have a day like that again, and it’s OK.

But for the record, if you die and I love  you, I’ll honor you here. I’ll be pretty pissed about it. I’ll work through my shock with my words, I’ll cry while writing, and I will put my heart and love right here for all to see, for all to feel for themselves. This is the least I can do for you. Don’t test me. Please.

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. With technology, the world we are in seems to somehow get smaller as it gets bigger. Mahalo for this heartfelt post; my thoughts and prayers are with you all in the islands as you mourn.

  2. I found your blog via twitter. You have written a lovely tribute to Ryan Suenaga and he seems like he really had a lot of amazing friends who have talked about him on Twitter. Just so you know, I am one of those people who likes to read about your rides, although I really enjoy your pictures so I check out the surf. I am counting down the days until I will be back for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

  3. so much emotions and working through the grieving process, you’ve managed to capture much of what i felt in words, thank you for that…and just so you know even though i dont comment, i am one of your faithful few 😉 i like to check in with my friends from time to time.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing such a well written from the heart post and tribute to and for a man I wish I had the privilege and honor of meeting IRL. The closest I got was meeting Russ (ParkRat) IRL at Kahala Mall one Sunday afternoon while Russ waited patiently to cheer Ryan on in some kind of bike race!

  5. Amazing, Paula, but I don’t expect any less of you. Words and tears cleanse the soul.

  6. Aloha Paula and everyone. As Ryan’s cousin I am truly touched by your outpouring of love, compasion, and friendship for him. His departure has left a void, but I believe that we will see him again … with those shorts.
    Please continue to keep his memory alive.

  7. Paula, you put it so beautifully. He was a man that we all admired, no matter what he said about himself. I imagined him telling us, “Who me? You can’t be saying these nice things about me! I’m selfish!” Well, if that’s what selfish is, Ryan, then I want to be just as selfish as you! Thank you for putting what everyone is thinking into such beautiful words… And I read your blog regularly on my iPad with Flipboard!

  8. Nice post. I was Ryan’s Team Fatty Philly roommate at the LIVESTRONG challenge. I am glad I got to share the experience with him. He was a great man, and I will miss his encouraging words.

  9. So I’m a year late but still feel obligated to say something. I recently started listening to podcasts on retro computing. I found A2 unplugged and had hopes for some good listening. There are so many podcasts out there and I have been disappointed so many times. I hoped this time would be different and it sure was. I downloaded the 5 or 6 episodes that are still on iTunes and I was hooked. I listened to all episodes back to back and had them done in one day. I wanted more and found the Open Apple podcast. I got to episode 4 and it hit me. Ryan was gone. Almost a year to the day of his passing, I was laying in bed not believing what I was hearing. Tears running down my face, how could this be? I had not met Ryan, I had never talked to him, never texted or tweeted him, I mean I did not even know Ryan. How could this be so emotional? How is it that a man that I had only listened to for a few hours on a single day of my life could have touched me this way. I feel for his family and friends and your loss of a great man. He is still touching people every day. Aloha Ryan.

  10. Mahalo, Eric. Those of us who know Ryan fully expect he’ll continue to touch friends and strangers forever more. I’m glad you found my blog and took the time to tell us about how you know Ryan. Because you know what? You know Ryan!

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