The first thing I do every morning is pull a quote out of my quote box that I got from my girls for my 30th birthday. This morning was no different. After a night of tears and a walk down memory lane, I woke up more tired than usual with swollen eyes and a noticeable sadness in my heart. and reached for my quote. I don’t think it could have been put any better:
“I will greet this day with love in my heart.
And how will I do this?
Henceforth will I look on all things with love and be born again.
I will love the sun for it warms my bones;
Yet I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit.
I will love the light for it shows me the way;
Yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
I will welcome happiness as it enlarges by heart;
Yet I will endure sadness for it opens my soul.
I will acknowledge rewards for they are my due;
Yet I will welcome obstacles for they are my challenge.”
- Og Mandino
This is how I will greet this day. For today is a whole different day than it was yesterday. Today is a new day and I’m reminded more than ever that life is short and that I must count my blessings, loving all the gifts life brings my way no matter how they present themselves. From the sun to the rain, the light to the darkness, happiness to sadness and rewards to obstacles, all of these things help to create me and my life and, today, I am grateful for all of them and I will greet this day with love in my heart.
Yesterday, my community at home in Georgia suffered the loss of a wonderful man way too soon. Yesterday our Brookwood community said goodbye to Ryan Figlestahler, better known as Fig. It seems like decades ago I walked into my first day at Five Forks Middle School, a transplant from a rival school crossing the line to Brookwood to attend the school my mother taught at. Other than those I spent my summers with growing up at River Oak, I knew very few people. The 8th grade is a tough place to introduce yourself to a new group of people that have grown up together. With my best friend at my side, my 8th grade year began and Fig was one of the first few to make me feel at home. Maybe it’s because he was my best friend’s ex and first boyfriend, or maybe it was because his mother also worked at the school, either way, he did. And so my middle school crush began haha I “loved” Fig so much that he even made the list that I had on the inside of my bedroom door (with permanent marker I might add…sorry, Mom!). Don’t ask me why, but starting around age 10 I found it necessary to Sharpie a list down the inside of my door with “I …” and their appropriate initials. Alas, Fig, #56 if I remember correctly, never “loved” me back. It’s funny how those middle school crushes don’t seem to pan out From that year on we remained friends. He was always such a kind soul and could make anyone laugh. His smile and energy were contagious and I can still hear his voice in my head to this day and see him dancing in the hall outside Mrs. Laney’s room. Over the years since high school we kept in touch via Facebook and through our moms. We had chats every couple of months catching up, I would wish him well wishes on his fight with this monster he was battling and we would always comment back and forth on statuses and photos; bickering about college football and the sort.
When I heard the news last night of Ryan’s passing I was stopped dead in my tracks. The past few months I’ve focused on my own battles: physical, emotional and professional. My problems seemed so big to me and work deadlines last night had me stressed out. All of a sudden though, my problems didn’t matter any more. My work, although maybe late, would still be here today, and the world would go on regardless; mine would at least. Although I walked in pain, I would still be able to walk. And, although the pain of losing my father sometimes seemed harder to battle than others, I was going to be okay. What mattered was that a 30 year old friend lost his life too soon. That a young man from an amazing family, was taken from them and his new fiance in the blink of an eye. That one of the tightest group of young men I know, lost one of their best friends. That a community, that I’m more than proud to be a part of, lost one of their own. That’s what mattered. As I cried with my mother and then with my best friend over a few phone calls, I kept a constant eye on social media as the love and thoughts and prayers of HUNDREDS began to poor in. It takes an amazing individual to have this kind of affect. My news feed, from top to bottom, was FULL of so much love and energy and unity. I was blown away! It was in this moment that my sympathetic heart began to fill with love and memories and I felt the strongest connection I have in years to HOME.
Who knew that when I walked into a new middle school 17 to 18 years ago I was walking into such a tight knit and unified community. Is anyone else from Brookwood in awe of the love and support being given to the Figlestahler family? It’s beautiful and it’s inspiring and such a testament to my faith in humanity.
Thank you, Ryan Fig, for showing us all how to live and how to fight. Thank you Mrs. Fig for always loving us girls (and guys for that matter, but I can’t speak for you) like we were your own and for loving my mother like you do and for always being there for her. Thank you, Figlestahler family, for being a piece of the Brookwood puzzle. Such a large piece that represents the love that this community has for its members. It’s been 12 years since we crossed that stage at BHS, we have all moved on with our lives, grown up and become adults. Many of us have families of our own and we all have our own day to day battles that we face. But at the end of the day, when one of our own struggles and is taken from us to soon, we come back together. Oh how I am grateful for Social Media today. Some days it may seem juvenile, but when used appropriately it can take those that have been separated by the different roads of life and bring them back “home”.
Thank you, Brookwood, for welcoming me so many years ago and for teaching me what it’s like to belong to something bigger. Thank you for being so full of love and for not being afraid to share it with the world. Ryan Fig, only you could bring a class of almost 700 people together again this way. For that, I am grateful. I’m not grateful for the circumstance, but grateful for the reminder of what really matters in life. We will always love you and we will ALL be there for your family for the rest of their days as they mourn your loss and celebrate your life.
This is a photo of Ryan I found in his Facebook photos as I was digging through to find a photo that is a perfect representation of him and his personality. Dance on, Fig!