Today marked the beginning of several ponytail donations to Locks of Love in memory of a hero.
The ponytails came off in Dallas...they had been grown by two beautiful women, sisters, Faryn Clark and Elisa Masso. The girls grew their hair out for the last year in memory of someone they never even knew...someone I'm not sure they met, and if they did, they were 13 and 6 years old at the time, way back when I was their nanny. They grew out their hair to help little kids with cancer...in the practical sense. They grew it out because I threw out the idea a year ago to see if anyone wanted to do it along with me. They donated 10+ inches of hair because they, too, understand the depth of what a simple gesture can mean. Along with their siblings, Faryn and Elisa lost their father 4.5 years ago, and they know what it is like to miss him every. single. day. Because, even though they have never met Ryan's wife Shannon or their sons, they know what it means to lose a dad, and their gesture is an outward expression of their hearts crying out, "Hey! Even though our dad is gone, he was real! He'll always be important! And we miss him all the time!"
Their perspective has changed...they know that hair is just hair, that their hair in Heaven will probably be remarkable, and donating here on Earth so a little kid can smile confidently in the mirror is worth the sacrifice. And they did it in memory and honor of a real, true man...a hero who died saving another man's life. That man was many things, including a husband, a father, a son, brother, grandson, uncle, nephew, cousin, friend, peer...his name was Ryan Arnold.
I don't know what it is like to lose my dad. He's still going strong, thankfully. I don't know what it's like to lose my husband and best friend. But I have experienced loss...the loss of a man who taught me a lot about life and love, my father-in-law, Steve Graves. And, the loss of a son who never spoke a word in 7 months but whose life still teaches me lessons along the way.
And I lost a friend, one of my husband's best friends, the day that Ryan Arnold passed away. In the moments before Ryan died, Jason and I sat in the hallway outside his hospital room. I was pregnant and we knew it was a boy, but this little sweet life in me still didn't have a name...I said to Jason, "If it won't upset Shannon, I'd like our baby's name to be Ryan..." Through tears, as Jason held my hand and deeply grieved saying goodbye to his friend, he said, "I already decided that is his name..."
Cutting my ponytail off this coming Saturday along with Janelle Zander, Ryan's sister, Dana Feeney, my little sister, Emily, my kiddo, and three other beautiful women who never got the chance to meet Ryan Arnold, Jenifer Prosser, Erin Ferris, and Catherine Thomas, is only a gesture. It doesn't even begin to express my heart in how every. single. day. looking at our 11 month old baby boy named Ryan, we think of Ryan and thank God we knew him as long as we did. We pray for Shannon and her boys. We pray for Ryan's parents and brothers and sister and their families...we remember.
Death isn't something with which any of us should become comfortable or callus. We weren't meant for it in God's original design. But it is the reality for each one of us. It is the one thing on Earth that we all have in common...none of us will escape it. The timing isn't up to us, but how we walk through it as survivors is. Some people are so overcome they just don't know what to say. Don't sweat it. There is NOTHING another person can say to bring a loved one back. It isn't our responsibility as support to try to fix it. But in my experience, letting a survivor know that the one they loved is still thought of, still missed, still brings memories to you heart...this is priceless...this means so very much.
As I near 40, I've decided to embrace my natural self...the one with naturally curly hair. I'm not saying it's going to be pretty on Saturday when I embrace my short fro, but, it's just an outward expression of what my heart thinks of every day.
And what does a ponytail have to do with the life of Dr. Ryan Arnold? Nothing, really, I guess. He didn't have long hair, though he had a sweet mullet when I met him. But Ryan was a selfless man and gave of what he had and of who he was. This weekend at Tonto salon where we are donating, the stylists are giving us cuts for free since we are donating to Locks of Love. In lieu of payment we are collecting donations to raise awareness for organ donation. We will also be encouraging patrons to become organ donors on their drivers' licenses.
So, you may not have a ponytail to donate, but I would encourage you...if there is someone in your life that has experienced loss, don't shy away. Don't NOT say anything. You don't even have to have known the person they loved and lost...just let them know you care about them, about their heart, and are thinking of them. It will mean more than you could ever know.