“What greater honor, that when a man moves forward, he leaves behind in each of us, the best of what he was.” — Mac McGovern
Remembering Ryan Suenaga: January 21, 1967 – April 24, 2011
Ryan at the @chickenkatsu Tweet-Up at Good to Grill, March 7, 2010
Much has been written since Sunday’s tragic hiking accident about the late, great Ryan Suenaga. As with many other people, Ryan was also a friend and an inspiration to me. I don’t pretend or claim to have been as close to him as many of the other folks out there who’ve written beautiful tributes to him in the past several days, but I would like to share my thoughts and feelings of this awesome guy I too called friend.
Like many, I too first met Ryan via Twitter when I first got onto the service back in 2007. At the time the Hawaii Twitter community was very small and intimate and everyone on the “Twitterlulu” network bonded fast. Ryan was a fast friend for me. Like my wife Shelley he was a Social Worker. He worked at Kaiser alongside two of my MBA classmates. He was a health freak. He was a Mac user. And, as time went on I, we learned we both shared a love of pro-wrestling!
Over the course of the past four years Ryan, like most of the great Hawaii Twitter folks, or perhaps moreso, was omnipresent in my daily life. He was always in my Twitter stream being one of the most prolific posters. He was ALWAYS there. When I’d post my workout info and weight loss goals and accomplishments he’d always Tweet back sharing tips and advice, always useful, always inspirational. His personal story is definitely one of inspiration to me in my efforts and his example will always be a gold standard in my book.
We’d shoot the breeze about the latest going ons in the wrestling industry, both local and national. And of course, like most folks, we’d always compare notes on awesome food places always Tweeting back whenever I’d have a food porn post or a check-in at some obscure food dive.
Beyond that though, Ryan was more than just an “online” friend. Like with many of the great local Tweeps I’ve met over the years Ryan also transcended the “online” friendship to a real life friendship. I think the first time we met in real life was at one of the numerous Tweet-Ups, Geek Meets or Bytemarks Lunches, probably back in 2008, I honestly can’t remember. It was very common to bump into Ryan and the usual cast of characters at those early Tweet-Ups. As folks have well documented, Ryan was also one of the most prolific Tweet-Up organizers whether it was for fro-yo, dinner, b-ball or hiking.
Probably my most frequent interaction with him IRL, aside from the geek events, was checking out the local wrestling scene. Having a love of wrestling Ryan and a bunch of us would regularly check out the awesome action put on by our local wrestling company, Action Zone Wrestling on a near monthly basis, our schedules permitting. It was always great seeing him pull into the parking lot (loud jams in tow 🙂 waiting for the doors to open and the rest of the crew to arrive and just catch up on things, shoot the breeze on wrestling and then just catch and enjoy the awesome action screaming and or laughing at the great event put on by the AZW crew.
My other most vivid memories of Ryan in real life involve a favorite foody spot of ours, Good to Grill in Kapahulu which every time I’d be there to grab a meal Ryan would also be in the midst of finishing up a meal there as well with his trademark jams, Mac and bike gear in tow.
The other year I hosted a Tweet-up at Good to Grill for Raenelle, a good friend visiting home who’d connected with the local Twitter community. Being a transplant it was the first time she’d be meeting all the Twitter folks she’d been talking to for the better part of a few years. Lo and behold, Ryan was the first person to arrive on his bike in his bike gear with his ever present loud jams 🙂 I still remember that day vividly as Ryan had already done a loooooong bike ride before our lunch tweet-up. He stayed a good portion to catch up with the crew and meet with Raenelle. Being the uber active athlete, social butterfly he was though he departed a bit early to go from our lunch to take in some Tweeball action with the Tweeball crew. Just amazing. I have no idea how or where he got his energy 🙂
Being a prolific “check-in” person it was also common to just bump into Ryan at places (Hawaii being a small place and us having similar tastes). Another vivid memory I have of Ryan is during the Holidays when Shell and I grabbed lunch at Good to Grill. Lo and behold when we checked in Foursquare gave us an alert Ryan was there and sure enough he was, just finishing up his meal working on his Mac, wearing his shorts with his bike gear in tow. 🙂 We had a chance to catch up together for a bit before he had to head out to finish his ride and for Shell it was her first time meeting Ryan IRL after having chatted online for a few years about the travails of being a Social Worker. I for one always appreciated the advice he’d give her as she finished up her MSW degree and got deeper into the field and I know for her it was a pleasant surprise to finally meet him in person.
It’s almost been a week since we lost our friend.
I for one am still just at a loss. It was just so weird to go through this week and NOT see Ryan’s name appear in my Twitter stream and not see what he’s up to or the great and wise counsel he’d provide folks or to peak in on all the cool things he and the rest of the crew had planned for the weekend.
It’s been asked often in times like these when someone so young and full of life is suddenly taken from us well before their natural time as to WHY the good ones always go so soon. Such is the case with Ryan. Why did such a great guy, so full of life, such a blessing to everyone around him have to die so soon, so tragically? I have no clue. But I do know this, Ryan Suenaga LIVED more in 44 years then most people live in a full lifetime. He helped people and GAVE of himself, fully and completely. Moreso than most. It was his profession for sure, but it was also just his way. It is no surprise to me just how heartbroken the local social media community was when word of his passing made the rounds on Sunday and how many tributes have been written in the blogosphere, the number of Twibbons displayed in his honor or the hundreds of tributes on his FB page. He was very well respected and very well loved and most deservedly so. It sucks that he’s gone but if you measure a person’s life in love, by the lives they touched, or the deeds they did, then by any measure or metric Ryan had a great, most amazing life.
In times like these when folks such as Ryan are taken from us to soon the only explanation I can come up with in this: sometimes God needs his angels back up in Heaven to redeploy for another assignment. Ryan Suenaga was definitely an angel on Earth walking among us.
Make no mistake, I’m sad our friend is gone and so wish he were still here with us, but I do take some poetic comfort in one of his final Tweets posted to his Twitter account Saturday night just before he embarked on his fateful hike the next morning letting us know his status:
I know in my heart he most surely is. Godspeed my friend…