In September, I woke up to phone calls and text messages from Elizabeth and my high school BFF, Lani, urgently telling me to call them. I knew someone had died. And a few minutes later, Elizabeth confirmed it.
Ryan Conley grew up in Irvine with us. He ran around with Sarah and her posse of sweet, silly, good teens, found his high school sweetheart Tiffany (who later became his wife) in that posse, and we all loved him. His older sister Lisa is a friend of mine, their parents are awesome, in sum all the Conleys are wonderful and you can't do anything but love them. I remember when Sarah had her 15th birthday party, there was a Talent Show portion and Ryan (and another guy) stood up and sang Build Me Up, Buttercup a capella, which I thought was very impressive because aren't 16 year old boys supposed to be self-conscious and unwilling to put their pride on the line??
Ryan died in a car crash on September 8, leaving behind his wife Tiffany (sister to Lani and one of Sarah's BFFs) and two young daughters. The Irvine Stake is all very close, and Ryan's death was felt by everyone. I won't go into all the grief because every time I try to write it, I don't finish this blog post because it puts me in a funk. But it was inspiring to see the way people rally in a time like this. I know food was on their doorstep, money donated, Elizabeth raised money to have a Kershisnik painting sent to Tiffany; it was a testament to the wonderful person Ryan is and how much people love his family as well as Tiffany's.
One of my closest friends, Lisa Ashton (Lyla's mom), never even met Ryan but wanted to help. She's a long-time yoga instructor and enthusiast (read: obsessive), and she wanted to donate the proceeds of a yoga class to Tiffany and her daughters. We set up a date and time, and it was held at the Irvine LDS Stake Center (incidentally where Ryan and Tiffany just met).
One thing you have to know about Tiffany and her family is they are ultra bubbly. Happy, loving go-getters, and in the handful of times I spoke with Tiffany in the week following Ryan's death she had a smile on her face and was doing her best to stay positive. That's just the way they are. They are full of faith and positive thinking.
We got to "Yoga for the Conleys", and my mat was next to the still-peppy Tiffany. There was a good turn out, and everyone was having fun. Once we were done with all the stretching and planking and downward-doggying and warrior posing, Lisa led us into the traditional "Final Shavasana" where we get to relax, lie down, close our eyes and listen to the music. All through the class the music had been purely instrumental, but not long after the Shavasana began, a song came on Lisa's mix with lyrics that seemed custom made for Tiffany's situation, all about dealing with trials and receiving heavenly help and hope, and I opened one eye to look at Tiffany, who was silently crying. I wanted to reach over and grab her hand, but was hesitant because sometimes I like to grieve by myself and didn't want to intrude. Right then Lisa, who had been walking quietly around the class, swooped in behind Tiffany and started rubbing her temples, wiping away her tears, massaging her neck, held her hands, and their exchange was so touching I felt for a minute heaven had touched earth. This was Christlike love for one of God's children who is undergoing the trial of her life. No words necessary, just love and service. I'll never forget it.
I am so grateful for the knowledge that families can be together forever. Tiffany and Ryan will be together again. I know that Tiffany is more than equal to the task ahead, and that heaven is close by her.