The last couple of weeks, in general, have been a bummer. The motherboard of my desktop computer of two and a half years died a horrible death, forcing me to get a new computer and go through the necessary rigmarole of reloading programs and data. Then I find my mom’s last mammogram found abnormalities. The biopsy found a tumor—fortunately, most likely benign—but one that my mom will probably have removed pretty soon. The Blazers’ 23-point comeback over Dallas on Saturday, though, had been a bright spot of sorts.
Still, nothing could have prepared me for what happened on Sunday—a Japan-earthquake sized jolt.
I logged on to Twitter last night and found the mood on Twitter to be much gloomier than usual. What caught my eye was Ryan Ozawa’s tweet, “Godspeed, my friend,” which I found weird. Reading his tweet stream, I found an entry on a 10-year-old dying rice cooker and thought to myself: A rice cooker is indispensable in Hawaii, but to be that attached to one’s rice cooker to bid it farewell? That didn’t make sense.
But then in addition to that, there were a few tweets of what appeared to be outright grief over someone unknown. In any case, I thought the vibe weird, so I tweeted:
Seems everything is breaking. Just replaced my desktop; mom will be going in for surgery soon. Reading my tweet stream, seems I’m not alone.
In the next few minutes, it became clear that something was going on behind the scenes. Mentions were made of seeing something on the news. A look at the Star-Advertiser site found a story of a hiker killed in a fall off of Mount Olomana.
Then it dawned on me that my friend Ryan, whom I had just seen last week Sunday at the Geek Meet, was planning a hike there. Ominous signs on Twitter emerged – tweets asking about his welfare and that of another Twitter user in the same group. When I found the other Twitter user, atop his feed was an “I’m OK” tweet. But nothing atop Ryan’s. His last tweet was that morning.
Then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me:
Oh. God. No.
Final confirmation came on Facebook, where Ryan’s profile page had been transformed into a makeshift shrine of sorts. The jigsaw puzzle became clear, and even though the authorities and media had not released the victim’s name until this morning, it became clear that night who the victim, in fact, was.
Ryan Suenaga—social worker, diabetic turned endurance athlete, and all-American geek—was no more.
One thing I remember about Ryan was his fastidiousness about money. He pinched his pennies until they bled, and made them work overtime. His ultimate goal was to retire early, which, given his work as a social worker (not exactly a relaxing career), might have been just as well. But fortunately, while frugal about money, he was generous in other things that were ultimately more important.
I’m not exactly sure where I saw Ryan first, but I imagine it was probably at the first Geek Meet. Since then I had seen him at tweetups and at endurance athletic events. Although he was a self-described hater of running, he nonetheless did a lot of it, completing two marathons. After having completed my own race, I was glad to have been able to cheer him on and congratulate him on a job well done. His true love, though, was cycling, and he was always in training for the next 100 mile or 100 kilometer race. And how he got there was equally inspiring. From a peak of 265 pounds, he reached 172.8 in the last week. (He would weigh himself most mornings and tweet his weight.) If you saw him as I remember, you wouldn’t know that there was a lot more of him back in the day. For most of the time I knew him he was around 180. Yet, 180 wasn’t good enough—his ultimate goal was 165, a one-hundred pound loss.
True, he was a self-professed non-people person. But he had filled every other moment of his life with fulfilling things and in so doing touched other people’s lives as well. He was a curmudgeon with a big heart.
Like I said, everything is breaking, and it appears a lot of hearts are tonight. God’s comfort be with all of us during this difficult time.
My front door faces Mount Olomana and it greets me every morning. This morning, as I left the house, I looked up at the three headed monster that ate my friend and spit him out, and said a silent prayer for his soul.
You climbed the high peak,
And, stepping out in great faith,
Fell into God’s arms.
Thank you, Ryan, for being a part of my life.
January 21, 1967 – April 24, 2011
For more tribute posts, read Ryan Ozawa’s blog post and see the list at the bottom. Too many to list here.