Ryan Diviney was born on September 21, 1989 at Reston Hospital. He came into the world in a big way, weighing well over 10 lbs. and right in the middle of Hurricane Hugo that stalled over Virginia. We barely made it to the hospital when he decided he just didn’t want to wait any longer. That night was foreshadowing of things to come nearly two decades later, as I stay up with him all night to make sure his blinders covered his eye while in a lamp chamber to be treated for jaundice.
Ryan excelled at everything he touched. He was particularly intelligent (in a practical and academic way), and took control of social situations with grace. Although admittedly shy, he never let on and taught himself to be engaging and humorous. He was, in every respect, the all-American boy; he loved sports, dogs, and women. Ryan would debate on any topic, sometimes knowing little on the subject, but always made the most inane idea sound perfectly reasonable. He was always honing this skill because he wanted to be a judge or Senator. He was a master at it and sports were his favorite topic since he excelled here too. This passion for respectful discourse led to his demise.
On the night of November 7, 2009 he and two friends were walking to a Dairy Mart directly behind his WVU college house when a gang of rowdy, obnoxious punks crossed his path. The group, all from Newark, Delaware, became aggressive and surrounded Ryan. Ryan put his hands up, palms out, to show he was not interested in fighting. Then he began to back-peddle. The gang ran him down. Off to his left his roommate, Bryan McLhinney was being sucker punched by Austin Vantrease. Bryan fell to the ground with only his jaw to break the fall. It broke and he spent months
with his mouth wired shut on a liquid-only diet.
When Ryan saw his friend go down he started toward him to help, but Jonathan May ambushed him from the side with a punch to the jaw forceful enough to take Ryan’s legs out from under him. Ryan was unconscious before he hit the ground. He literally never knew what hit him as he went backwards. The base of his skull hit a raised manhole cover, causing damage to the brain stem and frontal lobes as his brain rebounded in his head. His brain was badly damaged and his life was already in the balance.
For reasons only evil knows, Austin Vantrease ran over to Ryan as he was out cold on his back and began kicking him in the head. A witness testified that it looked like he was “punting a football”. He didn’t stop until Ryan was bleeding from his ears and began having seizures. Then they ran and hid behind a dumpster as the police and paramedics arrived. After Ryan was taken away they all went to another party and talked about it.
There is no reason Ryan shouldn’t have died that night or the months following. His brain was so badly damaged that doctors thought he must have been in a terrible car crash (until I told them otherwise). We watched him beat all the odds, from surviving a temperature of 109.8 degrees to his heart rate suddenly plummet. We sat helplessly as he died, then brought himself back, several times. Brain injury as devastating as his affects every part of the body.
Since this time it’s been a struggle, sometime by the minute, that no person (or family) should ever have to endure. We will not give up… until he does. In the meanwhile, to follow is a look into Ryan’s soul.
I am constantly reminded of just how wonderful my son was to others. By now, you realize I try to temper my respect and admiration of Ryan as to not come off as the parent of a child who can do no wrong, but today I’m just going to pull the”Proud Dad Card” and let the words flow freely.
Hell, I deserve to gloat! Well, I certainly shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Ryan deserves the honest recognition!
It’s always the same message people share about Ryan’s caring heart, just the names of those he touched are different. I got one such message yesterday. It was completely out-of-the-blue, but I am noticing those who grew up with Ryan are coming back with greater frequency. I only knew this particular person very little (who I will call “BL”) and it was from what Ryan told me. Honestly, this person hadn’t crossed my mind at all since Ryan was a senior in high school. I shared my conversation between me and Ryan with the sender, because I felt this person should know how my son felt. Yes, this was how Ryan conducted himself, through-and-through.
Here’s what I received yesterday in my Facebook mail, soon after accepting this individual’s friend request:
BL: How has Ryan been? How’s his recovery process going? The whole situation saddens me, he was one of the few people who never picked on me in school.
Me: He’s doing well physically, but his brain is recovering so slowly.
BL: Ok, I hope he gets back to normal. He was always nice to me when others weren’t. I wish I could thank him.
Me: I’m not sure he understands, but I’ll tell him you thanked him. Ryan was kind to everyone.
BL: Yes indeed. The men responsible deserved a life sentence in my eyes. It should’ve been attempted murder.
Me: It does my heart well to know that Ryan treated you with respect. I actually remember him telling me that you were a “good guy” and admired you for your uniqueness. It bothered him when others were disrespected for no good reason.
The digital dialogue between us went on for a bit longer, but the crux of it was captured in those six simple messages above. All I can say, and quite proudly at that, is that’s my boy!
He continues to make me proud. That wonderful son of mine was solidly grounded in principle, the roots of which ran deep. Truth is, I knew he was but I simply had no idea of just how much! I always knew Ryan was one of the purest souls, but the way he imposed himself in situations for the benefit of others keeps coming to light… over-and-over again.
I just can’t get enough of hearing about how Ryan was caring.
Let the Gloating Begin
For those who don’t know, Ryan had the social clout to carry himself in any way he chose… be it good or bad. He had a lot of pull. His intelligence was borne of infallible logic. The women found him handsome and intriguing. His athletic skills made him known throughout the county, metropolitan area, and state. His charm and charisma were rarely found to that extent in others. He was engaging and polite with children (oh, how he loved the little guys!), peers, and adults alike. His popularity practically guaranteed an invite to all the parties, got him voted on Homecoming Courts, and had everyone wanting to call him “friend.” His humor was something to behold. As an aside, I remember us discussing what is the most important attribute of humor and we both agreed it was mostly about the timing, even more so than delivery.
He had every cause to let this “perfection” go to his head, but always remained humble. Ryan was so modest, sometimes to a fault. He called himself a “closet shy person.” Now, I’m not saying (nor would I ever) that Ryan didn’t do some things that caused me to get called into a teacher’s conference now and then, but he never acted aggressively nor disrespectfully. He was a typical Diviney man, just like me and my father before me, a tad-bit ornery and always looking to make others laugh through the relentless pursuit of merriment. Yes, both me and my father, then Ryan, spent some time explaining our silliness to our respective school Principal. The result often being a (not so) stern warning not to do it again. I often thought I would catch the Principal inadvertently smirking as he dished out this warning to me. As for Ryan, I can tell you for sure that the Principal and I would damned-near laugh our asses off or marvel at the cleverness after Ryan was excused (but Ryan never knew this until he graduated).
What can I say, this goes back generations with us Diviney men. My dad set the bar high (he’s hilarious and loves to laugh too) and Ryan and I followed in his footsteps! Ryan loved spending time with him. Be it just chatting (and making light of my dad’s Pennsylvania dialect), playing video games (he would always clobber my dad in NCAA or Madden football), going to college football games with him, competing in miniature golf while on vacation, or playing the board game RISK for days at a time.
My dad is a good man. Top-notch, as a matter of fact. He taught me through his own word and deed what it takes to be an upstanding man, devoted husband, and loyal father. He taught me about accountability and respect. Although I modified my approach, the basic tenet was adhered to because it meant everything to upbringing. I took notice and passed this along to Ryan as I raised him. One thing I followed to the letter was how he was always available to me. He never missed even a single baseball game, football game, or wrestling match in all the years I played. He tirelessly toted me (and others) to practices and every religious obligation. He never lied to me (even when it hurt like hell to hear the truth), never drank in my presences, never cursed, and treated my mom with respect and love (I still recall fondly how they gave each other a peck before my dad headed off to work each morning and said “I love you” to each other). My mom was the female version of my Dad. They are kindred spirits that did a damned fine job as parents and role models.
So, back to Ryan and enough about the hijinks linage. He was nothing short of the “All American” boy. No… he was every bit the All American boy, pure and simple. You don’t need to take my word for either, just spend a few minutes reading the Guest Posts from others who knew him.
The Easy Way is Usually Not the Best Way
He adored his family (and had his mom wrapped around his finger, but never misused this control). He not only shared and upheld our common family values, but demanded these from me and his mom just as much as from his sister. It was clear that he had the instincts to be an amazing father one day. Truth is, he was already showing qualities as a father-figure (I bet his friends know exactly what I’m talking about). Sometimes I mourn for his foregone offspring… for Ryan’s never-to-be-realized joy of fatherhood… for all the good that was lost. They would have had that one-in-a-million dad, there’s zero doubt about that.
…and yet, the flawed gene pool — in my opinion — from his attackers, Jonathan May and Austin Vantrease (both of Newark, Delaware) will likely be passed on. This sickens me more than you’ll ever know.
Ryan deeply respected his fellow-man. He intervened for the weak and downtrodden. Ryan was particularly attentive to the physically or mentally challenged. It infuriated him, perhaps more than any other, when these people were not given the same respect (for individuality) as anyone else. He was an ambassador for the social good and harmony. He despised injustice; so much so that he wanted to become a judge or legislator. To my knowledge, he never compromised his beliefs, values, morals, and wishes. Even when it would have been a piece of cake to just turn his back; be it on the “unpopular” kid that was being ridiculed or in his own life-circumstance. He felt for others, an ingrained empathy that would make him hurt as though it were himself being wronged. He simply wouldn’t stand for social injustice. He actually told me that the easy way out is usually not the best way out.
Ryan, believe me, I know the truth in you words! Oh, how I see the wisdom so clearly now. You were always wise beyond your years, Ryan… what some call an old soul.
I going to say it again, Ryan is made of the right stuff. Who knows, maybe that’s a trait of old souls? I noticed this in him at a young age. He surrounded himself with the right people… others that had the same fibers running through them. There is so damned-much truth in the premise (and advice I use to give my children) that you can tell a hell of a lot about someone by seeing who their friends are.
To Ryan, it made no difference a person’s degree of beauty, amount of wealth, or popularity. Like my daughter, Kari, he always looked deeper. I swear, I sometimes seriously wondered if he (and Kari) could see, or perhaps sense, someone’s aura. To my children, those who they associated with only had to be good people.
You know, people of solid and irreproachable principle, values, and morals. It’s not the least bit shocking that these people are now going on to make a difference in this world. I’m proud that they call my son their friend and Ryan did likewise. They were always a good and decent group of kids, raised by good and decent parents. The proof that all of us are in many ways connected to our environment, nuturing, and genes. When all these come together in a positive way, only good can come of it. Failing even one, the likelihood of diminishes but can be often (but not always) overcome by the others. I suspect there’s some exponential factor in play here; meaning if two are missing the degree of failure is many fold, and not just double.
For me, I need look no further than the attacker’s circumstances to draw that opinion.
Okay, so I gloated my butt off. Please excuse me if it was a bit too much. Nobody’s perfect. No one, and this includes Ryan. Like every human who has every spent time on this earth as an adolescent or adult, mistakes were made along the way. Hell, as his father I sometimes simply sat by and let him make them (but not without fair warning). Mistakes are one thing. Sucker-punching or kicking an incapacitated person are another entirely.
That behavior, my friends, is no mistake.
My family believes — and always has — that sometimes people use up all their goodwill in an instance and are never entitled to a second chance! I know for a fact that Ryan holds this conviction, because he told me as such. Just as he told me that anyone who ever harmed his family (I’m not sure if he was using it in the context of me, Sue, and Kari or his future wife and children) he would see to it that justice was done. Getting back to second chances, even if there are those who hold firm in second chances, these attackers have been in fights and run-ins with the law before. They are out of excuses or leniency.
Knowing what I do now, there are no more chances for these ruthless attackers and they will always be accountable to my son. That is, unless Ryan says otherwise. For now, all I can go on is what Ryan said he would do and want. Until that time happens, for Ryan’s sake, I will hold them to it for the rest of their lives or seek some other remedy or justice. It’s what Ryan would want and expect of me. I will not let him down, even if it leads to my mental or physical downfall.
Yep. I’m just like most any other parent. We are no different, you and I. Our children come first and we would not think twice about sacrificing for our children (granted it’s in their best interest). Is there any one of us who wouldn’t give a decade of their lives for even one day credited to our children? Parents! We’re a loyal lot.
If I have any say so on their judgement day (Oh, how I wish I still believed in God, let alone fairness in the universe), they must be given my son’s complete forgiveness before I relent. There’s no doubt Ryan will be demanding this, and Ryan is a stickler for righteousness. They are guilty, they will always be guilty. They are violent criminals to the core. I have a court order of their conviction that removes any doubt about that. Neither heaven nor hell can change this fact. If they don’t accept responsibility and accountability in this lifetime, then God damn their souls, I say! The choice has, and still does, live within themselves. It’s not too late, but time is running out.
Time is always running out…[button color=”#COLOR_CODE” background=”#COLOR_CODE” size=”large” src=”http://www.change.org/petitions/deny-parole-to-austin-vantrease”]Join Others and Sign the Vantrease Anti-Parole Petition[/button]
So anyway, my inspiration was that quick Facebook exchange from that grateful person who took the time to let me know how much he appreciated the way Ryan treated him. His words were like water breeching a dam, slowly spilling over the top. Then bam! The wall came tumbling down and the flood (of admiration for my son) could not be retained. It swept me up in its fury and I just let it carry me away.
I didn’t want rescued.
Instead, I willingly (and in some ways, foolishly) braced myself for the roaring flow of raw emotions to batter me against all the debris that was churning all around me. I’m not sure why, but I felt like it was time to allow myself to be at this merciless raging. I could feel the agonizing bolts of pain as I collided with hidden dangers of the past. Jagged and sharp, they seemed to rise up before me without even a lick of warning… after it was too late to avoid smashing into them. Dangers now, but at one time they were pure exhilaration. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time!
I’d give up forever for Ryan to wake long enough to tell him how much I love him and hear him say it just one more time.
Just one more time…