A Story about Resurrection
“Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” (John 11:21-23)
In a hospital waiting room in Dayton, Ohio, Mahler Symphony No.2 “Resurrection” plays for a comatose patient. I had chosen this piece of music for my brother, Ryan. It was his favorite Mahler symphony. The theme of the symphony is resurrection. Like Martha from the John 11 Bible passage, my family had the faith to believe in the future resurrection of my brother’s soul but were wrestling with the faith that his seemingly lifeless body would walk again in this earthly realm. The mess of wires and tubes tangled around him were all that were sustaining his life. Having been unable to subdue the swelling in his brain through other methods, the doctors asked us to approve the best of two options that were left to save his life. His brain activity had been slowed to only a few blips every so often. In this state, he was fully unconscious and unable to process anything at all, not even the music in the room.
How He Got Here
Ryan’s unconscious state was the result of a horrific motorcycle crash on his route home from Michigan to his station at the Quantico Marine Base. He had attempted a risky passing of two cars at once on a two-lane road. The first car was in the process of a left-turn and Ryan struck them at a very high speed (probably quite a bit above the posted speed limit). It was only through the quick-acting of the medical first-responders that he was doing as well as he was when he reached the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. And, through the persistence of Nurse Kim, who used whatever means possible to try to contact Ryan’s family, his brother Kyle was notified and flew out to Dayton immediately. My parents were quick to put a premature 7-month pause on their life’s work in Poland and used the aid of the U.S. military to fly to Ohio the next day.
It was in these moments, while the Mahler theme of resurrection played on for essentially deaf ears, that our prayers for Ryan seemed almost foolish. We prayed that he would walk again and someday live a bright and independent future in the strength of his youthfulness. There would be many weeks of my parents praying beside his bedside and many more weeks of Ryan blinking vaguely around at his confusing surroundings. Weeks later, Ryan would strengthen to the point of standing on his own and, even longer after that, he would walk up and shake his father’s hand without the aid of a walker. Last April, we were very proud of Ryan’s accomplishment of running a whole mile.
Ryan would continue to show a driving spirit throughout his therapies. He was known among his therapists for tirelessly pushing himself. He would draw inspiration from the pictures of Colorado we had posted around his room as well as the inspirational video I made for him. The previous summer, Ryan, Kyle, his wife Hannah, and I had taken a cycling vacation to Colorado. We biked up and down several mountains as we crossed the state from one corner to the other. It was in Colorado that he coined the mental chant of “we climb mountains.” As his poured his effort into inching his way up long and steady ascents, this phrase would continually roll around in his head and help him to focus on the singular objective. We. Climb. Mountains. We. Climb. Mountains.
“When you can say everyday with all your heart, ‘Praise the Lord O my soul and forget not all His benefits,’ it is that much more important at this milestone to think of all the good that we have received from His hand”
–Christoph Schick (known as Opa to his great-grandchildren), from the introduction to his Autobiography “Under the Gracious and Protecting Hand of My God”
May 20, 2018 – 19 Months After Ryan’s Accident
It was the morning after a rainstorm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Ryan, Kyle, Hannah, and I arrived at the Jamerson YMCA to prepare for the 9th annual Storming of Thunder Ridge. This is a fantastic cycling event that takes place every May. It has routes that range from 27 miles to 100 miles with the Thunder Ridge Climb being the focal point of the event. With roughly 13 miles of uphill, the nearly 500 participating cyclists would roll through the Virginia’s scenic countryside before encountering the day’s main event.
At 8 am, we were already on our way through the country and looking out over the vastness of farmland. Cattle lowed upwards in a stretching motion as though they sought to kiss the morning fog as it flowed off the Blue Ridge Mountains. The wall of the mountain range stood at a distance in austere serenity as the thread of road wove through and punctured the quilted landscape. Bulging knolls, lush with the green of early summer, rolled into mowed barrels of hay lined up behind sagging wooden fences. The weathered gray of forgotten barns crowned the expanse of hills.
Ryan took on the 75-mile distance with Hannah. He pushed onward as the summer heat reached its pinnacle in the middle of the day. He continued up Thunder Ridge as he employed his mental tactics of focus to the goal of reaching the top (i.e. counting down from 1000 over and over again). It was a difficult ride, but he would say afterwards that it was a good ride. All the while, he rode with the phrase “we climb mountains” printed under his race number pinned to his back. Considering all that he has been through to get to this point, considering all of the many hours spent in frustration at his uncooperative body, considering all of the work of many teams of medical staff, it was indeed a good ride and one that stands as a trophy of the triumph that God has given Ryan.
“My time in rehab was tough and wildly difficult, but also highly character building” –Ryan Schick, 2018.
On Another Note…
While today’s story is about Ryan and the payoff of his hard work, I also had a great time at the bike event. Kyle and I rode the 100-mile route and I met my target moving time of 6 hours (give or take 37 seconds). Kyle did phenomenally for having never ridden 100 miles before. I was excited to see John and Rachel, Eric Blais (who will be starting a new adventure in England later this year), and Tanner Smith. From what they told me, they all did great and had a great time.
Thank you to all of the volunteers and staff that made The Storming of Thunder Ridge possible. I would like to extend an especially warm thank you to Paula, who loaned Ryan a spare bike helmet for the ride (Ryan had been struck by a car while riding at dusk in a thunderstorm a week before The Storming of Thunder Ridge event and had cracked his previous helmet).