I never would have imagined I would be planning my healthy husband’s funeral before he made it to 28.
Ryan was healthy, vivacious, incredible, and a humanitarian. How could he be dead?
These are all thoughts I still wrestle with. The shock and grief are too real.
However, there I was, 28, sitting with our families, planning my sweet husband’s funeral.
In the planning and in the grief, I somehow managed to keep pushing forward. If you ask me, I will tell you that I WILL keep ‘moving forward’, but I will never ‘move on’.
Ryan and I graduated from seminary a few years ago and I credit my days at McAfee School of Theology and Carson Newman University in helping me during this grief journey.
While in seminary, we learned to plan weddings and funerals. I NEVER wanted to plan a funeral for Ryan; however, I am grateful for the skillset that allowed me to plan the service Ryan deserved.
As I planned with tears and pride, I reminisced on countless worship services Ryan and I planned together. I knew Ryan deserved the ABSOLUTE best and I felt I was able to give that to him.
I wanted 2 things for his service. Ryan and Jesus to be celebrated, I am so grateful that those gathered celebrated both so well that night.
Ryan would never feel comfortable with a WHOLE service devoted to him, but I wanted to plan countless services for him. And I am grateful for the wonderful ministers who have preached about Ryan in their churches and bible studies over the last few weeks who have in fact, held countless worship services in Ryan’s honor.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
And thank you McAfee. Thanks for the memories, thanks for the love, and thanks for the skills to plan my husband’s funeral.
I want to share with you the eulogy I wrote for Ryan’s funeral.
What do you say about the best human you ever loved?
He truly was superhuman. I can not list all the good Ryan did on earth, but in the coming days, I want you to KEEP sharing the good! Tell me, tell our families, tell others, because he did. SO. MUCH. Good.
Read facebook and let the countless stories minister to your heart and spur you on to live more like Christ.
Ryan would train & run races with a hand painted shirt that read, “Love God and Love People.” When you are doing the first, the second will come.
Ryan was first a servant. A servant of Jesus and a servant to others. Next, he was devoted to family. He served them BEST!
He loved us all fiercely.
He strived to have compassion and humility like his parents. He took great pride in the Carter name. He took even more pride in being a Carter brother. He LOVES his brothers, Tommy & Bryce. And he loves the women who make them better men! He loves his niece and nephew and the new baby on the way. He loves his aunts and uncles and grandparents. RYAN LOVES.
He also loved my family well, and was the missing link we all needed.
And I have to tell you how he loved me!
He truly cherished me and he took our vows seriously.
But he went beyond that, he did all the things I couldn’t or didn’t want to do. He washed the dishes, cleaned the bathrooms, mowed the yard, vacuumed our house, went to the store. He did everything for me, just to make my life was easier.
He even Youtubed hair braiding, so he could braid my hair because it was hard for me. He was special and he LOVED me well!
Last time we were in Atlanta, we spontaneously stopped at a pop up carnival for funnel cakes. Then we insisted Ryan play a basketball shooting game to win a toy for Tucker. Ryan loved winning me things, but they were always really for Tucker.
While we waited in line, we cheered on a little boy who was shooting. The sweet little boy in front of us didn’t make any shots though, so when it was Ryan’s turn, of course he sank the first shot. The little boy was still standing there and Ryan instantly told him to “choose a toy” because Ryan would give him his prize.
Then Ryan proceeded to make many more baskets and win a prize for Tucker too. Ryan’s kindness (and basketball abilities) inspired the little boy’s dad to get involved.
That’s what Ryan did, he inspired people to do what they didn’t believe in themselves to do.
AND to teach them to serve their loved ones well.
Ryan was one in a million, he was MY one in a million.
Ryan was my dancing in the kitchen, make you feel special, emotionally invested, hardworking handyman!
He could do everything, with ease.
I am so grateful he chose me as his bride. He chose me!
And I wear this (white) dress today with great pride knowing that I will FOREVER be your bride, Ryan.
I am honored to say I was Ryan’s wife and he was my sweet, sweet husband!
As I’ve shared about Ryan the past few days, I have found myself saying things like, well Ryan would have said “let the children come to me” and “wash their feet” and “love one another” and “I just need my daily bread.” Who says those things?
Who does that sound like to you?
Jesus, of course!
Ryan didn’t just love Jesus, he lived like Jesus.
He LIVED. IT. OUTLOUD.
I’ve heard so many of you talk about how he truly lived out his faith. He did that well.
I know he and Jesus are so excited to be united. Can you imagine the two of them together?
I want you to know what brings me great peace during this time; I hope it will bring you peace as well. Ryan left this earth quickly- no suffering. He was on his way to serve with his favorite organization, he was wearing a Carson Newman t-shirt and ecstatic to provide service to another ASP family in need. Ryan died on the way to do what he absolutely loved!
Serving people, serving HIS people of East Tennessee.
I believe he saw the beautiful mountains and then he saw Jesus… and Dale Earnhardt greeting him together. Because we all know that’s who he really wanted to see!
I’ve told you about the man we all love and admire. Now I’m going to do what Ryan would tell me to do if he were here.
He empowered me and pushed me always. He actually told me I was going to be the one preaching his funeral, but I always told him he couldn’t die first, so that wasn’t ever going to happen.
While Ryan believes in my preaching, I’m going to leave that to someone else today.
I’m going to do what I do best. What he loved about me.
Ryan would want me to provide pastoral care, to ALL of you.
It’s time to grieve, friends!
We grieve now because it’s healthy. We grieve because this affects all of us! You can celebrate how awesome Ryan was AND still grieve. We must do both!
Ryan would never say, just smile and move on. NO!
He felt REAL feelings and wasn’t afraid to express them. You were probably blessed to see him cry as he talked about something he loved. He wore his passion on his sleeve and I loved him for that!
Grief is a horrible reality of life. But we must grieve anyway.
In the coming days, we will all experience the stages of grief.
We will feel denial. Many of us already felt this when we heard, or read the tragic news. We couldn’t believe Ryan was gone.
We will be angry and want to bargain and plea with God to bring him back!
Let yourself feel these emotions.
LET ME FEEL THESE EMOTIONS!
Let OUR family feel them.
ALL of these are valid and important emotions. But sadly, nothing can bring him back.
You may also feel deep sadness, darkness, and depression. We lost a remarkable man. Talk to your loved ones during this time, take care of yourselves!
Remember the good times with Ryan, but DO NOT feel guilty about being sad. Jesus also wept when his friend died. And if Jesus did it, give yourself permission to as well.
Finally, the fifth and final stage of grief is acceptance.
Honestly, I do NOT want to do this one. I do not want to accept he’s never coming home to me again.
But I MUST, because it’s necessary for healing. And Ryan would want me to heal and he would want YOU to heal. Acceptance will take time, lots and lots and lots of time, and that’s ok.
But acceptance of this HORRIBLE tragedy does NOT mean we forget Ryan. Instead, it means we must pick up the slack of Ryan not being here.
His loss leaves a huge hole in the world, but we can all begin to fill that void, everyday, little by little.
Through kindness, humility, acceptance of the outsider, loving without limits, and spreading the light and love of Christ. We can begin to fill the void Ryan left behind.
We can’t bring him back, but we CAN all stand in the gap in his absence.
We MUST stand in the gap for him.
And LOVE GOD AND LOVE PEOPLE like Ryan would.
I leave you with these words a dear friend sent me as I grieve.
The loss is immeasurable, but SO is the love left behind.
Ryan’s loss IS immeasurable, but SO is the LOVE he left behind.
Ryan loved us all, so well. Bask in the love Ryan left behind, cherish the memories, and allow yourselves to grieve!
I love you Ryan,
To join the 11.3K people who have already viewed Ryan’s funeral, click this link. (We have transferred the Facebook live video to a YouTube video.)
We are grateful for the worship from our dear friend, Ossie and the beautiful words from family and friends! I promise, the funeral WILL bless your heart!
If you want to learn more about who Ryan was, click here or just ask.
To give in Ryan’s honor, click here.
He was a man among men, a true servant-leader, and the kindest soul I’ve ever known.