Still Adjusting to the Loss of Ryan, 14 Years Later

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seemed filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster  ~Elizabeth Bishop

September 24, 1977 – October 23, 2001

St. Vincent -Confirmation Piper Family Aunt Heather Piper 1990

Mom, me (8th grade), Dad, Ryan (6th grade) & Gram at my Confirmation at St. Vincent Basilica. Ryan served mass 1990

Years after loosing Ryan, I know I retreated in many ways.  I think I was trying to … actually, I have no idea what I was trying to do.  I don’t truthfully know why I distanced myself in many ways, for it wasn’t a conscience decision, it just happened.  Most would say I was dealing with my loss.  True.  I also focused all of my energies on Kyle.  True.  But really, I’ve seen other people deal with loss and travel down different paths.  I guess this is the road I was chosen to trek.

Ryan’s death affected everyone differently.  It’s definitely, not just about my family and myself.  Nope, his loss included distant family, friends of the family, Ryan’s friends, my friends, and unbeknownst to him, Ryan’s son Kyle, among others near and far.

As the years tally up, and I leave my personal cocoon, I run into signs of the pain as a result of Ryan’s death, even after all this time.  Some are literal signs.  Example, Ryan’s one friend Jacob (or his brother Luke) has a tattoo on his leg marking Ryan’s date he departed us.  Another friend of mine and Ryan’s, Danielle, named her daughter after Ryan.  This is a common theme, for I’ve ran into a few people who did just that, including Ryan’s friend Travis (I think it was him).  It’s a very sweet and heartwarming gesture.  I hope Kyle realizes just how much his dad meant to everyone, enough to name their offspring after my brother.

Recently, I’ve been missing Ryan.  Yes, that’s not a new concept and always an underlying truth, but I miss Ryan for Kyle, and I wish he would’ve know his father.  Presently, I feel like Kyle needs his dad, especially with the major issues we’ve been having with Kyle, mostly his attitude.  I don’t know how the present would appear if Ryan was still with us, but I do know for certain, Ryan wouldn’t have allowed any of it to happen, or put a mad stop to it immediately.  I get it, Kyle’s a teenager, but disrespect should never be permitted, let alone displayed, no matter the age.

Kyle isn’t a bad kid, really he’s not.  He’s a pretty good young man, but we’ve hit a rough patch.  I pray Kyle understands that I try and make decisions based on what his dad would say or do, or how he felt about certain topics.  Loss is never easy, for anyone involved, not even one who was three months old when Kyle experienced his first loss.

Words cannot express how much I miss you Ryan.  Truly.  I know you chose me as Kyle’s godmother for a reason, and you always knew I’d put Kyle first and I’d do right by him.  I’m sincerely trying my best.  Honestly, you’d be proud of Kyle.  He’s a very talented and intelligent young man and his future is promising.  He’s already shown to be a success as a person.

The introduction quote is actually a snippet from a poem.  It’s really a lovely piece, and very appropriate for this blog post.  Ever since loosing Ryan, I try not to sweat the small stuff.  I put things into perspective, especially when it comes to materialism, which I’m not a big fan of and never have been, similar to Ryan.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is as important as human life and doing the right thing.

Like Elizabeth Bishop, I too try and accept loss and loosing someone.  But I’ve never completely come to terms with Ryan’s death.  I’m sure he’ll always weigh heavy on my heart, some days are easier than others.

Below is the poem in it’s entirety.  Take a moment and try it out for yourself.

One Art
By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Smells of the Past, Missing You Ryan!

Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.  ~Helen Keller


Ryan playing with a toy truck… look at those boney legs! 1980s

I’ve said it countless times, yet it seriously does seem like it was just yesterday when Ryan moved out of our lives and moved permanently in with our Heavenly Father.  For him, great move!  For us, not so much!

How long has it been?  As of today, twelve very long yet short years.  He would have been 36 years old.

Among all the hustle and bustle of life, I do like to take a few minutes and remember Ryan, not that a day goes by when I don’t think of my little brother.  I’ll admit, acknowledging his birthday is easier than the anniversary of his death, but it’s an inevitable part of my life, as well as my family’s.

They say smell and scents are the most powerful memory triggers.  I concur!  Recently, dad had me take the gas tank when I went to fill up my car.  He wanted to get the allotted gallons of gasoline available with their Giant Eagle Perks Card.  Naturally, it’s not that easy and I spilled the gas jug in the back of my car.  Luckily, I had not one, but two blankets under the unstable plastic jug full of potent liquid.


Ryan trying out Nicole’s new bike. Casey is on the right. c. 1980

The smell in the car only lasted about a day, until the fumes evaporated.  But I will admit as I was cruising along, the smell brought me back to Ryan.  You see he did the same thing!  Except he wasn’t as lucky.  His trunk and the inside of the car had matching odors that seemed to last FOREVER!  How do I know?  Because for some reason, around that time I needed Ryan to take me to and from work.  So yes, I had to sit in the car with my head hanging out the window like a dog, just to catch some fresh air.  I’m sure I totally exaggerated it at the time, but Ryan got a kick out of me.  Well, maybe not, but he tolerated my silly behavior.

Eventually, someone told me about this carbon type of bag that you place in such an environment to absorb the smell.  Ryan always maintained my cars, cut the rotors when needed, replaced the brakes, changed the oil,  and the list goes on and on.  He would never take any money from me, so when an opportunity arose to get him the perfect gift, I jumped at the chance!  This carbon bag was pretty cool, it actually worked!  Once the smell infiltrated and was captured in the carbon bean bag, it was to be placed in direct sunlight to eliminate the order.  Really a nifty invention!

As I drove around, memories of that time came back to me.  Not the most heartfelt story, but to me all memories of Ryan tug at my heartstrings.  No matter if they were fond or foul memories, they are all near and dear to me.


Ryan fishing in Montana, when he traveled with Jim, Casey & Joel. c.1989

On a side note, I didn’t think to lay out the gasoline soaked blanket in the sunlight to evaporate the fumes before washing it.  Nope, not me, I immediately placed the saturated blanket in mom’s washer when I got back to their house to drop off the culprit gas tank, thinking I got it in good time.  Well, what I didn’t anticipate was the aroma de gasoline was going to set up camp in the washer and leave a little trace on every piece of clothing it encountered.  Not a pretty sight or smell, but eventually it worked its way out, and all is good now.

This would have been one of those situations Ryan would have rolled his eyes at me, knowing better, and just snickered to himself.  Heck, he probably would have called me on it, saying something along the lines of “Idiot” or “Really Smart!”, or “Why didn’t you think first?”.  Yep, that was Ryan!  I would have said the same thing if the roles were reversed.

When the day is done, we were all a very tight and close family, willing to do anything for each other.  Kyle has very much joined those ranks.  He is not only my nephew, but he has started to turn into my brother too.  Ryan would have loved to do the things I am doing with Kyle, but I guess he’s enjoying our activities and interaction from a different seat.

I can’t wait to join Ryan and have him as a roommate again!  Save a seat for me Ryan!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy 36th Birthday Ryan!

I want to take all the pain that I feel and celebrate and turn it around.  ~Stevie Wonder


Ryan with his newborn baby, Kyle. 7/30/01

Today would have been Ryan’s 36th Birthday.  It has been nearly twelve years since Ryan moved on to bluer skies.  To be honest, Ryan’s birthday creeped up on me this year.  Yesterday was Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith’s memorial service.  Blue Skies Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith  It was what one would expect, an emotionally draining and tragic service.  The type of event that brings rushing memories of past and current pain back from the corners of my being and gets me really thinking of Ryan again, not that I ever stopped.

After the church service, all of Jen’s friends and family gathered in the cafeteria in Saint Cecelia’s school building to meet with the family to share stories and to comfort and be comforted.  As we were at the table sitting and discussing Jen’s death, it dawned on me.  The twenty-forth of September was upon us, Ryan’s birthday!  Once I made the declaration to mom and Nicole, a friend of mine, Patty, who was sitting across the table asked me, “Do you still celebrate his birthday?”  My quick response was ‘no’.  Only because we never really did or do “celebrate” each others birthdays.  It was never apart of the Piper family culture.  We always acknowledge the day of our birth, just not make it into such a big deal.  To be honest, I like it that way.  So really no, we don’t celebrate it, yet we do in our way.

Sharing a stupid story about Ryan, I told Patty how I used to tease him about going bald.  Yep, I did!  Reminding Ryan that both of our grandfathers were bald, grandpap Chester was sporting the shinny scalp when he graduated high school.  I used to say, “It’s going to hit you right in the middle of your head!  I can’t wait to see it.”  Ryan would just roll his eyes at me.  Priding myself on the conclusion of my perception, I informed Patty that Ryan’s hairline was starting to recede a bit before he died.  When Ryan passed, he just turned twenty-four years old a month prior.  A really stupid story to remember, but it brings a smile to my face.  I do miss picking on him terribly!  He was a lot of fun and would take me for so long before retaliating.

While driving Kyle around yesterday, I mentioned his dad’s birthday.  He just shrugged his shoulders and grunted, in acknowledgment.  I don’t know if it just doesn’t mean anything to him or if he doesn’t know exactly how to react or what to say.  Knowing Ryan’s birthday doesn’t mean as much to Kyle as it does to the rest of us might change over time, the more he learns about his dad and matures.  At least I hope so.  Ryan loved that kid so very much, even before he met Kyle.

There is no doubt that Ryan and Jen are hanging out somewhere in the big blue heavens above us.  After all, they did know each other.  Like I said, Jen was always apart of our family.

Ryan would have been thirty-six years old today.

Happy Birthday Ryan! 

posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Memories Sewn Into a Quilt

Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.  ~Kevin Arnold


Kyle sitting on his bed in his room (Ryan’s old room) with the quilt I made him out of Ryan T-shirts & flannels 2002

You know it’s funny how time flies.  It might sound cliché, but it’s so very true.  I can’t believe Kyle will be twelve years old in seven days, July 30, 2001!  I was there when he was born and I pushed his dad out of the way to let me hold my perfect little nephew.  True story.  I really wanted to hold the baby and Ryan said, “I want to hold him.”  Followed by me working the bundle into my arms and Ryan giving me his ornery grin.  I think it was more of joy and happiness than irritation, but Ryan gave in to let me hang with my future buddy.

Over the years, even long before the birth or our little man “stuff” seems to get collected.  Sometimes you’re not sure why you have all this “stuff” and sometimes you know very well why it’s kept, for simple sentimental reasons.  Regardless, that “stuff” does carry a bit of history with it and me being a history buff, I love to preserve history.

Ryan passed away on October 23, 2001.  Naturally, his “stuff” was kind of pushed into closets and stacked in corners.  No one really wanted to deal with it at the moment, or even months later.  Some of the piles included Ryan’s cloths, mostly his T-shirts and flannels, the staple of his wardrobe.

The majority of his attire was purchased by yours truly as gifts for Ryan.  Every time he changed the oil in my car, rotated the tires, cut the rotors, changed the windshield wipers, (the list goes on and on), I would repay him with cloths, since Ryan never accepted money from me.  Never!  It was a win win because Ryan didn’t really purchase himself cloths,.  So I took it upon myself to dress him in exchange for all is work.  He would graciously accept the articles of clothing, especially the jeans.


Tight shot of Kyle’s quilt, while it was being made. Those are all of Ryan’s T-shirts & flannels! 2002

You see Ryan was a tall lean beanpole, a strong one at that, still thin.  His jeans, which had to be Levi’s, needed to measure 29 x 34.  Do you know how hard it was to find those?  So every time I was in the store, I would raid the men’s jeans department in search for Ryan’s jeans.  This saved him the trouble of trying to find them himself,  a real scavenger hunt!

Yes, so all my shopping for Ryan, eventually made their way to untouched sad piles of fabric with an unknown future.  No matter how simple it may sound, those pieces of clothing showed their history and was a part of Ryan, every stain, every tear, every wrinkle, every shirt logo.   I mean, the shirts literally showed Ryan’s likes and interests, almost like they were a living ghost of Ryan laid before our eyes.  Some of the T-shirts were so worn out you could tell they were his favorites.  Now what?  What do I do those these simple treasures?


I had a lot of help with the final assembly of this massive quilt. Holly (Quilts by Reese) is in the lower right corner with her back turned, hard at work! Her soon to be husband to her right. 2002

Over the months of healing after Ryan’s passing, I held onto these small memories, which I had no idea what to do with.  I mean, I wasn’t going to wear them, but on the other hand it would have broken my heart to give them away or worse, trash them.  What to do?  What to do?   Then, my friend Christina, yes the same one I would run around like a bee and press cloths with our bums, (Gotta Dance!)  came to me and presented the best idea I have EVER heard!  She said, “I know what you can do with your brothers cloths!  Turn them into a quilt!”  Brilliant!!  Sincerely, the presented solution was like gold to my ears and for a brief moment, I remembered how to be happy.   Joy filled me and I couldn’t wait to share this revelation with my family.  I knew they were going to love the idea as much as I did.  And you know what?  They DID!

At the time, I don’t think Christina knew what that idea meant to me and my family.  Being in a state of loss, confusion and grief, any small ray of light was most welcome and needed!  Now, where to begin?  You see I never made a quilt before.  In fact, at the time I didn’t even have a sewing machine.


Kyle playing on the pillow I made him out of the extra fabric from the curtains I made, sitting next to the quilt made out of his dad’s T-shirts & flannels, given for his 1st birthday. 2002

Problem solved.  That Christmas my family bought me a sewing machine.  Like I said, they were excited about the future quilt.  Now I have the equipment, what do I do with it?

Over the years, I’ve sewn Halloween costumes, hemmed pants, and such, but never a blanket and certainly not a quilt.  Well, me being me, I decided to take on the challenge and make it my spring project.  It was now a mission to complete it and give it to Kyle for his first birthday.

It took me months to cut everything out.  On a side note, to actually begin cutting into these priceless T-shirts almost made me sick, but it needed to be done to get to the final goal.  Yet, it was hard.  Once I decide how I wanted the T-shirts laid out and how I wanted to incorporate the flannel shirts, then I painstakingly sowed each piece to the next to create smaller shapes.  Then, those smaller shapes turned into larger shapes until it started resembling a quilt.


Kyle’s full quilt, gave it to him for his 1st birthday. Loved how it turned out! Kyle’s dad’s T-shirts & flannels. 2002

All along the way I will admit, it became very therapeutic.  Sitting there by myself sewing for hours, holding onto pieces of Ryan actually made me feel better.  I’m not sure if it’s because I had such an intimate relationship with some of those shirts beforehand, or I was able to put my self in a different mindset, but the hard work gave me hope that things will be fine.  Never better, just different and manageable, and more importantly Ryan would never be forgotten.  Similar to writing in my blog.  Still neither are like holding Ryan’s son, the closest most dearest part of Ryan we still have.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this perceived small project turned into a king size quilt!  Yes I didn’t have the heart to omit certain T-shirts, they were all so dear to Ryan.  To be honest, the final quit was actually larger than a king size.  On another note, I didn’t know that until I was pretty much done.  I kind of kept going and going, deep in thought until I reached the final edges of the quilt.


Holsters, Kyle’s Aunt Hot Dogs, playing with a 6 month old Kyle. 1/2002

Throughout the process, many of my friends helped me with the assembly of the quilt and supplied their opinions and advice, especially my friend Holly (Holsters).  Ironically, she now sews quilts, specializing in T-shirt quilts, as a side job.  Her quilts are far more superior than my creation.  Maybe I should have let her help more with my project.  She really has a talent with quilting, check her creations out on Facebook Quilts by Reese.  Her quilts are even sold internationally!

The quilt was by all means not perfect, not in the slightest, but that blanket was made with all my LOVE!  It was made to give a piece of my brother to his son for his first birthday.  It was made to preserve Ryan in a visual piece for the entire family to appreciate.

During the duration of the assembly, my place looked like a sweat shop. Literally!  Sitting on a stool in front of my sewing machine for hours upon hours, trying to get all the puzzle pieces together to resemble a bed covering, while maintaining the integrity of the fabric, was not an easy task.  I had stacks upon stacks of cut fabric and piles of miscellaneous remnants.  What drove me?  Kyle’s birthday deadline.

To give me an extra challenge, the end of May that year, I went on a cruise with a bunch of friends and than two weeks before Kyle’s birthday, I was in Korea.  Yes, I was competing in the World Haidong Gumdo Championships (samurai sword).  As part of my very memorable trip, I also trained and toured sections of the peninsula.  Great experience, even though I was completely off the grid and missing my little man so much!


Close up of Kyle’s quilt that I made for his 1st Birthday out of his dad’s T-shirts & flannels. 2002

Unfortunately, because of the timing of my Korean trip, I couldn’t give the long anticipated gift to Kyle on his actual birthday.  Believe it or not, that broke my heart, even though I know he would never know or care.  If I’m recalling correctly, I think I got home the day after his official birthday, but as soon as I got off of the plane and mom picked me up, we took a detour to head straight to see Kyle before heading home.  Even before I stopped to get some American food back in my system, we made a beeline to see my little man, who was already a year old.  Officially I gave him the quilt that weekend.

Kyle’s very first birthday gift from me was a homemade king sized quit, made from my very own fingers from his dad’s wardrobe.  I guess in a way, the blanket was from his dad too!

I’m really blessed to have gone through this exercise of making a quilt.  I’ve never made one since and I never plan on it.  After all, I have Quilts by Reese to do that!  But I certainly do cherish the work I put into it and appreciate the opportunity to clear my mind.  Plus, I hope one day, Kyle will realize just how much he meant to me from day one, for me go through all that trouble and effort to make him a quilt straight from his dad, for his very first birthday.  In a way, that blanket started the tradition of giving Kyle unconventional gifts!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Thinking About You Ryan!

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  ~1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Ryan-smiling Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan showing his muscles

It has been eleven years since Ryan has left us on earth and moved toward eternity.  Is is easier that it’s been over a decade since his passing?  Nope, not at all, but through the grace of God we are still managing to get by every day.

There is no doubt that Ryan is looking down us, especially Kyle.  I’m sure Ryan is extremely proud of the young man his son has turned out to be, as we all are, friends and family alike.  How do I know?  Well, the presence of Ryan is a gut feeling, but those residing on earth, they mention it in passing or make it a point to call out Kyle’s kind heart and sincerity.

Kyle is the best reminder of Ryan, not that we need it.  With Kyle, it’s fun to share stories about his dad and make comparisons between the two.  Although, the biggest joke we have is that Kyle is my sister reincarnated.  While that’s true for many of Kyle’s characteristics, the truth is Kyle is so much his dad, his friendliness, candor, and sense of humor are all Ryan.  Even his creativeness and desire to build are stemmed  mostly from Ryan.  I guess Kyle’s a little bit of us all.


Ryan proudly holding his son, Kyle 7/30/01

Sometimes I can still see Ryan’s unique smirk.  It wasn’t quit a smile but certainly not a frown, and it was a bit crooked, almost a mischievous grin.  When he demonstrated that look, you couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking.  Although when he shot me that expression along with the rolling of the eyes, I knew exactly what he was saying inside.  Of course now-a-days while he’s hanging out in heaven with my pap, Ryan’s probably saying ‘What were you thinking Heather?’ or ‘My family is a rare breed.’  I hope we are entertaining him but I mostly hope all of our actions and decisions are Ryan approved, especially when it comes to Kyle.  I’ve always said, with all my decisions regarding Kyle I ask the question, “Does it help or hinder him mentally, spiritually or physically?”  I also try to take Ryan into consideration.  I know it’s silly, but I try to picture how Ryan would have raised Kyle and handle certain situations.

No matter what goes on in life, good or bad, no matter how busy or hectic things get, we still think of Ryan every day and I can’t help but wonder what the days would be like if he was still around.  Death is tough on the living.  I can’t wait till we are reunited again!  I miss my little brother!

posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Hunter’s Safety Course – Passed!

When he was young, I told Dale Jr. that hunting and racing are a lot alike. Holding that steering wheel and holding that rifle both mean you better be responsible.  ~Dale Earnhardt

Ryan always went with my dad hunting, even before he could hunt (photo courtesy of Steve Seminsky)

This past weekend, Kyle took his hunter’s safety course.  Memories…my family took the very same classes decades prior.  Nicole, Ryan and myself participated in the hunter’s safety program when we turned twelve or around that age.  Back then; even when I was of hunting age, taking the hunter’s safety course was not required, at least not in the state of Pennsylvania.  Dad took it because he was heading out to Colorado for a hunting trip and that state mandated the class.   Mom took it because she felt it was important, hence why she had all of us get certified.  Mom and dad thought it was a good course to go through, any extra education and safety is never a bad thing.

I know I’ve talked about Hunting – Survival or Sport? and Up a Tree, coming from a long line of hunters.  The Piper’s are and have always been avid and die hard hunters.  We have always cut up the deer meat and froze it or canned it to use all year.  In fact, most the meat consumed in our household is venison, supplied from the kills during hunting season.

Now-a-days taking this class is mandatory, in order to hunt.  So we signed Kyle up locally for his weekend cram session of hunting rules and regulations.  I do believe in this class, they go over everything from appropriate behavior in the woods with handling a rifle, to the amount of orange required, to the distance from the road the shot must be made, and so on.  They also go over the unspoken rules of hunting, covering topics such as littering and respect for landowners and fellow hunters.  It’s a very educational class, which I’m glad they require.

When I took mine, I had no idea mom signed me up.  Approaching my twelve birthday that December, I took my hunter’s safety course at the same facility as Kyle and all the Piper’s before me including mom, dad, Nicole and Ryan.  As I remember, I was the only girl or maybe one of two girls in the class and a handful of twelve-year-old boys and a few adults.  Ok, funny story.  All this time, I used to look at the older guys in my class like losers because they were taking a class with kids.  What I didn’t know at the time, they probably had to take the class to hunt in a different state like dad.  My perception of them?  They didn’t know anything about hunting.  I guess it just goes to show, never judge.  Anyway, Kyle’s class was maxed out at 50 seats, and they went fast!


Kyle passed his hunter’s safety course. It’s official! 9/23/12

Ok there is something I did and I need to call it out.  During the Friday night session, the instructor asked the class what’s a ‘Habit’ and a child raised his hand with a reply “Addiction”.  Without thinking, I laughed out loud.  Then a dad from across the room, turned to me to join me in my outburst.  I didn’t mean to, and I certainly didn’t mean to start a chorus of laughs from the sidelines, but I did.  So for that I am sorry, but it just struck me as funny!

During the short break, one of the instructors came up to me and Kyle and said, “He’s an alter boy, isn’t he?”  Kyle, using his best manners said, “Yes”.  Then the gentlemen said, “I know, I’ve seen him in church.  He does a good job.”  Kyle still using his manners replied, “Thank you.” while standing there awkwardly smiling.  I always told Kyle, “No matter where you’re at and no matter what you’re doing, people see and remember, good or bad behavior.  So always act like a responsible, respectful young man.”  He just nodded with a smile.  For the most part, I do believe he does!


Dad & Kyle riding the quad 11/18/03

Dad took Kyle on Saturday since I had the SpyRing Scavenger Hunt event for Thrill of the Hunt.  While I was organizing the kids I received a text message from mom.  I guess, ‘Kyle had dad get him an egg McMuffin sandwich.’  Evidently, Kyle didn’t want to eat the supplied hot dogs for lunch.  Are you kidding me?  First of all, why would Kyle think he deserved to eat something special and second, when did dad go out of his way for a silly special request?  If that were one of us as kids, asking dad for a special sandwich, he would have told us to go pound salt.  Actually, we would have never asked such a request.  Only Kyle!  And only dad would give in to that little bugger.  Boy, does Kyle have his pap pap wrapped around his finger.

Sunday was the final review and the test.  Kyle was rattling off all his new and reinforced knowledge to my dad before CCD class and church, being a little nervous.  He even ran out of church to get to his last hunter’s safety course to study before his test.  On our way there, Kyle told me the test consisted of 60 questions and he began to tell me how many questions he could miss and still pass.  Too funny!  The he said, “I’m going to pass, because I don’t want to have to go through this class again for an entire weekend.”  He even told me the number of hours I was there with him, how many hours dad sat in and how many total hours for the weekend.  I guess math never stops with Kyle- Round up the Math at Idlewild Park.


Uncle Sony & Kyle on his birthday. He was one step closer to hunting

During the review session in preparation for the test, the instructors were shooting out questions at rapid fire.  The kids with the knowledge and the confidence, shot up their hands and were begging to be called upon.  Kyle was among the mix.  I will admit, watching him totally cracks me up.  He is so much like my sister, raising his hand, promptly answering questions and being very attentive.  Very unlike me and Ryan, or at least me.  Ryan was never an over achiever and wanted nothing to do with attention.  I just couldn’t sit in my seat for too and forget about having an attention span.  Seeing the drive and focus on Kyle’s face, he wanted to correctly answer the questions.  Now this wasn’t the case with all kids, but no one failed the test, so I’m sure everyone did well.

These classes are good for reinforcement of good practices but they are not the end-all.  I’m really glad dad has always showed us how to shoot, load and unload guns, check the chamber, and know how to handle the weapon safely.  I’ve never been afraid of any firearm and I’ve always felt comfortable handling them. I believe every household has the responsibility to review all rules, regulations and safety procedures and not leave it up to a class such as this one, just makes good practice.  In my mind these classes are a great reinforcement but not a way to create good safety habits with hunters.  I was so young when I was first exposed to shooting, that it became second nature to me.  I really don’t remember the first time I shot a gun, actually I don’t even remember Nicole or Ryan shooting for the first time.  It just seemed like I always knew what to do.  Maybe it’s in my blood, it comes with the last name Piper.


Kyle passed his hunter’s safety class…. celebration with ice-cream! 9/23/12

Well, Kyle passed his hunter’s safety crash course weekend, only missing three out of 60.  Way to go buddy!  Having the privilege of taking him on Friday night and Sunday afternoon I’m sure meant a lot to Kyle, I know it meant a lot to me.  We tend to do everything together, especially events that are a big deal, such as this one.

We are all very proud of Kyle and hope he enjoys hunting as much as the rest of my family.  He’s a pretty good shot, so I hope this strengthens his confidence to reflect positively on his skills and opens up the opportunity for him to appreciate nature and animals like all the Piper’s before him.  Kyle is allowed to go mentor hunting this year, like last year, but he will not be allowed to hunt during the season until he’s twelve, less than a year from now!  Good luck buddy!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy 35th Birthday Ryan!

Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.  ~Author Unknown

Ryan-at-Nicole-Piper-B-day Aunt Heather Piper

Tim & Ryan at my sister’s birthday. Chad is in the background.

Today is Ryan’s birthday!  He would have been 35 years old.  I still can’t believe he’s been enjoying heaven for the last 11 years!  Sometimes, I wonder what he would look like or what he would be doing.  I will never have those answers but they are fun to speculate.  There is one thing I know for sure, he would be very proud of his son, Kyle!  I can say that without the slightest bit of doubt.   He will always be missed and will forever be loved.  His memories are alive and well and slowing making their way to my blog for Kyle to read one day.


Ryan with his newborn baby, Kyle. 7/30/01

Happy Birthday Ryan, you are still missed as much today as from the day you left this world.

Happy Birthday!


posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have Comments (2)

Ryan, We Miss You!

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still water; he restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the says of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  ~Psalm 23:1-6

Ryan Piper waits for Kyles arrival - Heather Piper

Ryan waits for Kyles arrival- 7/30/01

Ryans Obituary

Ryan's Obituary

Ten years ago today was a Tuesday.  There is no doubt I can say it with absolute certainty without checking.  The weather was absolutely perfect, nice warm breezes, clear skies, perfect.  Around midnight, 12:00 am on Tuesday, October 23, 2001, I was going to go for a run.  Sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep, I used to go running, even if it was in the middle of the night.  My place of residence at the time was in a peaceful neighborhood that was very well lit and had sidewalks for safe running, except for the occasional unevenness.  The police also knew me from running around the area.  When running, day or night, they tended to drive past me regularly, checking in on me.  At least that’s what I believed they were doing.  Who knows, they could have thought I was a hoodlum and they were keeping tabs on me.  Regardless, that was the day described to a tee.  I had a hard time sleeping and I contemplated going to my parents house to get some shut eye.  No matter what, I can always sleep at their house.  I opted against going and decided to toss and turn.  Aside from that, things were still good, my world was in tact, until a few hours later.  Little did I know that I was going to receive a phone call that would permanently change my world forever.

Ryan Piper Funeral Card Heather PiperIt has been 10 years now since Ryan has left us on earth and moved toward eternity.  You know, when you say it’s been 10 years, it seems so long ago, but for me and my family it still seems like yesterday.   My friend Molly told me right after Ryan’s passing, “Everyone will tell you that in time it’ll be ok, it’ll get easier.  They are full of S#@%!  They have no idea.  It will never get easier,  just different.”  You know, she was 100% right!  I always thought of those words over the years and it helped.  I think of Ryan everyday and I miss him terribly, everyday.  But me and my family learned to adjust to this new direction life has taken us, just as everyone else does when faced with a tragedy.

Ryan Piper Article in the newspaper - Heather Piper

Newspaper Article

My little brother, who was 21 months younger than me, was a really great guy.  Ryan was a hard worker, friendly, and sincere with a big, big heart.  He would have loved watching Kyle grow and he would have been a great father!  Without a doubt, I know Ryan’s proud of Kyle.

I could go on and on about Ryan but I just simply wanted to say that he is missed and I can’t wait to see him again… down the road.

Ryan Piper article from Aggressive Grinding

Newspaper Article
















posted by auntheather in Milestone,News,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Happy Birthday Ryan!  We miss you very much!

Ryan Piper in 1981

Ryan 1981

Today, Ryan would have been 34 years old with a ten year old son.  He made it to his 24th birthday before his untimely death.

Ryan Piper in 1983

Ryan 1983

You know I used to tell Ryan that I couldn’t wait to watch him lose his hair cause, you see, it was already receding a bit and both of our grandfathers on each side of the family were bald.  So I told him, “It’s going to hit you directly in the head.”  I am a bit of a stinker and picking on Ryan was a part of my daily activity.  Now he didn’t hold back any, he dished it out as much as he took it.  But that was the fun of having a sibling.  It’s funny the things we remember.

Ryan Piper in 1984

Ryan 1984

Ryan and I were 21 months apart, the same as Nicole and I.  Being pretty close in age, and being the two youngest grandchildren, we were sometimes two peas in a pod.  With his blonde hair and blue eyes, we looked nothing alike. He was a bit more reserved and quiet compared to me, but he was just as much of a stinker as I was.  My sister was the law abiding, strict, tattle tale that we would keep things from.  Ryan and I would brag to each other about things we got away with, things mom, dad and Nicole didn’t know.  We were never bad kids, truly we weren’t, but we did enjoy life with harmless, stupid fun.

Ryan Piper in 1985

Ryan 1985

I remember I couldn’t wait for Ryan’s 21st birthday celebration.  I was really excited to take him out. We had a great time going around to the local bars in Greensburg not getting drunk or stupid, but really enjoying the evening.

Ryan Piper in 1986

Ryan 1986

Ryan was a great guy not just because he was my brother, but because he was a very sincere person, alike like Kyle.  He may have been my little brother, but he sometimes acted like a big brother.  Of course being six foot tall at my five foot six inches did give him the appearance of a big brother.

Ryan Piper in 1987

Ryan 1987

We had a typical family. Not perfect, just typical.   We fought as kids growing up, but there was never ever a question of being there for each other when needed.

Ryan Piper Graduation from Latrobe High School 1996

Ryan's Graduation - Greater Latrobe High School 1996

Ryan was a smart guy- great with mechanics.  He was not only a hard worker, and I mean manual labor, but he had business sense.  He was like my pap, whereas they had too much heart, if you know what I mean.  They were too nice, if that’s possible.  Regardless, it made him who he was.

I could go on and on about Ryan, stories after stories, but I really just wanted to wish him a Happy Birthday!  More for me than him, but I think it’s good for Kyle to get to know his dad.

Do you have a story about Ryan?  If so and you would like to share it with Kyle or any member of the family, I would love to hear from you.  In fact, I will create a page dedicated to Ryan’s life so anyone can add stories as it strikes your fancy.

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have Comments (2)
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