I wrote this two days after learning of the passing of my cousin Sean Ruane. I’ve thought about publishing it quite a few times and haven’t had the nerve to, and to be honest, I’m not sure I really have it now, but with a memorial for Sean being held in a few days, I thought it was time to make the jump and put my thoughts out there. I’m not sure anyone will even see this but it feels good to get it out.
I’ve reconnected with my family, especially my father, since initially saving the draft of this, which is a good thing. No matter what though, I just can’t shake that bad feeling. Being with friends and family helps, but it’s still hanging out there, like an unwelcome guest that doesn’t want you to do anything but feel sad and hide at home. The tears are less now, but they still come at odd times; hearing a helicopter flying over, or hearing about a disaster on the news.
Well, enough of that. Here’s the initial thoughts I wrote on January 9th, 2014:
I’m still completely broken up by my cousin Sean’s passing. In searching for my last communication with him I remembered something that hurts me even more now. My last interaction with Sean was via him liking a Facebook status update in which I made a joke. When i saw him like it I actually thought:
“Ya know what, I really need to get back in touch with him. It’s been too long and there’s no reason we shouldn’t talk at least once a week.”
That was on January 1st of this year. If only I had not put this off I could have at least talked to him one last time. Sean was a better man than I could ever hope to be. Not a bad bone in his body nor ever a reason to be cynical. Maybe a little smart-ass from time to time, but that’s just a family trait.
Sean dreamt of serving in the Air Force for longer than I can remember. He graduated top of his class at Embry Riddle and went right off to Air Force training. He chose one of the most dangerous assignments in the Air Force when he decided he wanted to not only fly helicopters, but to fly rescue helicopters so he could save people and help people in need. So basically he’d be flying into a place that is more likely than not very dangerous just to rescue someone else who was stuck or crashed themselves.
In other words, he got to help people on what was easily the worst day of their life.
Sean survived three tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. His final station was at RAF Lakenheath in England as part of the 48th Fighter Wing, also known as the Liberty Wing. This is where he served his final tour.
He left behind his wife of less than 3 years Rachel, and his son Liam, who is only 14 months old.
Sean was easily my favorite member of my father’s half of the family. Most families can be somewhat judgmental or trying, and when relations became strained between my father and myself, Sean made sure to tell me that he totally understood and our relationship would stand unchanged.
Sean loved the Steelers, good beer, and was even starting to home brew, something I was looking forward to talking to him about the next time he came home. Above those, he loved his family and flying. Hell, he even had the USAF mustache!
When I was younger, I loved him like a brother and did more than my share of playing army with him when we were way too young to know what that actually meant. As he grew older it was obvious that the military was perfect for Sean, and it was no surprise when we went into the one place where he could not only fly helicopters, but help people as well.
I’ve never had even the slightest urge to say something bad to Sean or even have a bad thought about him. He radiated love, compassion, and understanding. I think the world would be a better place if we all strived to be a little bit more like Sean Ruane.
I let issues with other family members and my father get in the way of a relationship I should have had with Sean, Rachel, and Liam, and now that will never be. This hurts me the most.
Coming back to the random Facebook status like from the 1st, this is the lesson I’m taking away from Sean’s passing. Time is too short to mess around. If you want to talk to someone just go do it. If you want to start your business go make the first call or email today. Right now.
I could have experienced a little more of the awesome aura that surrounded Sean and I missed that chance. If you’re reading this and you’ve gotten this far, stop now and go say hi to someone you’ve been meaning to. You might think that seven days doesn’t matter, and that you can do it next week but for me, those seven days were the last.