Monday, October 14, 2013


This is not the way to do this.  When there are no words.  When loss, like the centrifugal carnival ride with the floor that suddenly drops away, pins you helpless against the wall.  You hang there, wondering only when you will fall.  When the world stops spinning, I suppose.

It's too new, this news.  I have nothing cogent to say about it.  I can only tell you what happened.  It was uncanny, in its way.  In the way, come to think of it, of everything that had to do with this man who to me seemed larger than life.  Because he encapsulated everything you could really say about life's grace, its gifts, its terrible, terrible uncertainties.

Last night, happy: on the road.  For three days, going to all the places the motorcycle can take one.  The dinner out you give yourself, after a long day of riding, all the stops pulled out.  We had been talking about calling John Ryan, to thank him for yet another gift.   This ride, and this company.  Only we waited one day too long.

First, one message: Call me.  It's about John.

Next, another message: Is it true, what I read?

Then I knew.  It was too late to say thank you.

All the way home, today, the wheels repeated their messages.  First, the uncounted gifts.  He changed my life.  He gave me a new subject; he gave me a return to motorcycling (he, alone among all, would not rest until his mission was complete: he knew I needed to ride again, and he would not rest until I did); he gave me so many new friends I was startled with the recollections after every turn: Oh, and her!--and her!--and him!--and him!   On it went, through gas stops after the tank was filled, then drained by the miles through an autumn world where trees were afire, soon to be ash (but risen), then filled once more.  I remembered another gift, another, another.  Then I realized: No one had changed my life more than John.  The generosity he experienced was motorcycling's: its curious solace.  The generosity he passed on to innumerable others was particularly more.  Once, he literally gave me the shirt off his back.  I was cold; here, take this.

I will leave it to others to add to the ledger: we may never be able to fully account for what John Ryan gave us.  One by one, we will come out with our stories.  And they may well be endless, unlike John himself.

It was like a sucker punch.  I didn't see it coming, only felt its effects.  A sickness.  Maybe a cry; I don't know, I was hustled out of the restaurant.  For an interminable moment I sat outside alone on a bench, howling to the moon.  Animal anguish has no words.  This death, so far, has no words, but it has already amassed some miles.  He was there, riding not alongside me, but far ahead.  Always, he will be there, vanishing in the distance.


Shybiker said...

Your pain is palpable. Nothing can ease it so, for a while, you'll be hurting. I'm sorry.

Writing is how many of us process our emotions. Even grief. Yes, it may feel too soon to write about this tragedy but it isn't. Writing like this sensitive post is an expression of your current turmoil. I hope the act of organizing thoughts into words helps you.

Bud said...

It is so hard to lose a person who brought meaning to your life.

But in the end, all there is is love.

Sal Cuciti said...

We spend hours on the bikes with death right there a second away, but it doesn't make it any easier to lose a friend. So sudden and so -- God damn forever.

The people in cars don't seem to care. They don't look, they don't wait,they don't grieve for us. They just go on. Absorbed in whatever. There should be a rule, hit a rider, lose your license for a year. And on the anniversary for god damned ever. For ever You can't drive on that date.

I know John through you and the book. Thanks for that. And I am sorry for your pain. I know that pain. He died doing what he loved. I'm thinking I'm going to ride my bike today, up into the Catskills..I'm not giving in to this fear. .. I will ride today but I will be thinking of John.

Dennis said...

He touched so many of us, so deeply. He was a man who rode so far and so fast he seem invincible.

He'll be with me always.

Mike in Fla said...

I only met him (& you) once, at a BMW rally in TN. He struck me as an unassuming man given his accomplishments. Always quick to credit those who helped him. I sure he left his mark on all who crossed his path. Surely did for me.

I'm sorry for your loss

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Yes, let's all go out and take a ride, unafraid, with only two thoughts in our minds: "This one is for John" and "Be vigilant."

Bud, all yesterday I was thinking exactly that. Love. It is both beginning and end. And in all his actions, John exemplified it.

Love to all of you, then.

Kevin G. said...

Borrowed and placed here with much respect:
The Breeze - by J.J. Cale

They call me the breeze, I keep blowing down the road
They call me the breeze, I keep blowing down the road
I ain't got me nobody, I ain't carrying me no load
Ain't no change in the weather, ain't no change in me
Ain't no change in the weather, ain't no change in me
I ain't hidin' from nobody, ain't nobody hidin' from me
I got that green light, babe, I got to keep moving on
I got that green light, babe, I got to keep moving on
I might go out to california, might go down to georgia, might stay home

Ride in peace Mr. John Ryan

Demenshea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Demenshea said...

Absolutely beautiful, m'friend. Your words cut silently to the bone. It's not easy to lose someone close to you. May you find as much peace as you have found love.

Steve B. said...

A very nice tribute, Melissa. We all know John's ridin' with the angels.

Ride Far . . .

Scott in Devon. said...

This happened to me in 2009 when my friend and founder of the South East Massive, Paul Richardson, was taken out by a garbage truck. My reaction was much as yours was. I could not believe such a person as Paul, a true renaissance man and excellent and widely experienced rider could be taken away from us. I went upstairs and laid on my bed and cried.

These very special people leave a big legacy of freindships made and bonds forged, and every birthday of mine (for that was the day it happened), I think of Paul, raise a glass of cider to him, and plan my next ride or trip away.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Thank you, friends. Yes, now John's road is truly endless--we're still following behind. I think the sadness will dissipate as long as we keep heading into the wind. Like Scott says.

Pierre Simard said...

I just read your post entitled Suddenly. I feel sorry for your loss. We cannot fight time going by, but we can be present to ourselves and to others.
Take care!

Shybiker said...

Hey buddy. Like your article in Motorcyclist magazine. Your writing is always so entertaining.

Having been to Lake George, I agree with your assessment. I found the letters protesting your description of the town in the current issue to be petty. No matter what we do, there are always people eager to gripe.

Keep riding. Keep writing.

Melissa said...

Thanks for that, SB. I appreciate it.

To keep my blood pressure in the safe range, I've learned to never read comments on any of my publications but this one. Online publishing has spawned a whole secondary industry in people who exist only to write negative comments.

An editor once counseled this line of action (as I sat there positively reeling from the heat of the flames) and I've never looked back.

I will always keep riding and writing--and you, too, please.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shybiker said...

Hi Melissa. Happy New Year.

I apologize for writing on your apparently-abandoned blog but want to pass a message along and this is the only way I know how to reach you.

I just read Paul Ritter's book and admire his story. I was delightfully surprised to see a blurb from you on the back-cover. I reviewed the book on my blog and on Facebook.

Best wishes for 2016!

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

So great to hear from you! I am never-say-die on this blog, even though, yes, it's been sleeping a while.

Isn't Paul's story amazing? It's one that every rider (anyone, really) ought to read.

Here's to a wonderful new year for you, too.

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Hersh Chaturvedi said...

John was an amazing man, and his story will long be inspiring. If one has to go, perhaps to be doing what you so loved while the angels take you away is the best way to exit ...

Thank you for the book on an amazing man.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Thanks so much, Hersh.

Gebze Nakliyat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Panharith said...

I just read Paul Ritter's book and admire his story. I was delightfully surprised to see a blurb from you on the back-cover. I reviewed the book on my blog and on Facebook.

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