It's Thursday, and I need to write an Apple II Bits blog post. Never have I so wanted to avoid doing so.
I wish I could write about Ultima, or Steve Wozniak, or KansasFest, or interactive fiction, like I always do. I wish those were the only topics that were on my mind. But the only thing I'm thinking about is this strange world I now find myself in: one without Ryan Suenaga.
When Eric Shepherd emailed the KansasFest list on Monday morning to tell us that Ryan had passed away, too many disbelieving, conflicting, and illogical thoughts occurred to me. Surely he didn't mean the Ryan Suenaga? Or maybe there was a word missing from the email. Ryan's aunt had been ill; maybe Sheppy meant that Ryan's AUNT had died. Or had Ryan, like Joe Kohn before him, been sick without letting anyone know? Or was this a sick joke? The hiker hadn't been named in the original news story, after all. Was there any chance we were mistaken?
As time went on and more facts emerged, reality started to settle in. Friend and Apple II colleague Ryan Suenaga was gone. He had turned just 44 this January — an occasion I'd neglected to observe.
Ryan's passing was a tragic, sudden, and freak accident that leaves his friends and family with little explanation. What happened on the Olomana Trail that would cause an experienced hiker like Ryan to fall to his death? Did he lose his footing? Was he so busy tweeting from the trail that he didn't see where he was going? Did he somehow suspect this would happen? I even wondered, was the fall a consequence, a complication, from some other health issue, such as a diabetes-induced heart attack? (No.)
This shock was made easier by the company of Apple II friends, courtesy IRC, the same support network I turned to the morning of 9/11. Before long, one of those friends, Sean Fahey, asked me to share the news on A2Central.com. I was reluctant to do so, and I asked Sean to give me time to compose myself before I could compose anything else. In time, I wrote tributes for Juiced.GS, A2Central.com, and KansasFest.org, in order. That's three tributes too many — and there are more to come in the next issue of Juiced.GS, the next episode of Open Apple, and at KansasFest 2011.
These tributes are primarily to aid the grieving. How can we move beyond that into something constructive, so that Ryan can better the world in death as he did in life? Ryan himself suggested one idea; former KansasFest keynote speaker Jason Scott added another.
Our community is going to continue working through our feelings and taking actions as we're able. We'll do our best, just as Ryan always did. And if we ever falter, we'll know that somewhere, he'll be watching and telling us, "You suck."
Aloha and mahalo, Ryan.