January 1996----September 2013

Ryan Mason Swain

...So may the words I say, and the things I do, Make my LIFESONG sing to you..
— Casting Crowns

Ryan Swain was just an ordinary young man that lived an ordinary life, but it was what he had in his heart and soul that made him beyond extraordinary.

Ryan was a quiet, easy-going, friendly and kind person to everyone he came in contact with.  His words may have been few, but they were indeed profound.  He carried with him a contagious smile that won the hearts of all around him, and was loved, admired, and respected for his peRSeverance, respectfulness, and never-quit attitude.  He was committed to finishing anything he started and would give all he had to see things through.

A country boy through and through, he loved growing up in a small rural town in Southwest Arkansas. He was proud of the fact that he lived out in the country on a gravel road.  He was a die-hard Arkansas Razorback fan that loved to deer hunt, duck hunt, and fish.  His career goal was to become a Wildlife Game and Fish officer.  Ryan was an avid sportsman and athlete from a very young age.   He played football and basketball, but nothing could top his love and passion for the sport of baseball.  From the young age of 4, Ryan honed his baseball skills to earn him a spot as the designated hitter as a freshman on his high school team.  He was valued as a versatile player, able to play wherever he was needed the most, whether it be pitching, 2nd base, short stop, or catching that almost over-the-fence hit to centerfield.  He dreamed of making it to the major leagues and hitting a grand slam or pitching a no-hitter for the Atlanta Braves.   In school, Ryan was active and very involved in the FFA (Future Farmers of America).  Through this organization he was able to showcase his character and leadership abilities.  He held several officer positions in the FFA, but leading his chapter as Vice President for 2 consecutive terms were beyond compare.  He attended the National Conventions held in Indianapolis, and was chosen to represent his state at the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

While all of these characteristics and attributes made Ryan who he was, none is more important than the fact that Ryan was a saved Christian.  He accepted Jesus Christ at the age of 13 during church camp in Tennessee.  Ryan led a Christian life and others were able to see Christ in him.

Ryan, like all of us, did not live a perfect life, and in his short life of only 17 years, he endured some difficult times.   Playing sports, unfortunately, requires some consequences.  Ryan had just started his freshman football season in the fall of 2010 when a devastating left leg femur fracture took him out of the game that year.   It was during a routine after school practice that a tackling drill went wrong and left him on the ground with a severely broken leg.   Two hours later, Ryan underwent orthopaedic surgery to place a metal plate and 9 screws that would reconnect the broken bone.   This left Ryan with weeks upon weeks in a wheelchair and crutches ,as well as, on the sidelines.   Ryan never complained of the pain he endured nor of not being able to do any of his normal activities.  After being released from the hospital, Ryan "played" every game from the sideline . Moments before going into surgery Ryan said "Momma, I WILL play football again".  We had no idea if he would get to play sports at all at this time.  We were hopeful, but definitely not sure.  Months later the doctors said that he could play baseball but if he ever wanted to play football again the plate and screws would have to come out. This would mean another surgery, another recovery and a another season of sitting on the sidelines.   Through his perseverance, commitment, and positive attitude, Ryan went on to play baseball his freshman year and almost one year to the day,he underwent surgery again for the chance to play football.   After much rehab and recovery, Ryan got his chance to return to the field in his junior year.

As Ryan's Senior year of high school started in the fall of 2013,  we thought we had the worst behind us.  Little did we know that our lives were about to be turned completely upside down and broken into pieces.   Ryan had worked that summer at the local marina and saved up his money, he had a girlfriend, and a jeep to drive. We had just had an awesome vacation in Colorado (his first time to fly in a plane).  He was starting his senior year and he was a starting lineman on the football team.  We were planning for graduation and college--Life was great !   The teal duck hunting season was approaching and Ryan and 4 of his buddies had been planning and preparing for opening morning for weeks. The first 2 weeks of the school year were in the books, and the first non-conference away football game was on Friday Night.

That Friday night was nothing short of amazing !  Ryan played his most awesome game ever and after one of the players got hurt, he ended up playing both sides of the ball, every play, for the whole game.   Following the game, Ryan met his mom, dad, and little brother on the field.   Smiling from ear to ear, he gave his mom a big sweaty hug and was congratulated by his dad and his coach for a game well played.   His buddies had planned to stay at our house that night, the night before their anticipated duck hunt.  All was good.    The next morning, September 7, 2013 , on leaving to go hunting, Ryan drove away from our house for the very last time.   The boys had parked at the landing of Lake DeGray, a short 15 minute drive from our house, and hiked into their hunting spot.   The weather was rather hot on this day (not cold and dreary as is typical with duck hunting).  The boys had planned to hunt off the bank so they took no boat nor waders.   After shooting a duck, Ryan took off his boots, socks, and duck calls, and took care to take out his cell phone, pocket knife, and wallet.  He went into the water to retrieve the duck, went under in approximately 6 foot of water and never resurfaced.  

Our lives have forever been changed.  Life as we knew it is not the same.  God had plans for Ryan that we were not ready for.  But one thing is for sure, Ryan was ready.  Ryan had Jesus in his life and Jesus had Ryan in His hand.   Ryan was not ashamed to share his faith with others.  We have heard many stories of how he was sharing his faith with others just days before he left.  We have been told too many times to count of how Ryan encouraged and inspired others, and of the impact he left.  We do not have Ryan with us on this earth, but we did not lose him.  We know where he is and we will see him again.   This is why we peRSevere !  We want to continue what Ryan started; encouraging others to peRSevere, to keep going when times seem tough, to never give up, and to keep the faith of Jesus Christ through it all.

Ryan would have done anything to help others, so it seems fitting to us to help others that are going through their own trials.  We feel that this is what Ryan is calling us to do.   This foundation is Ryan's Call !