Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Eulogy for James Ryo Kiyan – A Brilliant Man with Asperger’s Syndrome

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for allowing me to speak here today.  I have not delivered too many eulogies in my life and this one is probably going to be the hardest I’ll ever had to perform.  I did not have the privilege of knowing this incredible man who left our hearts and souls prematurely.  Our physical paths crossed too briefly when we both attended a barbeque last summer at the home of a mutual friend named, Kate Palmer.  But from learning about him through the blog entries of his mother, Caroline Crane, and seeing all the people who have come to honor him today…I desperately wish there was an opportunity to turn back the clock and reach out to him.  Especially if I had known the level of anguish he was battling.  I have heard enough wonderful things about him to speak at this service honoring his contributions, stunted potential, and friendships that were cultivated with all of you.   

Despite being blessed with the support of his incredible mother, Caroline Crane, many of you in he congregation, Ryo was someone who did not receive too many “breaks” in his life, but seemed to do the absolute best he could with his social challenges.  As most of you already know, these challenges revolved around an undiagnosed case of Asperger’s syndrome or mild autism.  Yet he persisted with the passion of an underdog in a constant search for mercy in a world that often treated him like a square peg grindings its way into a round hole.  A world that reacted with fear and ignorance when that was easier than giving him the benefit of the doubt.   But for most of his life, Ryo never gave up, which is one of the factors that probably exacerbated his misery.  When something was broken…he wanted to try and fix it.  When a misunderstanding occurred, he attempted to resolve it.  When there were unanswered questions…he fought for closure.  When someone was afraid of his benign eccentricities…he put all his energy into helping them absolve that fear.  His determined soul was not built for a society that often preferred to give up in favor of what is easiest.   

Ryo never stopped looking for a community to would show unconditional acceptance or at least differentiate between Asperger’s syndrome & malicious behavior.  Even if this meant moving across the country in search for a better life in Los Angeles, Ryo took these actions and more. Ryo was a survivor in both the metaphorical and literal sense of the word.  Even during the grueling, six month regimen of chemotherapy to treat his bout with colon cancer, he refused to give up on work and life.  As his mother, Caroline, wrote in a recent blog entry, Rather than be dependant, he asked the oncologist to go easy on whatever sedative they added to lessen the discomfort. He wanted to stay awake both for driving and for work. His fellow staff members knew he was being treated, but only one, who had been through it himself, really understood the physical and emotional toll.

There were several factors contributing to Ryo’s unfortunate choice, although it is not fair to blame specific individuals for his departure.  But what I do know is things could have, would have, and should have been resolved with a semblance of dialogue and additional compassion.  I will not let this go and hopefully you won’t either as we search for answers and most important…prevention of future tragedies.   Ryo is someone who I would have liked to know better and he could have made a profound difference in my life. The irrational fear and constant misunderstandings that plagued his life are something I can relate to because we share the same diagnosis.  I can also empathize with the feelings of profound helplessness and sometimes wanting to give up in the worst way possible.  Ryo is definitely a man I would have wanted in my life who could have offered hope during dark periods.  In return, I would have done my best to return the favor.  Let the Ryo’s of today and tomorrow know there is an entire congregation of individuals who care about them and will help them fight for ourselves.

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