Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Friday, July 05, 2013

The Toughest Choices

A most remarkable woman.
It's interesting to be as public as we are.  There's always the question of how much to share.  Typically I keep the health issues Atticus and Will face somewhat private because I refuse to turn our lives and choices into a referendum.  We're not seeking advice, we're sharing our adventures.

Otherwise we open up quite a bit of our lives with you...and, in turn, many of you reciprocate.  It's what makes our Following Atticus Facebook page so personal. 

We talk about ups and downs, life and death, dreams and frustrations, love and loss, and the list goes on.  People may have come here in the beginning because of one very special dog and his incredible feats in the mountains.  Others came later, brought by Will and his story of redemption, for that is what we all seek.  However, in the end, our page is about more than just two photogenic dogs.  It's about life.  Theirs.  Ours.  Yours.

I notice that every day.  I'm astounded by the bravery many of you exhibit by what you share with us and each other and the support that is given.

A couple of weeks ago we asked people to express why they wanted to choose the next song that would be played for Will as he drifts off to sleep. Hearts were opened and all of us were moved.   Michelle Gray wrote:  "Will is my inspiration and my role model for helping me heal from divorce and move forward with my life. Several times each day, I think of how far he has come; how he has learned to trust, how he has opened his heart again to love again and to let himself be loved. He reminds me daily that it's never too late to have the life you've always wanted. I adore reading about Will's romping and napping and smelling the flowers. I would love to choose a song for his Willaby as a thank you for all he has given me. Bless you, Tom, for sharing Will with us!" 

 
When we revealed hers was the "winning" comment Michelle received a heart-swelling amount of support from people and there was one response that moved me above all others.
Denise LaFaive Scheetz wrote: "I can relate so much to what Michelle said except she's farther along than me. I am still in the midst of my divorce...a divorce I didn't see coming, nor wanted. It has been devastating but yet I have tried real hard to remain positive and look for the good in all of it instead of dwelling on the bad. I can't tell you how many of the pictures and quotes that are posted on this page have kept me going and truly inspired me while I have been walking this road of divorce. I never imagined I would be in this place after 23 years with my husband and yet I am. I'm sure Will never imagined he would be in a shelter either. And then I'm also sure he never imagined he would be with Tom and Atticus living the most beautiful life. I believe that I, too, will be living the most beautiful life in the future. Even though I don't know what that future is exactly, it is there waiting for me. Through this loss, I have gained new perspective on life and what is truly important and I can appreciate all the simple things so much more now, which brings me much joy that I didn't have before. So although the pain is still very fresh and very great, Will and the whole Atticus gang and even the fans, like Michelle Gray, have inspired me to keep going and keep smiling. Congrats Michelle and thank you for posting. Onward...by all means. (one of my favorite sayings by Tom)."

I never intended our Facebook page to be a place where people revealed their hearts and souls as much as they do.  As a matter of fact, I was hesitant to even start one.  And yet I'm so glad I did and we must be doing something right because there are more than 14,000 people on board now and many of you participate on a daily basis.

At first I introduced you to Atticus and me.  Then I let you know about Will.  Eventually we revealed more and more about my best friend and the woman I love.  I once referred to her as a "most remarkable woman" because of how resilient she was after years of abuse.  Jan Reed, a long-time and popular member of "Atticus's Army", picked up on it and since I never used her name, Jan referred to her as "MRW".  From that moment on everyone else did as well. 

You have followed our adventures, watched us tuck Will into a new and loving life, rode the emotional roller coaster of some of his health issues when we feared we were losing him, followed us as we were following Atticus up mountains, saw our joy as we all grew together, and you let us into your homes and invested in our lives.  If Will wasn't mentioned for a little while someone would post, "What's going on with Will?"  If we posted a lot of photos and Will updates people would ask, "Where's Atticus?  Is he okay?"  And if MRW wasn't mentioned for a spell she had her fans as well, "I miss MRW!"

Over time MRW even wrote a few posts and you embraced her as much as you have Atticus, Will, and me and those posts were some of the most popular on the page since they revealed her tender, loving heart.  I also know firsthand that many women who had suffered abuse, just as she had, found strength and inspiration in her journey toward a happy ending.  How could they not with that brilliant smile of hers revealed in partial facial shots to help keep her anonymity?  But you didn't need to see her face to understand how beautiful she is.  That's loud and clear through her interactions with Atticus and Will and by the smile on my face whenever she has taken my photograph.

Whenever you undertake an adventure, you have no idea where it will lead you.  You simply know that your life will never be the same.  In the movie version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and Sam have the following interaction and it is a fine example of this.
Sam: This is it.
Frodo: This is what?
Sam: If I take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been.
Frodo: Come on, Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."



Atticus and I never knew what would happen when we set out to climb the White Mountains in winter.  I'm sure Will never had a clue what was going to happen to him in his miraculous journey from death row to a place called home.  And MRW and I had no idea we'd fall in love at first sight and become so thoroughly intertwined, turning into best friends, and aching whenever we were away form each other. 

We've shared all of this with you and when the time comes when we will eventually have to say goodbye to
Will, we'll share that as well and it will break all of our hearts. 

And that leads me to this . . .

Many of you have been asking about MRW.  You miss her and you want to know where she's been.  She, like Atticus, Will, and me have become part of your lives.

Unfortunately, and as painful as it has been, we recently made the most difficult decision to say goodbye.  I hated the idea of just leaving it hanging and having her vanish as if she never existed. I wrestled with how to handle it. But I'm a writer and this is my way of dealing with what life delivers to me.   
 

No matter how much you love someone and they love you, life happens.  Ours was a long distance relationship and that's always difficult.  But what brought about the final, heartbreaking decision is that we want different things out of life.  We have different lifestyles.  When that became clear, no matter how much we miss each other and love each other, we had no choice but to say goodbye and I believe it's only fair to share that with you since you've gotten to know her. 

I speak for both of us in saying that the days we spent together in the mountains were the happiest in each of our lives.  I will miss having her on the trails with us and I know Atticus will as well.  Other than me, he's never been closer to anyone than he is to her.  Not even close.  Oh, how he lit up whenever she'd pull in the driveway.  He'd bound down the stairs, whimpering and whining with unbridled love and excitement and as soon as she'd open the car door he'd leap up to greet her. 

And that's nothing compared to the way Will bonded with her. When she was here he'd follow her from room to room and when she wasn't he'd sleep on whatever she left behind.  One day I found him wandering restlessly as I'd never seen him do.  I was talking to MRW on the phone and told her he was looking for her.  She suggested I spray some of her perfume on one spot and when I did that's where he settled down - for the rest of the day.  Her slippers are still here and I often find him using one of them as his pillow.  I don't doubt that he misses her.

There are two quotes from Dr. Seuss that sum up the beginning and the end of our relationship.  Having MRW in my life was the most beautiful thing I ever experienced.  I was more alive than I'd ever been.  It was just as Seuss said, “You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”  For that's what our shared life in the mountains was like - not to mention the prospects of where we thought our love would bring us.  We knew we'd grow old together. 

It all felt too good to be true.

The other quote is what I'm trying my best to do now: “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

And I am smiling - even with the heaviest of hearts.

You see, for the first time in each of our lives, all the love songs on the radio and all the poems read made sense and came to life.  We found something even better than our dreams. We found us.

But as I wrote earlier - life happens.


And life will continue to happen for all four of us.  We just won't be together.  But that doesn't mean the three of us will ever stop loving her.  That would be impossible for she is indeed a most remarkable woman and her appearance in our lives was the most remarkable gift.

Now I will close this in a most fitting way.  Thank you for sharing our journey.

Onward, by all means.
 
 
 
 
 

 


89 comments:

Lisa said...

So beautiful. I saw her in Gloversville and was glad I met her! She's very special. I'm going to miss her even though I really didn't know her. Love to all four of you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you and know that love never ends. But it sure packs a punch. We all love you all.
Cindy

Anonymous said...

I am spending the day tomorrow with a dear friend I shared a relationship with years ago....changing the direction of the story...the paths the characters chose, does not mean the final chapter. You may be different now, but you will still "be " God bless and embrace...

Anonymous said...

Tom, thank you for sharing another part of your life with all of us who care so deeply for all of you. We are with you in heart and spirit, and strength as we know you will continue, "onward, by all means".

Anonymous said...

Oh if I could just once be as happy as you two always seemed to be. Thank you. I hope you find each other again.

Silvia G. Soos-Kazel said...

Tom, thank you for sharing your inner most personal feelings with your Following Atticus friends. Peace and blessings to you, MRW, Atticus and Will.

Carole said...

I can't see through all the tears. It's so sad because it's clear through the way you write that you are still in love with her.

Michelle Manley Caez said...

I think one of the hardest things in life is the realization that sometimes love alone isn't enough....there also needs to be an aligning of goals & desires. To not acknowledge that is to risk resentments creeping in as each person begins to feel the have sacrificed more . I'm so sorry for the pain you, Will, Atticus & MRW are experiencing, it will lessen in time and hopefully, you will be able to maintain a new, albeit different friendship with MRW
((Hugs))
Michelle Manley (Caez)

colleen said...

Bless your heart, Tom Ryan. tears are running down my face. I know that you are richer for your love, and to have to part, must be very hard to do. I am sorry you all have to grieve this way, in public, sharing this with us. It will make us all look into our lives and appreciate or suffer our losses. Your strength will come in your faith, in God, in people and in your family, Atticus and Will, and who ever you decide to take into your family. I know you will take comfort in your love, no matter how it ended.

Carter W Rae said...

Yours is a beautiful journey we always will greatly admire and love the whole pack... ,,, I am going to need those tissues again, still something in my eye :-) We thank you from the bottom of our hearts that you choose to share with us your journey... Each of ours is different yet in some ways the same.. Life is a journey and a test The photos that are/were shared are joyous and special, always... I hope that MRW will know that her special spirit will always be with us and thought of fondly. We are here and part of the Following Atticus Army/family... You are in our prayers and thoughts here with us frequently and want you to know that Tom you are a friend that we have not met YET...Blessings and comfort my friend from us ..♥♥♥♥

Pam Hicks said...

Oh, Tom, I know life happens, but I am truly sorry for your loss - that all four of you are experiencing an unexpected change. Toby & I felt so special when you proudly showed us a beautiful photo of you with MRW. It seemed like the most amazing love story of all time, & from the tidbits you have shared here & there, I do believe it is among the most romantic. How very brave of you to have embraced it fully & how very generous of you to have shared it with us. We love you, Tom.

Anonymous said...

We are here cheering you on Tom, as you turn this corner and head down a new path. I know life is going to bring you wonderful things, because you are such a fine man. I hope your dreams of a small farm come true, and I am so glad you have Attic and Will right now.
My husband was gone for seven years. My dog was my best friend at that time and stayed with me while I almost drank myself to death and was with me while I recovered. ..I don't know why I am telling you this, just know we are thinking of you.

Pam Hicks said...

Oh, Tom, I know life happens, but I am truly sorry for your loss - that all four of you are experiencing an unexpected change. Toby & I felt so special when you proudly showed us a beautiful photo of you with MRW. It seemed like the most amazing love story of all time, & from the tidbits you have shared here & there, I do believe it is among the most romantic. How very brave of you to have embraced it fully & how very generous of you to have shared it with us. We love you, Tom.

Stephanie Karabaic said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your partner. Life is wonderful and deeply sad at times and sometimes all at once...it can be that way. I sincerely hope that whatever is best for all, comes to you and you find the way to settle into that new space. The hardest thing about life is losing those people/souls who are close to us and the gap that stays behind when they leave...us....

Marcia said...

Just in case MRW doesn't know how much she was loved I'm betting she does now. Your love flows into your words and out of our eyes. I'm so sorry.

Bill said...

As a friend of Tom's and knowing so much about this story others don't I second what Pam Hicks wrote. "It seemed like the most amazing love story of all time." Love will find a way, brother.

Liz Robinson said...

You may not be together but it SO CLEAR YOU ARE IN LOVE WITH HER STILL!!! That is one of the most beautiful love letters I have ever read. Yeah - a love letter because that is what it is. So beautiful.......

Anonymous said...

So many tears. Wish I knew love like this.

janimac said...

Thank you for your vulnerability, Tom. I'm sure it was difficult to write this blog. Your words are beautiful and touched my heart. I can tell others were touched as well. Your shared quote from Dr. Seuss “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened” spoke to me because I had to let someone I love go as well. I'm finally getting to the smiling part, but it was a journey to get there. You will be in my prayers as you make your way along your new path. Blessings to you, Atticus, Will, and MRW.

Peggy Nunn said...

To the dearest bunch of goodfellows I am dreaming the good dreams of happy days, fondest memories, and the greatest loves you have all shared with us. You have been inspirations in being brave, taking risks, and giving all of yourselves as a gift to others. What a wonderful adventure you have been on and the journey is not over for any of you. We, your faithful friends and voyeurs, will always have your backs, and support your challenges as well as victories...onward and upward. Love and blessings to the whole gang.

Shannon Zapf said...

Thank you, as always, for sharing something that will certainly help so many. I'm sure it is difficult to open-up your life in such a way, but you do so with grace and dignity as well as a selflessness that more people should have. I learn something from you, Atticus, or Will all the time. I love to learn, even hard lessons. So, I appreciate this very much!!

Anonymous said...

Dude...my GF is crying her eyes out & I asked her whats wrong. She tries to read your letter to me and she couldn't so I read it & now I have tears. It ain't going to end this way. That's a lot of love.

Cyndy Kirk said...

I am so sorry to read this Tom, but thank you for sharing with us as you always do so eloquently. You have both been so lucky to have shared such love, and I hope that if it's meant to be, you'll find the way back to each other. If not, you will always cherish what you shared. Blessings to you all, and hugs to Atticus and Will who will miss her so much.

Cheryl Parnell said...

Tom Ryan, you are quite a man.

Anonymous said...

Speechless & crying. Lots.

Anonymous said...

That's real love.
- Stacy

Jennifer Brown said...

Tom, you are so sweet for sharing such a personal part of your life. You have no obligations to us, but you have given of your own free will, that is so very generous. I was crying in reading your story of you and MRW, as your love was clearly, VERY special. It is unfortunate that you were not able to stay together, but one never knows where life takes us, and perhaps you will once again find yourselves in the same place. (heart, mind,soul and life plans) I will pray for all of you, and wish for the best end results.

Nancy Flaherty said...

It does not surprise me that you are willing to let MRW be MRW, in spite of the pain. You have an amazing heart. My thoughts are with all four of you. I hope that you can all find peace.

Georgette said...

I am so sorry, Tom. My heart is sore for all of you. Know my thoughts are with you all.

Brooke Elaine said...

I am so sorry for the loss each one of you is experencing....the love between the four of you will always be there. I echo the previous comments when I say i am speechless and crying....I like and truly believe what your friend Bill wrote...Love will find a way.
Until such a time as you say...onward by all means! Prayers for you all!

Anonymous said...

I'm smiling and crying. I'm smiling because this is so beautiful. I'm crying because your love of her is tangible. I'm hoping for a happy ending.

Jan Reed said...

You know, Tom, I don't think the time we spend loving another being is ever wasted, even when the relationship does not work out as we had hoped and planned. We grow as people, we become stronger, our hearts become larger even as we grieve the loss of what might have been. What you and MRW had was real and gave both of you much joy. Bit by bit, you will let go of the pain, but hold that joy in your heart forever, even as you move forward on your own. The road before you is bright.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say but I feel like my heart is breaking. I could always tell you loved each other very much. :(

Nikki said...

I think you are a very loving and a very brave man.

Anonymous said...

We are all going to miss MRW. I loved her smile and she made the three of you happy too!

Anonymous said...

I echo,what everyone else has said. I've been wondering
as lately there hasn't been much mention of MRW. I was worried and when your blog appeared the first thing I thought was "oh no". By the end the tears were streaming for all of you. I must imagine that she misses the three of you terribly. Just as I imagine the three of you miss her. Love and hugs to all of you.

Mary said...

Oh...this made me cry. I was so happy you had found someone so special, who seemed to fit in your lives so well. I'm sad because I just want to believe in the happy ending, especially for two people who seemed to have it right. Yes, always grateful for love and the happiness it brings. But knowing myself how hard it is to keep believing love will come..and stay...I wish you peace and healing, Tom.

Crystal said...

This is so sad. Like MRW I was abused for years and she gave me hope. You both gave me hope. You always made me think anything was possible because of the obvious love between you. love to you both and Atticus and Will.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to comment but then I read what Mary and Crystal said. I believed in love because of you both. I used to believe in it but like Crystal and MRW I suffered from abuse. Knowing a little bit about MRW and what she went through gave me the courage to leave an abusive marriage. I will always follow Atticus and Tom and Will but I think I will always miss MRW because she changed my life more than anyone ever has. Thank you for that MRW.
Love,
Shauna

Anonymous said...

My heart aches because of the pain all four of you are suffering. Peace be to you all.

Anonymous said...

That was brave of you to put yourself out there like that. I don't think I would have the courage to do it. I wanted to say what a few others have said. All four of you are special in your own way and you have taught all of us a lot of life lessons. I guess this is another one - to love even when you say goodbye. Tom you are a good man. MRW is a good woman. Atti and Will are very special.

Kristyl Adams said...

Hello Tom...I don't know where to begin. I am heartbroken for each one of you. Life has a way of throwing us curve balls and forcing us to rewrite our happily ever afters. I do know, first hand and am going through it also. Stay true to yourself, but eventually open your heart's doors, something so many of us struggle with. Your life has been an adventure in so many ways and will continue to be. As hard as it can be sometimes, we do need to count our blessings...and continuing to share love with those closest to us..Atti and Will look to you for everything and will pick up on your energies. But hey, it's ok to cry. As long and as hard as you need to. It can be healing and will wash away the pain. Then tomorrow's a brighter day. We are all here for you. Much love from us here, including Misty Rose, Barkley, Savannah Rose, and Windsor Earl.

Denise said...

So beautifully written, Tom. Brings tears to my eyes. I know the pain of loving someone so deeply and then losing that person. Though my situation is different than yours, the pain is probably quite similar. It is not a pain I would wish on anyone, especially such a caring soul as you, but these things certainly do strengthen us and mold us and reveal to us who we really are. It's how we handle the tough times that really show our true character and you have become a huge inspiration for so many of us by being a man of such great character through your tough times. You remind us all to look at the positive things in life and to enjoy the simple pleasures no matter the life circumstance. We will all endure hardships in life but even in the midst of hard times, we can find many things to be joyful about if we allow ourselves. I heard a song the other day with the following line..."you have to face the clouds to see the silver lining". It's so true. If you just put your head in the sand, you will never see that beautiful silver lining and you will miss out. Thank you for setting the example, Tom, on how to get through the hard times and to appreciate all the things around us that God has given us. I pray that each of your tomorrows is brighter than the day before and the same goes for me too. Onward, by all means.....

JennieP said...

Dearest Tom, Atti and Will, my heart breaks for the sadness you are feeling right now, because I know firsthand what it is like to lose someone you love as deeply as you love MRW. Oh the plans that are made, talked about, dreamed about...and then your love is gone...from your life, but never, ever from your heart. And as so many have said on here, who can say what the future may bring? A love as deep and strong as yours and MRW's has a way of coming full circle in time. Thank you for sharing your love AND your pain with us. We live every day hanging on every tidbit of news, bits of stories and other things you share with us about you three guys, Atti's injured foot...Will's thorough enjoyment of life...I can hear your big laugh at something funny that happens...I can see your tenderness in your hands tucking in Will for the night. You are indeed a good man, Tom, and we love you for sharing your life with us. Jen

Elsa said...

Thank you for sharing this update. My heart aches for you all.

Anonymous said...

I am another who had the courage to leave an abusive relationship because I was inspired by MRW doing it and the happiness she found. I will always remember her. Thanks Tom. It makes me cry every time I read it because it is so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Dammit,you,Atticus and Will are not supposed to be alone on that mountain without MRW. :(

Brian said...

Tom whenever I saw you so happy in the pictures MRW took of you I wanted to be you to be that happy. Reading this tonight with tears flowing I find that I want to be you now too. I wish I had the courage you just showed by what you wrote. Thanks for showing what a man should be.

Lin said...

Yes, onward, by all means. I went through a very similar thing less than 6 months ago. It was hard to contend with that loss. I was determined to accept it and move forward with my life. Within a week, huge things began happening and I was plunged into an amazing learning experience that I will likely be pursuing for the test of my days. The parting of ways was for the best -- for both of us. Sure, I have regrets, but I can do nothing to change them now, so I strive to focus on what is ahead while being grateful for all of,the wonderful things I carry with me from the years with an amazing person who brought out the best in me.

Laury said...

I'm so sorry. Your comment about being truly alive when with her, resonates. For this is precisely how one feels when in an ideal relationship that makes you a better person than before you crossed paths. Best wishes to you and I'm certain you'll find that feeling again amidst the mountain trail beauty and your favorite four-legged friends...

Diane Elsner said...

Dear friends, my heart hurts so much to read this note this morning. My Faith tells me that one day we will all be together in eternity. So for a brief time we go on. I had a friend that was married for a short time but the love that they shared was one that many of us married or not will never have. You have to know that God has Blessed the four of you and us because of the beautiful love that you all shared together.
Stay strong in your faith!
Love you all!

"There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart."
- Mahatma Gandhi -

Chris said...

Once again you have opened your heart to your audience, Tom. Thank you for your kind, caring, compassionate ways. Thank you for showing all of us that we can truly learn from ALL of our experiences. Each person who comes into our lives comes to us for a reason. To see that you and MRW had the greatest love affair of all times gives others hope. To read that your life has taken another turn made me cry, however, it also made me think...and reflect. Please know that everyday...yes, everyday, your posts and pictures touch our hearts..make us think...make us smile, and sometimes (like today), your posts make us cry. But, that is okay - because life isn't about being over the top with happiness every single second. And you have helped many of us realize this. However, with Will and Atticus by your side every step of the way, I think that your heart will heal more quickly than the average bear's heart! Thank you for sharing. You are in our thoughts as you move onward in your adventures. Be well.

Clara Sullivan said...

I'm crying while I drink my morning tea because I know a few things. I am an old woman now. Older than most and the years have taught me quite a few things.

I'm crying for many reasons right now. I know true love when I see it and this is it. I'm crying because of what you all lost. I'm crying because what you wrote is more beautiful than anything that was ever written to me. YES, this is a love letter!

After all of these years I don't think I could ever read a letter like this to me and know that someone loved me as much as Tom loves MRW and leave it behind.

I hope you all find a way back together because I think you will always wonder. I know I would. Love is what is important. - Clara

Anonymous said...

Tom, I lost my best friend (husband) of 30 years 7 years ago. My friends reminded me that most go thru life never having the special gift of true love. So I cherish the time we had together, knowing it never would have been long enough. Love to you, Atticus & Will My favorite quote from Dr. Seuss reminds me of you: "Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is on one alive who is you-er than you! Hugs <3

Carter W Rae said...

Hi again After letting all this sink in just one more small note ...
This makes me just understand we are all so delicate and so finely fit into life that as we go cherish the moments and give thanks... You have shown us this also Tom we are privileged to have a small window, may comfort and prayers of all surround all four of you and know we are with you in Spirit as we have said many times... I feel like I cannot say enough of the right things.... very inadequate .... (((HUGS )) to the boys there too .. Always wanted to hold William and scratch behind the ears for Atti ♥♥♥♥ (A true love letter... yes! )

Terre said...

Tom, my name is Terre. I have posted for so long about what has become a true inspiration to me; you, Atticus and Will. As I have read your book, posts and blog I realized that in fact I wasn't the only person in the world to have a parent not really care about me. I'm not the only person who has suffered abuse, loss, grief and at the same time been able to be inspired by life's challenges. You see, I was raised in a very abusive home, suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuses from those charged with my care. I was told I wouldn't amount to anything and now have the pleasure of knowing I did make it to the top. I didn't just make it there, I lived there for quite a while until life happened again. Seven years ago I, as an adult, was diagnosed with an incurable and untreatable children's disease which I acquired later in life. The same year my Megan, like your Atticus and Will passed away leaving me with no friend, no hiking partner and no hope. You see, I became so afraid to feel, to trust. My Megan was my partner in life as was my Brittany and Bear. We spent more time in the woods and hiking than anywhere else. Every spare moment was spent with my buddies. After the loss of Megan, I decided life wasn't worth the effort. With my new challenges, the Mitochondrial Disease taking my ability to walk, run and live my life as I had, I didn't think I could go on. I began to read about you, Atticus and Will. You are me in some other body. I decided my heart and soul wasn't ready to give up. I now post on Facebook continually about your journey. Mine is similar. Not long ago, you met a person I went to High School with but hadn't seen in 35 years. She bought me your book, Following Atticus in large print for turning her on to Atticus. You changed her life as well. You signed the book for me and oh what a gift. I hold a piece of you, Atticus and Will in my heart. You have touched so many lives in such a simple way. You have given so many of us the courage to continue our journey. Life is what it is and I am the most blessed person I know. I have a very tough journey ahead but I have you, Atticus, Will and so many others traveling along with me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You helped me save my soul.

Sandra Didner said...

Your blog is the epitome of poignancy and love. I have read your letter for the third time and your words show what a great heart you have and what great capacity you have to express that love for Will, Atticus, and especially MTW. Almost everyone has experienced such a great loss, but you portray it with such emotion that you have touched the souls of thousands. You have not only the ability to love unconditionally, but to convey and inspire others with your love. Your blog and Facebook comments have had a tremendous effect on my lifestyle in ways you will never know, and I'm sure the same is true for many others.

Anonymous said...

You both have a lot of courage to walk away from this kind of love.

Murphy Bourret said...

The one thing I have learned after 44 years of marriage plus 4 years of dating. LOVE is the only thing that counts. I too, have experienced early childhood issues that I have just recently finally dealt with. The most important things that I look back on in my life is choosing love over money or any number of choices out there. The thing about love is that it is not easy. It does not just happen. There are ups and downs. Compromises. Demons. Fears. Anger. Frustration.
ON AND ON AND ON. I adore my husband but there have been times I have been so angry with him or frustrated or whatever...... Living such a long time with one person who is my soulmate I just want you to know sometimes you need space from each other.
We never physically separated but we did both of us focusing on different things and grew apart living together. It is like a dance sometimes you do close dancing and other times you dance alone. Tom, this is a pivotal event on the screen of your relationship. You will always love each other. You will always be there for each other when you need someone to talk.
You sound like this was a mutual decision done in an adult way not abusive ( which is what both of you have experienced) That in itself is a wonderful thing.
I feel so sad for your loss but I also have hope that maybe this is not permanent. With thinking and time maybe a comfortable compromise can happen.
I think of the movie "SameTime Next Year" with Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Things can work out in a non traditional way. This love is too precious to just end. Figure out a way to keep the parts that work. There is nothing more precious than love. NOTHING!

Kathy in Connecticut said...

Beautifully written letter ... sad and poignant, but full of what life is all about. I'm sorry for all of you, but you are the richer for the experience. As a wise person once said, one door closes, another one opens. Peace and healing to all four of you!

Sherry Obershea said...

Tom, you always say you let Atticus and Will be who they want to be. And now you are doing the same for MRW. Thank you for sharing even the most painful of times. My thoughts and prayers are for the four of you. God bless you all. Onwards, by all means!

Claire Kelley said...

Tom, you have such a beautiful and poetic art of writing from your heart. Know you are loved and cared for by so many with your huge heart and love of life. Even though most of us have never met you, we care so deeply and share your daily writings of you and Will, and Atiicus. It breaks my heart to hear you and MRW have parted ways, but remain so much in love. How life is so very difficult. I too went through incredible loss in my past, but now I look back on how much I have grown from life's experiences of love and loss and everything in between. My Dad used to say "Life is not supposed to be easy, so make the best of this journey." Wish I could give you a HUGE HUG. So know you are not alone. We love you, Tom. Keep doing what you do.
You have so many followers who care and share your joys on the trail and off. Love to Will and Atticus too. I am truely blessed since you've been part of my daily ritual. You are so very inspirational, and I love to read your daily share postings. So onward, for certain.

Jonathan Steele said...

Semper fi Tom, MRW, Atticus & Will. Deep gratitude for continuig to touch our souls in really meaningful ways....

Susan said...

Tom, I am so sorry for your break-up with MRW, but both of you will always have part of each other in your hearts. Atticus and Will also. Oops- the cat also. Heartfelt hugs to all of you!! Best Wishes- Susan

Kat French said...

God brings certain beings into our lives for a reason and then He takes them out of our lives for a reason. We just have to sit back and wait for Him to reveal to us why. I learned after my loss and gain to sit and listen more. I have a hummingbird feeder on my deck and I never knew they made a noise other than the whir of their wings, but they make a "chipping" noise. If I had not have learned how to listen, I'd never have known that. Our little four legged companions teach us that too. When I don't feel well, my little friends are all over me, hovering around me, trying to make me feel better. I know Atticus and Will will help you feel better too. Take care and thank you for letting we folks share in your wonderful life. By the way, I recently got your book, Following Atticus, and really feel like I'm getting to know Atticus and who he is. Thank you.

altar ego said...

So many others have stated what I am feeling in my heart: joy for the love you share and the life you shared with MRW, and sadness with the loss of an incredible union of hearts (all four of you). It is our loss, too, and we feel a portion of your grief. I hope that we can embody for you what you demonstrate daily for us--compassion for others and acceptance of who and where they are in their journey. In whatever way that makes a difference to you, Atti, Will, and MRW, I know that many hearts out beyond the mountains hold you close and hope for the best of what awaits you on your paths. Thank you for entrusting us with this very personal transition. You are all loved abundantly.

Laury said...

My current reading and fascination is in past lives. After reading much in this arena on the topic of soul mates, I quietly just reflected on your story. Perhaps, sometimes soul mates may find each other, but not stay as their respective journeys of enlightenment are leading to separate destinations. Something to ponder...

Karen Morse said...

ALL 4 of you have touched my life and made it better. I love Following Atticus. Tom you make me think in all kinds of new ways and you touch my heart. Will teaches me to believe again. MRW inspired me to reclaim my dignity by getting out of a marriage that was verbally and mentally abusive. I wouldn't have made that change without her I don't think. I hope she's reading this. Thanks for everything you four. ----- I will miss you MRW. :-)

Anonymous said...

❤❤❤❤❤❤ thank you for sharing! I always look forward to your posts they always make me smile!

Anonymous said...

I read this so many times this weekend I lost count and each time I'm left in tears. You write with so much love for MRW that I can't believe you two won't be together. I am as sad as everyone else about this. I always had the feeling you would do wonderful things together since you are both very inspirational. Please be well and take care of yourselves.

Terry Schaulat said...

How is it possible to love two people and two pups you've never met? HOW? Clearly, I am not alone. I feel vindicated by the comments of others - no, I'm not a voyeuristic fb creeper after all! I am a human being touched by the lives and words of a small pack that dared to love. A pack that dared to challenge the status quo - indeed, life itself. MRW is the luckiest woman in the world, and Tom the dearest man. As for Atti and Will, they are each proof that our spirits are not "species specific" either...they connect with us all as deeply as their humans! Being a private person myself, I am stunned, almost daily, by Tom's willingness to share his life. What might have begun as a book, continues as inspiration to so many...Just yesterday, I was explaining to my mother, again, why I will soon be ending a marriage of 25 years. Like so many others here, the reason is abuse. I will not belabor it, but suffice it to say that this blog, Tom's fb page, and MRW's story, has given me the courage to make plans in the coming year. While listening to the litany of reasons why, I'm "too old (56), too fragile, the economy, too this or that to leave, "are you crazy - your bills are paid" etc, etc..All I could think of were the many posts by Atticus, Will, Tom, and the allusions to MRW's story. They did it. One way or another, they CHOSE their lives, and I will too. I am reminded that just as Tom can choose the endings of his books, or how he will choose to view a change of course with his beloved MRW, so too, Atticus chose to accept Will, and Will chose to love again. The bottom line is HOPE. You give HOPE to all of us, Tom Ryan, and you will never, ever, know the difference you are making in so many lives. God bless all four of you. And thank you again.

sarah said...

If the relationship between you, Tom and MRW is meant to be, it will not pass you by, but if you both feel it is the end, turn to a blank page and begin writing a new chapter :)
I am a newbie to your adventures, reading your Facebook page took two nights as I was totally engrossed! God speed and love to all for of you x

Ruth said...

Life could bring you back together in the future. I know for a fact. I married the love of my life in 89, had our son in 90 had major issues and split Jan of 91 divorced in 92. In 2000 out of the blue he starting calling me for reasons other than his visits with our son. We got back together in Oct of 2000 and have been together ever since. So do not be afraid to dream that one day you may find your way back to each other. Love to you all!

Kat French said...

Terri's story is a little like my own. From the time I was born and under my dad's roof, I was never allowed to make a decision. When I married and moved out of my dad's home my husband was the same way, not allowed to make a decision. I told him that if something happened to him I wouldn't know what to do. Well, the dreaded thing happened, I lost him after 33 years of marriage and from day one I was lost. The next 3 years was very hard. But for my schnauzers Heidi and Laci keeping me going I could have fallen off the face of the earth and nobody would have noticed. I had the courage to close that chapter of my life and open another one. As Tom says, it's never too late to love or to live and to just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

Rusty Andrews said...

Terry Schaulat said it all, except that I as an individual am also touched in my own way to be profoundly moved. I think most of us are touched by this small pack. Tom's honesty is beyond brave, knowing the best way is onward, forward & when honestly assessed, has good luck on their side. Good on the Ryan clan.
-Rusty

Renee said...

I was really moved by this . . .beautifully written. Wishing all of you the best of luck and lots of love going forward.

Anonymous said...

I am in the process of going through the final months and hopefully years of my husband's life. I read your book last summer and wanted more and found your blog. I read all your Facebook posts, have talked about the book and many friends have read it. A true gem to stumble on.

I have also watched and envied your relationship with MRW. My husband isn't much for hiking. But my buddy loves to go when I have some time off. I think of you guys now while I trek with my 4legged buddy, who knows all my thoughts and feelings.

There is really nothing like finding your soul mates whether they come to us in human form or another. Love and Light to you all.

KAT said...

Terry, May you have the strength you need to make your decisions! I will keep you in my prayers. Sending love and prayers from Atlanta. Onward By All Means!

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

Terry Schaulat, bless you on your journey. I wish all the best to you as you beging your next chapter. Too old at 56!!! Really . . .

SUSI said...

Love to you all; I know how hard it is!

Anonymous said...

Tom, a quote from "The Perfect Storm" comes to mind and seems to fit this new chapter in your life..."There is never goodbye, only love, only love."

I am saddened by this turn in your life, since I was sure you and MRW would be together forever. I, too, want to believe in happy endings, but life has a way of throwing us curve balls and making us sit up and take notice. As hard a decision this must of been to make, remember, people come into our lives for a reason, some come into our lives for a season.

We all continue to grow and learn with you, Tom. Thank you for sharing your life with us all. Who knows? Your paths may cross again some day, and then, it just may be the right time, for the right reasons. There is always HOPE... :-)

Melanie said...

I, like so many women, have suffered through a long-term abusive relationship. Even after years of psychotherapy, I live with the scars that have faded, but will never be totally erased. These scars are part of who I am.
Abuse comes in so many forms, but I believe that emotional abuse, the purposeful long-term denigration of the very essence of who you are- is the worst. I'm only speaking up here because I know so many wonderful women who never get the help they need and thus live their lives in an awful isolation, even when surrounded by family and friends.
Having read your book and learned that your friend and kindred spirit from Louisiana had been in an abusive
relationship, my heart just ached for her. I don't know that Paige and MRW are the same person, but I do believe that one of the many factors that make you the loving, sensitive and empathic man you are was maybe your time spent with PF-,what you learned from her painful past and the mutual trust that developed. One of the reasons you have so many women on your FB page who care deeply about you is that we sense your empathy and understanding. and that is an unusual gift.
A few people on your page have commented that love never dies. I don't really believe that- I no longer love my abuser at all for example. I'm thrilled he is no longer in my life! But in your relationship with MRW, I truly hope that love, in one of its many forms, will live on for both of you and that you both helped one another to trust and grow. Bless you both.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tom, I'm not really sure what to say that others haven't already said. Like others, I enjoyed MRW's posts and found her inspiring. I'm happy she found safety and love with you and even though your relationship has ended, you have given each other a gift of yourselves. To you, MRW, Atticus and Will, I wish you all healing and love. Take good and gentle care of yourself as you work through this (that goes for MRW, too).

Michelle Gray said...

I was so very moved by your blog. Ever since I learned that you and MRW had said goodbye to each other, my heart has hurt for you for I know the pain of saying goodbye to someone you love. I'd like to think that my ex-husband and I shared that kind of "better than your dreams" love, but I don't know.

It really struck me when you wrote that you and MRW had different lifestyles and wanted different things in life. I realized that happened with me and my ex-husband too. He realized (even though I was in denial about it) that I needed to be with my family and friends in CA at this point in my life, and he didn't want to move back to CA. It's still very painful at times, but less so than it was. And I know this is the best thing for both of us. My subconscious unhappiness and very conscious missing my loved ones in California was killing him. And I'm happier being back here.

I don't know how to say this eloquently...but sometimes it really, really sucks when life happens. I thankfully never endured abuse from a significant other...but as a child I endured physical abuse from people I should've been able to trust.

I'm sending positive energy and prayers to you, Atti, Will and MRW that your hearts will heal, and you will find much happiness in the days, months and years to come.

Thank you, Tom, for writing a life-changing book that draws us all in. And thank you for giving Will a second chance at a happy, loving life, which inspires so many of us to open up our hearts to love and trust again and gives us the courage to believe that it's never too late to be happy. (It's ironic that while I'm typing about having the courage to be happy, tears are streaming down my face.) The Ryan Pack has touched so many of us. We are blessed to have been able to "know" you, if only just the bit of you all that you allow to be public.

You are, indeed, a Most Remarkable Man, Tom Ryan.

Take care Ryan Pack, you are loved by many...and...Onward, by all means.

Anonymous said...

Tom, thank you so much for sharing your love & lose, I know it wasn't easy. Letting go is probably one of the most difficult things anyone can do and you both did it with grace and dignity. There is something to be said for that.

May your tomorrow's get easier with Atticus & Will by your side and your beloved mountains surrounding you.

Fiona Frost said...

Wow - this is the best virtual group hug I think I have ever seen! A unique bond between strangers who have come to love an author and the special friends in his life through his images and messages of hope, inspiration, joy and yes, sadness. I am blessed with a wonderful husband, son and Penny and live in a beautiful corner of the world. I am a very private person so am in awe at how you Tom, can share so much that has such an impact on others. May the days ahead be healing, filled with joyful memories, peace and friendship.

Anonymous said...

I sure do love Atti's Army....Nothing else like this Group, anywhere.....
It's a beautiful thing....

Laury said...

Another thing to remember throughout is despite your current loss, you have made a difference on many with your writings. I know the two subjects are very different, but, it should put a smile on your face to reflect on this fact. Few things are more self-rewarding than writing...as a fellow author I can attest. Perhaps turning to your gift, in this moment, can provide a blanket of solace in the knowing that you are creating a positive impact...helping restore your lost smile.

wriggels said...

It's hard to comment on such news.

Because language is such a harsh medium at times and we are hopelessly stuck in time, the only way to express ourselves in these cases is through 'past tense' in stead of 'present tense', through words like 'period' and 'remember' especially when you don't want to.

I have a favorite quote from "Waiting for Godot" by Beckett:

ESTRAGON:
What were you saying when?
VLADIMIR:
At the very beginning.
ESTRAGON:
The very beginning of WHAT?

For me this quote helps seeing things without ends, without a point A (start?) and a point B (end?), but more as a constant. A feeling that is timeless and not really expressible in language. A constant present as you will. Just 'being there' (title of the well known book by Kosinski).

So, what I am trying to say so clumsily, is, Be There! and be well!

(No need to approve this message, it probably doesn't make sense, but still I wanted to write something personal to you.)