This week a tragedy happened in Cypress. And it would be another tragedy to treat the story as a clinical, objective news item about a suicide.
Because one of our city’s kids has left us. Ryan James Blanton, 18, lost his last vestige of hope Monday morning in the picnic shelter at Oak Knoll Park.
Last week we ran an editorial that quoted the script of The Bill Chill with the words spoken by the minister at the funeral service that opens the film. We did not realize at the time how prophetic those words would be.
We repeat them here. “Are not the simple joys of living a good life among our fellow men enough to sustain us anymore?”
Where did Ryan’s hope go?
He was a happy-go-lucky high schooler, according to his friends and parents, despite the fact that he was a quiet boy. He had friends, a girlfriend and a loving family who are now grieving as they make arrangements for his final ritual here on Earth.
Ryan did have troubles like most teenagers, and they became worse when he attempted to protect a girl who was being physically abused by a boy. That boy and two of his friends turned on Ryan and held him in a choke hold until he was unconscious.
Then they kicked him ferociously, fracturing his scull and causing a hematoma on his brain.
“He was never the same after that,” said his mother, Marilyn.
He was treated at UCI Medical Center then released. It seems he was unable to put his life back together.
“He needed therapy,” said Marilyn. “But he was so depressed he sometimes did not get out of bed all day and would not leave the house.”
Both his parents tried to give him encouragement to find out if there was permanent damage and to take aggressive steps to recuperate and reclaim his life.
“He felt lonely and thought he didn’t belong. He felt he was the butt of cruel jokes from his peers,” said Marilyn. “He felt that he was ‘weird,’ or at least considered to be weird by the other kids.”
Ryan’s family tried to help him adjust, to make him feel loved.
At times, he seemed to be emerging from the worst of his depression.
“I was shocked when I found out what he had done,” Marilyn said. “He had seemed better in the last few months. Sometimes we would go out. There were still days when he stayed isolated and refused to get up or leave the house, but overall the good days were beginning to outweigh the bad….”
All the efforts of his mother, father, sister and soon-to-be stepfather were directed toward helping him through the nightmare he was living.
Had he been younger, they could have put him into a facility where he could get help. But, at 18, you are considered to be an adult.
“He was such a tender boy,” she said. “He did not have a mean bone in his body. He had a lot going for him.”
Ryan didn’t think so. His perception was that he was thought of as slow by his fellow students. He felt physically unattractive and he said the kids were teasing him.
But he has many friends, who are shocked at his death and grieving for their loss.
Raymond Blanton, Ryan’s father said that they knew he was having trouble. “We had some talks about suicide,” he said. “But it’s hard to tell just how serious someone is about it.”
Ryan was working on designing a line of T-shirts to be produced by him and his sister. “We didn’t know how much work he had done on the project,” said Raymond. “He had done a lot of drawings. Both parents encouraged him in his ambition.
Things seemed to be looking up for their son.
No one really knows how Ryan’s perception became so altered.
“If people did tease him, they probably contributed to what happened,” Marilyn said. “People of all ages need to know that what they say can have a profound effect on someone.”
The Bible says, “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.”
“It’s important to say things that convey a message of love,” said Marilyn. “If this makes people understand how cruel words can cause permanent harm, then at least something good will have come of this.
“The Lord will make good from bad. Maybe the good will be to make people realize how short life is, how suddenly it can all be over…”
Oak Knoll Park is usually a place of enjoyment, not a scene of tragedy. Maybe when Ryan Blanton took his last walk across the grass toward the picnic shelter, he was looking for some of the happiness he felt there as a child, in the days before a crime, an attack, an injury, an act of heroism and one last desperate moment took his life away.
“We want his services to be a celebration of his life,” said Raymond. “We want to honor him as our son and to reflect our pride in him.”
Ryan’s friends and the community are welcome to attend the services. There will be a viewing Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the chapel at Forest Lawn, Cypress. A service will be held on Monday at 11 a.m. in the Church of Our Fathers. A wake will follow after the service at 10371 Sande St., Cypress.
By Cheryl Scott