In a guest post less than a year ago, my daughter Claire introduced you to Ryan and Jen Hidinger, and their Atlanta underground restaurant, Staplehouse. Ryan had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 gallbladder cancer and she was inspired to share the beautiful couple’s story here.
As a living wage and the Affordable Care Act are huge topics in the news right now, the Hidinger’s hit upon a brilliant plan for Atlanta food service workers.
In the roller coaster ride of madness that is dealing with cancer and opening a restaurant, Ryan and Jen started a non-profit called The Giving Kitchen, as a way to help the support and kitchen staff it takes to run a restaurant with healthcare expenses.
They have a big fundraiser planned in Atlanta for Sunday, January 26, 2014:
Sadly, the majority of food service workers make less than $3.00 an hour, relying on tips to get by. I’ve waited tables and my husband has worked in many kitchens, so we understand how hard the job is and how difficult it is to get ahead. I can only imagine how devastating a catastrophic illness can be, especially when you’re already struggling financially.
In their darkest moments, Ryan and Jen thought about what they could do for other people and amazingly, in the midst of all they are going through, went into action.
They went above and beyond.
As for Ryan’s health, Claire received this email update on his condition on January 7, 2014:
“Just one year ago, we sent an update that introduced Atlanta to Ryan’s cancer diagnosis. We felt strongly about being transparent throughout our journey. Like we said last January, some of you have become dear friends over the years, some of you we’re just getting to know and the rest of you are friends we have not met yet.
Over the last 12 months, our updates shifted from Ryan’s cancer progress to the news that Staplehouse was still alive, to the development of The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit born out of selflessness, and a legacy that will live on much after we are all gone.
It is now my duty to keep our promise of transparency open to you all – our friends. After a long fought battle, this is where we stand in our war.
Three weeks ago, we left our cancer treatment center for the last time and actively made the decision to start home hospice care. Nothing more medically could be done to keep Ryan here. After one full year of fighting… winning only a couple small (medical) battles, our war was coming to an end. The cancer retreated in a major way back in June, but since then, bullied its way back through Ryan’s body until (early December) it had engulfed his entire liver and spread all over his lungs, thus making it impossible to treat.
This is what is important to understand today.
- Ryan’s liver is failing.
- He is struggling physically but in a good place mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
- No one knows how much time his body will hang on.
- We have surrounded ourselves with close family in the comfort of our home.
- Ryan chooses Starbursts over apples these days, and they bring him tremendous joy.
- “Mt. Everest” for him was one last dash to Taco Mac and a bite of a chicken wing.
- Ryan has no resentment — only appreciation and deep gratitude for the army of people who have stepped up to help us this past year.
- Ryan wants and will want everyone to celebrate him. Celebrate your own life. Celebrate your loved ones. Live your life. Truly live it. He would be devastated if you allowed his death to bring you down and into a place not full of light and love. I mean this.
- If given a time machine, he would not go back.
- The past year was the hardest yet most remarkable of our lifetime.
- “This is just part of my journey” is what came out of his mouth just recently.
- We want and need our space right now.
- We truly love all you so much but Ryan is not physically capable to say goodbye to everyone in person therefore, no visitors please.
Please join in celebrating the legacy that Ryan created at Team Hidi 2.0 benefiting The Giving Kitchen.”
I’m sad to report that on January 9, just 2 days after sending out that email, Ryan Hidinger passed away. It’s all good. He leaves behind an honorable legacy we can all learn from.
All the details of Ryan’s “Fun”-eral service are in the photo above. I guarantee it will be a packed house.
If you’re inspired by Ryan and Jen’s story and want to donate–you know he wouldn’t want you to waste your money on flowers–but don’t live in the Atlanta area, buy a ticket or two to The Giving Kitchen’s January 26, 2014 event anyway.
If Ryan could look outside the immediacy and suffering of his terminal illness and reach out to others in need, surely we can all do better. We can be better.
Ryan’s legacy, as I see it:
What do you do when you have nothing left to give?
Who inspires you to do better, be better, give more?
What do you need that you’ve been afraid to tell anyone about or ask for?
The best conversation always takes place in the comments and I want to hear your story, because your story matters.