A CHS social studies teacher keeps his grandmother's memory alive through himself.
January 11, 2023
Ryan Silvester is a hockey player. He loves the feeling of the ice under his skates, the wind in his hair as he chases after the puck. He played in his childhood, and then in high school and throughout college, sticking with it even when it got hard. His high school hockey portrait is immortalized in the minds of Community High School students. But he never would have started playing if it hadn’t been for his grandmother.
Silvester traces his roots back to Canada and Iceland, where ice hockey is extremely popular. In 2019, 43.5% of the National Hockey League (NHL) were Canadians, while only 24.8% were American. Silvester connected with his ancestry through ice hockey, but ultimately his true link to his family’s past was his grandmother, who always encouraged him in hockey and in life. When his grandmother died last June, Silvester was lost.
“I was so thankful that I had so much time with her,” Silvester said. “But she was fading, we knew that she was fading, and a lot of my connection to my heritage came from her.”
Silvester’s strongest memories of his grandmother are of her as a caregiver and companion. When he was young, Silvester and his family would drive down twice a year to Illinois, where his grandparents lived. He and his younger sibling would wake up early in the morning and go downstairs to see their grandmother already waiting for them, a card game set up for them on the kitchen table. They alternated between go fish, memory and other games; Silvester’s grandmother was always ready to play.
With his family scattered all over the country, from Michigan to New Hampshire, Silvester and his relatives have not had a chance to celebrate his grandmother’s life and legacy. They didn’t have a funeral, as Silvester describes them as “not her style,” but they hope to get together in the coming months and commemorate her by doing her favorite activities, like going mini golfing or bowling. They also plan to eat dinner together early.
“She always loved eating at four o’clock,” said Silvester. “I’m still thinking about her [and that] quite a bit.”
Although Silvester no longer plays hockey for a team, he will never forget the years he spent on the ice honoring his grandmother and his heritage. The loss of his grandmother will always be with him, and he will always be healing from it, but he reminds himself that loss is a universal experience.
“Loss is such a challenging thing that every single person goes through,” Silvester said. “There are a lot of different ways that people cope with it and I think it’s just about finding what works for you and reaching out to people when you need it.”
Silvester describes himself as not spiritual, but he still feels his grandmother’s presence with him at all times. He believes that those who die do not really leave the world, and that has given him comfort during his healing journey, especially when he feels his grandmother giving him support and love.
“She is who I am,” Silvester said. “She was part of what defined who I am today and because of that she’s always going to be with me.”