I had no sense of direction. No sense of reality. No sense of purpose. I was simply, lost.
I lost my brother, Michael Ryan Finley on Nov. 22, 2011. It was the first time I had seen my dad cry. I still won’t forget the look on my mom’s face when she found out my brother, her son had passed away.
Being 11 years old, I could have not been more unprepared to face a tragedy of this degree. I was just entering middle school.
After Thanksgiving break when I reunited with my classmates, my mind was in a fog. I didn’t tell anyone why I was absent for an additional week. During class, my mind would flood with memories as I started to reminisce his presence.
It wasn’t until Christmas of 2011 that the loss of my brother hit me. I would always storm into his room early Christmas morning to wake him and my family up to open presents. That year, things were just off. It wasn’t only the holidays that felt derailed, it manifested into a daily occurrence.
Months after Ryan’s death, my first friend of memory told me that I was using my brother’s loss as an excuse to seek out attention from others. I suppressed and blocked off my emotional state for the rest of middle school. I didn’t enjoy doing the things I used to once love. Simple tasks started to feel like substantial burdens.
Finley was a three-sport athlete, attending Radnor High School in Radnor, PA. Finley received All-American honors in football and basketball. He was a two-year captain for the football and basketball team. Ryan’s leadership qualities shined a light on not only his teammates but his classmates as well.
Finley was a dual-threat quarterback that could lead the offense down the field with his arm or legs. He led the Raiders to their first seven-win season in program history. Finley’s legacy at Radnor is remembered every year as our family grants the “Ryan Finley Scholarship Award” to a senior who resembles leadership qualities while showcasing superb athletic abilities on the gridiron.
About four years later, I woke up with a sense of enlightenment. It was the first time since his death that I had woken up excited to get my day underway. This feeling was not a one-time occurrence, it continued. I finally start to internalize that maybe my grieving period had concluded.
Ryan was more than a brother to me. He was my role model. Growing up, I would emulate his every move. Moreover, his presence just inspired me at a young age.
In Mar. 2018, I invested in my first camera with aspirations to create sports highlights videos. I quit the lacrosse team senior year to mesh my filming and editing passions. I had edited on various social media platforms, including Vine and YouTube, since 2013.
At first, filming in front of large crowds overwhelmed me. The one thing I would remind myself before I started recording was, “if I could overcome the loss of a family member, I can overcome anything.”
Filming high-school lacrosse that spring was one of the most fulfilling chapters of my life.
I believe that my brother helped spark my passion for filmmaking. Maybe not sparked but guided me into believing that I can channel my vision and turn it into a professional career. Ryan not only has motivated me throughout my filmmaking career, but he has also driven me to become the best version of myself.
“I not only want to live an enlightening life for myself but for him.” Each day, I strive to live out the life that my brother was not able to live. I remind myself that everything I do is for him.
Eleven and a half years later, I can confidently say that I have found my sense of direction, reality and purpose.