Local Musician Honors His Late Son With a Song About His Tragic Death


  • Courtesy of Ryan Ward
Last year, local singer-songwriter Ryan Ward lost his 10-year-old son James to what he calls a “medical mystery.”

“My healthy, smart and outgoing 10-year-old son James [pictured] went to sleep and never woke up,” Ward says in an email exchange. “To this day, we don’t know what caused his death. We hope that by sharing his story we can spread awareness about Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC). SUDC is a category of death in children between the ages of 1 and 18 that remains unexplained after a thorough investigation, including an autopsy. Most often, a seemingly healthy child goes to sleep and never wakes up. At this time, we do not know what causes SUDC, how to predict it or how to prevent it. Approximately 400 children are lost to SUDC in the U.S. each year.”

To honor his son’s memory, he wrote the lyrics to a song that his friend Stephen Cushman composed. Dubbed "Not with Me," it's out today on all digital platforms. You can listen to it here.

“Since James’ passing, I’ve taken to writing to express the emotion of losing him,” Ward continues. “We want to use this song to tell James’ story and to always remember the incredible kid he was and how lucky his Mom and I are to call him ours."

March is SUDC Awareness Month around the world, and the SUDC Foundation and SUDC community are hosting activities to raise awareness of SUDC. The state of Ohio joined the effort by making a statewide proclamation to honor the month.

"SUDC is the fifth leading category of death among children ages 1 to 18, but it has received no dedicated public funding to date," says Ward. "There is a need for public funding for research so that families like mine can have the answers we so desperately need, and so one day we can save the lives of other children. James was smart, ambitious, kind, outgoing and very athletic. He was both a Mama’s boy and Daddy’s little buddy — the best big brother to his sisters Kaylee and Rylee, and his little brother Jackson. He could brighten your day in only a moment, with his contagious laughter and sweet smile. He loved his family and truly cared for those around him. He loved life, had so many hopes and dreams, and wanted to make a difference in the world."

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