"It's hard to process how he could be gone and why he's gone. You just have to believe that somehow it was meant to be."
Abdirahman, who met Shay in 1997 while the two were still in high school, said Shay "was like a brother."
"This past week was one of the hardest weeks of my life," Abdirahman said. "I'll miss him, but we all know he's in a better place."
During a nearly-three hour service, friends and family remembered Shay's faith, courage, passion and commitment.
State Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer read a proclamation and a U.S. Olympic Team representative presented the Shay family with an Olympic flag.
Alicia Shay read a passage from the Bible that she said Shay read on the morning of his final race. The passage, from the book of Ephesians, focused on gaining "strength through the Holy Spirit."
"I just wanted you to know what was in Ryan's heart when he left Saturday morning," Alicia said.
Certainly Alicia was in Shay's thoughts, as well.
"For all of his success, he would have considered himself a failure had he not met Alicia," said Nathan Shay, Ryan's brother.
Ryan was the fifth of Joe and Susan Shay's eight children, and all eight became runners. The Shays used the sport as a way to teach their kids about healthy living, goal setting, discipline and focus, and Ryan couldn't seem to get enough of it.
Central Lake athletic director Quinn Barry said Shay's brothers even debated about which had more miles, "Ryan's running shoes or the car they used to drive around on the back roads of Central Lake."
Shay won 11 state high school track and cross country championships and later became a nine-time All-American at Notre Dame. In 2001, he won the NCAA 10,000 meters to become the school's first-ever individual national champion.