Friday, October 13, 2017

Happy 46th Birthday Ray

Loved Ones -

With my three girls in travel soccer we are driving up and down 294 often. Lucy and I were heading to South Holland for a game a few weeks ago on 294. When we are heading to Indiana this way we always watch for Holy Sepulchre Cemetery to come up on the left but this time it caught us by surprise. I wouldn't have imagined how much we would love being able to drive by and almost see right to Ray's grave but we do. We always call out a message. This time was no different.

We sure miss Ray! This fall has been more busy than any other and any connection we find to him we cherish! I wouldn't have imagined how much soccer would have me on 294 either back then so it seems like divine planning that we have that special gift as we barrel down the highway on our way.

For Ray's birthday we were interviewed by our local neighborhood magazine. We talked about his love of White Sox and hatred of Cubs. When we were in DC last we ran into a hill staffer who recounted how Ray had called her when the White Sox won the World Series to make sure that the speech she wrote for her boss to give on the House floor was adequately full of White Sox facts. That was like found gold to have that new memory and to picture Ray calling.

We'll be thinking of him today and missing him more than any other! Happy Birthday Ray!!

not alone and not afraid -

kristin

"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." Ephesians 1:16

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reaching Paris

Loved Ones,

I write this with joy and anticipation. I wrote three years ago about wanting to travel to Europe. I am so excited to say that we are on our way later tonight.

What a journey this has been. Emblematic of the journey of life itself, this long-awaited trip has been in the corner of my mind since I last wrote.

We are so excited to see the places that Ray and I traveled in Paris, and to connect with those memories. We are equally excited to make memories of our own.

Many things are similar to the first trip Ray and I took so many years ago when we got engaged. Can it be that this is 17 years later?

We are grateful for your prayers and wanted you to share in our joy and our adventure.

not alone and not afraid –
kristin


“all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” Psalm 139

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Eight Years

Loved Ones -

How is it possible that it has been eight years since Ray went to heaven? All at once it seems so long and so short. 

I am so grateful for every memory of Ray. We went to Disney over break because Nora was playing in a tournament. Because we've only been there three times, the time with Ray just before Ray got sick, was still fresh in my mind. We would turn a corner and a memory that I hadn't thought of in years would pop up, and I would pass it on to the girls. I am so grateful for every sentence. Every glimpse. 

One of those memories is the memory of the inauguration just before he died. Of course, you all know that Ray loved politics. I remember asking him what he thought during that election. And he would say, it just doesn't matter. It was so hard to hear that because it was of such shared importance during our whole relationship. People ask me all the time what I think he would think about all that has transpired since then. I wish I knew!! It is one of the things I miss most about him being gone!!! I so wish I could ask him. The old him before he got sick, and the person with all perspective later. 

I didn't really have that perspective problem when the Cubs won. I was pretty sure I knew what his thoughts would be and the girls and I did our best to stay true!!

I remember thinking once when we were at the hospital, will I ever hold these painful times as dear, just because they were still with him? I think I have reached that time now. I will take any memory. They are all a connection to him. 

One of the quotes I love the most about Ray is this: "To know Ray, was to be his friend." Today the depth and breadth of that truth was so evident. I am so grateful for the love of all our friends and family who surrounded us in every way today. God's love and Ray's I can feel through all of you. 

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
Psalm 139:16

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Happy 45th Ray!

Loved Ones,

Happy Birthday Ray!

Today caught me by surprise. It’s been so long that Ray’s been gone that I don’t expect a strongly emotional reaction from myself. The power of time I think.

I always want to honor Ray and mark the day in a special way so I went to my computer to find a picture to post for his birthday. I was looking through all my computer files, all named and arranged by Ray, and came upon the file he had for pictures of himself with the girls.

Love Without End.

And just like that, it broke my heart. 

At the beginning with the grief, my grief was not just for myself and the girls and our loss of Ray. It was for Ray’s loss of us. The pain of that was so great and so deep for him and it was all there in “Love Without End.”

These days my emotional connection to Ray's pain is less. I feel his pain hardly at all. But looking at that file, it was all there. His deep grief that he just wanted to live and be with his girls. That he wanted them to remember him. That he loved them so much.

And yet. He was right that his love was a love without end. 

Just last weekend Nora was battling a tough fight on the soccer field. Her challenge, not just to play well, but to earn her coach’s trust.

One of the hard things about Ray not being here with us on earth is that sometimes when one of my kids needs me, so does the other.

It was Lucy’s turn for me to watch her game, not Nora so she went alone. When it came time for her game to start, though she was in a different city, Maggie, Lucy and I in our car prayed hard for Nora.
I asked her to feel us by her side and her dad too. I asked for all the help that he could give her and that in the end, that when she succeeded, all the glory would go to God.

I got a text a few minutes after Nora got on the field, that she had scored a goal.

Prayer answered.

I was not surprised. I call on Ray sometimes when the strength of my mothering is just not enough. I don’t know what things are like in heaven but I am never disappointed and the reliability and power often brings me to tears.

In that spirit, I will paste the lyrics that I can still hear Ray and the girls singing.

“Let me tell you a secret about a father's love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
He said daddies don't just love their children every now and then
It's a love without end, Amen, it's a love without end, Amen.”
not alone and not afraid –

kristin


“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you” Mathew 6:28-30

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Seven Years

Loved Ones,

January 21 is the seven year anniversary of Ray's death. Or as Lucy and I prefer to put it, the seven year anniversary of his entrance to heaven.

It is impossible to believe that seven years have gone by. Some of those years were so rough! I am so grateful for the steadfast love of our family and friends.

Ray's life was so well lived! Daily we reflect on his gifts. His humor! His joy! His friendship! His strength and faith. When teaching religion I rely on his example so often. And on the faith lessons of that time, always.

I am so honored to be able to be a reflection of his legacy. The Ray Fitzgerald lectureship so honors his faith. Our stomach cancer advocacy, his fight. It is a blessing to all of us to be able to have these opportunities where he and his story just live on and continue to move and bless so many.

I cannot possibly express his impact on me. And the impact of our faith on our lives now.

Of all the meaningful messages during the past seven years, the idea that we are carrying the burden that is "well fitting" stays with me. That God has given each of us the burden that only we can bear. Far more, that this burden is our gift. Our message for the world.

I pray always for the wisdom and grace to teach the lessons God has placed on our hearts for us to teach. To give the gifts the world waits for.

Ray. Thanks for your example of this lesson. We love you and you are always always in our hearts.

not alone and not afraid -

 kristin

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Blessed

Loved Ones -

This Tuesday would have been Ray's 44th Birthday.

Last weekend in church our Responsorial Psalm was the Responsorial Psalm from our wedding. In the 14 years since our wedding, I've probably heard that Psalm 2-3 times. So, noteworthy. I loved our Responsorial Psalm, we picked it because it described our children as olive plants. Both Ray and I loved olives, they remind us of the Holy Lands, and it was lovely to think of our children growing in this way. 

The refrain of the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 128) reads like this:

"Blessed are those who love you, happy those who follow you, blessed are those who seek you, Oh God."

And these are the verses:
"Happy those who fear the Lord and walk in God's pathways, you will find what you long for, the riches of our God."
"Your spouse shall be like a fruitful vine in the midst of your home, your children flourish like olive plants, rejoicing at your table."
"May the blessings of God be yours all the days of your life, may the peace and the love of God live always in your heart."

I can see Ray and I as a young couple picking out this Psalm for our wedding. It creates such a picture doesn't it? It is truly idyllic.

More difficult is the actual picture.
And yet. I will stand on the fact that this Responsorial Psalm is as true for us today as it was then. Truer.

In the Scriptures, blessing is a funny thing. It's not quite what you think.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for THEY WILL BE COMFORTED.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3-10

I don't see a whole lot of idyllic in that passage. But I do see truth. Truth I have lived. Truth I have clung to. And I see blessing. Blessing that comes from finding ourselves unequal to the task. Blessing that comes from God's strength, greater than ours can ever be. Blessing from asking only that our lives, our person, be transformed to be like his.

We ARE finding what we long for and boy do we long for it. The riches of God.
Our children ARE like olive plants, they DO rejoice at the table.
The peace and love of God IS ALWAYS in our hearts.
It is not understandable what Ray endured. Neither is God. But he says Blessed. He says the Kingdom of Heaven. I have no doubt that's where Ray is now.

Happy Birthday Ray. It isn't what we thought it would look like but we are blessed.

not alone and not afraid -
kristin


"Thus far has the Lord helped us." I Samuel 7:12

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day Ray

Loved Ones,

Last night we watched the video of our last Father's Day with Ray. I can't believe it's been seven years! After Ray died we watched every single minute of him that we could find on video but that was so long ago, so the girls didn't remember. It was so nice to see him! And so nice for the girls to see how they were. How much he loved them and how much they loved him! Especially for Lucy who has so few memories.

There was a moment when Ray was sick and one of his friends was trying to comfort him. He said, "Don't worry, we'll take care of your kids." After he left Ray said, "I don't want anyone to take care of my kids, I want to take care of them." It was a heartbreak to leave them.

We are so grateful for every minute we had with him. Just seeing those moment with him reminds us of what a wonderful father and husband he was. How much he loved his girls. How much he loved me.

I read a post from a newly widowed woman a few weeks ago. She was lamenting that she wanted "Option A" her husband, not "Option B," a well meaning substitute. She concluded that she was going to do the very best Option B she could, in honor of her husband.

And on that note, I want to say how incredibly grateful I am for all the people who help me every day to do just that.

To the fathers and the mothers who look out for my girls and me. To the dads who make extra jokes with Lucy. To the dads and moms who cheer for Magggie on the field. To the teachers who inspire and nurture Nora in junior high. To the coaches who help them be their best. To the friends and neighbors who support me, who carpool with me, who listen to me agonize over decisions.

To my Dad, who was a WatchDOG Dad at school, to Dean who took Lucy to the Father-Daughter Dance at school. To my brother in laws for all they do to be there for my kids all the time.

God Bless all of you.

Ray, we can never do it the way we wanted to without you but we are grateful, so grateful, for the many hands and hearts who help us do the very best we can without you here on earth with us.

Happy Father's Day in heaven.

not alone and not afraid -

kristin

"A father to the father-less, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5