Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ray's First Christmas in Heaven

Loved Ones,

Well, Ray had his first Christmas in heaven and we had ours without him here. It is good to think of the celebration they must have up there.


But, we sure miss Ray. There were so many times during the season that we missed him dearly. I tried to keep focused on anticipating Christ's coming and patiently waiting for his plan. So many things about advent really spoke to me this year.

We thank you for the many ways that you reached out to us this season -- even a sentence or two in a Christmas card meant a lot. Things still aren't the same and the many gestures of care helped us when we felt Ray's absence so strongly.

We pray that you had a joyful Christmas.

"For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;authority rests upon his shoulders;and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Is. 9

not alone and not afraid --
kristin

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving

Loved Ones,

I wanted to write a note to tell you how thankful we are for all of you. We know that your love and care have helped us get through these last 10 months without Ray here. I know that it is hard to sometimes know what to say or do, but I wanted to say thank you for figuring it out and helping us. I feel God has blessed us with some special angels, and I am very grateful. And I know the girls are too.

It is very sad to enter this holiday season without Ray at our side. We miss him so every day. Today we had dinner with Ray's family and we were so glad to be with them. We are very thankful for our family and their unending support.

And the girls and I are so thankful for each other! We do not take this gift lightly. Each day is so very precious.

As the days go on, we are simply grateful for every minute we shared with Ray. And for every moment we think of him now. We know he must be very close today.

This was our Thanksgiving prayer from last year. And I thought it fitting today.

"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:20

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Last Soccer Game

Loved Ones,

Sometimes it is not the days that I expect to miss Ray that I really miss him, it is other days, days that don't seem on their face as monumental, but are.


I am prepared that Ray will not be there for his birthday, for example, but I forget to be prepared for other smaller events.


Today was our neighborhood Halloween party, and as I got the girls ready, I thought, wait, who do I show them to? And then Ray's absence seemed so large. And I missed him as I walked through the doors, and as I sat with the other moms and dads and watched the girls.

Later in the afternoon, it was Nora's last soccer game for the outdoor season. Lucy is fighting a cold so I waited until the last second to get her up from her nap and out the door. And all the way to the game she coughed and coughed. When we arrived, I told Nora I'd have to miss the game because I couldn't have Lucy outside in the cold, thinking I should probably take her to the doctor instead.

But then the sun came out and Barbie Nutcracker went on in the car and I got to coach Nora's last game.

If only I could summon Ray's help whenever I need it. But today, he was there.

"If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." Psalm 139:8-10

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ray's Birthday



Today was Ray's 38th Birthday. We celebrated in many ways; remembering the very best of Daddy's favorite things, sending balloons to heaven with Ray's family, celebrating the person we miss so very much.

Over the weekend and today, so many people expressed such tender thoughts about the friend they miss too. How much this means to us.

At a mass this morning for Ray, our priest said these words, "When our life is over, let us hope that the story of our lives is so much more beautiful than its cover (our outward appearance)."

How I wish the story of Ray's life went on much longer. But I am so appreciative of its beauty.

not alone and not afraid --
kristin

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And then there was one

Loved Ones,

Maggie returned to preschool this week. Maggie's teacher knew Ray, we spoke in Nora's class two years ago about DC, so she knew Ray before he was even sick. And she is as close to a fairy princess as any preschool teacher I have ever seen. So I was excited about the year for Maggie. But Maggie had a hard time with school last year after Ray died, so we weren't sure exactly how it would go.

Here is the picture, and you can see for yourself.




I am so glad for God's healing hand for myself and the girls. Our grief and sadness for Ray are so big. We have a lot ahead. But I am so thankful to see healing and restoration along the way.

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to School




Loved Ones,

The Fitzgeralds have begun another school year with the start of first grade for Nora on August 19. And just tonight, her first grade soccer practice with Mom as Assistant Coach. Maggie doesn't start school until after Labor Day but she and Lucy had their first gymnastics class this week too.

Our days have been filled with milestones and we miss Ray very much. We know how proud he is. And we are glad for his love and the love of our Savior.

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hearing Ray's Voice


Loved Ones,

Of all the things I search for, it is Ray's voice. Knowing what things he would want, doing what would have made him happy. Sometimes it is hard to know what choice he would make, sometimes harder to do what I know he would say. And then there are days that everything seems right and I know that we are exactly where we should be.

We had some moments like that this weekend and today. Cookouts with friends and family, caring for friends who've lost a loved one, and watching golf at the Solheim Cup in nearby Sugar Grove.

Oh how glad I am to continue to be able to strengthen the link between the girls and their dad.

"Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." Jude 1:21

not alone and not afraid

kristin

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

White Lake 2009


White Lake 2008

Loved Ones,

We are back from White Lake. We had a great week there. Though it was heartbreaking to arrive without Ray, we felt very close to him, doing the things he did each summer since he was a little boy. It was great to be with his family as well. Uncle Joe renamed the White Lake Golf scramble in Ray's honor and made special shirts with his picture -- a lovely one of Ray at last year's golf event.

It is still very hard to believe that we were all together at White Lake only one year ago. And it is always very hard to get back in the car to go home without him.

Now that we are back at home, we are busy swimming every day so that we are ready to begin school on August 19! That's the first day of first grade for Nora so we are making the most of our time at the pool.

We are thankful for your continued prayers.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Loved Ones,

We leave Friday (7/31) for Wisconsin for a few days with my relatives and then a week at White Lake with Ray's family.

This week each summer was the most heralded of Ray's childhood. It was his happiest week while battling cancer; the most normal of the days we had together.

I know we will desperately miss his presence there this summer, while knowing that we can't be far from his sights.

Lucy has been saying lately that daddy is following us home when we drive. She points to the moon or the clouds which do seem to follow our car.

I know he'll follow us to White Lake.

"If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." Psalm 139:8-10

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Six Months of Missing Ray

Loved Ones,

Though hard to believe, it was six months today since Ray went to heaven.

I find myself so surprised by this milestone. Six months seems like such a long time. It doesn't seem possible that we have been missing Ray in our daily lives for such a long time.

Perhaps in recognition of this, Ray was so present today. I dreamed last night that he was here. It was so wonderful and puzzling, and I told him that he couldn't go on any more trips.

In reading my emails, in hearing a joke, I know my husband would be amused. Oh how I wish that I could share them with him.

I am thankful for every dream, every memory, every thought that ties us to him.

"I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD." Hosea 2:19-20

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Monday, July 20, 2009

Remembering Ray

Loved Ones,

We are adjusting to being back at home. We spent all day Friday cleaning and Saturday weeding, catching up on the tasks that we escaped at the beach.
The house and yard are accordingly organized. And this is comforting.

Today we had time for a little fun and we went fishing with neighbors. Nora caught twelve fish! Maggie caught a lot also and Lucy had lots of snacks. It was good to be with our neighbors and we've been glad to reconnect with our friends here.

While we were away a friend from chemo passed away. A bright and lovely light, snuffed out far too quickly by cancer. His passing and the grief of his wife and children have been on our hearts and minds, reminding us of our grief and filling us with empathy for our friends.

We found out while we were in DC that the language I worked on, requesting the National Cancer Institute to study GI cancer in patients under 40, will be included in the House and Senate Appropriations bills. We are so glad that research attention will be paid to this dreadful disease.

When Ray was sick, I had no doubts about the tasks and work that God had for me. Helping Ray and the girls and expressing the words God put in my heart were the things that I knew I had to do -- the burdens on my heart and mind.

Our favorite golfer Phil Mickelson is also fighting cancer; his wife began treatment for breast cancer July 1. Reading his blog I recall so dearly our fight against cancer. "We begin treatment..." The words are so familiar. I remember writing that "we" and sometimes correcting it. Our fight. But one that left us both in such different spots.

With Ray gone, God's plan for me in all of this is harder to find -- fighting cancer, helping others, living faithfully, telling our story, healing with the girls -- all these are important tasks -- ones to balance and weigh.

I would never summon back the tenor and veracity of the fight we fought. But I pray for that clarity of God's mission upon me -- it's very strength gives continued meaning to Ray's death.

"On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." Isaiah 25:7-9

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vacation

Loved Ones,

We are finally back at home after our vacation.

The weeks in Rehoboth were wonderful. A true rest for us. We spent most days at the beach; I always had the drag the girls home at 5 or 6 pm. They are true beach lovers like their mom.

We were able to attend our family reunion in Pennsylvania and had a good week seeing friends in DC. Nowhere do I have memories of Ray like DC; every street, each neighborhood is a pearl of our past.

The vacation culminated with a softball tournament in DC in honor of Ray. We were so glad to be able to attend and be with our friends who loved Ray. It was a special day.

God's provision for us was manifest in many ways: my saintly cousin who flew out to DC to drive home with us, our car battery which died completely Monday morning after we returned home but made it through our long drive home!

Oh how we wished to return home to find our husband and dad!

But we are glad to be back home with our family who reminds us of him.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

not alone and not afraid --

kristin



Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Happy Birthday

Loved Ones,

Thank you for your prayers, cards, emails and thoughtfulness this birthday. The girls and I had a lovely day.

There are some days where the winds are light and the waters are calm and the sun shines so brightly --the weather a perfect parallel for our hearts. Today was one of those days. I wondered if it was Ray's birthday present for me.

I've wondered, on the stormy days like Father's Day, just why they have to occur. Why death, why pain, why grief, fear and sadness? I don't know the answer to that. But I know that those hard hard times deepen our appreciation of the peaceful times so much more completely. Even the peaceful minutes! The simple beauty of observing undetected the joyful moments of our children.

This trip has held countless beautiful moments like that. Yesterday was filled with them.I know that this is an answer to many prayers.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

not alone and not afraid,

kristin

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vacation

Loved ones,

We are here in Rehoboth Beach.The drive was long, but the girls were great.

This spot is filled with memories. Ray and I were here many times in our early life together and it was our very first family vacation with Nora.

I am having fun pointing out special spots to the girls.

We made an early visit to DC on Wednesday for the Congressional Baseball game where Ray's old boss, Congressman John Shimkus, honored him by wearing a White Sox jersey with the name Fitzgerald and the number 37. It was a very special night for all of us, and thrilling too that Ray's sisters who joined us for a few days at the beach, were also able to attend.

Now we are back at the beach where the quieter life provides special family time and room for reflection. We are glad for this respite.

We will be thinking of Ray especially this Father's Day.

“I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:15-16
not alone and not afraid --
kristin

Friday, June 12, 2009

Family Vacation

Loved Ones,

Tomorrow the girls and I are off to the East Coast for some time at the beach and at various locales with family and friends.

We are looking forward to the time together, although not so much the some 44 hours in the car!

We'll be in DC at a few key points for some Congressional events honoring Ray which bookend our vacation time.

A friend watched the girls today while I packed up the car.

During our day to day life, we have come to expect Ray's absence and thus are rarely suprised, for example, by his car parked in the driveway. It is most often the evenings and weekends -- times he would have been home -- that we miss him. And, we are even becoming more accustomed to those times.

However, because a vacation is not day to day life, I was reminded of Ray throughout today. As I did the jobs he usually did to prepare, and as I thought of our vacation, even our drive, without him there. I remember when both Ray and I were working, there was nothing so delicious as stepping away from it all, together. Because a family vacation is by definition, family time, it emphasizes, even more than our daily life, that our family has changed.

Today I was reminded of how much I miss our old family!

I've hoped so much that this vacation will strengthen the tenacity of our smaller family unit, bringing all of us joy, even and especially in our new world.

I pray for the strength to lead us on that path, for safety and patience on the road, and for time and tenderness with our family and our friends.

"I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.
I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees.
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." Psalm 119:25-28,30,32


not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Remembering Their Dad

Loved Ones,

Ray has been so present for the girls the past few days. All three of them have talked about memories with their dad.

A few nights ago we were watching Animal Planet and a preview for a show came on. Nora told us that she used to watch that show with Daddy. Similarly, Maggie mentioned the way he used to scratch her back. Not to be forgotten, as we left Costco today, the checker drew a smiley face for Lucy on our receipt. She said it was a picture of her dad.

There is such poignance in all of this for me. When Ray was feeling a little better last summer, I would send the girls in with him while I put Lucy to bed. They usually watched TV and once I asked if they wanted to read books. Ray told me that he hoped they would remember watching Animal Planet with him.

They remember Ray!!

Along with the many things I want to tell him about their progress in school, soccer and ballet; their efforts to help clean up the house; all their growing beauty; I just wish I could tell Ray that he was right! That this memory will stand out for them.

Lucy told me today that Daddy had a Doctor with him in heaven. I told her, no, Daddy is well. She then told me that Jesus and God were with him in heaven.

I am thankful for all the things Ray taught them, for every special memory and for each reflection of him in the girls.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 5:4-9

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Softball Season


Loved Ones,

Last night we attended a softball game of the Cress Creek Coyotes. Ray played softball on the team with our friends and neighbors for two years and was just entering his third season last year when he got sick.

The team got new shirts this year and on each sleeve is a shamrock with RMF.

They presented us with Ray's "Fitzgerald" jersey after the game.

And while it is so hard to bear Ray's absence at events like this, it is so meaningful to see the visible representation of love from Ray's friends.

We so appreciate this love and support and the comment from one friend, "We just want you to know, we won't forget Ray."

This makes Ray seem not so far away.

I ran a race this morning and as I glanced up I saw a man that looked just like Ray. His baseball cap, gray t-shirt, two little girls, smile for his wife. It seemed like just a little farther up Ray might be there too.

It still seems impossible that he won't be coming in from the infield, cheering me on in a race, wearing those t-shirts he wore a thousand times.

We all miss him so so much. I'm so glad that someday, we will see him again in heaven.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you." 1 Peter 1:3-4

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Missing my Husband

Loved Ones,

They say that sickness and death reveal the real core of a person. I think that is probably true and if it is, the core of my husband was faith in God; kindness, thoughtfulness and love for others; graciousness in suffering; and of course, love of the White Sox.

I thought back today to a moment in the hospital that first time. When we got there and he had the first round of chemo, Ray was just so so sick. It was hard to imagine but in the week since his diagnosis the cancer had just weakened him so greatly, he wasn't himself at all. He started that first round of chemo really late at night and it knocked him out for a few days.

So we were getting closer to leaving and they'd prescribed a ton of different medications for Ray which I was attempting to fill at the hospital pharmacy. This took many trips back and forth for various reasons and when I was heading back downstairs once again, Ray looked at me and winked.

It was like my heart stopped. My husband! He was back!

Because of all things, Ray was an exceptional husband. Encouraging me in my small task of filling the prescriptions. While he fought cancer.

That was Ray.

Of all the things I miss, I really miss being Ray's wife.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Ephesians 5:25

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Remembering June 3

Loved Ones,

It was June 3rd that we first heard Ray's prognosis. We met with Ray's doctor at Northwestern and she said, "So, what have they told you?" We were so uneducated about cancer that we truly did not know what to expect. But she went on to tell us that Ray's cancer was incurable. And that chemo would help, but not forever, and then Ray would die.

It was the worst possible thing that we could have heard.

We fought it, asking her questions about liver transplants and clinical trials. But her response was certain, and even clinical trials didn't offer curative treatment.

After she left I said to Ray that this did not change anything. That our hopes, that our confidence that it is God alone who can heal, were unchanged. And so we began the journey of knowing that the worst could happen and praying the God would heal Ray.

This year June 3rd is significant for another reason. It is Nora's last day of school. Kindergarten, that she started with her dad and will finish with him in heaven.

I know that for Nora, Ray is still here in many ways. She never draws our family without him. Her latest creations have him in shorts with 4th of July fireworks in the sky. And we know that Ray is with us in our hearts.

How we wish that his healing had been here on earth! That he would be with us tomorrow when Nora comes off the bus from that last day of school -- just like he was when we sent her off on that first day!

I close with the verse from June 3rd last year. It gives me strength, just knowing that we clung to it last year, and that it still gives us power today in everything we face.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Their Dad Would Be So Proud

Loved Ones,

So many times I think to myself how proud Ray would be of our girls. This weekend it was especially so.

The girls ran in "tot trots" and both ran so fast. Nora had her last outdoor soccer game. They were so quiet in church.

I know Ray would have particularly been proud of Nora for a time this weekend that she observed a friend who felt left out and without prompting, went quickly to her aid.

I tell the girls these things as often as I can. As often as it comes to my mind. I know this will teach them more about their dad. The things that he especially cherished. Like kindness.

They've been praying so faithfully for the wife of one of Ray's favorite golfers who was just diagnosed with cancer. They mention her often, and never forget her at night.

This helps me understand God's will for them. The riches of compassion and understanding that they have already from their own experience. The experience from which I prayed they would be spared, but one which will bear fruits in their life that will impact many others.


"Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion." Psalm 103:1-4


not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our Day

Loved Ones,

In honor of Ray, his mom and sisters and I (and my little Maggie) went to church today for a mass.

The mass included this prayer:

Glorious St. Paul,
Most zealous Apostle,
Martyr for the love of Christ,
Give us a deep faith,
A steadfast hope,
A burning love for our Lord

So that we can proclaim with you
"It is no longer I who live,
But Christ who lives in me."

How truly appropriate a prayer for Ray. One who died to himself, but LIVES ON in Christ.

I am so thankful for his example.

Daily I fail at this endeavor, but I do believe that the answer to fears of cancer, fears of death, fears of loss, is not to say that this will not occur. But rather, to know that it can, and to cling to our hope in Christ. Our hope that Christ has overcome the world.

My husband overcame the world and cancer.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Loved Ones,

The Tuesday after Memorial Day, May 27th, was the day it all changed for us. Ray stayed home from work and the doctor called to say he wanted to go over Ray's tests.

The girls and Ray planted flowers and I tried not to think about my fears.

When they told us about the cancer in Ray's liver we were so unaware of cancer that we just didn't know what that even meant. I heard my ears ringing as I realized that I had just heard the words I feared. Ray simply said, God will not give us more than we can handle.

We reached out with hope to friends to help us navigate. And others to pray. We started collecting survivor stories and miracles. We prayed that God, who is bigger than cancer, would beat this thing.

We knew our world had changed. We didn't know how much.

I thought of Ray so often today. Thinking of that day. Thinking of him in heaven.

We are so grateful for your prayers today and always.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:14-19

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Loved Ones,

With the memory of Ray's diagnosis the day after Memorial Day last year, I've dreaded this weekend. I so appreciate the many of you who appear to have conspired to keep us busy this weekend. That helps a lot.

The girls have prayed so much of late about cancer. Sparing us and others from cancer. Helping scientists to find a cure for cancer. Helping us not to die if we get cancer. We cannot know what the future holds! We are working on praying that God will always be near.

I find that the future feels so very tenuous. Knowing that it changes so quickly, I wonder that we will even experience it.

And, always on my mind is the fact that my dear husband did not get to do so. As we travel to my niece's softball game, as we plan cookouts on the Southside, the many things I seek out, things that he would have loved, because they make him seem so close, then I particularly feel the sadness that he cannot be with us. He would have loved to do all this. And he didn't get to!

And I go back to our prayers. That in the inexplicable, God will be near. That his love for us, will be as present as the love we've lost.

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus... let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith... Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:19, 22, 23

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Memories

Loved Ones,

Today marks the entrance to our cancer memories. It was this day, one year ago, that Ray came home so very white and tired from his trip to DC. Remarkably for me, it was only then that I put "burping" into google and came up with cancer. And so, from this day forward, what would actually become reality, was in my sights.

The next few weeks hold so many turning point memories. Ray's diagnosis. Ray's prognosis. The days that changed us all forever.

I do not want or like to look back on those memories, I will be glad to get into the summer where we have other better memories from the year before. However, in looking back, I am still so very grateful for your prayers. That carried us through those days. That strengthened our very cores. And, that help to carry us still, one year later.

Nora asked me tonight how many days of kindergarten Daddy was alive. And so we counted it out. And there were more days with Daddy here on earth than there were with him in heaven. Even this is a blessing, the proximity to the days that Ray was here.

We are grateful for your continued support, the friends who listen and listen, the cards and emails, the thoughts and prayers.

We are ever so grateful to our Saviour, always with us.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength." Isaiah 40:28-31

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day




Loved Ones,

It was a good day. It was a day that I felt Ray with us.

The girls "made" me breakfast in bed with a little help from Dunkin Donuts and Aunt Molly. One of my favorite things was this comment from Nora last night, "Mom, I don't want you to have to do any work on Mother's Day. So could you please get all your work done tonight?" She's a smart kid! But also so sweet, as she got Lucy out of bed herself so that I wouldn't wake up till at least 6:30!

The girls and I had fun just being together, along with a lovely brunch with my mom and sister, and fun times with the Fitzgeralds this evening.

A special spot in the day was our time at the cemetary. The girls and I headed there by ourselves, but when we arrived we were met by Ray's mom and sisters. Coincidence? I didn't think so and I thanked Ray for that, as it was so good to be there together instead of by ourselves.

We are so grateful for our family who played such a special part in this day, and in this whole year.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:14-19

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Loved Ones,

In rereading my last posting, I found it so ironic that the title was "fear" and it was signed, "not alone and not afraid!" I did not even catch that as I wrote, just reaching out for help in trying to stand strong. I hope it is not disappointing to all of you, the fears; we have felt them all along. "Not afraid" is truly my highest hope and goal. For me, however, it takes prayer and determination to be in that spot.

The girls and I are getting along. We are doing our best to learn how to keep going, knowing that God's care for us can and has meant that we may experience things we are afraid of. How I wish this wasn't true!

However, I am trying to be thankful for my fears, knowing that it truly gives me a window to understand how my girls may feel, and help all of us to find a way through for our life.

I am so thankful for the girls! They are looking forward to making me breakfast in bed for Mother's Day. Ray did this with them last year and they are excited to continue the tradition.

I know it will be a bittersweet day for all of us. We are looking forward to visiting Ray's grave as the gravestone has finally arrived, exciting news since our visit there last week. I am so thankful it will be there for Mother's Day.

We all continue to be so thankful for your prayers, your company, and your encouragement.

"We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you." Psalm 33:20-22

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fear

Loved Ones,

One of the last vestiges of cancer is fear. As I had always been afraid of cancer, of death, of loss, even before Ray, this experience in some ways confirms those fears, and thus heightens their intensity. What next? How to prevent? How to catch? How to avoid?

I believe Ray has triumphed over cancer and thus I pray for his help (and our Lord's) when I feel afraid. And there are days when the fears are at bay.

However, there are other times where fear is a thundering enemy, pressing in on all sides.

And, in my fear, I must also shepherd these little ones, whose security has also been rocked, doing my best to quiet our shaken hearts.

With the example of my courageous husband before me, the one who stared down far scarier things, I know I cannot be defeated by this smallest portion of his battle. I pray for strength. For God's own peace. For victory to pour down for me, and especially for my little girls.

"O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people." Psalm 3

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Three Months

Loved Ones,

It was three months ago today that Ray went to heaven.

In some ways it seems so very long ago. The routines of our life have continued, many new ones, swimming at the pool, watching Food Network's "Chopped," getting bagels after church. We think of Ray so often when we do the things we used to do, but it seems a long time since we did them together.

And of course, there are times when it seems like yesterday that all was well.

When the girls talk about their dad, daddy golfing, scratching their backs, singing their songs, it is among my happiest of times.

We thank you all for your continued prayers, love and aid.

"There is no one like the God of Israel, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge,and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:26-27

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Home From Texas

Loved Ones,

We're home from Texas. We had a good trip. Our hearts were full of memories from our past trips to Austin.

One of the girls' highlights was returning to Sea World. While there we rode the log ride that Ray and Nora rode when we visited in May of 07. She has a pink key chain with their picture from the ride. Now we have matching ones, this one with Maggie and Mommy in attendance too. We miss Ray so much!

I was glad that we had a different Easter. Like so many things now, we have fun, but in a different way than we did before. The girls are the girls. They are still running around searching for eggs and stuffing their faces with candy! I adore those girls so much. And I miss so much smiling at those girls with Ray.

A friend sent me a verse that meant so much to me. I read and reflected on in on Easter night and it has stayed with me as I have made the difficult transition back to reality at home.

In addition to our many happy memories, I have sad ones that I reflect on also. Especially from that last month. While nothing can ever lift the sadness I feel from watching my precious husband suffer so greatly, this verse gave so much hope in suffering, and offered me so much comfort.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Monday, April 6, 2009

Texas Redux

Loved Ones,

The girls and I are off to Texas today. As they were sick most of last week we cancelled our Spring Break trip but decided to go for Easter instead. Nora will miss a few days of kindergarten but I think that will be ok. We are excited to see all of our cousins and soak up some of the warm weather, especially since it snowed here last night.

This will be our first major holiday without Ray. He's been so much on my mind throughout this Lenten season for so many reasons. Ray's death calls to mind Christ's suffering in so many ways. His willingness to follow God's plan. His patient suffering. His continued presence with us.

And in other ways we think of him. Dying eggs together. Hiding our Easter eggs for the Easter egg hunt and calling out hints during the hunt from behind the video camara.

Last Easter was just before things changed in our lives. Ray had given up soda last Lent and just after he resumed drinkning it the burping that would bring the cancer diagnosis began. Still, even without a cloud in our sky, I felt the coming darkness last Easter. As we went to bed that night I told Ray that I could hardly go to sleep, knowing what could happen before the next Easter, wishing I could hold on to this day.

Our hearts and minds will be full of many thoughts as we celebrate this Easter. Above all, we are grateful for the great and shining hope of eternal life in heaven together with Ray!

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last." John 15:16


not alone and not afraid --
kristin

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring Break Part 2

Loved Ones,

It's good we're not in Texas. The flu has been strong and lasting. After Lucy came Maggie and she is still struggling. I am hopeful that tomorrow will be our first well day. That way I can stop trying to remember how to spell diarrhea!!

I've worked really hard on my gastric cancer research project -- working toward starting a national project to study gastrointestinal cancers in young people. It's the right time to work on it with so many helpful Congressional Members and staff. And, to save one person from these cancers would be a victory. I feel relieved to have something to do that could help.

However, I would sit at my computer and finish 100 Congressional research projects rather than sit still and think about how hard it is to be here alone with the kids this week.

It's a discipline really to be at home. We can't escape anywhere with sick kids, so it forces me to take care of the things on my list I'd rather ignore. Like dentist appointments. Like difficult decisions. And most importantly, like grief.

And so, when we finally go to Texas this coming Monday, I'll feel a little better. Like we've cleared the decks just a little bit and are leaving with things a little more in hand to enjoy ourselves.

This time now is different. I don't have the daily interaction with so many of you. We are more on our own. And yet, we feel God's quiet hand, strengthened by so many of your prayers, upon us still.

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul." Psalm 23:2-3

not alone and not afraid,

kristin

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Break

Loved Ones,

So we're not exactly in Texas. Lucy came down with raging stomach flu on Thursday and we had to postpone our trip. Our suitcases are still packed and sitting on the kitchen floor, but we're sort of in limbo with continued vomiting and diahrrea. All the kids are in front of the TV with gatorade and crackers. As Ray would always say, "The magic of Ariel..." I'm hoping Nora and Maggie are just having sympathy pains because if this really spreads to them we may not get to Texas by the time Spring Break is over! I am very proud of them though, they've been so patient in their disappointment.

So let's see, the good news is that it has given me more time to work on my gastric cancer research project -- hoping to get some federal dollars directed toward researching young people like Ray with an early incidence of GI cancer. Working on this makes me feel good but we have a long road ahead as federal dollars are somewhat scarce.

At this point I'm not sure how to pray except to pray for wisdom as to making decisions and spending my time. It's one of the many things I miss so much about Ray -- his sound guidance.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17


not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two Months

Loved Ones,

There are still times when I am coming down the stairs and thinking of something that I'll think, "Oh perhaps Ray left a message and we can talk now that the kids are in bed." Times that it still feels like he's just in DC and I'm hoping we can connect really soon.

That feeling permeates, I dream it. That feeling of, Ray's been gone a little while and I really miss him, but that he's right around the corner, almost close enough to touch.

How I wish it were so.

I think the girls feel it, talking so often of him. That we can split the donut four ways because Daddy isn't here. That Daddy would have done this, or liked this or the other.

It's still just so hard to believe that he won't be coming back any day. Healthy, well, with all of this just a bad dream.

There is a lot to do. A lot of things to fix, a lot of decisions, a lot of parenting of girls who have been shaken, a lot of a lot. In the early days I focused as much as I could on finding fun and being together; now focusing more on the routines, returning to as much order as I can muster.

Some days I can't muster any order! So I appreciate my saintly family and friends who listen and help and load the dishwasher and fold laundry.

And, there are some days that I feel my husband helping me out. Making sure I saw yes, that most obvious sign. Or reinforcing my leanings one way or another in those most hardest of parenting decisions. I am so grateful for those days.

We leave Thursday to visit family for Spring Break in Texas. We'll think, of course, of our trip last September. And more happily of our trip two years ago, where none of this was on the horizon.

We continue to be so grateful for your prayers.

"But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you." Psalm 33: 18, 20-22

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

Loved Ones,

The girls and I had a Happy St. Patrick's weekend. We talked on Saturday night, saying that Ray would have loved everything about our day. We went to the Naperville Irish Parade, played games at Chuck E Cheese, Nora learned to ride a bike and thanks to Navistar, we went to see Mary Poppins on Saturday night.

Every one of those things were things Ray loved to do. We marched in the Irish parade every year except the year Lucy was born. We missed Ray racking up the points for us like he used to at Chuck E Cheese. We know he would have been so proud of Nora riding that bike! And he loved to go to the theater so I especially missed his presence as he and I had gone many times before.

We saw Ray's family on Sunday at the Southside Irish parade so it always makes us feel close to him to be with them. And we sent off balloons at Ray's grave which of course, got stuck in the trees!

All this to say that we thought of Ray all weekend and of course today on St. Patrick's Day.

Today was a little bit harder. It is often in our little family times that we really miss Ray's presence. And we all wished that he was here. A friend sent us an Irish Dancing Jib Jab with our faces cut out on the Irish Dance girls. It began and I was just so sad to see only the four of us. But then Ray appeared and it was so nice to see his smiling face with ours. How I miss that face.

It's kind of an appropriate parallel for what I feel these days. The girls and I are going along and doing our best to have special family times together as a little family unit just like we used to. But goodness, we miss his presence so much.

We appreciate so much your prayers for us. For us to be able to grieve and heal. For wisdom in all things -- especially for me. I've been working the past few days on trying to get some funding for gastric cancer research. Tight timeframes, lots of work. In my old life I could handle this. It's much harder now and the girls need me so much more. And I need myself! But I know that my involvement may be very important. So just for wisdom and direction always in every way.

I can't stop with this verse. We need so much the crown of beauty, the oil of gladness, the garment of praise.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:1-3

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Posting

Loved Ones,

With a sigh of relief we conclude birthday central at the Fitzgerald household. Maggie (now 4) and Lucy (now 2) had happy days, filled with our traditional birthday balloons, cakes and lots of well wishes.

We have a happy family -- both immediate and extended -- so we always have fun.

But it is never the same without Ray. His jokes while videotaping, his special touch picking out the balloons, his voice in the family chorus.

It seems impossible that our memories of Lucy's first birthday will be her only birthday memories that include her dad.

Our spring memories from last year are our last that didn't include cancer. The girls birthdays, Easter and Mother's Day were unblemished. We treasure those times with joy and look forward to reliving them in the coming weeks. However, in our minds they sometimes render our todays all but impossible. How great will be Ray's absence as the new year presses forward.

We continue to be grateful for your prayers.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:1-3

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ray's Memorial Service

Loved Ones,

I want to say a special thank you to those of you who were able to come to the Memorial Service for Ray in DC on Thursday. It was such a lovely evening of reflections about Ray. I can't tell you how much I loved looking out at all of the loving faces at the church.

Several reflections shared such sweet memories and thoughts about our dear Ray. And the reception following included a time for toasts to Ray -- there many folks shared fun memories and funny stories. We so enjoyed this time to bask in the glow of love for Ray. We know the glow was shining up to heaven.

It was bittersweet to be in DC. As Ray and I never traveled back to DC during his illness, we had only happy and healthy memories there. While these are so wonderful to recall, in doing so, we feel so deeply Ray's absence. Never have I felt so strongly that this must simply be a dream.

However, to share our grief with many of those who knew Ray so well was comforting, so we did our best to soak up those times.

With this last Memorial complete, we return home to our new world. Each new day brings changes and growth in the girls that we just wish Ray could have shared here on earth. Tomorrow will be another first as Maggie turns four -- our first birthday without Ray.

We pray for God's continued hand on our family in this time.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:16-20


not alone and not afraid --
kristin

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Loved Ones,

On Valentine's Day 2008, Ray and I surprised the girls with news of a trip to Disney World the next day. That day and the days following are some of our most precious memories. So we didn't know what this day would be like.

To my precious friend Carmen who spent the night so the girls would wake up with a "slumber party," we thank you.

To our neighbors and friends who cheered extra hard for Nora at her Valentine's Day soccer "double-header," we thank you.

To our precious family who showed up en mass with videocameras and cameras to cheer for Nora and record this day, we love you and we thank you.

To my precious extended family who cooked up a Valentine's afternoon lovefest to hang out with us, we know you did it for us and we thank you.

To our many neighbors who brought over Valentine's treats tonight and many other times, we thank you.

To our friends and family far away who called, wrote and sent Valentines of all kinds, we thank you.

We celebrated our precious Ray with ten red balloons attached to 10 High School Musical Valentines we sent off to heaven. Those beautiful red balloons glittered and bobbed for so long in the air as we sent our love up to heaven for our beautiful daddy, husband, brother, son and uncle.

The last time I sent this verse I felt as I wrote it that it truly embodied my husband. His love. We felt this love all around us today.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Thursday, February 12, 2009

DC Memorial Service

Loved Ones,

We have news about the Washington Memorial Service for Ray. The Service will be February 26 at 5:00 pm at St. Peters on the House side. It will be followed by a reception in Ray's honor at the Capitol Hill Club from 6-8. We hope you will be able to join us. All of Ray's sisters and a large contingency from my family will be there as well, including of course me and Nora, Maggie and Lucy. Craig will be sending an e-vite to you to get an idea of numbers for the reception. This will follow shortly. I can't tell you how much we are looking forward to the service and seeing all of you.

Not alone and not afraid,
Kristin

Monday, February 9, 2009

Healing

Loved Ones,

The girls and I went to church yesterday for the first time since Ray died. None of the girls wanted to stay in childcare so all four of us sat in the row. Our pastor spoke eloquently of Christ's healing that he gave freely to so many. He said that sometimes this healing was physical, and other times it was emotional and spiritual, allowing us to journey the roads we must travel.

This spoke to me. It is always a wonder when so many pray for healing, how God answers those prayers. We hoped so much that Ray's healing would be on earth. While I am so grateful for Ray's healing in heaven, I do believe that part of his and our healing was here, giving us the very strength to travel the road we walked.

And, though the road we walk now is long, I do feel God's hand upon us as we walk. And Ray's. The girls and I laughed so hard as we thought of how happy Ray would have been with our car that we finally cleaned out yesterday.

I also want you to know that we do feel God's hand from yours. So many many things brighten our days, the gym and pool membership from our neighbors, the heart shaped cookies from friends, coordination of our sump pump (!), so many cards with loving and kind words about Ray, masses in his honor... The list is long and all of it together makes it a little easier to have joy in our days.

Our prayer requests are these: for those times when we feel Ray's loss so dearly -- family dinner time, weekends, the old and familiar routines that we must resume in his absence. And for the girls, for those times when they achieve something they so dearly would loved to have shared with their dad and when they think of their dad -- that they always know his continued love from heaven.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Remembering Ray Part II

Loved Ones,

For some time I have wanted to write another email to this group. I have delaying in doing so simply because I was thinking of it as the 'last email." Goodness, I can't bear another last anything. So tonight I write to thank you, to update you and to tell you that I will do my best to post periodically to our family blog
www.rayfitzgeraldfamily.blogspot.com And thus, thankfully, no goodbyes tonight.

It was one week ago that we buried Ray. Thank you to each of you who came to the wake and to the funeral. It was an incredible celebration of Ray and that was a joy to us. Your love for him and for us expressed in your presence was so tangible and meaningful to us, his family. The memorial gifts to the girls' education fund were so honoring to him. So too, the many many emails and cards speaking of Ray's legacy and assuring us that your prayers would not end now.

We are so grateful for your prayers. We find that while the severity of Ray's illness had prepared us for the actuality of his death, nothing could have prepared us for his absence. Many many times I find myself wishing like Maggie that Daddy would just fly out of heaven.

The road that stretches before us seems long. And yet we know that God, who selected this road for us, will not abandon us now. Thus we square our shoulders and soldier on, but so missing our dear companion.

Thankfully, there are the girls! They are so greatly in need of comfort, presence, and fun. I am glad for these demands.

We wanted to let you know of the date of the Washington D.C. Memorial Service for Ray. It will be on Thursday, February 26, followed by a time of Christian fellowship in Ray's honor. So, DC folk, save this date and we will post further details on the blog. Also on the blog are some tributes to Ray from Congressman John Shimkus, Ray's Congressional mentor and former boss, as well as a link to an article about Ray in the Chicago Tribune. Last, I am also attaching to this email the eulogy that I gave at Ray's funeral -- the love story of his life (posted on 1/26). We did videotape the funeral service and hope to get that posted up there somehow as well.

We care so much about all of you. Your companionship on this journey helped to carry us on the days we were just almost too tired to walk. We will always be indebted to you. We pray that you too, will be enriched by the beauty of Christian fellowship on the hard days of your journeys. We know this is God's very love for us on earth.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ray's Eulogy - The Love Story of His Life

I want to tell you a love story about a man named Ray.

There are not words enough to describe Ray's beautiful heart.

This heart was born of the love of two precious and caring parents and five adoring sisters. Baby Ray Ray, himself, was the light of all of their lives. Cherished and nurtured by his parents and sisters, Ray grew up on the south side of Chicago, inheriting a love of all things White Sox and Irish.

Ray's family set the foundation of faith in his life. Ray was baptized at St. Thomas More by his Godfather, Father Larry Dore. As he grew older, it was common for his Godfather to hold mass in the Fitzgerald basement, midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Ray was celebrated and loved. When baby Ray was born, he went on display in the front window in his bassinet where all the neighborhood kids could admire the only boy. As a little boy he would sit and drink tea and eat cookies with his mom and dad every night before going to bed.

Ray was no less loved when he began school at St. Thomas More. How many people do you know that remain best friends with the friends they made in 2nd Grade? Here he found his true brothers. And kept them for a lifetime. Beginning with Little League and Wrightwood Baseball at Hayes Park, friendships were formed that would endure until they were groomsmen at each other's weddings.

The foundation of faith begun by Ray's family was nurtured at St. Thomas More because of all the faithful teachers and Father Brankin. The boys shared first communion, were altar boys and were confirmed together. They learned, they laughed and even cried.

One time, Ray and Mike Morgan were Science Fair Partners. They developed a model of a heart, complete with dyed red blood. Just before the judging, the heart broke and leaked red water all over Ray's hands. They wondered what they should do and Ray said simply that they should tell the truth to the judge. " You think it will work?" said Mike. With hands full of red die, Ray said he thought it would, and then followed Mike to the fair, quipping "We lost him" as he walked. The boys won first prize.

High School was no less important for Ray. Brother Rice and Kairos deepened and strengthened his faith in God. The Brother Rice motto, "Act manfully in Christ Jesus," became a theme for Ray's life. Friends made and kept in high school were multifaceted and lasting.

Ray went on to Northern Illinois University where he worked hard and studied politics and economics. He founded the Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity Chapter at NIU . At AKL Ray was Treasurer and then ran a hard fought contest for President. Typical of Ray, after losing, he did not hold a grudge. His opponent would later be the best man at his wedding. AKL was a brotherhood for Ray. Last fall he received an award for living out the AKL's five ideals of Judeo-Christian Principle, Leadership, Scholarship, Loyalty and Self Support.

Ray came to Washington with dedication to public service. He began his career working for Governor Jim Edgar. In a town driven by ambition, his sweet and humble spirit made a lasting impression. He was loved by all who worked with him.

When Ray arrived at Congressman John Shimkus office he came into his own professionally. Ray's mentors noted his leadership and excellence. His colleagues, Ray's preparation, fairness, and gentle and kind way. As so many staff in Washington were even younger than Ray, his office mates jokingly called him "old man." Later they would remember that of all that things that stood out about Ray, his faith was above all. Said one, "Ray made it cool to be Catholic."

Ray made deep friends in Washington, friends who shared the stages of life with him from easygoing singleness and committed professionalism to loving husband, and later dedicated father.

When Ray and I met, it was love at first date. After only six weeks Ray brought me home to meet the family. There the sisters gathered around me to hear the story of Kristin and Ray that they had such a hard time prying out of their baby brother.

What a story it was. After years of fun-loving dating, Ray and I made plans to travel to Paris. Said one of his sisters, "If you have ever thought of marrying her, you have to ask her in Paris." Ever the obedient brother, thankfully he did.

Our courtship, wedding and newlywed life were such a happy time. Lovers of family, fun and politics, Ray and I were the best of friends. What an incredible joy to share so many things together.

When Nora arrived, Ray became the most loving of fathers. He adored each one of his girls, tenderly cherishing their alone time and special moments together. He was such a fun dad, his girls loved to go fishing with him, ride "double bike" on his back, sing and talk together before bed. With five sisters and three sister in laws, Ray was the perfect father for Nora, Maggie and Lucy.

It was a joy for Ray to come home to Chicago. Spending more time with family and old friends, rooting for the White Sox, excelling at his new job, playing softball in the neighborhood, and traveling back to DC for work, he had the best of all worlds.
The discovery of Ray's illness last May was a shock to everyone. Not missing a day of work until the day he was diagnosed, he went instantly from healthy to sick.

There are not enough words to honor Ray's unwavering faith as all that he had hoped and dreamed of changed in a instant. Ray met his illness by saying "God will not give us more than we can handle." Though profoundly sad at the thought of leaving us, Ray's thankful attitude for all the blessings he had already received would never change. Even in his sickest of days, Ray was always courageous, uncomplaining, thoughtful of others, and at peace.
When we started the emails to ask for prayers for Ray's illness, it was Ray who said to end them with Not Alone and Not Afraid. Though the emails were often in my voice, I was simply telling the story. A story of hope, joy and peace that refused to be defeated by the outcome promised us in the first of days.

The response we got from the emails was remarkable. Though we had always known that Ray was loved, we could not have imagined the mark he had made on those around him and the depth of love for him from his family and friends. Those emails, prayers and encouragement were as important a part of our journey in illness as the illness itself. The encouragement our emails gave to others, while never easing the pain of loss, gave meaning to our suffering.

How do you lose someone like Ray? Though it seems impossible, we can trust only in the fact that the love his Father has for him surpasses our own. That the rages of illness could only be healed by the loving hand of his Father. And thus, through our tears, we give thanks for the chorus welcoming him home.

Ray, you will never be forgotten. All that you are, your legacy here on earth, will live on always in our hearts. We know your love for us will never change. And we know, that you will always be smiling at us from heaven.

Chicago Tribune Article

Raymond M. Fitzgerald, 1971-2009: Navistar lobbyist
By Joan Giangrasse Kates Special to the Tribune
January 26, 2009

You could take a South Sider and move him to Washington, but in the case of Raymond M. Fitzgerald, you couldn't take the South Side out of the man.

The youngest of six children and only son of a Chicago fireman, Mr. Fitzgerald carried with him the values of faith, family and friends when he moved in 1994 to Capitol Hill to serve as a legislative aide for five years to then-Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar. He later worked for a year as a member of the staff on the House Science and Technology Committee. more...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Remembering Ray

Loved Ones,

We have made the arrangements for Ray's funeral and visitation which will be on the south side of Chicago -- Ray's childhood home.

The visitation will be Sunday January 25th from 2:00-9:00 pm at Blake-Lamb Funeral Home, 4727 W. 103rd Street, Oak Lawn, IL 60453.
Ray's funeral will be Monday January 26th beginning at 9:15 am at Blake-Lamb with the funeral mass at St. Thomas More Catholic Church at 10 am.
St. Thomas More is located at 2825 West 81st Street, Chicago IL, 60652.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to LPL Financial - Fitzgerald College Fund. Details 708.636.1193

A DC Memorial Service to be held later is in the works at a future point.

We also wanted to tell you to watch for a coming article in the Chicago Tribune about Ray.

We continue to be so blessed by your prayers and emails. Thank you so much.

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shimkus Markup Tribute to Ray

Our Beloved Ray

Loved Ones,

I am writing to tell you that our precious husband, father, son, brother and friend has finally been healed from cancer. Ray went to the loving arms of his father last night.

We are so very sad at the loss of our treasure Ray. We know though, that while our lives will not be the same without Ray here on earth, they are so much richer because of him. We are changed for the better. And his legacy, like our love for him, will live on always.

We are so grateful to you for all of your prayers, encouragement and emails. This was a hard fight -- and we know it was a little less hard because of your prayers.

We pray this day for strength and peace as we remember and celebrate our Ray. And for God's constant accompaniment on the new journey we are beginning.

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins." Isaiah 40:1-2

not alone and not afraid --

kristin

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday Prayers

Loved Ones,

Oh to never have to write this email.

After meeting with all of Ray's doctors yesterday and today it is clear that they have done all they can to fight this cancer.

Despite the many rounds of chemo, the cancer is growing and getting stronger and Ray is much too weak to endure another round of chemo. Even if he weren't so sick, Ray's liver status renders chemo dangerous and ineffective.

We will remain here in the hospital in hospice care, while they regulate Ray's symptoms and keep him comfortable.

Ray is very tired and his body is crying out for healing. We are so glad that this healing is coming for him.

Oh how badly we wanted this healing to come on earth! We are profoundly sad to think of life without Ray. Though our medical teams had always prepared us for this possible outcome, we have all the while held tight to our hope for God's miraculous healing for Ray.

And, we will never give up this hope till the end. But we know how valiently Ray has fought this fight and we are comforted by the thought of his Father in heaven welcoming home his good and faithful servant.

Our days now are focused on enjoying the moments Ray is awake and holding his hand while he sleeps.

Our girls, who are only now even able to grasp the depth of love for their father, are comforted by your prayers, as are we.

We pray always for healing for Ray. We pray now for supernatural strength and comfort for us, our families and especially our girls, as our hearts are breaking at this loss.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at the break of day.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Psalm 46:1-7

not alone and not afraid --
kristin and ray

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Prayers

Loved Ones,

It was a hard day at the hospital. Ray continues to be very weak.

We met with many doctors about various aspects of Ray's condition but have not yet met with Ray's primary doctor. That meeting will be tomorrow.

Ray's vomiting and nausea are under control and we are glad of this.

We continue to pray for healing and for strength. That God would touch Ray in every way. We pray for wisdom in all things. We pray that an army of angels would be encamped around our girls. It is so very hard for them to see their dad sick. Harder still that we are away from them too. We pray that God's hand would shelter them and us in this raging storm.

"May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant."
Psalm 119:76

not alone and not afraid --
kristin and ray

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Prayers

Loved Ones,

We are so glad for your constant prayers, especially today as Ray's condition is serious.

Because of low platelets, they cannot do all they would do normally to prevent another stroke. They are doing some things and are calculating additional steps.

Probably more importantly, Ray has some problems with keeping and retaining fluid. He is very dehydrated because the fluid they put in goes right to his abdomen instead of his blood vessals. The dehydration is causing his heart to race.

We are praying for a stable night -- no vomiting, no heart racing and no restlessness.

We await the arrival of Ray's doctor tomorrow who has been out of the country. We pray for wisdom from her as she interprets all these tests. And wisdom for all of us -- each step of the way.

We pray always for healing for our beloved Ray.

"I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." Psalm 34:1-7

not alone and not afraid --
kristin and ray

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Prayers

Loved Ones,

We have some answers to prayer and some prayer requests. Ray's vomiting has been much better, praise the Lord! He had a comfortable day and night last night and it has been controlled by medicines, without the need for any further procedures.

However, Ray's MRI taken last night showed that he had a very small stroke. Ray did not have any symptoms so we probably would not have caught it, but this gives us an opportunity to see what may have caused it and prevent future such events. Ray will have a battery of tests to look at causes tomorrow. We pray that the cause can be found and anything else prevented.

We have not yet heard the results of the scans taken today to determine the chemotherapy effectiveness. Ray's liver numbers, which had risen in the past few days, came down a little last night so that was good news. We pray so strongly that these scans will show that the chemotherapy has made progress against the cancer.

We pray for God to sustain us here in the hospital and for his healing hand to rest on Ray.

We are so thankful for all of your prayers and we know that God hears.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 3:16

not alone and not afraid --

kristin and ray

Friday, January 16, 2009

Back in the Hospital

Loved Ones,

We are back in the hospital tonight. Ray had a terrible night of vomiting last night and we came in right away this morning to try to get the vomiting under control.

They are trying new medicines and doing a variety of tests to check the new chemo's effectiveness and see if they can determine a cause for the vomiting. We are praying that the chemo has been effective and that they will be able to relieve the vomiting.

Ray is so sick and so we are relieved to be under the constant monitoring of doctors here in the hospital.

We pray for rest tonight, for relief from the vomiting, for wisdom for the doctors and for freedom from fear and anxiety. We always pray with hope for God to intervene and heal our Ray.

"In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me,for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and the cruel men. For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth my mother's womb; I will ever praise you. Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me." Psalm 71:1-6,12

not alone and not afraid
--kristin and ray