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.