Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Love Song to Ray's Family

Loved Ones,

Last Saturday and Sunday Nora danced in the Nutcracker. She practiced every week from October on and we all eagerly anticipated her performances. Many special people came to see her, friends and family, showing her just how much she was loved.

This was a day her father would have enjoyed so much, watching Nora dance in the Nutcracker Ballet she's seen every year since she was three.

Ray's whole family came to see the show, and to a special dinner at our house beforehand to celebrate Nora's performance and her birthday the week before. In no way could Ray have been more present to Nora and to me, than through the loving kindness of his special family.

Each cousin, even those just arriving from college, celebrating this special day with Nora. My mother in law treasuring the day with me. My brother in laws, taking pictures, hauling table leaves, fetching and warming up the car. My sister in laws helping in the kitchen with me and waving just as wildly as I did when Nora arrived on stage. Even those far away, calling and celebrating with Nora. Each special thing Ray would have done, showing us always, his love and devotion. It was all there this Sunday, we were surrounded by his family, just as if his loving arms encircled us at Nora's performance.

It was a day I remembered so much just why I fell in love with my special husband. It was a day I know he shared with us.

not alone and not afraid --


"We always thank God for you all of you and continually mention you in our prayers." I Thessalonians 1:1

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Loved Ones,

I've been working on this post for a few months, trying to put into words how we are doing, how we are feeling, what life is like for us now.

The truth is that it is still very hard. I hesitate even to write this, knowing what Ray endured, and silently. And, we certainly have joy! Many times! I am so thankful for the girls and for all the joy we have together. For the team that we are.

But, though the terrible stages of grief have gone, I am many times still filled with loss. New losses, old losses. The pain of living a life alone you expected to live with the person you loved so dearly. The solitary nature of life as a widow.

I continue to be surprised by this. I think I thought that we would get a break after Ray died. That, having endured that loss, there would be some kind of heavenly pardon from the loneliness, the anxiety.

Far from it. In so many ways, I am continually challenged by difficult feelings and circumstances.

At a difficult time this fall a friend told me that when faced with anxiety, with very real what ifs, she remembers that God has a good plan for her family.

I grew up believing that God had a good plan for me, a personal and loving plan for my life. And I think I thought that meant that things would go well for me. That God would take care of me in the ways I know, by keeping me safe, and meeting my needs. However, the result of experiencing what we did was that my view of God's plan was altered somewhat; that God still has a good plan for me and our lives, but that it doesn't really mean good for me personally, more good for the Kingdom, good for the eternal.

And I am glad for his good plan for the Kingdom! Glad. Glad for the things we've learned, we've taught. And on the good days, I strive to do more, to continue to further His work for me, for the world.

But on the hard days, I really miss that personal God! That one that cared more about the personal good for me.

So earlier in the fall, I challenged God. I asked him to show me his personal care.

I wasn't sure what this meant. I hoped that it meant that he would lift some of these anxieties and circumstances! That good things would come! I would like his personal care to be like that for me.

And it wasn't like that.

But, on two separate occasions, times of trial, times of anxiety, I felt him there. And it was through others. One, a stranger, and one a friend. Both giving me what I needed to get through a very trying time, knowing that I was not alone. That God cared, not just about teaching me, but about how I felt.

And that was everything. It's not everything I want! More like everything I need to get through what God asks of me, which is a lot. And to get through knowing that God's care for me is that He promises to be there with us when we endure what we endure for the Kingdom. And that care I recognize. It was care I experienced through Ray's illness and death, from the loving hands of many.

And so I write this Thanksgiving post to say thank you. Thank you to the ones who in small or large ways have been Christ's personal hand to me and the girls in these very trying few years. For those who have lifted our spirits. For those who continue to reach out, understanding that while the rages of our battle with cancer are through, the battle continues always.

And, I write to myself and to all, that we just don't know when what we do means something big to someone else. Maybe someone who really needs that something big. May we always strive to be that Jesus to those we meet along the way.

To God be the Glory.

not alone and not afraid --


"But now, this is what the LORD says -- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
Isaiah 43:1-3

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fighting Against Cancer

Loved ones,

It's been a long summer! The girls and I had a great trip to DC to attend the 2nd Annual Ray Fitzgerald Charity Classic Softball Tournament. It was a great great day with old and new friends, playing softball and raising money to fight cancer! We were so thrilled to attend and so glad for the support of so many for such a tremendous cause.

This past few weeks since we came home, I've continued my work with the National Cancer Institute to study gastric cancer through the Cancer Genome Atlas. This is hard work! I am so grateful for the Congressional support for this effort as it takes dedication and vigilence to overcome the many challenges to this research! The problems are many! And I am so grateful for the bright minds and strong hearts we have to get it done!

This is a multifront battle. Last weekend I attended Ray's 25th grade school reunion. There Ray's classmates also raised money to fight cancer on Ray's behalf.

I have been struck this week by the difficult nature of cancer research, the many many obstacles. The fight takes such perseverance. It is a difficult fight for me to fight, an anxious fight, but one I know I must undertake for the many people who will face this deadly and destructive disease.

Therefore, I am all the more glad for all of you, my allies in this work. You mean so much to me. You mean so much to my girls who pray every night that scientists will study their dad's cancer and find a cure.

not alone and not afraid --


"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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Father's Day

Loved Ones,

There are so many times that we have missed Ray's presence this last week. The girls' first swim meet, Nora's dance recital, Ray's godson's graduation, getting good news about our cancer research, the Blackhawks victory. We know he is celebrating with us in heaven but we sure would love to hear his voice cheering.

A friend said to me that time heals but it does not replace. And that's right. We are healing, but the loss of our Ray leaves a hole in our hearts.

We will be thinking of Ray especially this weekend on Father's Day. We are grateful to the many fathers around us who take the time to cheer on our girls.

"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." Isaiah 61:2

not alone and not afraid --


Monday, March 29, 2010

Testifying Before Congress

Loved Ones,

The girls and I traveled to D.C. last week for a Congressional Hearing on cancer research. I was able to take part in the hearing, giving testimony about the sore lack of funding for gastrointestinal cancers like Ray's. It was thrilling to be able to speak to people who can truly make a difference; a big step in our campaign to alert the National Cancer Institute to the problem, and motivate action. Many many people helped to make this happen and happen well and we were so glad to be able to devote our efforts toward preventing additional death and loss from these cancers.

Nora and Maggie were able to attend the hearing, to hear the words said about their dad, and witness the actions taken in response. And this, a big step in our campaign to restore our own security.

I have been listening to a copy of Il Divo's Christmas album. Someone, during that Christmas when Ray was sick, sent this CD. I've been so glad of it. There is a song, that speaks of a person who almost loses his faith, but then finds it again. "Come and rejoice, what is lost is found."

When I hear this song I always feel a wellspring of emotion. Though I've felt no danger of losing my faith in any of this, my own security, and that of my girls, was rocked by all that we endured, and it's taking awhile to regain our footing. Because, one cannot be reassured in the same ways.

Before Ray was sick I knew intrinsically that the answer to fears could not be that they would not occur. But I hoped it was the case. Of course I know now, in a very real way, that fears can and do occur. And my girls know it too. And so to quiet those fears, one cannot respond that things just won't happen again, that somehow, we've fulfilled our duty. There has to be safety, even knowing all that can occur.

Of course, looking back, we know that we were held and sustained by our God. And there is hope in that.

It is the paradox of knowing that we can survive, and not wanting to lose again. The task of wholly and truly submitting to God's will, even and especially knowing what it can entail.

There are days, many days, where I simply want to beg God whatever his will, not to let it occur. But I strive to, as my dear and recently departed Grandma Gaye says, say: "Yes Lord, yes, yes, YES."

And so this is my task. To find this way of existing, not in fear, but in confidence, whatever may be to come. To live this for myself, and teach it to the girls. To be able to say, someday, and hopefully someday soon, that what was lost, is found.

not alone and not afraid,


"So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate." Luke 15:20-24

Thursday, January 21, 2010

One Year Anniversary

Loved Ones,

We had a very special day remembering Ray today. It was filled with a lot of Ray's favorite things, and a lot of our favorite ways to remember and honor him. Friends and family gathered here in Naperville, in Chicago, and in DC for masses in Ray's honor, with times of fellowship, food and fun memories as well.

It means so much to us the many of you that remembered Ray in many ways. The calls, prayers, emails, and your presence with us meant so very much.

We miss Ray so much every day, and we are so glad to have the time with so many of you to honor him.

And, we express our heartfelt thanks for the many ways that you have remembered Ray and supported us throughout this first year.

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul."
Psalm 23:1-3

not alone and not afraid --


Sunday, January 10, 2010

A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor

Loved Ones,

For the past few months I've been encouraging a family with cancer. Their tale is similar to ours and it will have a similar ending soon. As they sit at the side of their loved one, however, there is joy, there is peace and above all, there is faith. Something I also have experienced. As I searched for a verse to send them, I found this:

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. 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

Nowhere is this more apparent, than at the bedside of a loved one who is going too soon.

That crown of beauty, that oil of gladness, that garment of praise, that can only come from strength far beyond ourselves.

And it struck me that this is true of us too. That our life this year -- this crown of beauty reclaimed from ashes -- yes, many times in sadness, but always in faith and often with joy -- that this too is a testimony of the strength of our Lord. A planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Though it is not understandable, it can only be true.

These verses and these thoughts, give me comfort. Especially as we near the one year anniversary of Ray's death on January 21.

not alone and not afraid --