Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Loved Ones,

We had a very nice Christmas. The girls were overjoyed with their Christmas present -- a surprise trip to Disney -- and we all look forward to heading to Florida in a few days.

As if I need to say this, but faith is everything.

I struggled this Christmas. I have learned enough about what to expect from the holidays that I know how to manage them for myself. And that makes a huge difference. We keep busy at the right times and I adjust expectations at other times and that really helps.

In addition, thanks to the Christmas chain, we just kept enjoying Christmas no matter how many errands were calling my name. (The Christmas Chain is my family's tradition -- one Christmas activity for each day. The girls and I are faithful to the Chain and we did all kinds of fun things together each day of December)

But the joy of the season was a struggle for me. To quote the lyrics of my favorite Christmas song Oh Holy Night, I really felt more the "weary world" than the "thrill of hope."

Even Disney. As glad as I am to go for the girls sake, I know it will be difficult, thinking of our last time there, just before Ray got sick, and wishing he could be there now.

But God is faithful. I was teaching Religious Ed a few weeks ago for Nora's class and I was reminded of one of the great truths from Ray's funeral. Thinking of what I had to do, bury Ray, I just thought, I can't do it! But when Father Brankin started the prayers and the liturgy, focusing on Christ, I knew I could do it. Likewise. When teaching Nora's class my mind was off of what I had to do, and focused on my source of strength. And I knew I could do it.

But far more than that. Through a variety of events over the season, God has shown me that he cares not just that I can do it. But how I feel doing it. Just, a reminder that he has joy for me. Not everyday!! There's been a long dry spell! But some days! And some moments!

My joy at this recollection is great.

I want to thank all of you who we heard from this Christmas and Thanksgiving. We love and adore all of our friends and we are tremendously thankful for you. You are part of the joy in our lives.

not alone and not afraid --


"Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me."
Psalm 51:12

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ray's 40th

Loved Ones,

This Thursday October 13, would have been Ray's 40th birthday.

His friends and family will honor him in many ways this week, as they have throughout the summer at events such as the Third Annual Ray Fitzgerald Illinois Delegation Softball Tournament, and the Ray Fitzgerald White Lake Classic Golf Tournament.

This Friday night will be the inaugeral Ray Fitzgerald Lectureship at Taylor University. There, Ray's lasting legacy will be an annual lecture dedicated to Ray's Catholic faith, honoring him as an example of faith, to educate and inspire decades of Taylor students. All of Ray's family and mine will be present for this special event. And I will tell our story.

Reflecting on it as I have been writing it into my comments for this Friday is still very hard. Just as I honor Ray's dedication to his wife and daughters I miss his presence.

I am so proud of the way that Ray's life and faith did and will inspire so many. That it lives as a testimony of faith to the world.

As part of the lecture, I reflect that this was Ray's task for the Kingdom. His life, his Christian witness.

And now is my task. The telling of the story. The living of the life that continues. Still as a testament to faith.

A few months ago the reading for our church service was Matthew 11:30, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." The speaker explained that what was meant by "easy" was well-fitting.

I struggle to find the yoke easy and well-fitting. Yes, there are days, the good days, when I can praise God for all that has been accomplished through him from all that has occurred. And I can even say, well fitting, well suited, capable to the task. But there are many days when the burden seems anything but light, the task anything but well fitting.

And that's the truth of it.

There are just those tasks, those jobs in the Kingdom that are hard. The ones that don't have a lot of volunteers.

Ray had one of those jobs, the hardest of hard. And in a different way, I do too.

The struggle is to somehow find the task-master's presence enough to lighten the load. And to remember, and be at peace with, the breadth and importance of the task.

Ray did those things!!

And I pray these things for my life.

May Ray's example be my constant reminder and inspiration.

not alone and not afraid --


"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:29-30

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nora's Communion

Loved Ones,

Nora had her First Communion celebration today. It was a wonderful day, commencing with a celebratory church service and ending with a special celebration of family and friends.

No one would have loved this day more than Ray. In so many ways I could feel his joy today with our beautiful daughter and our special celebration.

Thank you to the many friends who surrounded our precious daughter and our whole family with love today.

not alone and not afraid --


"Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35

Monday, April 25, 2011


Loved Ones,

I think the discussions of Jesus' death on the cross at Easter bring up Ray's death for the girls. Lucy asked me today if she could write a cross on her forehead for her dad. I said of course, and she promptly did so, a pink one, sideways on her forehead. She did not use washable marker! And after I did my best to wash it off in the bath, she got out and wrote another one.

I am glad for any reminder of Ray for them. I wish it wasn't a reminder of his death, but I am so glad he feels close for Lucy.

She has not expressed too many outward signs of grief about her dad's death, just given her age, but thoughts of him were with her all day and she told me tonight how sad she was because she wanted to tell him something.

I said, let's tell him! Let's tell him, I'm sure he is listening.

She said, "can we open the window?"

So we opened the window and she called out to him that Meredith next door broke her arm and that Nora was getting a new desk in her room.

After a few more things, she settled in bed, with the window open.

I hear you girl. There are so many times that I wish I could tell Ray so many many things.

I felt the need for his presence especially this weekend too. At the Easter Vigil Service at our church I was received into full Communion in the Catholic Church. It was an enormously big step, one that I wished Ray was able to support me in. And the beautiful service reminded me so much of my wedding. There's a part in our wedding video, I've just arrived from down the aisle and we've taken our places at the kneelers in the front of the church. "How are you doing?" Ray asks me.

I wished so much he was at my side at that service, asking me how I was doing.

I pray that he was. And that my remembrance of him at our wedding was his way of sending me that little message. Just a little courage and solidarity along the way.

"How are you doing Lucy?" "Thanks for keeping me up to date."

not alone and not afraid --


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

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Message from Ray

We got your message Ray! The girls and their Grandad and I were painting our guest room this weekend. It is to be Nora's new room; Maggie and Nora having too much stuff to cram into one space. Grandad and I worked hard all day and we were almost finished. He suggested we just paint over the vent in the room, but I wanted to leave it white so he unscrewed the cover and lifted it off to find: NORA

A love note! A love note from her Dad written before he ever knew that this would be her room. Written when he thought he would be painting her rooms forever. But now, something linking her Dad to her present, her new room, the Nora that is growing older.

We do not always have the opportunity to tell our own story. Sometimes others have to carry on our legacy for us. How glad I am for actions like this that remind us of Ray. The Dad that painted his daughter's name inside the vent. A secret love note.

What is lost is found.

not alone and not afraid --


"Jesus answered, "He was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him." John 9:3

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Lucy

Loved Ones,

Today is Lucy's birthday. My sweet darling girl, not even two when her dad died, is four years old. My energetic, creative, strong-willed baby girl is growing up! How much her father would have loved to see her with goggles on swimming in the pool, talking about "fonge bob," writing her name in preschool, playing her barbies!

A few weeks ago Lucy was at her uncle's house and he offered to dance with her while she waited for her turn on the karaoke. Lucy was overjoyed. She danced and danced and flipped and smiled. Her uncle decided to get a drink of water and Lucy followed on his heels and stood and waited while he drank until she could pull him back to the dance floor. Likewise, last weekend at the pool, a friend's dad began playing wtih Lucy while he played with his son. I will not forget the sight of Lucy hanging over the pool rope with unadulterated joy on her face as her friend's dad threw her a toy to find in the pool or picked her up and helped her make a big splash.

The girls are very happy, well adjusted ladies. They are not somber. They do not not appear to be in mourning. But when they have the opportunity to play with a dad, it is the one time you can see what they are missing. They can't stop. They want to play and play. They have found what they need, what they are missing, the need they don't even think about or know, except when it is presented in front of them.

We have a choice in this world.

Everytime I see this situation play out I could be angry for my children. Angry that their wonderful father isn't here to shower upon them the attention and love that they need and deserve. Sad, that they are missing this so deeply, so greatly, so obviously.

I could think these thoughts every time. Forever.

I choose instead to be glad. So glad that I am there to give them everything I can. And in those moments where they can play with a dad, so glad that they can joyfully gain what they need. Glad at the joy in their faces when they experience what some children have everyday. Glad that they are not embarrassed, glad that they are joyful, unashamedly enjoying the love of someone standing in the gap. For a moment. For an hour.

To all those friends and family out there, the ones that say hello to Maggie and Lucy when they walk by them, cheer extra hard for Nora on the soccer field, put them on their shoulders, throw them in the pool, thank you. Thank you for being there for my children. Whether or not you knew their father, you can be sure that HE KNOWS YOU.

Happy Birthday Lucy girl.

not alone and not afraid --


"Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me." Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you." Isaiah 49:14-15

Monday, February 28, 2011

The New Life

Loved Ones,

I'm taking a class at church and during the class we reflect on the week's readings. A few weeks ago we reflected on a reading that spoke of the fact that God uses those who are weak, not those who are strong; foolish, not wise; to show that HE is responsible for the good, the wisdom, the strength in this world. The reading from Corinthians went on to say that "God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to noting those that are something, so that no human being might boast before God... so that it is written "whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord."

Our leaders asked what we thought of when we read these verses and I thought it sounded a lot like my life.

One of the things that is so unfathomable about our story is that it seemed like we had a lot more power to do good before. First, there were two of us, me plus Ray. And second, to phrase it in the words of this verse, we were "something." Not that we were anything powerful, but it seemed as if we were in a place where we were much more capable of doing a whole lot more.

And now.

In addition to losing Ray here, losing his human presence, a lot more has changed. I am nothing of what I was before. Such an event, is so person-altering. My understanding of the world, of God, of our place in the world. To say nothing of the fact that my life now bears so little similarity to my life before. How I spend my time, on what, with whom. It is all different.

In many ways my life has boiled down to two areas. But two areas that are very much alive. My girls. My faith.

So today, what I pour my energy and attention into are things that touch those areas. And thus, the way I impact the world, the people I touch, relate to those things. Far different than before, and I think one might say, in the eyes of the world, far smaller.

Last night I taught my daughter's religion class at my house. The nine little second graders filed in, and we studied the importance of scripture. Something that I well know. I didn't share with this class how, when I look at the blog from when Ray was sick, how what stands out to me, are the verses. How, even now, I am uplifted, just reading them. Knowing their strength, their hope, in those times when I could barely stand. I didn't share that with my second graders. But that perspective is in my heart. And as I talked to them, those days, that strength of scripture came across.

Our parent volunteer commented after the lesson. Wow, you are really connecting with those kids. They are really learning something. It's really inspiring.

And really, for all the energy I spent before, for all those much wider circles, what could possibly be more important than this?

To me, there is really only one response. TO. GOD. BE. THE. GLORY.

not alone and not afraid --


"Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." John 12:24

Friday, January 21, 2011

2nd Anniversary

Loved Ones,

As most of you know, today marks the 2nd Anniversary of Ray's death. We will be spending the day with family, both mine and Ray's, celebrating Ray's life. And I am glad for the occasion to celebrate him. I hope to make this anniversary this year and every year more about his life than his death. Last year I gave our families green crosses to commemorate Ray, this year, "remembrance" angels. I like marking the day with something, and having something to think of Ray with. I wished though that I could do something for Ray -- some gift to him. It is always hard to figure out what that would be -- something for his grave, something in my heart, something to carry his memory. One of the things I like about this day is the chance to spend time talking about Ray, much more than about his fighting cancer, but about him and who he was. There are so many people who miss him, and so many who will never know him. To talk about him brings him a little closer. And so I thought that my gift to him today would be to talk about him.

So. Today I am thankful to my sweetheart Ray for Maggie's twinkle in her eye. It is the same one that her father had. It is a joy to see and recognize. And I am so glad for his winks. All three of those girls have them! They wink at me and I see him! I am thankful that he taught me how to cherish family, and I am thankful for the family he gave me. I am thankful that he taught me about the Catholic faith; he was a living testament to it. I am thankful that he taught me and the girls how to be Southside Irish, to love the Sox and hate the Cubs, to listen to the Saw Doctors, and eat Irish brown bread. I am glad that he told me that Nora wouldn't have a heart attack riding a roller coaster, and that he rode one with her. I am thankful for White Lake! I am thankful for every memory he made with those little girls, jumping off rafts, riding double bike, watching Incredibles and Animal Planet. I am so glad he was good at sports, I think of him when I watch those girls play, that easy talent! I am so glad for his lightness, his humor, his good nature! I pray that those qualities are imprinted on the souls of those little girls! I am thankful that he told me, probably far too often, not to complain. I am thankful for his friendship and for sharing politics with him. What fun that was! I am thankful for how much he loved our friends and for the friends we had together. Most, I am thankful for the mark that he made on my life, the minutes we had together, the person that I was with him and am still because of him.

Our tenth wedding anniversary was earlier this month and the girls and I watched our wedding video. Ray had played a tiny secret joke on me in the ceremony and he was so entertained by it. It was so sweet to see and to see him savoring this and many other moments.

When I think of Ray that's what I think of: JOY. LOVE. FAITH. HAPPINESS.

I know my husband has all those things now. And I know he wishes them for us too.

I pray that on this day we will feel his presence even as we reflect on his absence. And that we will be comforted and inspired by the mark he has made on our lives.

not alone and not afraid --


"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, becasue the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor... 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 joy 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