Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

Loved Ones --

It's hard to say which day I miss Ray the most, but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are good bets.
When that first Christmas rolled around I talked on the phone to my mom the whole time I wrapped gifts.  The second one I just couldn't face and my cousin helped me wrap a few days before.  This time I was alone.  Oh I know that there are so many people alone!  Ray could be here and be in bed!!  And I would be up by myself!  But that wasn't how it was and it wasn't how I wish for it to be.

Our Nora was Mary in the Christmas pageant today.  We've come a long way from sitting in the crying room at Tommy More on Christmas Eve!  Nora said to me, "I've wanted to be Mary since I was in pre-school."  Oh the dear!  Our sweet sports loving Nora in her Christmas dress with her Mary costume holding that beautiful baby Jesus.  An angel.  With an angel for an audience.

This December has been a whirlwind.  There was that extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Why not fill it with a Washington trip -- cancer lobbying and visiting the White House all decorated for Christmas?!  It was a lovely trip.  Our Shimkus family got us right in to see the beautiful decorations and we loved it.  I wish the cancer research lobbying went as smoothly!!  Without a doubt I will persevere however!

Between the trip, my run for school board (Vote April 9!) and many many other activities December was filled to over-flowing.  If you know me well, you know of my Christmas chain, our December advent calendar of sorts, with a Christmas activity written on a chain link each day.  This year, even the chain went by the wayside on many a day.  Which says it all right there.  We kept that chain up every single day Ray was in the hospital that year!  This is the first time in my life as a mother that I have not kept up!

So as school came to a close, we holed up in the house and did all those things we didn't do this month.  We did all our crafts, we did our baking, we did our Christmas for animals.  The girls, like little sponges, soaking up all the traditions, all the anticipation for today.  And I was so relieved!  Redemption!  Not a perfect December.  Not the kind of December I want to give the girls.  But.  We continue to work together to make this all work, no matter how hard it is!

It's not a perfect Christmas.  Not a perfect anything.  But all of us, striving so hard to make beauty in brokenness.

More days like this I pray.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Christ has come!

not alone and not afraid --


“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Post Script

Loved Ones,

Tonight I spoke before a gathering of International representatives from the Vatican Council on Christian Unity and the World Evangelical Alliance about the Ray Fitzgerald Lectureship.

It was a beautiful night, blessed with many prayers and God's presence.  These scholars, dedicated to Christian unity, heard Ray's story and the vision of the Lectureship named in his honor.

I continue to be grateful to God for the evidence of his plan.  Ray's life and death, his faith in Christ and our faith together, continue to inspire the world.

I was telling Maggie about it and she said, did those people know Daddy?  And I said, THEY DO NOW.

Ray you continue to live on in this work.  Your life and your faith continue to inspire people you never even knew until now.  I am proud and inspired by your legacy!!

As we celebrated Ray's birthday with his family we participated in a mass in his honor at St. Thomas More Church.  The priest gave an impassioned homily about the Vice Presidential debate and the impact of faith on politics, he quoted from the candidate's words about abortion.  The girls eyes were wide, as they had watched the full debate with me a few nights earlier.  No one would have liked that homily more than Ray.

In these ways too, Ray lives on.

He lives on as the girls and I watch the debates, as I teach them about politics, as they continue to learn about their dad's impact through politics and most importantly through faith.

Like the Olympics, the Presidential Election is another every four years occurance.  We voted last time with Ray.  We did a mock election with Nora's kindergarten play group.

How grateful I am to spend four years with my girls.  How grateful I am to be able to watch the debates with them.  How grateful I am to be able to strengthen their faith as their dad did mine.

not alone and not afraid --


"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one." John 17:11

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Ray

Loved Ones,

Today would be Ray's 41st Birthday.  Boy do I wish we were just waking up to make him breakfast in bed!

Ray would be so proud of his girls.  They are hard at work in school and in soccer.  Maggie plays with number 13.  Two nights ago Nora and Maggie watched the whole Vice Presidential Debate.  They are avid watchers of the campaign and they are super smart!  And sweet Lucy is growing up too, liking Kindergarten and playing with her friends.

Ray is always with us.  We remember him always, we talk about him always.

This fall we were introduced to a new organization, Mommy's Light.  The organization was founded to help kids remember a lost parent.  The girls completed an interview where they talked about their memories of their Dad and then they picked a special tradition that the organization will facilitate every year to help them honor these special memories. 

Five years ago, Ray took Nora to a White Sox game just by themselves.  It was the kind of tradition he would have kept up through the years and that is what the girls picked.  So two weeks ago we went to one of the last home games and remembered Ray.  It was a very special night filled with special memories.  The girls loved it and the White Sox won!

Work also continues with the Ray Fitzgerald Lectureship launched last year on Ray's 40th Birthday weekend.  The Lectureship Committee is planning for a 2013 event in the spring.  And next week I will have the honor of speaking to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity about Ray and the vision of the Lectureship -- bringing greater understanding and unity to Protestants and Catholics.  I know Ray woudl be pleased and honored.

We are grateful for the continued prayers and thoughts of so many.  Though the rages of grief are far behind us, our special Ray left such a large hole that remains.

We'll gather with Ray's family this afternoon for a mass and to wish him a Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday Ray.  We love you and miss you dearly!

not alone and not afraid --


"He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations"  Psalm 105:8

Friday, August 17, 2012

4 Years Later

Loved Ones,

This week marked the end of our summer as the girls went back to school.

We had a lovely summer, if short!

All three girls swam on the swim team.  I was so proud of their accomplishments and tenacity in the pool.  This part of our life bears almost no relationship to the time when Ray was here - it feels so familiar to us - but so different from our life with Ray - swimming in the pool -- but then with babies in tow.

But for other parts of our summer, Ray was constantly on our mind.

We returned to Michigan, where we vacationed with Ray 4 years ago.  Nora remembered the boat ride we took with Ray.  And he was constantly on my mind.  We swam in the same pool, had smores on the same beach, climbed the same steps, ate at the same restaurants - one depicted on this blog.

And we cheered the Olympics with him in mind.  Still Michael Phelps.  Still a champion!

This week Lucy, our youngest, went to Kindergarten.  Like I did four years ago when our oldest went off to kindergarten, I volunteered at the school for her first day.  I remember volunteering with Nora like it was yesterday.  I remember my thoughts.  I remember my state.  What would the future hold?

At the time, my thoughts were marked with fear and incredulity.

This time around, I know what the future can hold.  And I wonder, what will life be like four years from now?  What will transpire?  What things will be unexpected?

And thus, when watching the Olympics, I take note.  What will I remember in four years?  Who will I be glad I watched with?

I am thankful for the peace I have even in this knowledge.  I am thankful to be watching the Olympics, volunteering at school on this day.  I am thankful.  And I treasure these thoughts in my heart.

not alone and not afraid --


"For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you,  because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction." 1 Thessalonians 1:4

Monday, July 2, 2012


Loved Ones,

One of the things about time marching on is that over time as we do things without Ray, those things lose some of their close association with Ray.

For example, the first time we went and got bagels after church without him it seemed unbearable.  Over time, it became more normal.  It is all the first times, and second times, and third times that I think of him so much, miss him so much.

One of the great joys for our family this summer is the Olympics.  The girls are super sporty and super competitive and along with cheering along the women's soccer team -- that we just saw play in May -- we are cheering on all the Olympic athletes.  From cereal boxes to magazine and newspaper articles, if it is Olympics we love it.

I am so grateful for the fact that the last person the girls watched the Olympics with was Ray.

This is the first time without him.

There aren't that many firsts left.  But joy of joys, four years ago, the girls watched Michael Phelps with Ray.

It means so much to me.  When I watch them cheer Michael Phelps I think of that.  I hold those moments in my heart!  And I do my best to ensure that they will hold them in theirs. 

I can't believe all the changes since then.  Maggie was a baby never mind Lucy.  Now, all three of them are on their OWN swim team!  Swimming their own races just like Michael Phelps.

Later this summer we will travel to Michigan with my family.  We did this four years ago with Ray as well.  The same beach.  Watching the same Olympics.

It's hard to remember!  That's one of the funny things, sometimes it's easier to forget because it's so hard to focus on it.  So hard to miss him.  But I am glad that the Olympics happen so seldom and that they fell on that summer.  Even in 12 years, it will only be our third time without Ray.

And we will always remember!!

Oh to know Ray's thoughts when he looks down from heaven.  I know he would be so proud of his little swimmers and their hopes to someday be Olympians.  And I pray that they always feel that in their hearts.

not alone and not afraid --


"Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever." Psalm 112: 6

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Memorial Day

Loved Ones,

This time of year always has special significance for me.  It was just around Memorial Day that Ray was diagnosed with cancer.  I'll never forget -- we were at Nora's graduation from preschool and Ray was just back from some tests -- it was before the specter of cancer was even on our landscape, but I was worried.  And he came back from the tests, and he looked fine!!  And we went to the graduation.  And when I watch the video from that day I hear his regular old voice.  And then everything changed.

I'll go to Lucy's graduation from preschool this week.  The same playground.  A different world.

We've been SO busy this spring with soccer.  SO busy!  Four teams between the girls, our weekends sometimes have seven soccer games.  It is insanely busy, we run from one to the next.

This weekend is the end of soccer for Lucy and Maggie, Nora has a few more weeks.  I realized tonight as things slowed, how much being busy is easier for me.

It is the slow times, the times when we are sitting in the backyard eating and the girls begin to play, that I really miss Ray.  What would it have been like to sit in the backyard together and watch the girls?  There are so many things that we just never did.  Or didn't do enough.  I can hardly remember what it was like to have him as a companion on this journey.  And I miss it.

I hope and pray for slow times this summer.  YES.  We will fill it up with swim team!  And t-ball for Lucy!  And everything else.  But I also pray for slow times.  And the strength and courage and peace to enjoy them even missing Ray.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."  John 14:27

not alone and not afraid -


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Advocating for Cancer Research

Loved Ones,

This week I went to Houston to advocate for gastric cancer research.  It was a milestone, in so many ways.

When the girls were little I worked as a consultant and traveled frequently to D.C. to lobby in the health policy arena.  Each trip was the subject of much anxiety though and when Ray died, I resolved that I wouldn't travel again without the girls.

It wasn't just that I don't like traveling.  It was the fact that I was alone now and that traveling seemed to put the girls at risk of greater loss.

I don't like risk!  Not for myself.  Not for them.  Much of my life, I control to try to avoid this, or any other risk!

And thus, my trip to Houston, with just me and Lucy, was a big step.

It wasn't that I thought there was no risk!  How well I know that there is!  As I thought it through the night before it was that, there was risk.  But that there always is!  That risk can fell us in our beds.  No additional action required!

And thus, I resolved to take the risk.  And trust that God would be there -- whatever the result.  I find this trust difficult on a daily basis and that decision and mindset was a victory in itself.

The trip itself was uneventful, but the cancer meeting I attended was meaningful.  This May will mark four years since Ray was diagnosed with cancer.  How well I remembered that time as I walked the hallways of MD Anderson, the cancer center Ray and I visited for a second opinion on his prognosis and treatment.

And yet his doctor and I met on Wednesday not with sadness but with amazement.  It seems the research to sequence the genome of diffuse gastric cancer is about to begin.  This research we have advocated for during the last three years.  This project which has met and overcome such hurdles, is about to begin.

I KNOW my husband is proud!  I know that he is proud of how hard we worked!  I know he is proud that this research can make a difference.  I know he is proud of the constant and tireless advocacy we have directed to this project and the continued future for this research and the future for patients just like him who have so few options.

And I know he is proud of his wife who surmounted her fears, who trusted her God to keep her and the girls safe, so that she could fight on his behalf.

not alone and not afraid --


"I sought the Lord and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears."  Psalm 34:4

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Loved Ones,

Easter and Lent are huge at our house. When Ray was little he used to give up TV for Lent and for the last two Lents, the girls have decided to give up TV along with a slew of other things. They are cut from some cloth those kids! They are determined and they do not falter! TV, candy, red meat and several other banned things shall not touch their eyes and lips.

The truth is, that after watching Ray suffer and die, Easter just has more meaning.

I just cannot think of Christ without thinking of him. I just cannot think of taking up my own cross without thinking of that load he carried. So like Christ, he carried it so well.

It both inspires and terrifies me!

I am so grateful for Christ's victory. He made victory for Ray possible. Victory over death forever.

I was thinking back to right after Ray died and I felt that sense so greatly. Victory. Over death for him. Life again in heaven.

Oh I pray Christ's victory for each of us. That as we celebrate tomorrow - the joy of Easter from the desert of Lent - that we can claim Christ's victory. Over death. Over fear. Over all that divides us from him.

not alone and not afraid -


"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 his people's disgrace 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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lucy and Maggie's Birthdays

Loved Ones,

March is birthday month for two of the Fitzgerald Ladies. Today was Lucy's Birthday Party. She turns five tomorrow.

I was puttering around the house getting ready for the party and I just missed Ray. I remembered how for Nora's birthday parties I always gave him the job of the music when we played hot potato. He would download all the princess songs to his i-pod and he loved being the master of the music. I hate it so much that he wasn't doing the music for "Pass the Poison Apple" at Lucy's Princess and Knights party today. I know he would have loved it so much! He loved their parties!

These are the hard things to do without Ray! I get so used to the everyday. But the momentous occasions just aren't the same!!

I was at the grocery store the other day and "I'm Already There" by Lonestar was playing. It really made me think of Ray. And when I look at this picture of Lucy at her party, I see that sun in her hair and I think

I'm already there

Take a look around

I'm the sunshine in your hair

I'm the shadow on the ground

I'm the whisper in the wind

I'm your imaginary friend

And I know I'm in your prayers

Oh I'm already there

Oh Ray, I hope you were already there today.

not alone and not afraid --


"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

Friday, February 3, 2012

Oh the Joy

Loved Ones,

We've had contagious illness after contagious illness, rounds of antibiotics and other medicines, strep, coughs, colds, strep, strep. We keep catching things over again and so I am constantly disinfecting. So in addition to doctors and medicines, sleepless nights and humidifiers, I am buried in a mountain of laundry and an avalanche of cleaning.

Almost anyone who has ever met me or been in my house will vouch for me that these are not my strong suits. A speech to write, a game to coach, a class to teach, a meal to cook, ANYTHING but cleaning and laundry.

I am a slave to the washing machine, changing out each bed each night, washing every item of clothing over and over.

And here's what I have to say:

Oh the joy to be a slave!

I wish you could hear me say it to know that I am 1000 percent serious. Oh the joy to only have to worry about tedious tasks. I will take this mountain and this avalanche over any I have already climbed.

I am so grateful for the laundry and the cleaning and the packing of lunches and the driving.

Oh to have the only tiredness I face be that from climbing the stairs over and over, the worry over only the amount of hot water I've used.

I know how blessed I am to face only this. To have food on the table and clothes to wash and fold. To have an illness that can be cured by a round of antibiotics.

Having been to that other mountain, it is a constant struggle for me to not fear it's return. And thus I am grateful for strep. I am grateful for laundry. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be the handmaid for my beautiful and precious girls.

not alone and not afraid --


"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 4:6-7

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

3 Years

Loved Ones,

Saturday will be the third anniversary of Ray's death. We will spend the day with family, honoring Ray with Masses in his memory and thinking of him.

It's hard to believe that it has been three years since he died. For Lucy and Maggie, it's been more time without him than with him.

But his memory is large. Even though he is not here, he is a constant presence in our family. The girls pray each night for Mommy and Daddy, not distinguishing between presence here or in heaven.

They know who smiles like him, who likes milk like him, that he would be glad that we were singing silly songs, that he would be embarassed that we made a fuss. They know him.

After Ray died a friend wrote me a letter and said that after some time the grief would subside and I would feel the wound of his loss less, and simply be grateful for the time that he was here. I think that's true. Though I'll always wish he was with us, though I still miss him terribly, I am truly grateful just for the fact that he was here at all. That he marked my life. That he gave me the girls.

And I know that's true for many of you.

How grateful I am for the mark he made on the world. On our friends. On our families.

Ray. We are thinking of you so much on this anniversary and always.

Love always,


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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

Loved Ones,

We had a wonderful time at Disney. We sure remembered our time there with Ray four years ago, and we made very special new memories together.

We thank you for your love and friendship in 2011 and we look forward to 2012 -- we pray for a year filled with faith, hope, joy and love.

Tomorrow would have been our 11th anniversary. How grateful I am for Ray. His mark will always be on me and on our girls. He gave us each other, and because of this, our lives will always be full of joy.

not alone and not afraid --


My Uncle Sam read these verses at our wedding; how well they capture to me our task in walking this life on earth.

"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 on 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 forehead. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:4-9