Life often unexpectedly changes and since that Blog on January 21st I have not only gained a daughter but lost a dear friend.
Here is the piece I wrote on Facebook about Ray, I will never forget him or the gift his friendship was to me.
Twelve years ago I was a volunteer for VOCAL (Victims of Crime Assistance League) doing court support for victims. My good friend Maureen Tully was a Professional Counsellor for VOCAL and asked me to help a man called Ray. He was 58 years old then and had an intellectual disability but was very independent, living by himself in a flat and leading an active and rewarding life.
I got to know Ray and he was easy to love. It turned out he had gone to school with several of my uncles, so I feel we were connected even before I was born!! He had an easy going way about him, appreciated anything you did for him and loved music. He especially loved Maureen and The Tullys. He spoke of them often. He was always delighted by any news of them : )
Long after my VOCAL days were over, Ray was a special person that I loved to be with.
Ray was also involved with an organisation called Focus. It existed to help disabled people live independently. I was so impressed with their philosophy that I approached the CEO and was invited to go onto the Board of Management. I was on the Board for six years, the last year as the Chairperson. Ray was my inspiration. I know because of him I did make a difference.
Over the years I would take Ray out for a coffee, especially so once he moved into the hostel at the nursing home a few years ago. He has had a few health issues but he remained active and interested in life until his last couple of days. He was recently diagnosed with bowel cancer and had surgery about four weeks ago which he seemed to recover well from.
I just spoke to his sister who told me he became ill suddenly last Thursday night and went into hospital where he was diagnosed with double pneumonia. He was unconscious by Saturday morning and passed away late last evening.
His favourite outing was to his much loved Murrumbateman music club each month, where we would have a wonderful dinner together and enjoy an evening listening to live music. Then he would stay in my guest room for the night and I would take him home the next morning, as I did a week ago today. It was such an honour and pleasure to share so much of his life with him.
Every Tuesday night while Naomi was at karate I would take Ray out for a coffee. We'd go to the Southern Cross Club or the Hellenic Club. I know we both looked forward to it : ) Last Tuesday I took my new foster daughter Tish (8) with me to meet Ray. He was delighted by her antics and we had a wonderful time at MacDonalds. Such a precious memory to cherish. Then we went back to his tiny room and watched Packed to the Rafters (his fav show) with him until it was time to pick up Naomi. Tish sat on Ray's walking frame seat, which he never used anyway ; ) I sat on the end of his bed and he sat in his big armchair. He only recently bought his flat screen TV and had his personal phone connected, such blessings they were for too brief a time.
Ray had been married for eight wonderful years to Beatrix, who tragically died from breast cancer back in 1988 aged 34 years. That same year Ray's brother Owen was murdered. He was also 34 years old and left a four or five year old son behind.
Ray had known heart break and pain and yet his spirit was unmistakably joyful and thankful for his life. I know there was a great reunion in heaven last night, one that will last eternity.
It was such an honour and a privilege to know and love Ray, to advocate for him and to share his life story and his wise and wonderful ways. I made him a family tree and I know he would have had a huge welcome into heaven, Bea being first in line for her great love. Who can be sad about such a grand reunion of loved ones?
Till we meet again at the gates of heaven, thank you for everything! You were nothing but a blessing to me and I will miss you my dear friend. See ya :)