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about Ray



Ray and I went to a funeral yesterday. We knew the widower as he is a member of our Lions Club. Sadly, although we had met his wife it was as a lady in a wheelchair who hardly spoke and never smiled. She had had severe dementia for the past four years. Imagine then how our view of her changed when we heard the eulogies. She had been a Radio Operator in the Women's section of the Australian Airforce in the second world war, had been a department head in a large department store, had run her own business etc. Added to this she helped raise her nieces and nephew as her sister was ill and she had taken over their care for long periods of time etc. Then she met her husband aged 40 and their story went on from there.


This made me think about people who may meet Ray now. How do they see him? We as his family know all the old stories, have known him from his late twenties, early thirties (the kids) his early twenties (me) or since as far back as they can remember (some of his cousins). So his attributes, assets, weaknesses, those things that made him uniquely Ray are known to a large number of people to a greater or lesser degree. Mind you some know little of his struggles over the past seven years as they do not keep in touch with us.


Today's chat I was speaking with mfrank. We talked about jobs and he has a lot in common with Ray. They were both carpenters and then frank was a Wildlife Officer and Ray was a Fisheries Officer here in Australia. Of course they have both also had strokes and both still live at home with a caregiver/wife. That made me stop and think about Ray and how we have travelled together the 38 years of our married life.


When I met Ray he was working as a storeman/carpenter for one of his mates fathers in a small business in the Blue Mountains. He had done his apprenticeship on the Railways ( carpenter/joiner) and then worked a few other jobs before arriving where he lived when I met him. I met him at a dance in a hall not far from where his mother lived. I went to dances most Friday and Saturday nights. Most of these were charity fund-raisers or teen club dances held in local halls. The entry fee was nominal, there was a sandwich supper and the music was from local old-time bands. If I got a lift there and back and had enough to buy a drink and pay my entry you would find me there.


Ray came home to his mothers house most weekends and so we met at the dances. I guess it wasn't love at first sight but we liked each other, danced well together etc. He came home to meet my parents, I met his and we got engaged and then married . We set up house close by to where he worked but the boss got cranky and he lost that job. We came back to the coast, he took work as a journeyman/carpenter and we went on to raise a family. He joined the Fisheries Department and we had three districts in a 14 year period before that job went over a silly political move and then he went back to his trade as a carpenter again.


I think Ray loved working as a Fisheries Inspector more than anything else he did in life. He was good at the job. He could give out a fine and tell the person why they had done something that would spoil the future fishing for others without them getting offended. Sure he had some close encounters with violence and had a gun pointed at him a few times but he came through it all unscathed. He loved the job, liked the people he worked with but the never ending trail of paperwork and the political nature of policing what were sometimes silly regulations undermined him in the end.


Ray was always community minded as were his parents so he joined a service club and that made us friends wherever we went. His handiness with tools made him a popular friend too; windows broken, door won't lock? Call Ray. He always said "Right oh, be there soon." and so he was very popular. We still have friends from every phase of his life. He made them, I kept them by sending letters, making phone calls and now by doing it all by email.


It is not sufficient to say that Ray was/is a good man. He was more than that. He wanted to make a difference to his community. He wanted to be of help to family and friends. Sure our grass would be knee high in our back yard but poor Widow X needed help and off he would go. Got to love that man. And being in the service clubs made a huge difference to our stay in country towns. And through church suppers and other social events and Sunday school efforts where Dads were obliged to attend he also got to know and love God and became a fine Christian husband, father and church helper.


If you saw Ray and I in a shopping centre now, with him in a wheelchair and me pushing it what would you see? Two past middle aged people, one afflicted and the other one taking care of them? I think that is what most people would see. But I and a few family members and old friends see Ray as he always was, the fine man who loved his family and served his community well. I wanted to tell you some of this, rather than leave the telling for the hopefully still far-distant eulogy.


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I'm glad you wrote this. I think it's a good thing to remember the ties that bind couples together and your essay has helped us all to know the Ray that you do. Your last line shocked my because as I was reading it 'eulogy' did pass through my mind. I agree, let's celebrate his life now, while it really matters.



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I loved your essay about Ray, I am glad you did it, now I know previous healthy, helping Ray who has married woman who has stuck by him for all those great qualities in him, and I bet he still has those qualities in him




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