It’s been two years since my dad lost his battle with lymphoma.
Two years since I’ve seen his face. Two years since I’ve been able to talk to him. Two years since we’ve had a family dinner. Two years since I’ve been able to pick his experienced, wise brain about the day to day struggles of personal and professional life.
In that time both a lot has changed—and nothing has changed. So much has changed in my life, yet my struggle to deal with his absence has not.
But today, in reviewing my last correspondence with him, it did. In my old text conversations, I found one I saved from one of his colleagues who reached out to me when he heard the news:
I'm a former Oklahoma state student who worked with your dad at the student paper, the ocolly. I just recently found out about Ray's passing and was stunned. I remembered that he had given me your number a few years back for a trip I was taking to Columbus and I don't think I ever followed up, but I still had your number saved.
Your dad was one hell of a man. He really cared for all of us at the paper and wanted us to succeed. I wouldn't be the man I've been able to become without your dad's help. His passion for saving the ocolly in every possible way gave me the outlet to cut my chops and make mistakes. He always made sure that we had the creative outlet and control that we needed, all the while taking the brunt of the blame for the silly mistakes we made. He understood the gravity of his work as general manager of the student paper and handled himself with grace.
I admired his work ethic. He was tireless in his work, even during sickness. And most of all, his happiness. He always had a big smile on his face and it was contagious. It was impossible to go into his office to chat and not leave happier than you came in. I loved chatting with him about the ballparks he had been to and was planning on making next. I hope he was able to see them all.
One memory that I'll never forget is in 2012 when I had just gotten my dog. I had been bringing her to the newsroom with me many nights after Ray had left work. One night, Ray came in unexpectedly and my puppy bound towards him. I was certain in that moment I was in big trouble. What happened in that moment sort of stunned me. Your dad burst out laughing as my pup ran towards him and he showered her in affection.
I hope this message finds you well, I know grief is a funny thing. I've lost both parents myself. I can't really say anything you haven't heard, especially by this point. Ray cared deeply for you and Tony, he talked about you guys often. He was an incredible man.”
I realized if I turned my focus to the positive memories of my dad, the struggle pivots. It’s too easy to get caught up in feeling sad and helpless when it comes to the pain and suffering he experienced. How his life was cut short and why it happened to him instead of someone else…someone who “deserved” it.
Those happy memories don’t necessarily make it any easier, but it helps alleviate some of that burden that grief brings on.
I am eternally grateful to have heard this wonderful memory. I know my dad’s impact stretched to others, and that’s what’s important. Not his struggle. The time he spent here and all he accomplished, what he helped others accomplish.