Sunday, December 9, 2012

Me with Mom last night

It’s Christmas again. But it’s the first one without Dad.

Over the last ten years we always remarked, “How amazing to have both parents still with us to celebrate Christmas!” We knew it couldn’t last forever. This Christmas we’re blessed to have Mom still with us—along with the joy and anchor she brings to all our lives.

My 93 year old father died four months ago on August 13 and left his wife of 73 years behind waiting to join him with the Lord someday. Frances Mary (Picard) Ray is now 91 years old and struggling to get her balance without Dad at her side.

My Mom (left) with her only sibling

Her parents divorced in 1924 when she was 3 years old and she was bounced around between 13 grade schools as she grew up with only one set of grandparents to provide any stability to her life. She married my Dad at 17 years old. Neither of them finished school.

My Mom’s stepfather knew Henry Ford II when he was in the Naval Training Academy near Chicago. Because of this providential acquaintance Ford hired my Dad to work in Detroit which is why we all live in this area still.

My Mom was beautiful, Dad noticed!

During a bout with illness and depression my Dad cried out to God to reveal himself, if he actually existed. A fellow employee approached Dad the next day at work with the announcement “Charlie, you need Jesus Christ in your life.” Mom had a similar conversion after hearing the Rev. Billy Graham. My Mom and Dad both became Christians of the Baptist tradition and it radically changed my parents’ lives. I was born a year later.

Only existing picture of their wedding

Mom pledged she would never allow her kids to have the miserable, insecure childhood she’d experienced. She was a stay-at-home Mom. We grew up never knowing what it was like to be alone. My two younger brothers and I lived in the same country house our whole lives (my older brother and sister had already grown and moved away). We never once came home from school without her greeting us with a smile and a snack before we dashed out to play.

Mom and Dad were always there. Their deep love for each other and us kids was the glow that made our childhood magical. She was not only the best of moms, she was also a loyal and devoted wife. Dad arrived home from work at 5:00 PM sharp every day and dinner was always hot and ready. The house was alway immaculate, the food good, and the ambiance full love and security.

Weekends were for church and us kids. Home cooked meals were on the table three times a day and stories read nightly by the fireplace before she tickled us all to sleep along with prayers. There was never much money but we never knew it because we were rich in every other way.

Mom with us Boys at Calvary Baptist Vacation Bible School

Us five kids have gone our separate ways but we all still live within 20 miles of Mom’s apartment. The family is wonderful and keeps her busy—including all the grandkids and great grandkids. She wants for nothing—except the earthly presence of the love of her life, Charles Robert Ray.

Baptists unhappily have no concept of the Communion of the Saints though I’m trying to slowly introduce it to Mom since it is such a wonderful reality. With the loss of Dad’s earthly presence, I am reminded how blessed I am to have discovered the Catholic Church. Baptist tradition looms large, having been the focus of life for the last 60 years. I’ve discovered its shortcomings, but it has been good for her and the family.

Dad and Mom about 4 years ago

She loves the Lord Jesus dearly, as did (does) Dad. It gives her great comfort, but how I pray everyone would know the fullness of the Christian life in the heart of the Catholic faith which is such a joy and comfort especially at the loss of loved ones.

A neighbor who lived on Napier Road next to us for sixty years—the last of the old neighborhood—died suddenly yesterday and I could see it rattled Mom. When you’re 91 years old all your friends and acquaintances have dropped from the tree like autumn leaves and there is a sense of numbing loneliness and sadness—winter coming on.

Christmas on Napier Road in our Childhood Home

This will be the first Christmas without Dad. He and Mom were the heart of it all with their warm embrace, not just in a smile and ready hug, but in their whole warm, welcoming, Christ-like demeanor. The old homestead is sold so there won’t be the familiar smell of smoke from the fireplace or the favorite birds in the snow under the feeders. Mom won’t be excitedly cooking with the soiled apron sending delectable smells wafting through the old house. Dad won’t say the long and heartfelt grace before the sumptuous dinner with his final “Dig in!”

Christmas 1964 (me left) with our new "Army Guy Uniforms"

I’m kind of glad I will be in Bethlehem this year over Christmas—it would be hard without Dad. Besides my beloved wife Janet, Dad was always my best friend. But my kids have prepared our home for the big day. Grandma will be surrounded here in our home with thirty-three members of our family—mostly her descendants. Twenty-one of them are from Janet and my family :-) As one generation moves on and new babies are born our family tree continues to grow toward heaven.

We will miss it all this year. We will be in the land that birthed our Lord who ultimately made our family the miracle it was and is.

Mom eating Breakfast at Tim's House

But I have a palpable sense of Dad’s presence since his death because I am a Catholic and I know Dad died in the arms of the Lord. The Communion of the Saints is rich and real and comforting. I like being able to remember and pray for my Dad during each Mass. I like knowing he is praying for us while he “shares a cup of coffee” with the Lord each morning. This is how we are to live our lives —ever in the awareness of God’s presence, angels surrounding us and the heavenly “cloud of witnesses” who have gone on before us cheering us on from the celestial grandstands.

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Mom with Tish (and Tim) this morning at St. Aidan's

We miss you Dad. We are glad we will see you again in glory. Mom, we’re glad you’re still with us for a time. Thanks for sacrificing your life for the family to give us the security and love you never had. Thanks for being the best of moms. In your remaining days before you join Dad, we will insure that you lack for nothing. We love you.

May the next year bring continued comfort and a deeper awareness of the riches of our Christian Faith and a continued practicing of the presence of God with his angels and saints.

Dad, pray for us.

{ 9 comments }

Manny Loses His Faith and his Fight

by Steve Ray on December 9, 2012

Dear Steve (written by a friend in the Philippines):

My name is Ivan and I don’t know if you will still remember me, I am the brother of Lafayette of Davao City, Philippines. I just want to share something which I hope you will find interesting.

Manny before...

Manny Pacquiao is a professional boxer from the Philippines who is currently the most popular boxer in the world. Everytime he fights, there is practically almost zero crime rate in the Philippines. His statistics are 54 wins, 4 loses and 2 draws, 38 by knockouts and is the only eight-division world champion in the world.

Everybody knows that Manny is very catholic. In all of his 60 fights, he always wore a rosary on his neck, prays in his ring corner when he gets up the ring, making the sign of the cross as most catholics do, kisses his rosary when it is removed from his neck before the start of the fight and makes the sign of the cross before the start of every round. He attends mass before a big fight and her mom always have a prayer group to pray for him during his fights back in his hometown in General Santos City, Philippines.

Then some evangelical pastors came into his life…

I would describe what happened as the 3 strike rule:

STRIKE 1. The fight was December 8. Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Holy Day of obligation. Did not attend Holy Mass and receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. He ditches the catholic mass for a christian service. Its like ditching your brand new Mercedes Benz for a 20 year old Honda Civic.

STRIKE 2. No more rosary in his neck, the rosary that he wore in all his 60 fights.

STRIKE 3. No more sign of the cross before saying prayers.

Manny now...

The outcome, he suffered the worst defeat of his career. He was knocked out i think for the first time since his career started to go up. Sure he lost some fights but not knocked out with 1 second left in the 6th round. He was literally asleep for a few minutes. He fell face down in the canvass, right in front of a mormom, Mr. Mitt Romney.

STRIKE 3 and he is out. (Video here)

Also another insight. His Mom might look like a clown on TV but she is 1 hardcore catholic woman. Problem is, now they are not on the same frequency with his son. So sad…

To Manny Pacquiao. You don’t need to change religion to show that you became a better person, a better catholic. You don’t need to change religion to start reading the bible or to start bible studies or preach the word of God. Come Home. Its never too late.

Anyway Steve, thanks for allowing me to share. Just need to take this off my chest. God Bless and keep up the great work! I’m a big fan.

God Bless, IVAN

http://www.rappler.com/sports/192-all-sports/boxing/17590-pacquiao-ditches-catholic-mass-for-christian-service

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