April 16, 2005

Suzanne O'Neal camera.gif

Perhaps putting words to paper and seeing them in print is a reality that I have been hiding from for the past year. A year filled with bewilderment and shock. Writing makes something seem real and my reality has been some form of denial. However, with the arrival of the first anniversary of Ray's death, I feel I must come to terms and add my thoughts to this most incredible collection of beautiful memories of "OUR" Ray.

I was one of the lucky ones to take a role as mother in Ray's life. He was very fortunate because there were many of us who had the privilege of this role. As Ray Sr. was single for most of his adult life, there were many of his friends who participated in helping form the adventures and help build the fine young man that Ray became. Ruth, Sally, Vicki, Ellen, Janet, Debbie, and the mothers of Anthony and Ron are the first that come to mind. We think of Ray as apart of us and feel the great hole his missing presence has left.

When Ray, Sr. and I got married I had already been blessed with tow wonderful sons and was so thrilled to add a third. When I walked into a room with the three of them, heads actually turned as those three gorgeous boys made such a presence together. i remember the first time Ray introduced us to his friends as "I'd like you to meet my Mom and Dad" and how proud I was that he felt he could call me Mom.

Ray and I had many private times together, just the two of us. He would be very trusting to share his thoughts, ideas, and concerns with me. He always wanted to talk about where to take a date and what should be in the picnic basket. We would work together to make the best picnic ever possible. Somehow, when Sophie arrived in Ray's life, I knew something was different. He seemed not to need instruction anymore as his true heart guided him every step of the way.

Three days beofre the tragedy of young Ray O'Neal, Ray Sr. and I had decided to rent the movie Migration of the Birds. When we put the DVD on it started with a scene that certainly did not resemble the movie we thought we were going to see. When we checked the container, we saw that by mistake they had given us Whale Rider. We decided to go ahead and watch the movie, and as many of you know it was really excellent. A story unfolded about the Maoris in New Zealand and their life and beliefs. They see life and death through the Whales. After thoroughly enjoying the movie, we returned it thinking no further about it.

Three days later we received the most dreaded phone call to all parents - our son had been injured. Several hours later we faced the horrible reality that Ray had been killed. A Memorial was planned and his friends started arriving from all over the world. The speeches for Ray were like none I have ever heard before. Through this great outpouring of love and admiration, Rosie will have a glimpse of how much everyone loved and respected her Daddy. After such an emotional memorial, I walked over to the window at the St. Francis Yacht Club. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I thought I saw a whale frolicking outside the window. First of all, a whole would not come into such shallow water and second of all, whales don't make a habit of coming into San Francisco Bay period. I was embarrassed to say anything as everyone would think I was crazy. However, after several seconds, many others exclaimed over the sighting of the whale. Indeed he was there in all his glory. Since we had just seen the movie Whale Rider and since it was a mistake in the first place to have the movie given to us, I will never ever let go of the belief that it was Ray trying to tell is that everything was o.k. After all, we all know Ray was as comfortable in water as on land. The coincidences are must too weighted.

Easter of 2004, not long after the memorial, we visited good friends who live right on the ocean. The water literally splashes up on their windows from time to time. It is a dramatic setting and I had gone over to the window to look out to sea. Low and behold, I thought I saw a whale again. This time however, seeing whales at sea in this location would not be unusual except that it was unusually close in. It was, in fact, must too close to be normal and no one can remember seeing anything like it before. The whale proceeded to put on quite a demonstration, turning and twisting in a spectacular show. Water was splashing in great frothy plumes and a dance right out of the best ballroom class in the world was being presented. We were all so close we could almost feel the droplets of the splash on our faces to mix with our tears. Linda, Mike, their daughter Shannon, Justin and his friend, Ray and I all were screaming Ray, Ray, Ray. Father, Ray shouted "It's my son" and Justin yelled, "It's my brother." He dramatically soared out of the water seven times before he started to swim away. WHAT A VISION! We took turns watching him after he left the front of the house, but he never came up again. We watched for about 20 minutes in silence - hoping for more, but each of us knowing we had observed something very special in our lives.

We now have a beautiful whale statue that Linda and Mike have given us and some other whale memorabilia appear around the house. We fell blessed to have had these experiences and have taken great comfort in them. Perhaps now when each of you reading this see a whale, let it bring a good memory of Ray to you. I truly believe he is with us.

We as a family also wish to thank each and every one of you for giving us these beautiful words and sharing with us your part in our son's life. It is my greatest hope that we will all be comforted with the stories and the continued effort to keep Ray with us every day.