February 25, 2015

11 Years

Crazy, isn’t it? 11 years. This time each year I go through our pictures to find one for an In Memoriam notice, even though I always end up selecting the same one: Ray & Rose on Yankee, practicing their knots. But I love going through them all. So many fun memories – boats, beaches, and bars. So many great times with great friends. In the last few years he’s always holding Rose. Mind-blowing to see the vivid life in his face, so full of joy. He was so damn young.

Each year I also read through this site again (thank you thank you thank you Dean, it brings me such joy). It takes a few hours to go through it all, but I love every minute. So many stories, so many people he touched, so much love. Thanks to everyone who shares a story about Ray. I also love the posts from ‘strangers’ who’ve found the site and Ray through Andrew Daddo’s wonderful book It’s All Good.

I will be escaping down the coast soon, to our usual memorial runaway. But this year for the first time on my own, since Rose has finals and can’t get out of school. She’s so happy there, I’m OK with that. She is amazing – tall, of course, and so smart. Endlessly curious, sweet, thoughtful, adventurous, caring, and goofy. Plays basketball – much better than her daddy did, it was the only sport he sucked at ;-). She’s in a year-long woodworking class: it’s fantastic to watch her concentrating over a lathe, shaping her own creation. The teachers love her: her dedication, her excitement in both the process and the results. He’d be so proud.

I’m taking It’s All Good along for company this week, re-reading it for the gazillionth time. Thanks & much love to Andrew for that gift.

This year I had a really wonderful experience: I spent a long weekend in New Orleans with many of Ray’s Tulane ‘brothers’ and their families. Wish everybody could have been there. So much fun to get a glimpse of his crazy past – although I barely made it through 3 raucous days, I don’t know how they all survived college! But the non-stop laughter, energy, teasing, and drinking!, the easy camaraderie and genuine love – I could see what a great Family they really are, and what a big influence that family had on Ray. Thanks so much guys: thanks for who you were in Ray’s life, and thanks for staying in Rose’s & mine.

Thanks also and much love to all of you reading and remembering. Go hug your own families and loved ones. Remember my Ray.


February 24, 2009

Fishing in the Mountaints camera.gif

One of the many Ray notes I have, this one still stuck inside a kitchen cabinet, is a postcard he sent us from a fishing trip. In his Ray-spelling he wrote “Hi My Love I hope your having a good time, I’m fishing in the mountaints & look forward to sharing this spot with you both. We’ll have a great time sailing on Sat. LOVE you. Rose – don’t forget your life vest, its in the garage hanging on the drawrs.” He drew us a picture: a stick figure fisherman Ray, with a very big fish at the end of his line. Over his head is a thought bubble of three little stick figures, holding hands.

Sometimes I like to think that’s where he is, fishing in the “mountaints,” thinking of us.

How can it be five years? How can he be gone?

Rose is 9 now. This birthday was so hard for me, one of the hardest ‘milestones’ we’ve faced together. To know that from that point on, and more so every day, she has lived more days without him than she had days with her beloved daddy. That’s so wrong.

I wonder sometimes if I push remembering him too much. But I ask her, and she says I don’t. Mostly it’s those offhand, little things, that strike me – like this weekend, the way she always makes her special French toast is his way. They loved to cook together. She likes to be reminded. She sometimes will remind me, or tell me something I didn’t know, about him and their time together. Mostly she’ll do that when I tell her it’s ok if she can’t remember very much. Even I forget sometimes, the entirety of him. It’s those sharp, deep fragments that make up my remembering now. But there is no option for me but to remember, he was my Ray.

We went to Yosemite last weekend, our annual gathering. It was spectacular, more snow than I’ve ever seen, so much fun. When we were on our way home she was happily telling me how lucky we were: so lucky to have the cabin to go to, so lucky to have such a great family, to have so many fun things to do together – sledding, ice skating, the snow ramp Uncle Blaise & Uncle James made on the back porch. I added how lucky she was to have such wonderful uncles, who do things with her that her daddy would have done. And she said, wonderingly, “he would have?” It killed me. How can she not know? I know that’s unfair, but it hurts.

I don’t mean in any way to take away from our wonderful life, how lucky we are, the many friends and family that we have who love us, who contribute to both of our lives. Or to take away from what a special person Rose is – believe me, she’s not just amazing because of how much she’s like Ray, she’s incredible in her own right. And I know her remembering and her knowledge of Ray is a deep and important part of her. But of course I want more.

I’ve just re-re-read through all the wonderful postings on this site, thank you. It’s good to remind myself that the stories, the little moments, the connections ARE good, are important, are part of what we all try to learn from Ray. It’s important to tell your loved ones that you love them. Rose knows that her daddy loved her, knows that she is a lucky girl to carry him inside her. In many ways she doesn’t need me to tell her these things. But then again, she does. We all do. We need the stories.

Rose and I are heading out today, another ritual, our annual runaway, to go where the ocean and sky are big enough to help get us through the horrible day. Just being there, just living, IS remembering.

Remember Ray. Tell someone you love them. Tell a Ray story.

February 24, 2008


I picked Rose up last night from her carpentry class. Yup, you read that right. She's taking classes at the Randall Museum, a wonderful hobbyist's dream location in the woods, with a gorgeous big workshop full of workbenches & heavy machinery & power tools. Glassed in on two sides, so I stood outside and watched for awhile. She's building a boat (I'm not supposed to know that) and was fiercely concentrating as she hammered & clamped & glued. Oh, you can imagine, a bit, how I felt watching her - overwhelming love, and joy, and inexhaustible sadness.

I used to think I fell on the "nurture" side of the famous equation - I believed that most formative influences on a person's character came from their environment. But I am so delighted to witness the supremacy of "nature". Rose is so much Ray's child. Carpentry, camping, playfulness, and natural athleticism. And her nature, her spirit, brings me such joy - she is an amazing child: thoughtful, curious, open to the world's wonder, a wanderer. But the part of her that is most like my Ray is her enduring sweetness. She tucks love notes into my pockets. She makes me breakfast. She sent me to work one day with a bag of treats - including a spray of flowers and a ziploc with a votive candle & matches (for that serene moment at my desk?). She takes care of me when I'm sick.

Four years. Remember high school, college - 4 years was such a momentuous, significant, eternity of time. Four years without my Ray? How can that be.

To all our beloved friends and family who've reached out, and who've held us close - thank you. Please forgive our hibernation, and know that we love you, we know you love us, and we know you love our Ray.

November 09, 2006

10 Years

10 years ago today, my true love asked me to marry him.

What a day. What a night. (ouch) what a night before.

10 years. Ten years. Such a good, long, substantial, solid amount of time.

But. Except. If only.

Happy anniversary My Love.

June 11, 2006


Happy 40th birthday, my love

December 12, 2005

Early xmas present

Rose & I received the most amazing gift this weekend. We were cleaning up our cluttered living room to make way for the xmas tree and our millions of decorations. Something compelled me to tackle a shelf full of old magazines & random papers. In the midst we found a card from Ray, a xmas card, written our last xmas together. It's a memory note - we used to love to write those to each other. They're a long-winded way of saying I love you, full of memory bits, story fragments, signposts of adventures we shared and significant or small details of our lives together, reminders of so many moments of joy. I am so lucky to have several long notes like this, to have Ray's own lists of moments, to remember how happy he was, that he had so much fun & love in his life.

I can't even read it. Rose & I promised to give it to each other on xmas, I'll probably have to have her read it to me even then. What a man he was, my husband, my love.

November 09, 2005


The morning of November 9th, 1996, I woke up with a killer hangover. We'd been out the night before at a "goodbye" party for Ray's first in-the-office boss at Mortenson (hey Kurt Messerli wherever you are, thanks!), which was the first time I met most of that rowdy crew, and boy did we have a good time. Too good of a time. Ray got up, muttered something about going out to get us bagels, I put the pillow over my head and went back to sleep.

What seemed like a shortwhile later, he undertook the unpleasant exercise of routing me out of bed. Man did I make it hard on him. Girlfriend from hell -- whining, moaning, feeling very sorry for myself. And he was all excited about going on a big hike? He wanted to take the ferry to Angel Island. It probably took me an hour to get dressed. Whining the whole time. And when he called to confirm the ferry times and found out they weren't running that day...I was happy for about 10 seconds until I saw Ray's sad little face. He was *crushed*. So we talked about alternatives, and finally hit on Mt. Tam. I'm sure I slept in the car.

We drove to the top of Mt. Tam, a gorgeous winding road on a beautiful, crystal-clear day. Parked in the top-most lot, and started our "hike" around the path towards the peak facing SF. Ray was dutifully hauling our big hiking backpack, which he must have packed while I got dressed ... so immediately I start whining "don't you have something to FEED me with in there?" He told me he did, that I should keep going around the bend, and that he'd meet me at the lookout point.

I stood on the point, the beauty of the day and the view seeping into my foggy brain. Ray came up behind me, put his arms around me, and began to tell me how much the view meant to him. That all around us were our life, our love, our support, our future. Standing in Marin where I grew up, where my grandparents live. The East Bay where he grew up, his dad & Suzanne live, and my alma mater. Daly City with my "other mother" Nini and beloved Uncle Gerry, who was a big part of Ray's life then too. And our City, where we met, where we lived, where we fell in love, where we were building our lives together. And then he stepped back, and said my name. My full name.

I turned around to see him down on one knee, with a red rose in his hand, and he asked me to marry him. My oh-so-appropriate response was to wail RAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY and to start to cry. I did manage to say Of course I will!!!!!!!!!!, and then when he handed me the rose I noticed the ring inside it...at which point I said something TOTALLY inappropriate and accidently snapped the rose off its stem. Whoops. I (of course) still have that rosebud. & the cork from the champagne bottle he'd packed too.

Turns out, he hadn't gone to get bagels (nor had he been gone a short while). He'd driven out to Daly City. When Gerry saw him drive up, he opened the front door, Ray still at the bottom of the stairs, and said "hey Ray, what are you doing here?" and Ray couldn't even make it up the stairs "Iwanttoaskforsophie'shandinmarriage". Delighted, Gerry & Ellen of course made him come upstairs, made him breakfast, calmed him down, he stayed with them for quite a while. Uncle Gerry loved to tell that part of the story.

So how did my oh-so-romantic husband want to spend the rest of the day? Besides having to hear me apologize endlessly for my extremely bad behavior all morning, and gush about how incredible and perfect he was and how I was the luckiest woman on earth? He wanted to go be with my grandparents. So after a long walk, we drove down the other side of Tam, and went to tell Baba & Grandfather. Aunt Janie was there too, and we ordered in pizza -- not something my grandparents were used to doing. Baba of course gloated that she KNEW Ray was the one from the beginning, when I called to tell her about our first date.

We knew my mom & Bob were at the Commodore's Ball at the St. Francis that night. But we couldn't put it off any longer, and Ray insisted we tell them in person. So we crashed the blacktie affair. I'll never forget standing in the lobby of the club, us both in cut off jeans & hiking boots, and my mom in her ballgown sweeping down the curved stairs in a panic to be summoned from the dance ... and then bursting into tears at the sight of us, 'cause she figured it out too.

My love. Even at my worst, he loved me. No worries that he didn't know how much of a bitch I could be! He'd seen it all. And he never failed to surprize me, to delight me, to overwhelm me with his thoughtfulness, his sweetness, his love. Happy Engagement Anniversary, baby.


July 05, 2005

8 years ago

Here's the first saved message on my voicemail at work:

Good morning my love, happy anniversary!

I just wanted you to walk into the office with the message

to let you know that being married to you has been one of the most wonderful things in my life

and it's just absolutely amazing the relationship that we have together

and then also the relationship that we have with our daughter as well


it's been absolutely amazing and

I'm looking forward to a wonderful lifetime together

alright baby

dig you


There are more. That was from our 3rd anniversary. Today would be our 8th.

I wish I knew how to turn them into a .wav file or something to share on this site, to hear his beautiful voice, so tender & full of love. They're so painful to listen to, but I'm grateful to have kept his voice, just a few of the many messages he left, almost all starting with "good morning my love" as he'd leave them while he was on his way to work, just calling to tell me he loved me. My husband. My love.

This is how I always felt
The Dance.jpg
on Yankee.jpg Our crew.jpg So happy.jpg

Our First Married Day
First married day.jpg

June 11, 2005

Happy Birthday My Love

Today would have been Ray's 39th birthday (and is Martin Rambusch's, happy b'day Martin!).

On his 29th birthday, our first together, I made Ray dinner. That's a biiiiig understatement. We both talked about this meal for years.

Ray and I had been together for less than 3 months, and had just returned from our extremely memorable motorcycle trip up from LA to SF. I was freelancing and had a lot of free time in my schedule, so I spent the day shopping and cooking. I cooked Indian food, some of my favorites, and made enough for a good-sized party. Chana saag, bengan bhartha, some fancy chicken curry, daal, naan and poori, homemade raita. It was pretty obscene.

At that time Ray was a carpenter, working out past Livermore, so he'd leave the house at 4:30 each morning. That day he came home to a tiny apartment filled with food. Candles everywhere, tablecloth spread out over the floor. We sat on the floor and ate and ate, with our hands of course, in honor of our first dates. And ate some more. Then, finally sated, Ray pronounced it one of the best meals he'd ever eaten. And with an absolutely beatific smile, he gently slid sideways to the floor, and fell soundly asleep. And I sat amidst the wreckage of my romantic dinner, and thought about what true happiness means.

Happy birthday my love.

March 21, 2005

10 years ago (loooooong story)

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of our first two dates. Yep, 2 in one day.

Ray and I met in a boxing aerobics class at the World Gym in Potrero Hill. So, about 3 1/2 weeks ago was the first day we met.

Midway through class, the woman I'd been working out with had to leave. So I looked around the large gym through about 60 hanging heavy bags, and saw in the far back corner a guy all alone working a bag. So, full of myself, I jogged over to him, put up my gloves, and said something seductive like "hi, c'mon". He, of course, dropped his gloves & looked down at me like I was nuts. I said, "c'mon!" again, so he -- gently, tentatively, I'm sure totally pulling his punch -- threw the first punch into my glove...and as my arm rocked back & my shoulder started to throb, I dimly realized the error of my ways...but damn was he cute...

He didn't talk to me for two weeks. I teased him mercilessly about that in the years to come.


February 24, 2005


Last year, today was Mardi Gras. and we celebrated in a big way, our-family-style. Silvia dropped Rose off at Ray's jobsite, which she loved, getting to work with daddy. I met them for dinner, we all put on our beads, and went to see Cavalia. It had just opened in SF, its US debut, here for a limited engagement. You could see the big white tents from all over the City. When we'd seen the ad for the show in the paper we thought we were dreaming, it had to have been designed exclusively for Rose -- a "circus" solely comprised of trapeze artists and HORSES?!!! and it *was* magical, we had an amazing evening -- music and lighting like cirque du soleil, and incredible acts ranging from wild west/rodeo trick riding to a real 'horsewhisperer' who had a team of beautiful horses wheeling and dancing using his voice alone. Rose cried at one point, she wanted so badly to go in the ring with them all. and afterwards we waited until most people had left because Ray hoped to sweet-talk someone into letting Rose pet the performers -- they didn't, but she reminded me of this act just a few days ago, it's one of those wonderful precious memories that she alone carries, remembering how much her daddy loved her and wanted everything for her.

This afternoon, Rose & I are going to run away. I just can't bear to be in our house on the anniversary of Ray's death, can't even stand to wake up tomorrow in our beloved City. I asked Rose what she wanted to do, and she said "go camping". Of course. So we're heading to one of our old fishing holes, a place we can stay inside with a fireplace (camping in Feb? I'm not *that* adventurous), pretend the day doesn't exist. Be in nature. Only talk about the good times. Look at pictures of our three-family. Tell her lots of Ray stories.

To all of you out there who will be remembering and mourning our Ray on this horrible day, thank you, thank you for your love of Ray and your love & support of Rose & me. Spread a little Ray-sunshine around in your life. Kiss your loved ones. Tell lots of good Ray stories.

February 22, 2005

You're the best, Anth

and I've gotta just send out a plea to all the rest of you -- tell me some stories. I just can't express to you the aching loneliness of not having Ray stories, of not talking about Ray all the time. except for in my own head, of course. but you all have so many stories to share that I don't have.


February 14, 2005

Sophie - Telling Stories

Rose said to me on Sunday "let's pretend daddy's not dead. Let's pretend he's just somewhere very far away...like Oregon."

You just can't make this stuff up.

Last year he WAS somewhere very far away from us.


February 10, 2005

Sophie - Valentine's and Carharts

I wrote this down a week or so ago, but wanted to scan the picture Rose drew so I could share it. But I haven't, and I decided not to wait, it's a story I wanted to tell, & I'll just add a photo later if I get it done. I wrote it all down right after she told me, so I could capture every word...

Rose gave me a card today. It was going to be my valentine's card, but she couldn't wait.


August 25, 2004

Sophie - Signs

It's been 6 months, today. How can this be? Look at him smiling out from all the photos, so alive.

This Wednesday the 25th dawned bright and clear, and Rose & I did our 8th "practice walk" to prepare for getting to kindergarten on time. She's so excited -- new clothes, new shoes, a backpack, a new lunchbox, a new routine, new friends to be made. Ray would've been so excited too, the two of them, like a daddy & baby dog, shaking with eagerness for life's adventures.


July 14, 2004

Sophie - Alcatraz Sharkfest camera.gif

Sunday was the Alcatraz Sharkfest swim. It would have been Ray's sixth swim. Early that morning a big crowd of friends and family went down to witness my brother-in-law Blaise (Ray's inspiration) swim for the 7th year, our friend Greg swim for the 4th year, and my incredible cousin James swim for the 1st time, in honor of Ray. In traditional SF fashion we've had dismal grey July days, and Saturday's Yankee sail was freezing, but we woke up Sunday morning to gorgeous sunny skies, and all felt that Ray was smiling down on us. The guys all made great time - 46 minutes for Greg, 49 minutes for Blaise, and James came in at an astonishing 52 minutes.


April 03, 2004

Sophie Julien O'Neal

The website is just amazing. It's just what I hoped for, but didn't know how to ask for, and to see it take form makes me so DAMN grateful and glad. I want Rose to hear and see and laugh and remember her incredible daddy, and you are helping make that possible. And helping me too, of course -- to read stories about Ray before I knew him, stories of times we shared together as seen through other people's eyes, many stories I heard him tell, sides of stories I thought I knew, sides of Ray I did know but in ways or at times that I didn't see for myself, to see all the photos -- it's a discovery and joy for me too.