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LAST VISIT WITH RAY JACKSON



One morning in June of 2017, I awoke jumpy after a restless night. Filled with an overwhelming urge to get to my friend Connie’s house, I checked my phone for messages, then began to dress for the day. We had scheduled a couple of hours to work on our writing project, but I was expecting her to call and cancel. Her husband Ray was terminally ill, and the potential for last minute postponement hung over every plan. We had been rearranging plans to meet for several months. They were going through a cruel and sad time, yet he was the one to complain if we didn’t meet. Always our greatest cheerleader, his support never waivered.


I called Connie and suggested I make the visit short. I would pick up the notes I needed and drop off the newest section I’d written so she could approve it. Parking at her curb, I still felt apprehensive though I thought Ray had been doing well lately. It would be fun to run the latest part of the book by him.


He listened carefully as I read aloud and then shared well thought out ideas and comments. Our book was important to him, and he loved seeing it materialize. As planned, at 3 p.m. Connie met me at the door and pulled me in to the kitchen table. I knew that hospice had been coming for about two weeks. What I didn’t know was the day before a hospital bed had been delivered and placed in their big open living room by the picture window. A formerly big, strapping man with a soothing voice and ready laugh now looked so small.


Connie asked me to sit at the kitchen table. I barely touched down before I was up and headed for Ray. I softly said, “Hi Ray.” He opened his eyes and started to struggle to sit up. His daughter, Mary, said, “No Daddy, you can’t sit up.” as she gently helped him lay back down. She turned to me and said he hadn’t even been trying to sit up for three days. She thought he knew it was me, and I knew the gentleman inside was trying to make me feel welcome. He had lost the ability to speak and was agitated. Mary said he didn’t seem comfortable. I began to talk to him, and he settled down. I told him about the progress of the book, how he was our mentor, and most appreciated supporter. He raised his hand, on his far side, and tried to reach over. I took his hand and held it. He squeezed my hand with the little strength he had left.


Then let go. I wished him peace and told him he was surrounded by love. I promised him the book would be completed and published and thanked him for being our sounding board. We had no idea he had only twelve hours left to live.


When I got home, I let my husband Dave know he needed to go say goodbye to his dear old friend and that he'd better hurry. He then called Larry, the third buddy in a long-standing trio of pals who had worked and played together for years. Plans were made to see Ray the next day.


They were too late. Ray died during the night. Only then did I understand why I had felt such urgency that morning.


I will be forever grateful that I was able to say goodbye to this intelligent, kind, and at times hellraising man with the sparkling eyes. He loved Connie thoroughly and supported her beliefs and activities. They weathered over sixty years of marriage and had gazillions of friends. When Connie chose me to write her story and they both welcomed me into their lives my gratitude was boundless. Still is.

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