Our church family has suffered a great blow with the death of our beloved friend and brother, Ray. After a devastating motorcycle crash 4 weeks ago, he finally succumbed to the many injuries he sustained. The light among us has been dimmed with his passing.
I admit that I didn’t know Ray very well, but I found him to be a big, bright (and sometimes loud!) presence, always multitasking, skidding into church at the last minute. On any given Sunday he could be found singing in the choir (both services), serving as communion assistant or crucifer, lector or acolyte, or any combination of those tasks. He also rang in the handbell choir. His absence has been felt acutely in each of those roles, and filling his shoes will be no easy task.
He was a huge University of Tennessee sports fan, usually wearing UT apparel to church. The man’s wardrobe was saturated in Vol orange. He loved river sports and had a group of motorcycle riding friends (who were with him the day he crashed, summoning help immediately for their friend and brother). He also served with the East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard, having retired from military service. It seemed to me that everything Ray did, he did wholeheartedly, full-force. He lived his life out loud, shining a beacon of light into his world.
What I will remember most, I think, is his voice. He had a booming bass voice, and he LOVED to sing. Occasionally for the sake of balance, he would be asked to “tone it down a little”. His whole face lit up when he sang, and that light radiated to everyone around him. Sometimes he would close his eyes as he sang, communing intimately with God through the music. I’d love to be able to sing to the Lord with such abandon. And when he served as lector, his reading of the day’s Bible passage was always authoritative, glowing with expression and inflection.
His last Sunday with us, he sang in the choir and served as lector for both services. I’m grateful to have that memory of him, using that booming voice of his to proclaim the word of God in song and Scripture. It will echo in my ears and heart for the rest of my life. I am also grateful that his struggle is over, even though, for those of us left behind, our path of grief of just beginning. But it is not a totally dark path, as even his name, Ray, casts light upon it.
Pie Jesu, Domine, dona eis requiem, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Blessed Jesus, Lord God, grant them rest, and light perpetual shine upon them.