Today marks one year since my dear friend Ray "Ragu" Ragucci went to the Spirit world. The tears started falling yesterday, everywhere I looked, I saw him. I could do nothing "productive" so I chose to lay down in my bed at 8:00pm and even stayed there most of the day today, as well. The tears flowed, my voice spoke in moans, "Raaaaaay, Raaaaaay, Raaaaaay.". When I went outside finally, to feel the warmth on my skin, a pure white feather fell gently from above and landed at my bare foot. All I could do was smile. For I knew Ray was with me on and off the few days before, gently placing white feathers at my feet, just like today. Some people think that because I am a practicing medium and psychic that I don't grieve like "regular" folk. That somehow how it's "easier" for me because I understand there is life after death and that our Spirit indeed lives on. I mean, I talk to Spirit everyday, so why isn't it easier? Well for now, I am still living in a human body with emotions, and my heart can hurt for a friend. Especially for a friend like Ray.
I met Ray three days after the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11th. He tearfully explained to me that he was grappling with "survivor's guilt". You see, he was "spared" that dreadful day and 343 of his own, were not. Ray was a veteran firefighter with the New York City Fire Department, Engine Company 5. He switched shifts with Manny DelValle so that he could attend his daughter's first communion. Neither Manny, nor Ray, thought anything of it..... for it started out like any other day, just like most of our days do. I clearly remember feeling Ray's angst, the duality he felt of being thankful to be alive, and his grief and his guilt, over losing his brother. In the days, months and year to follow, Ray worked diligently, night and day, in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. I walked the grounds with Ray on many occassions, besides "the pile" as we called it, sometimes we would walk in silence, sometimes he would share his brother's stories with me, or what the 24 hour shift had entailed that he had just finished. And I would listen to every excruciating detail he offered.....as well as feel the emotions and details, that weren't said.
In the weeks and years following 9/11, Ray attended dozens, upon dozens, upon dozens of funeral services of his fallen brothers. Every year he drove up to Boston to attend Manny's memorial services, to show his respect for Manny's family and for his fallen brother. Ray always went above and beyond for everyone. He was the first to offer a helping hand, and whenever I was grieving, or exhausted after counseling all day long, he would offer me a vegetarian meal at the firehouse (I'm telling you, those firemen can cook up a storm!). Ray would offer me a ride when I was too broke to take a taxi, or when my feet were hurting, and I couldn't walk the fifty or so blocks to where I was staying. When I drove in from Boston, he let me park my car at the firehouse (what a blessing that was, if you know anything about parking in NYC.....). When I flew in from far away he would pick me up at the airport. Ray always made me feel special. He always told me that the work I was doing to help others was most important of all. I never -- not once -- saw it that way. Ray was the amazing one. Ray was the giving one. Ray was the one who was always laughing, with a positive attitude, and offering his hand to help others.
But even in the midst of the chaos, turmoil and grief, we shared many a good time. (Yes indeed, O' Hanlon's pub across the street from the firehouse was definitely a blessing on many occassions!) Year after year, Ray would be there for me, for everyone, for all of us.....even when he finally retired after twenty years of duty. In 2009, when Ray told me he was having "blood tests", I felt right away that his condition was a result of toxicity from Ground Zero. He was later to have a bone marrow transplant. Night & day, I prayed for Ray. Each time I spoke to him, in or out of the hospital, he was full of positivity, love of life, love for his sweet family who he was so very proud of. Our prayers had been answered, Ray's sister was a match and his transplant was successful.
In June 2011 when I spoke to Ray, I knew he just did not "sound right". He told me his blood counts were off and he was admitted to the hospital again, after previously enduring many months of recovery. On July 4, 2011, exactly one week before the tenth anniversary of September 11th, I got the call from my dear friend Jeff, that Ray had crossed over. Earlier that morning, a huge white feather landed on my doorstep.....and a beautiful cardinal (fire engine red) sang to me, "I'm free, Paigeeeeeeeeey.......". I felt the moment that Ray left his body, and joined his fallen brothers who had gone before him. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of Ray, of his positive Spirit, his commitment, and undying, unconditional love for others. I keep Ray's memory alive in my heart. And today.....well...... I had a damn good cry. I miss you, Ray. My forever friend. You were ~ and always will be ~ a light in my world. You are never forgotten. Until we meet again, here's to you....Ragu.