My Old Friend Ray Died

My old friend Ray died this past Monday.  Suicide.  She leapt to her death from a parking garage.  I don’t know any more than that as yet.  But Ray has been troubled for many years.  There will be a memorial service next month.

***

Ray and I laughed and cried together since 7th grade, when serendipity moved me from one seat in Homeroom to one across the table from her.  To be honest, I was terrified of her.  You see, Ray was cool, she was popular, she was fun and funny.  Everybody wanted to be her friend in 7th grade.  But she wanted to be my friend.  I’ve always felt that she changed my life with that action; she raised my social status in school.  I was no longer a non-desirable.  I was a “Friend of Ray’s.”  And that was something special.

For the last 18 hours since I got home after learning the news, I’ve tried to write my feelings, my memories, my heartbreak.  But I’m failing.  How do you put a life — anyone’s life, but especially such a complex life into a few words?

Each relationship is a jar full of fragments of memories and laughter and tears.  With Ray, the edges of them were sometimes jagged, and it was never clear when you’d reach into that jar and slice into something painful for her.

Because Ray’s life was full of disappointment and pain.  But it was also full of laughter and memories that she held onto and didn’t let go.  She was smart and funny.  A talented actress in high school.  A beautiful writer who wanted us all to write and once had a party where she gave us blue notebooks and we all spent the entire night writing.

Mostly, she wanted love.  Craved it.  Begged for it.

Still, she frequently acted to push love away.  She alienated family and friends alike, especially by middle of the night phone calls – that continued in spite of constant requests, tears, anger, etc. Often, she just wanted to chat about old times.  She didn’t show up when she was supposed to meetings with friends.  Couldn’t stand to be in groups.  Made many poor choices in life.  She frankly pissed everybody off a lot.  It made her a hard person to put up with.  I along with everybody who cared about her became exasperated and felt helpless.  We went in and out of her life. After the last time she called me in the middle of the night, I blocked her from my home phone; she had only my cell.

Friends and family tried to help, but helping is sometimes easier said than done.  Certainly than done successfully.

For the last 12 years until about a year ago, Ray worked customer service in a Bed, Bath and Beyond.  I learned of the difficulties of retail workers through her – how schedules were never firmed up, so workers who couldn’t survive on those low retail wages could get a second job.

She told the most wonderful stories she told of the people who came to her counter for returns.  She could tell the stories so that the incredibly foolish mistakes of customers were endearing.  As if each silly error were a personal gift to Ray.  I’d been trying to talk her into writing a book.

One story stands out, though.

A man placed an oscillating fan on the counter, its head bent down at the hinge, facing the floor.  Looking awkward.

“It doesn’t work,” he said (Ray imitating his voice).  “It’s broken.  Its neck is broken.”

The man had clearly never lifted the head of the fan from its packing position.  So when he plugged it in and turned it on, it turned in a jerky motion like a Rocke ‘em, Sock ‘em Robot.

Ray straightened the neck, plugged it in, and showed him that it worked just fine.  She sent the customer away, happily with his fan, somehow without making him feel foolish.

Since yesterday, I have been thinking that Ray herself was a lot like that fan.  Her head was always bent incorrectly, awkwardly.  In her case, it was towards the past – towards her (our) wonderful childhood.  Sadly, there was no friendly customer service representative of life to help straighten her towards a life built more on the present and the future.

Good bye, Ray.  I love you.  I miss you.  I will always hold you dear to my heart.

May you rest in the peace that always alluded you in life.  But may your heart be ever full of love and laughter as it always was.

***

Many of us have thought about or attempted suicide, or know someone who is in crisis.  There is help.

December is a particularly sad time for many.

Get help if you need it.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • 1-800-273-8255 (24/7) (Press 1 for Veterans line)

109 Comments

Filed under Adult Traumas, Mental Health, Missing Folks, Ray, Suicide, Suicide Attempts

109 responses to “My Old Friend Ray Died

  1. I wish I had some magical thing to say that would give meaning and perspective to your loss. All I can say is that this post made me cry. Thank you for rescuing the good parts of your memories of Ray and for sharing them with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb, thanks. There are, thankfully a lot more memories. She was a good friend. I don’t know that there is ever something in particular anyone can say about loss. It’s all in the listening. 😔

      Like

  2. So sorry, Elyse. Many thanks for the profound and beautiful post. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. May she rest in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on FiftyFourandAHalf and commented:

    Today would have been my old friend Ray’s 61st birthday. I miss her. RIP, Ray.

    Like

  5. Liking your post was insufficient for my feelings. I LOVE this post. You have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your friend. You have given her a wonderful epitaph; may I receive one even half as heartfelt and eloquent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a very nice thing to say, thank you. I will miss her very much — I already do ;(

      But I hope that when it is your time, that you get a lovely send-off. Just hopefully no time soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If I had the magic words, you know I would type them right now. I’m sorry does not feel like enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Elyse, I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. I can’t imagine being in that much pain that suicide seems the only way out. Your tribute was warm, funny and moving and I’m hopeful that she is feeling your love and smiling somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Peg. No, I don’t really know what led her or anybody there, but it’s heartbreaking to know that she was so without hope.

      When my mom died, Ray kind of adopted my dad. She’d call him up several times a week (somehow it was at normal hours) and chat with him. I’m sure he wasn’t the only lonely soul she reached out to. I’m pretty sure they’re all welcoming her into the fold, my dad in the lead.

      Like

  8. I’m so sorry about your friend, Ray. I’m sorry for all of the Rays that are out there. Living can be difficult and it seems too difficult for some. Hopefully, your post and the information you closed with will help someone.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a tough one, my friend. I’ve had moments when I just didn’t want to “be here” any longer. Thankfully, those moments passed without incident. I don’t think I’m fully over my father’s suicide, and he died when I was four (I just turned 59!). When I was at my low point, I remember thinking that I couldn’t kill myself because I didn’t want to traumatize my family. I’d feel too guilty. Odd, huh? 😐

    I guess we can never know the depth of someone else’s pain…

    Many hugs to you, Elyse.

    Like

  10. Sorry for your loss. When I was in college, I had a friend who committed suicide. It was such a shock and as I reflected on it, I began to consider contributing events that led up to her decision. I wanted to go back in time and change those events but could only carry on with this sense of helplessness. I think it’s great that you posted the suicide hotline to try to help others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Gail. A huge number of suicides are impulsive, and I wonder if many of those are the ones nobody can figure out. Ray tried a number of times over the years. Cries for help or earnest gestures is anybody’s guess. But while our friends were saddened, no one was surprised. So very sad though.

      Like

  11. I am so, so sorry for your loss. xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So sad when someone finally reaches that point where they are unable to see a path forward. One tortured moment in time, and everything changes. Terribly sorry for your loss. Your memories of her were graciously shared, even though I’m sure your heart aches. So sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sensitive and beautifully written. While we know there’s some we cannot help, there’s always those nagging, ‘of onlies.’ I hurt for you and your friends. It’s so hard when someone decides suicide is the only way to go but I also understand how they get there. Wishing you a gentle kindness as you continue working through your grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m so sorry. Beyond that, I just don’t know what to say.

    Like

  15. The holidays are a toxic time for many. Both of my parents died right after Christmas so it’s always a mixed bag for me. I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like the “girl to know” in high school. I had some of those turn into nightmares (because you really can’t help them, you only feel badly for them).

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m so sorry, Elyse. Suicide is such a taboo subject and I thank you for talking about her struggles. Sadly, so many people out there can relate. Lots of love coming your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m so sorry for the pain of your loss. Because you cherish her memories, she’ll live long in your heart. May you find solace in those memories.
    Love Barb

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Damn. My heart fills extra with love for friends who have taken their own lives. Such a sadness. I’m very sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Goose. It’s so sad when anybody reaches that point. But when you fear for so long that it will end that way and there was nothing that could be done to steer the course in a different direction, well that is a hold to the core. Poor Ray.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. The writing party was wonderful. Memorable. A creative group, for sure. But poor Ray, she never let go of wonderful times enough to let other wonderful times enter into her life. Or maybe they were squeezed out by non wonderful life events. Maybe both.

    Thank you, Kay. I am going to accept your good thoughts and send the prayers on.

    Like

  20. Oh, I am so sorry. It seems unfathomable that someone so full of creative juices (a writing party! that’s wonderful) could at some point feel so hopeless. Sending you good thoughts and prayers as you try to process all of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Elyse. I am so very sorry to hear that the news story I read this morning along with dozens of other stories was a friend of yours. I was captivated by it due to who she is related to and I wondered, what had gone wrong. . . But to find out that someone I’ve met was friends with her made the story three-dimensional–took it from mere curiosity to deep sympathy–and it saddens me for you and for her. Peace and grace to you. Warmest regards, E

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the headlines. Ray would have hated them. She loved her dad –a wonderful man who loved his kids — but she feared people who pretended to be her friend because she had a famous dad. Poor Ray. I think I may have been the only one in 7th grade who didn’t know who he was. I am so sad, and I so hope that Ray has found peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend Ray, Elyse. This was a really beautiful tribute to her. May her continued travels be with grace. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  23. So sorry about Ray. Thanks for caring enough to share your memories with us. A lot of people get the blues during the holidays and suicides are far too common. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Since I read your comment, I thought about our cyber friends. I hadn’t actually seen Ray in decades, possibly because she never showed up. But cyber friends are friends too. We share. 😐 and while some might not understand, we all do.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I am so very sorry for your loss. As we already know, the added pressures of Christmas is an invitation for many people to take their lives. Thank you for talking about such a painful topic. In her infinite wisdom and usual clear thinking, my mother decided that Christmas Eve was the day to go. There’s never a good day to commit suicide, but the only other day that could have been worse probably would have been Christmas day, or my birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Elyse, I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. It’s hard to imagine the pain a person would have to be in to decide to take their own life. She was lucky to have you for a friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. This is such a sad story. Unfortunately, it is one that is all too often repeated. This time of year is really hard on many. I am sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. dconnollyislandgmailcom

    A lovely tribute, and an important reminder. Thank you for sharing this. My deepest condolences for the loss of your life-long friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I always think of my mom when I see your name in my comments. Ray became very close to my dad after my mom died. She gave him her ear and let him talk about my mom. I am sure she heard stories I never knew.

      I think we are all lucky to have friends, whomever they are. I feel the need to hold some of my old ones a bit closer.

      Like

  29. So sorry to hear this, Elyse. You’ve been through so much, especially around the holidays. What a difficult, painful way to usher in this one. You’ve written Ray a lovely tribute, including the good with the bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Bonny

    Deepest, most heartfelt condolences, Dear friend. Ray will live on in the heart of everyone whose life she touched! Especially yours. I remember all the wonderful stories. Cherished. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Bonn, you remember the calls, I’m sure. Although when we lived together we were both getting lots of late night calls. I am very sad and sometimes writing is the only thing I can do to work through the sad.

      Poor Ray. So many people I know and care about must have thought she was a phantom. You never met her, my other roommates, never did. John only knew she was real because of the damn phone.

      Love you, pal.

      Like

  31. I’m so sorry, yet another tragic loss for you at holiday season. Your tribute is beautiful, Elyse. Cling to the good memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Oooooh my goodness ..,

    So sorry 😐..

    And how the memories flooded our minds..
    When you can look pass a person exterior and see the real person beneath and behind..
    you always find a beautiful soul trapped within themselves and how their perceived the world 🌎..

    Ray could be fun.. can make you laugh 😂..

    But she struggled to fit in and to be understood..

    She lost the battle..
    You and the world 🌎 lost a beautiful soul…

    RI P RAY !!!!

    Keep her in your heart ❤️!!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I’m so very sorry Elyse. With all the pain that Christmas brings now this as well. My heart goes out to you and all who loved her and cared about her.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Deb

    A beautiful, and touching tribute Elyse. I am very sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I’m so sorry, Elyse. Hugs, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. It seems some of the most fun people are also some of the most troubled, and who die young from suicide or some other self-destructive cause. My stepdaughter was quite a bit that way. You have my sympathy for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. very often, there is no REAL help, just a respite, a pause. but not actual help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that you are, in many cases, absolutely correct. We don’t want to believe that, but sometimes, and for some people, life can be too much.

      I just went over to your blog. I will leave additional comments over there.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Like

  38. I’m so sorry to hear this news, for too many reasons. Weirdly enough, this is the second story I’ve heard in one week regarding a woman jumping from a parking garage.
    I’m glad you understood Ray enough to see beyond her need to be a pain in the ass. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • You made me laugh, Tops. Thanks. Ray certainly did feel the need to be a pain in the ass, and she often was. Usually by calling in the night…

      Her death made a lot of newspapers — including one in England (where I actually went with her for the first time). So it may have been the same person.

      Like

  39. I’m very sorry for your loss, Elyse. Like your late friend Ray, you are a beautiful writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ann. It’s funny — a lot of the folks at that writing party are still writers/editors today. I don’t know if it’s cause or effect, or just the weirdos who wanted to go to a party in high school where you would be writing all night!

      Liked by 2 people

  40. I’m so sorry for your loss, Elyse. I agree with Deborah. This is a beautiful tribute.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. It is hard to understand why some loving people just give up. But they do, and all you can do is remember them as they were and as they wanted to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, with Ray, I do understand why she gave up. Her life has been spiraling down for years. And while I don’t know what immediate incidents led her to that place, all who knew her worried for years. There were other attempts (including once when I was living in France and had to figure out how to send the police to her house). She was deeply troubled. But also deeply wonderful. I wish, I wish… I wish so many things were different.

      For Ray, I will try to focus more on the beauty inside of her than her demons. Because I really am lucky to have been her friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  42. I’m sorry 😦 Much love to all ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Oh, the ironies — and Ray would have loved it. As I was reading this, my computer slid across my screen an email from Bed, Bath & Beyond offering me Gifts. Thanks, Ray. What a gift you were. And you’re still hilarious.

    Thanks, Elyse.

    It’s tough right now. All the love. All the laughter. All the trouble. I’ve been ricocheting through all of the memories — the good, the bad, the ugly and the great.

    Mostly, I vacillate between a mental image of the parking garage and lying on Ray’s trampoline the night of the writing party and watching the stars as we all swore eternal friendship. I’m glad some of those parts worked out.

    Thanks, Ray. I got my gift.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can hear Ray cackling at the image of the BB&B ad. She would have been in stitches. In fact, I’m trying to focus on the laughter instead of the times I yelled at her for those heart-stopping (“who’s dead”) phone calls. I thought of the image of the fan and used it to fight of the other image.

      I keep thinking of things that happened. I wonder if her fall on the steps in the Auditorium — she was hospitalized with a concussion for days — added to her problems. I hear her voice as Linda Loman in that amazing performance she gave as a pain-wracked woman in Death of a Salesman — “Attention, Attention MUST be paid.” It was portrayed almost as if she felt her life would play out similarly painfully.

      How many parties from that era are memorable with lasting effects as that one did? I still have those notebooks, somewhere (although if anybody were to open one of them, they would regret it!)

      Eternal friendship. Yeah. And stars.

      Thanks for everything Karen.

      Liked by 1 person

  44. Thank you for sharing her with us. I wish you many blessings of both laughter and tears as you remember her.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. I’m sorry, Elyse.

    This is a beautiful tribute.

    Liked by 1 person

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