I took Ray grocery shopping a few times and was always impressed by his meticulous lists: 1 loaf of white sandwich bread, 3 drumsticks from the deli, 2 rolls of toilet paper (whatever’s on sale). For his own needs, Ray was thrifty, but when shopping for Bess his cat, he was a different man. His list would read: 4 bags of kitty litter, 2 boxes Fancy Feast salmon, 2 boxes Fancy Feast chicken, 1 bag dry food (premium), and at the end of every list: 1 cat toy. Ray had been hurt by a lot of people in his life, but he could care for and love Bess, who returned his affection. I believe that love is what allowed him to survive cancer as long as he did.
I was with Ray as he was dying. I rushed him to the emergency room and held his hand as they poked him with needles and strapped a mask over his face. Ray was a fighter. He had been told several times that death was imminent in the past decade and kept proving the doctors wrong. He clung fiercely to his independence and continued to take the bus in the dead of winter when the cold made it almost impossible for him to breathe. Even on his deathbed Ray found the strength to tell me how to take care of Bess. A day later the doctors told me that the tumor in his lungs had spread to his heart – something no one could survive – and they took him off life support.
A month later we had a memorial service for Ray. The morning turned out to be the first warm day of spring. Ray told me over and over this past winter how everything would be better when spring came. And so maybe it was appropriate to remember him on that day that he had waited for, when the sun would come out and his pain would finally subside.
-Saleha Erdman, COHR Team Housing Specialist. Bess is being cared for by Paws for a Cause.