For me, the four or five months after Ray's death were terribly difficult. I had moved to Oklahoma from Southern California to be with Ray. When he died, my mother came out and helped me pack up my belongings, and together we returned to California -- driving a large rental truck through a major snow storm in Texas and New Mexico!
In taking care of Ray, I let my own health deteriorate. Those first few months were spent in isolation at my mother's home. My only sources of contact with the outside world were my computer, my quilting work with AIDS Service Center in Pasadena, and a grief group sponsored by All Saints Church. I was lost and in a deep, deep depression, but the contact I had with those two groups, and the friends and resources I found on the internet, got me through those first rough months. After that I began to emerge, to live again, to truly enjoy life. There were still "bad" days, but I was starting to find joy in the memories of my husband.
On Ray's birthday, July 13, I was surrounded by friends at a Prodigy Bash in Las Vegas. It helped quite a bit. I spent the morning crying and feeling sorry for myself, then some friends grabbed me and took me to an amusement park. It's very difficult to feel sorry for yourself or be unhappy when you are squealing with delight on a roller coaster or eating cotton candy!
My birthday (October 25) and what would have been our first wedding anniversary (October 26) were the hardest. Both days were spent with my two dearest friends, Jim Watkins (now my husband) and Deborah Eversfield. I was a "basket case" off and on, but they were both a big comfort. They took me to a Halloween costume party for my birthday, and that Sunday (26th) we just spent time together, each of them keeping me thoroughly distracted in their own ways.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were a pensive time, but Jim's love carried me through both because even though it was my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without Ray, it was Jim and my first holidays together. Jim's complete acceptance of the fact that part of me will always belong to Ray has helped me greatly in the process of letting go and loving once again. Ray wanted me to do that, but I felt guilty. Because of Jim, I have learned that I can love another man without taking anything away from Ray.
Ray died on February 18, 1997. Sometime during the middle of this past January, Jim noticed that I had become a bit pensive and withdrawn. He sensed correctly that I was thinking more and more about Ray and the first anniversary of his death. At one time I had mentioned that I very much wanted to scatter Ray's ashes off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Jim remembered this, and about a week before the anniversary he surprised me by saying we were going to San Francisco on February 18.
We left Barstow, CA, late on the evening of February 17. Ray had died at 1:45am CST (11:45pm PST). At that moment one year later, I was driving through Bakersfield on the way to San Francisco. I pulled off the road and burst into tears. Jim just held me as I sobbed for nearly 45 minutes. He is a wonderful man, just patiently letting me "cleanse" my emotions.
We continued our journey and reached San Francisco a little before dawn. For days before the weather had been frightful---rain, rain, and more rain---but that morning the clouds were high and light and it was almost like spring! We gathered the container with Ray's ashes, a camera, and LilLion and Dreamy (the two main stuffed animals from Ray's and my collection---and Ray's favorites). Just before dawn we walked onto the Golden Gate Bridge, leaving from Vista Point on the Marin County side.
When we reached the "San Francisco City Limits" sign, the path curved out a bit where the span is anchored. There we found a somewhat secluded alcove. Jim and I talked about Ray for a bit, then as the brilliant sun rose in the sky, with trembling hands I opened the container and slowly scattered the ashes over the railing. They floated into the bay, under the bridge, and out to sea. My tears flowed, as did the memories of my wonderful husband and friend, Raymond Scott Brown. Afterwards, I took my pen knife and etched Ray's name into the rail.
The whole experience was uplifting for me. As we walked back to the car my mood was carefree and happy. Yes, I miss Ray, but he is in a place now where he is no longer suffering. He was so afraid he would be forgotten, but I know that will never happen. Through International Star Registry, Ray has a star named for him in the Cancer constellation. His webpage is contines on in his memory. His name is on the Golden Gate Bridge. Soon, he will have TWO memorial quilts that I will submit to Project Names. And finally, he will always be in my heart.
A few days before I left for San Francisco, I contacted Ray's sister Pat, who had I think really tried to be my friend. I told her I would save part of Ray's ashes for her to scatter over their mother's grave. Ray loved his mother and he loved San Francisco. I think he is smiling!
Click HERE! to see a picture of me scattering Ray's ashes.
Click HERE! to see a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge and the span where Ray's ashes were scattered. (That's me and my RAV in the foreground.)