Sunday, October 28, 2007

In Memory of Ray

A friend of mine died today.

It was totally unexpected. A massive heart attack. His wife, Bonnie found him...called 911, but it was too late.

He was only 51.

His name was Ray Zdankiewicz and he was in the radio business. You can probably guess that with an ethinic name like that he (as most of us radio people do) had an "air name". His was Ray Marshall. Ray and his wife Bonnie were a cute radio couple. She was in sales and he was in programming. He was a talented programmer for sure, but my best memories of the Radio Ray were on the air. He had an amazing voice that shook the foundation when he spoke; and a way of communicating that put a picture in your mind of what he was talking about. He had a gift of creating "theatre of the mind". I recall listening to him once when he was on a music station, promoting an upcoming long stretch of music he was about to play. Most dj's say something milktoast like "more music next". But Ray began one of his "theatre of the mind" bits. He said he had a stack of CD's in front of him. They that were stretching so far across the studio that it was almost like looking at a rolling field of wheat. Going on...and on...shining, shimmering in the far as you can see...that's how much music I've got to play for you." His analogy got way off track from the songs that were coming up--but I was so lost in the desciption of music...I remember thinking--"I can't punch away now...this will be like listening to 10 CD's track one after another"!

Yeah...he was good on the air, did mornings for much of his career. And he was also good off the air, as a talented programmer. But I know he'd be most proud of his "job" as a husband, father, son and friend. He was a faithful husband who really loved his could tell they were happy by the way they were together. He was a proud father--so proud of his son John. He was a devoted son. And a good friend to many who knew him.

I had the honor of knowing Ray and Bonnie through work and beyond. When we were all a few years younger, they lived near my late husband and me, so the 4 of us hung out a lot. We went to their house and they to ours. We went camping together. Our kids were young together.

Then Ray was offered a programming job in Lansing, and they've been there for the last 15 years.

Time and life get in the way we sort of lost touch over the years, but when my husband died a few years ago, they came to show their support. I realized then, as I do today, that miles and years melt away with good friends. I'll be heading to Lansing this week to do my best to support Bonnie; as now we're both members of a club that no one wants to join. The young widows club.

And once again I am reminded how precious life is...and how we just don't know when our time is up.

Kiss your spouse. Forgive a hurt. Tell someone you love them.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Role Reversal

Mom and Elise

After years of trying to do the right thing, trying to act in a way my children may want to emulate, the mother/daughter role reversed for me a bit this past week. My daughter, Elise, did something that not only made me proud, in doing so she set an example for me to want to follow.

I've missed church a lot lately. In my mind I had good excuses. So few days much to do around the house and so few nice weather days to do them. I'm a little under the weather...want to sleep in...blah blah. All poor excuses, but I rationalized that at the time, that they made sense.

Then, last Sunday afternoon, I was on the phone with Elise. She's 3 hours behind me in San Francisco, so it was Sunday morning for her. I asked her what the noise was in the background and she explained she was on a bus on the way home from church. I was surprised because there was a church within walking distance from her apartment. She said she found one she liked better, but it was a little further, and that she had to take two different busses to get there and home. Each bus ride was 20 minutes with a transfer in-between.

As I listened to her tell me about the sermon at Mass and what she got out of it, I thought about the fact that I didn't go to church that morning. I have a car, and live less than 10 minutes from my church, and I didn't go....while she took 2 busses, on a chilly rainy morning so she could get to church.

This morning I got up and went to church, grateful for the example my daughter set for me.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's All Important

My friend Chuck Collins works with me at the radio station. He's the program director for WAKR. He received a phone call from a listener who thanked him for playing the song "Vincent". It gave her some sense of peace, as the song reminded her of her son, whom she had lost recently. Chuck wrote about the call in his blog....titled "Just When You Think You Don't Matter"

I often think about my job as it compares to other professions. Firefighters laying down their lives. Doctors saving lives. Nurses and caregivers making lives a little easier. It makes me feel guilty thinking about the fact that I program songs, features and entertainment content on the radio for a living. Hardly as admirable a profession as these others.

The phone call Chuck received that day reminded me of a letter I received almost 2 years ago. I was programming another station, 95.5 The Fish, a Christian music station.

I received a letter from Mr. Hopkins 4 days after he laid his son, Andy, to rest. Andy was one of the Hiram students who lost his life from injuries sustained when his car was hit head-on by a repeat drunk driver. If I recall the story correctly, that driver had 11 previous DUI offenses.


Andy's dad told me he and his wife were touched and encouraged by the songs they heard on our station while traveling to and from the hospital to visit Andy before he died. On the morning of Andy's funeral, the alarm went off and they awoke to a song playing that Andy loved. In fact, lyrics to that song, "Homesick" by MercyMe, were posted on a tribute bulletin board in Andy's dorm. He told us Andy enjoyed our station. He thanked me and the people who worked there for being a source of joy in his son's brief life.

That this man had the strength, compassion adn thoughfulness to take the time to thank thank us, was incredible. He'll never know the gift that he and his son, gave to me that day. He was a true example of God's Grace under fire. An example that I want to emulate.

The phone call Chuck received that day reminded me of that letter from the family of Andrew Hopkins. And it was also a reminder that no matter what we do for a living, we can have a positive effect on another human being.