Have you ever looked back in life and marveled at how far you have come, who was with you along the way, and why? I know I have. For me, it's been a journey encompassing support from family and friends that's enabled me to move forward.
My Dad was a tremendous influence on me growing up. He helped guide and shape my ambition. Whenever we sat down together at the kitchen table, he would show me how to sign my name and even draw Snoopy! His greatest dream for me and my brothers was that we would create our own family business one day. We each had our own part to play in the realization of this dream, and I'm thankful for all the lessons he helped us along the way.
My mother was an incredible source of support in my life and someone that I know tried her best to give me everything I needed. She taught me about kindness, generosity, and leaving the world a better place than I found it. R.I.P Mom, I hope you found the peace you deserved so badly.
My Aunt Sheri has truly been an inspiration to me with her remarkable commitment and dedication. From serving the country, being a mom of two toddlers, and working full-time while also attending school, she managed to juggle all this on top of supporting her then-husband's dreams. She was the one who dreamed up the idea for a cafe on South Street that would bring people closer together. Her drive and determination are admirable, and she is someone I look up to.
The past 10 1/2 years have been filled with ups and downs, but through it all my partner Mathew has remained by my side. He was there when I needed it most, providing me with the resources I required to be able to stand on my own two feet. Selfless acts of generosity provided a much-needed spark of hope at a time when I thought hope was lost. It’s this kind of unwavering strength and support that got us here, and although our journey remains uncertain, we can always draw solace from what has gone before.
My beloved veteran comrade passed away far too soon, leaving a profound void in my heart. He looked past my failings and saw me for who I truly was – he illuminated those dark moments of doubt that sometimes clouded my vision. More than that, he imparted upon me many valuable lessons about life, such as to always be your own best advocate, and to take initiative when looking for just rewards. Sadly, his death occurred only days prior to my thirtieth birthday; however, I attended his ceremony with reverence and pride. His memory will live with me forever as the brilliant light he always was.
Together, they form one cohesive whole that has shaped my character today. So when people ask if the healing process is hard work, I'd answer yes, but wholeheartedly recommend it - the payoff is absolutely worth it!
The photo was the last one we were all together. My oldest brother's wedding was in early 2012.
Left to right: Christina, Raymond Sr., Raymond Jr, Jo-Ann, Joey