20 Years After

It’s been a very long time (5 months) since I posted anything on this blog. I’d like you to know that, even though I’ve been silent on this page, I continue to write. I am in the process of writing my first book and I’m working towards a release in March. It’s been a labor of love and I’m having a lot of fun with the process. I promise more details in the coming weeks, but today’s post is focused on a major anniversary of sorts.


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of my first husband, Ray Noll. As many of you know, Ray died in 1999 after an almost-3-year battle with leukemia. I believe it’s important to remember these anniversaries so that we can all remember who he was, relish in the fun memories we all have, and remind ourselves just how precious life is. Acknowledging his diagnosis, battle, and death helps provide amazing perspective about what’s truly important in our lives.

Those who knew Ray loved him dearly. His sense of humor and zeal for life were contagious and showed up best when he was on a stage with a guitar in his hand. His talents were beyond comprehension (who teaches themselves to skillfully play the mandolin in 24 hours?) and he was the ultimate performer. Every friend he every made remained his friend for life; I don’t know a single person who didn’t love him. He was fun and silly and knew how to be happy.

One of the most fit people I have ever know, when he wasn’t performing on stage, Ray was at karate. A second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, he was addicted to the hard work and sweat of this sport. He gained a new circle of friends at the karate school, and he was passionate about teaching the next generation of karate students. When I was looking for a picture of Ray for this post, I stumbled upon this one. Ray doing staff work in the back yard.

Ray Karate in Yard 2 Resized

The three days leading up to Ray’s death were a bedside vigil of sorts, where so many of those friends showed up to pay homage to someone who fought so hard to live. I remember the karate gang showing up in the wee hours of the morning to help see him off. Family, coworkers, childhood friends, fellow musicians… they all came.

It’s interesting that, all these years later, so many people remember him — even those who cared for him during his illness. Just yesterday, I accompanied a friend to her chemo treatment. We were having a conversation with her nurse about the particular drug being administered. I was telling the story of Ray receiving this drug back in 1996 (it was a memorable occasion), and after we got to talking a bit more, it turned out this nurse was one of Ray’s nurses back on Mercy 8E. She remembered Ray well, and we reminisced about all the wonderful people who took care of him back then. When I think of all the people this nurse would have attended to over the past 20+ years, what are the chances she would remember Ray? Well, that’s the kind of impact he had on people, and so I’m not really surprised.

My life has taken a number of twists and turns since that day 20 years ago when, as a 36 year old, I was picking planning out a cemetery plot and planning his funeral. I know that he is always with me and I know that he would be happy that I got to be a mom and that I am pursuing my dream of writing a book. As someone who believes in the power of mediums, I can tell you that Ray always comes through — he’d never miss a party!

On this anniversary, I’d like to ask you to think about him. For those of you who knew him well: have a shot of Sambuca or a Heineken and give him a “salut!” (Heck, even if you didn’t, feel free to send up a toast!) For those of you who did not know him, take a moment to appreciate the joyful moments in your life, whatever is going on right now. Life is fleeting; find the joy now.

Ray with Cigarette in car

(Happy 59th anniversary to my parents in heaven.)

IMDb: 20 Years After (2008)


4 thoughts on “20 Years After

  1. I am so glad to hear from you and excited about your book! I’m sorry I never knew your 1st husband, but I can only imagine how special he was, as you are, now. I’m glad you are remembering him as you should. I look forward to reading your book.

  2. Michele
    Awesome tribute to our buddy Ray. I think of him every day and cannot believe it’s been 20 years. i will indeed toast him tonight and tell him how much i love and miss him. Thanks Michele.


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