Posted in Father

Because They’re All I Have…

When I gather them together in one neat stack, I probably have 30 or so pictures of my father.

And when I comb my mind for memories of him, I have zero.

My father has been gone for as long as I can remember.

I was just two years old when he died…such a cruel age to lose a parent.

I would give anything for just one memory…just one wisp of a shared moment.

This stack of photos is all that I have of him.

I don’t know what the skin on his face felt like, but in the photos, it looks so soft.

I don’t know what his hair felt like, but the photos show that it was wavy and smooth.

I never had the chance to hear from him the stories of his youth, but the photos shed some light onto the young man that he was.

I’ve always worried about something happening to my collection of photos…always worried that if they were gone, I would have nothing left of my dad.

So, I’m sending my precious pile of photos to LiveOn Rewind, where they will be professionally preserved.

LiveOn will send me a preservation kit that will include a box custom-designed to fit my photos, a prepaid mailing envelope, a waterproof plastic bag, and secure packaging. Once I’ve mailed it off to them, they will convert my photos and return them to me within 3-4 weeks. The best part is that I’ll be able to see photos in the meantime, as they’ll share them with me as they process them.

Although my father lives in my heart, my photos are my only real connection to him and I’ll feel so much better once I know they’re safe.

Do you have any old pictures that you’d love to keep safe? Here’s a LiveOn discount code for you to use: HOLIDAYREWIND

Thank you to LiveOn for sponsoring this blog post. Please LiveOn to learn more about sharing and preserving your most important memories. I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective. Although story ideas were provided, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

What a Wonderful World

After a few weeks’ break, I’m so incredibly happy to resume Small Moments Mondays.

And I can’t think of anyone better to kick things off than John, from The Adventures of Daddy Runs a Lot.

What words can I use to describe John? Witty, kind, intelligent, loquacious, driven? Yes, all of those things.

But there’s more…there’s something amazing about how all of those qualities come together and make John who he is.

Thank you, John, for sharing this lovely story here on in these small moments. Your generosity means the world to me.

What a Wonderful World–by John

I can say that “I love music,” but that’s like saying “I like to eat” or “I prefer breathing to any alternative” for many of us. I named my son Coltrane after the greatest tenor saxophone player to ever live. I am constantly playing some instrument, or singing, to my kids because I need them to know the joy that music gives me1.

All of this brings us to Louis Armstrong, whom I love for a plethora of reasons, though two stand out more than the rest. First is the quote “There is two kinds of music the good and bad. I play the good kind. which may or may not have been said first by Armstrong – but it doesn’t matter. It’s a kick-ass quote, and it allows me to turn up the volume anytime the t.A.T.u. anthem “All the Things She Said” comes up on my iPod with minimal embarrassment.

The next is that he made the song “What a Wonderful World” popular. Now, this is a great song, and it likely would have found roots throughout popular culture no matter who “ran with it” first, but it was Louie, and I love him for it.

While the song is a great song about the importance of the acceptance of racial diversity, it’s the last verse that brings me to my small moment.

I hear babies cry

I watch them grow

They’re learning more

Than we’ll ever know

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

When you’re playing a keyboard instrument with a baby on your lap, you expect the little one to pound on the black & white keys before him or her. They’re there, and when they’re pounded on, they make noise, and they control that noise, and that control is good.

I can usually only take a few minutes of this.

But, the other day, I had to stop & stare in wonder.

We were in the music room (I have a lot of instruments, so they’re all relegated to what would be the “formal living room” in most houses) when the boy asked to play the organ (which he does, at his 21 months old, by pointing and grunting). I sat down on the bench, my 14-month-old girl in my lap, lifted the boy onto the bench beside me, turned the organ on, turned on some voices, and we all started playing a little something.

It didn’t take long for my girl to want to wander about. On the floor were a set of maracas, and shaking those was a lot more interesting than the stupid noises she was making, so I went to put her down on the floor.

Somewhere along the way, the “clear voices” button was hit on the organ . . . it was on, but pressing the keys simply didn’t make a sound. CJ started pressing buttons until the keys made sounds, and he looked with his “serious face” as he realized that the sound changed as different of these buttons were pressed. So, then he pressed more & more buttons until they keys made a sound he liked.

Rather than just pounding on the keys, beating them with his fists, he took one finger and started pressing the keys, individually.

He’d play a few notes, stop, and then press the voice selectors, turning some on and some off, until there was something in the sound that the notes made that “worked” for him.

As I sat on the ground, shaking maracas with my little girl, he sat at the organ and started playing a melody (well, random notes, but random notes played one at a time) and did this babblesing along with them.

I sat, my daughter in my lap, marveling at the fact that I was actually watching the boy learn, right before my eyes.

He turned his head to the left and gave me that great big smile that he gets when he “gets” something (as he tries to figure something out, he has a look of utmost concentration) and then asked for help getting off the organ bench . . . the guitar had caught his eye.

What a wonderful world, indeed.

1 I tend to prefer that my singing soothes my children instead of eliciting nightmares, but I think this statement is subject to verification.
You can also find John entertaining the masses over on Twitter. Go, follow! :)

Connected through Immeasurable Loss

Letters for LucasOne of my dear friends, Tonya, lost her parents in a tragic accident several years ago.

They were young, vibrant, generous, and kind.

We spoke last year about what it means to have lost a parent, in my case, and two, in hers.

We spoke of death, faith, and pain and how we will explain our losses to our young children.

She asked me to share with her my thoughts all that time ago and I kept procrastinating, as the answers hadn’t crystalized in my mind as I thought they might.

My father’s death has been so central to who I am and how I approach my life.

Today, I am finally ready to talk and I’m sharing my thoughts over on Tonya’s blog, Letters for Lucas.

Please come visit me there and spend some time getting to know Tonya. Her soul is truly lovely.

I will be ever grateful if you share your thoughts and wisdom with us in the comments.


Happiness is a choice…

A few words before you read…this post assumes that you know about my father’s death. If you are new to my story, you can read about it herehere, and here.

Also, I have exceeded my word count with this story and it is truly sentimental. But it is mine and to cut words would be to cut meaning. I just couldn’t do it.

My grandparents stepped in to fill the void left by my father’s death and to offer me a sense of connection to him.

My grandfather, honorable, and upstanding, strong and true, was a leader in the community.

My grandmother, soft and loving, tender and compassionate, taught me to express my feelings, talk when something bothered me, and listen when someone confided in me.

There were no silences, no empty spaces where words should be.

They taught me that happiness was a choice, to see the sunshine and smell the flowers, to cherish my life.

They taught me that I could have more and be more than I ever dreamed.

I spent every weekend with them.  Looking back on that time now that I am a mother, I can’t fathom having Katie and Matthew gone every weekend, can’t imagine those days without them.

My mother let me go for their sake…to help ease their pain from the loss of my father.

My grandparents offered me routine…predictability.  They were constant and true.

Friday nights were for settling in and entertaining company. Friends or family came to play hands of Bridge and 31, but before they arrived, my grandparents played Spite and Malice with me, teaching me the joy of game play.

On Saturday nights, after supper, baked beans and homemade macaroni and cheese, we settled into the living room, where Lawrence Welk greeted us.  Once I made it through the boring polkas, I was rewarded with The Love Boat.

Hands were never idle in my grandparents’ home.  As we watched television, my grandmother taught me to knit and crochet, always giving me a task perfectly suited to making me feel both challenged and accomplished.

Before bed, I helped my grandmother roll her hair, then climbed into my bed, in my own room at their home, the sheets ice cold.  It’s such a funny thing now to think about.  How strange it is that something as simple as a properly made bed can make such a difference at the end of the day.  The ritual of peeling those covers back and feeling the crisp, cold linens, inviting you in for your warmth, is a truly magical thing.

Why didn’t I make my bed at home?  Why didn’t I realize that I could create that routine for myself?

I would lie in bed on those nights and imagine what it had been like to be my father, their child.  They  pushed, yet comforted him.  They had high standards, yet comforted and encouraged him after a failure.

Sunday mornings were lovely.  My grandfather, up before the sun, greeted us as we made our way to the kitchen to collect hugs and my grandmother’s steaming hot coffee.  We went back to her bathroom, where I helped remove her hair curlers and place those soft rollers and plastic picks back in their bag. She fluffed and comb her hair and spritz on her perfume.

We ate the same thing every week…thick, greasy bacon and eggs fried it the fresh bacon grease.  Biscuits and baked beans from the night before finished our meals.

We dressed for church and drove the short distance to take our seats in the very front, in a pew with a brass plate that bore my father’s name.  The bibles in our tiny little chapel, were donated by my grandparents in my father’s memory.

There was something about reaching for and holding one of those bibles that made me feel connected to my father.

These people knew him.  They knew my grandparents.  And it was one of the very few places that I can remember where I didn’t feel shame…shame of being the child whose father had been murdered.

There, I was accepted and encouraged.

I was hugged and kissed and told a million times over that I was my father’s child through and through, his spitting image.

The relationship that I shared with my grandparents couldn’t have existed if my father had lived…of that I am certain.

With the loss of my father came something so very beautiful and important.

I wouldn’t be me without them.

I welcome concrit on this piece…I feel like the structure should have been different somehow, but my mind just couldn’t pull it together. Every time I write about my grandparents, I’m swept away by my love and memories of them…it’s tough to see things with any perspective. Any suggestions?

This piece is linked up with The Red Dress Club. Our challenge this week was to find beauty in something ugly.


On my nightstand is a laminated clipping of my father’s obituary from the local newspaper, printed just days after his death.

I have held onto this piece of plastic that encases this clipping since I was two years old.  The paper has yellowed over the past four decades, despite the plastic protection.  The words on the opposite side of the page have bled through, but the words that matter are still perfectly clear.

I have held it in my hands so many times that I know exactly how sharp the edges are, how smooth the plastic face is, and now, in my adult hands, it is four fingers across in width.

There were nights when I was particularly lonely and swept up in my loss, when I slept with it in my hands.  I would wake and feel it there and be reminded of the sadness and heartache I felt as I was falling to sleep.

The obituary says so much, yet it omits so much more.

My father’s obituary reads:

Funeral services will be held Saturday for Arnal D. Bray, 26, who died in a Waterville shooting incident Tuesday night.

It does not tell you he was shot twice by his best friend.

A native of Waterville, Bray was born March 19, 1947, the son of R. and L. Bray.

It does not tell you his parents were scarred, with wounds so deep they wore them on the outside for their entire lives.  These people who believed in the good of others, who were always the first to offer help to someone in need, were shown just how cruel the world could be.

He was graduated from Lawrence High School, Fairfield, in 1967.  He was a member of Fairfield Lodge, 100F, and of the Shawmut Chapel.

It does not point out that he was twenty when he graduated, proof of his rebellious nature.

A veteran of military service in Vietnam, Bray was employed at Scott Paper Co.

It does not tell you of all he saw in the war.  It does not tell you that he saw babies die.  Women.  Men.  Old. Young.  All dead.  All covered in flies. It does not tell you that he struggled to process all that he witnessed.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. A. Bray of Fairfield; his parents, of Shawmut; one daughter, Nichole Bray, of Fairfield; two brothers, one sister … several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

It does not tell you that the hole he left behind was so vast. That each of the people, even those who were lumped as nieces, aunts, cousins, felt his loss deeply.  They felt the reach of the frightening world. They realized that harrowing things didn’t happen only to strangers.  They didn’t happen just in the cities, they happened in their small town, to someone they knew, to someone they loved, to someone they laughed with.  The world became a far more serious and somber place.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at L Bros. Funeral Home, where friends may call today from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.

It does not tell you the way my grandmother cried, the way her heart was more than broken…it was truly decimated.

It does not tell you how hard my grandfather tried to be strong for the family, his wife, his surviving children.

It does not tell you how my aunts and uncles did their best to support their parents, while they were falling apart inside at the sight of their parents’ devastation and heartbreak.

It does not tell you how another piece of my mother died.  It does not tell you I wasn’t there.  That my presence was never even up for discussion.

Bray.  Arnal D. — In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Shawmut Chapel.

This obituary does not tell you my father was magnetic, charming, funny, handsome, dynamic.  It does not tell you he would never be forgotten, never minimized, never truly gone.

I’ve often thought about the person who typed up my father’s obituary.  I’ve thought about him sitting at his typewriter, putting into words the most basic information.  The facts.  That’s what an obituary is.  Truly, just the most basic of facts.  There is no color, no emotion, no compassion.  Just dates, lists of family members, just facts.

The rest, well, the rest lies with those who have lost.

About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
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