That’s My Daddy!

Growing up the youngest of TEN siblings meant that you showed up when you were called. There was no dilly dallying. Hands were washed and hair combed and you found a seat at the table if you could!

You just learned to fit in and pull your own weight.

In our family if we ran out of chairs, the younger ones among us just stood at the table…all gathered ’round for a family meal,

one barefoot perched on the arch of the other and we’d lean in and listen, because there was ALWAYS a story and a reason to learn something from it.

Meal time and having a place at the table was so very important to Mother, so we’d crowd around and when one was gone, they were truly missed.

We sang happy birthday at our breakfast meal to celebrate each family members’ birthday, even if the family member whose birthday we were celebrating was not home with us.

But one by one the group around the table grew up and the chairs around the table were more readily available to us younger ones.

Growing up the youngest of TEN siblings meant having a ready made band, choir or team for any project one could think of. It meant having a supply of people that belongs to just you, complete with in laws and nieces and nephews, that you’ve never lived without…ever…until suddenly you do.

I mentioned to Ray a few years ago about how I don’t know life without aaallll of us, that were part of us, when I was born and soon after.

Ray put his wrists on the edge of his desk, pen still in hand. He shook his head and smiled his little smile.

“Well, I’d never thought about that. You were born into a family that was different than what I was born into.”

And it felt – oh so very good – to have thought a thought that Ray had never thought before.

He was smart and studious.

His love for learning and teaching oozed from every pore of his being.

I knew Ray, simply by osmosis I suppose, and that he was my brother.

I knew that we went to Alma High School graduation, Class of 1969, because Ray was giving the Valedictory address AND the only B he ever received in his ENTIRE LIFE HITHER TO FORE and FOREVER AFTER was because the class was talking and the teacher lowered everyone’s grade by one letter.

He’d spent 12 years of his life preparing for this moment.

It was heartbreaking…the B letter grade, not the graduation.

I remember a sweltering hot August day and wobbly waves of heat radiated from the sand colored sidewalks as we walked across the campus at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas.

Then I remember stepping inside the men’s dorm and everything became dark and dim as my eyes adjusted from the intensity of the late summer Arkansas sun to the bluish glow of florescent lights.

“This is where members of the ROTC live.” Mother explained. I didn’t know what that was, but I was VERY sure it was important.

I also didn’t know what Civil Engineering was, but my childish mind was pretty sure it was something smart people studied in places with hot sidewalks and florescent lights.

Ray came home for Fall Break and picked me up the full length of his arms and placed my squirming and squealing, golden brown curly headed little girl self right up against the ceiling.

And so I knew Ray was tall and strong.

The next summer, God must have had other plans because Ray’s second year of college was in Indiana as he began to study the deep truths of theology and commit to a life long passion for ministering and teaching others.

And there was a veeerrry beautiful girl named Dianne,

and after a few years, two sweet little boys named Bryan and Bradley and tiny baby boy Easley who came for only a moment, just a few shallow breaths, and then a sweet little girl named Kerry.

When Ray was graduating with his Masters from Anderson University, someone in our family was holding Bradley high over their shoulder so he could see the pageantry and pomp and circumstance of the graduates as they came down the graduation aisle. Ray had prepared diligently for this moment.

Bradley scanned the sea of candidates for graduation all draped in black robes with the appropriate sashes and tassels which bespoke of each degree. None of that mattered to Bradley, as he squealed in exuberance to the top of his lungs, “There’s MY DADDY!”

People standing nearby chuckled at his childish excitement.

Ray heard it. We saw that twinkle in his eyes and his slight sideways smile.

It was a precious moment and my mother never forgot it. I guess, neither have I .

“I am sibling number 6.” That’s what I’ve heard Ray say.

Then with a soft little chuckle he’d add, “There are 5 of us boys and we each have 5 sisters.”

And he left it at that so the inquisitive one spoken to could do the math in their head.

That’s what I’ve heard him say.

We all loved to hear him teach and tell stories and explain what he was learning.

One of my favorite current discussions related to the fascinating life cycle of honey bees.

Ray’s life has impacted people around the world.

We all loved to hear him teach and tell stories and account details of things he’d noticed.

Now, “us Easley’s”…we’re an odd lot of huggers and hand shakers and plan discussers and story tellers and family adopters ( if one loves you, we ALL love you, just come on in, there’s always room for more) marathon runners (not the physical marathon, but the life one) and finish strong-ers.

We may be gasping for air, but we’re gonna finish strong and love you till the end.

I think maybe our collective family love language is quality time, because we love to gather ’round and tell stories and visit and just be…and come on in, we’ll include you too.

If you know Ray and Dianne, they embody this.

We especially love it when someone has a big project in the works and we can all pitch in and help.

Working together, visiting, drinking Dr. Pepper and eating popcorn and watermelon

constitutes a good day for us.

There are so many layers to a life like Ray’s. I could never fully express who he is.

All I can fully say is that I’ve never known life without Ray, until now…suddenly I do!

It looks like God had other plans for Ray this summer.

Ray had scheduled a moving van for Tuesday, August 3.

Several of us were there together, Thursday evening, helping prepare for their move on Tuesday.

But sometime in the next few intervening hours, Ray’s plans were diverted.

Ray was studious and smart and diligent. He was still making and executing his plans with his calm steady faith in the path forward.

But the day that he’d prepared for his entire and whole life

in every way

came.

That day came.

Though the unexpected journey took him down an unknown path, that wasn’t necessarily heralded by pomp and circumstance and pageantry, he was still learning (about brain tumors and surgeries) and teaching and investing in his students at Emmaus University and other places and preparing for his next class in August AND walking in faith.

As he stepped across the stage of eternity, he left his beautiful Dianne and fine young men Bryan and Bradley and talented Kerry and the whole entire collection known as The Ray Easley Family, whom he loved so dearly.

But…come next July 9th, I know for a fact his siblings will remind each other, “today’s Ray’s birthday.” And we may swallow a sob or tearfully sputter out a happy birthday song even though he isn’t here.

I can’t comprehend heaven.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning I lay contemplating how Ray had lived with this time in mind.

He’d won!!

He’d gone on, reached the goal, crossed the finish line, finished strong, and left us gathered ’round here.

As I wondered what it was like for him stepping across the stage of eternity, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that he heard,

“Well done MY good and faithful servant. Look and enjoy what I have prepared for you.”

I’d like to think that my mother and daddy and all our other family members who’ve gone before jumped up and exclaimed, “Hey, Ray’s here!” Get him a chair!” And they’d all lean in and share the story of God’s amazing grace and His faithfulness and truth.

And maybe, just maybe, sweet little boy Easley, squealed to the top of his lungs, “That’s MY DADDY!!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you to each and everyone of you who’ve sent such beautiful sentiments of love and condolence. You mean so much to me and that you are here to share this online space together. The lyrics to the song we were singing are below.

HIS HAND IN MINE

Lyrics

Print-Friendly Lyrics

You may ask me how I know
My Lord is real
You may doubt the things I say
And doubt the way I feel
But I know He’s real today
He’ll always be
I can feel His Hand in mind
And that’s enough for me

I will never walk alone
He holds my hand
He will guide each step I take
And if I fall I know He’ll understand
Til the day He tells me why
He loves me so
I can feel His Hand in mine
That’s all I need to know

Other friends that I love so
May pass me by
Other friends may never see
The teardrops in my eye
Other friends may never know
The pain I bear
Every tear he wipes away
And all my heartaches share

I will never walk alone
He holds my hand
He will guide each step I take
And if I fall I know He’ll understand
Til the day He tells me why
He loves me so
I can feel His Hand in mine
That’s all I need to know

I can feel His Hand in mine
That’s all I need to know

When the time shall come

to leave this world behind,

I shall walk that lonesome valley

with His hand in mine.

I shall walk that lonesome valley

with his hand in mine.

Written by: Mosie Lister Published by: WB Music Corp

30 thoughts on “That’s My Daddy!”

  1. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing brother! It seems completely unreal that Ray is gone. I’m so thankful we know where he is and we will see him again. Thank you for these sweet memories. Love you.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Esther. Yes, we never expected this before summer’s end. But our hope and faith guides us. Love you too.

      1. Dear Rachel, your words are beautiful and so perfectly said. I feel like I got to know Ray, and you and your precious family, a little bit better through your memories. Thank you for sharing this with us. Praying for the entire Easley family! ?

    2. So sorry, Esther, for your loss. It is so hard to give up a loved one but it is so wonderful to rest in the giver and taker of life. May God sustain you at this sad time. Your writing was tremendous. God bless!

      1. Hey Rachael…Glad to know you ALL love Tim & I, because I believe Ray loved us! AND we love you ALL!!! I believe he loved everyone! I can’t think of a sweeter soul than Ray Easley!!! Wish we could be with the family, to hug each one of you and tell you we love you…and praying for you all! Someday we will spend eternity there together!!! ♥️??

        1. Marsha, Yes! You’re right. Ray loved you and we love you both right back. In times like these it’s comforting to gather in and be together, but love, prayers and faith transcends time and distance and that is such a beautiful thing. We rely on that and know you are there. Thank you for your kind words and prayers.

  2. Oh such beautiful thoughts and words! I loved him SO much and have been envisioning heaven with him there!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Dori. I know you loved him. This is all really hard to comprehend and I’m so thankful for the hope of heaven.

  3. Oh, Rachel! How so beautifully written. I can see all of the events as you painted each picture so clearly.
    The big hole that Ray’s passing has left will be filled with many cherished memories.
    Love you!

    1. Donnie, that is so well said that the hole will certainly be filled with cherished memories. Love you too.

  4. Such a beautiful tribute to your brother. Rachel you are so gifted whith writing words and speaking to the heart of anyone who reads them. I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother. I am praying you and your family feel the comforting arms of Jesus surrounding you with His love and peace. I really wish I could be at Ray’s Homegoing Celebration Service but I will be there with you in spirit. I love you all so very much.

    1. Melody, thank you for your kind and heartfelt words. I know you loved him too and he did you. Thank you for your prayers. We love you too!!!

  5. Oh, Rachel, such a beautifully written tribute to him. Thank you for sharing him with all of us to pray for and to celebrate his life with you. May you have the happiest of memories brought to mind to bring you joy as you all navigate the journey of life on this side of heaven without him, sweet friend. That’s my prayer for all of you.

    1. Leslie, thank you so much for leaving such a beautiful and heartfelt message. Our faith and happy memories carry us through. Thank you for your prayers.

  6. These are inspiring and loving words and so beautifully written! Condolences to your entire family who will miss Ray but also celebrate a life so well lived.?

  7. Rachel,

    What beautiful words!! Ray was such a great man! I so appreciated his teaching. He was one of the best! I was thrilled with the song you posted. A beautiful memory! I know you all are hurting but what rejoicing is going on in Heaven. What a day that will be! Love to you all!

    Robin

    1. Robin, thank you so very much for these sweet words. I LOVE this song. So thankful for this memory.

  8. Rachel, wow! Powerful truths, incredible relationships formed and tremendous love expressed in this writing. I can see how you love your family and how you loved Ray. I’m so sorry for your significant loss in this passing of your brother. You are on my mind and in my prayers as you process this grief.

    1. Rachel, thank you for your sweet friendship and kind words. I appreciate your prayers and condolences so much.

  9. Beautiful tribute to Ray. May your memories of him bring comfort to others. Praying for Gods strength and comfort for you and your family.

  10. Well Rachel, you’ve done it again for sure as only you can do. I so love your writings…..what a gift.

    I do want to express my love n sympathy to you and all the Easley family. What an unexpected turn of events. I’ve never been as proud as I am now that I was in Ray’s CFC graduating class. The picture I have of Ray is after classes one day, he and Keith walked out the old college campus walkway to their car in their suits. I knew they would be going to a roofing job. They were the Easley brothers…polite boys they were.

    Rachel, I’m sending a hug through the miles clear from Kansas. May healing come to the place that is hurting…..a hurt that comes when someone we love leaves too soon, we think. “He doeth all things well”. We’ll trust Him, dear Rachel, knowing that Ray won’t have to take all those shots he was telling us about, Covid concerns are all left behind, and he escaped those treatments, and all else that is coming in these end times. Yay for Ray! He excelled again!

    1. Alta, thank you for your kind words and condolences and these beautiful memories. I had forgotten that you graduated college with Ray. And to think of Ray and Keith wearing suits to class is such a precious memory. I appreciate you helping to count the blessings of the journey and the continued prayers.

  11. Rachel, what a beautiful tribute you wrote about your brother, Ray! You and your family are in my prayers! Love you so much!

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