Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Still shining

For five exhausting years I was a (minor) manager of a busy but happy team at WorkCover.

Ray was in that team. Late forties but with an open-minded younger attitude, deeply in love with his wife Pat and seemingly in a permanent pose of rocking back at his desk, laughing.

And yet he was intelligent, kind and a hard worker who was always prepared to drop what he was doing and pitch in to do whatever last minute 'this is what the Minister wants' request I'd fling at him. He wasn't interested in corporate jargon, wearing a tie or sucking up to management, but just got on with things. Perfectly.

He once turned up to a dress-up party wearing what seemed like his normal outfit of jeans, sneakers and t-shirt. "Didn't make much of an effort there, Ray."

In mock indignation he said, "Yes I did. What's the colour of my t-shirt?"
"Um, yellow."
He brushed it down. "Exactly. I'm Ray; a Drop of Golden Sun."

I'd tease him about his coffee mug. Ironically this never held coffee as he loathed the stuff, but would have milky tea sloshed in several times a day. The vessel had more rings than Saturn and survived with the Internationally-accepted Office Hygiene Approach of a quick swish under the tap before the next brew. "That mug could have the cure for cancer in it, Ray. If you don't wash it soon the inside'll get too layered and crusty to hold any fluids at all."

He then took to giving it a real clean every fortnightly pay day and would proudly stand at my desk brandishing his sparkling cup. "Kath, because of your nagging, science has been set back a few years."

Overseas holidays were his passion, a relatively recent occurrence due to giving up smoking and saving every single dollar that he would have spent on the cigs. Sapphire still remembers the beautiful fan he gave her from Japan, the sarong from Bali and the delicate hibiscus flower made out of soap from Hawaii.

He died last night from lung cancer. Being the poster boy for the Quit campaign and cleaning his cup didn't succeed in the end and for that I'm truly sorry. Ray was a truly decent, lovely man and my memories of working with him (in a job that backfired for me quite disastrously) are all fond ones.

Walking Milly this morning in between rain showers, I saw this sunflower still blooming in the first days of winter. Rest in peace, dear Ray. I feel so honoured to have known you. You genuinely personified the term 'top bloke.'


Elisabeth said...

This is a glorious tribute to this man Ray, this drop of golden sun. You describe him beautifully, Kath. It's cruel how, as they say, the good die young.

Andrew said...

Pretty unlikely, but when I die, I hope someone writes at least half the tribute you have written to Ray.

The Elephant's Child said...

What a truly lovely tribute you have written. I suspect he would have been embarassed at your praise, but it sounded more than deserved.

Kath Lockett said...

I've shed a few tears today Elisabeth as he's one of those rare people that you only have good things to remember.

Thanks Andrew. Just as long as it's not "Far, a long long way to run" (away from you) :)

EC, he'd have blushed and then wandered back to his desk to get on with things. Dirty tea cup and all.

Pandora Behr said...

So very sorry for your loss. A lovely tribute.

River said...

What a wonderful man!
We should all be so lucky as to have a "Ray" of sunshine in our lives.

Kath Lockett said...

Pandora, I feel lucky to have had such a terrific workmate. *Everyone* at WorkCover SA admired him.

River, that's what I used to call him :)

no-one said...

Sorry for your loss. It's great that you have such lovely memories to treasure.

Dive at Job said...

some people tend to workaholic and forget how life

Catherine@Simply Natural said...

Beautifully put Kath, a lovely tribute to a good man. I'm so devastated for Pat, they were such a devoted couple who found each other later in life, so not fair.

Vanessa said...

Ohh, what a lovely eulogy for a friend. I am very sorry for your loss, he sounds like a great bloke.

Kath Lockett said...

You're right, no-one: nothing but fond memories. A quiet man who was happy to stay in the background but in reality stood out from the crowd because he was so nice.

Dive - I think that Ray had the combination of work/life pretty well spot on. Just bad luck for us that his life ended too soon.

Thanks Catherine. They were a devoted couple and I want to write her a note but it's always something I dread. What on earth do you write to someone in a card when their other half has gone forever???

He was, Vanessa. I might forget having coffee today and stick to tea in his honour.

ropcorn said...

What a lovely flower to find during these cold days. And I'm so sorry to hear about your friend Ray. You wrote a very nice post about him.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Ropcorn. It's funny what you'll notice when out walking, depending on what you're thinking about....

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Kath,

Sounds like a nice bloke.




Kath Lockett said...

He was, PlasMan. My time at WorkCover ended in a blaze of failure but Ray was always a friend and brilliant worker.

Romana said...

What a wonderful tribute Kath, to a man who sound like a great workmate. Lung cancer is a horrible disease, it was awesome your memories are of the "fun times". Very sorry for your loss.

Hannah said...

Beautiful tribute, Kath, and how lucky he was to have a friend like you with the love and writing skills to celebrate him so.

Love his costume clever-cop-out; my mum and I are always coming up with ploys like that to hide our lack of dress-up skills! :) I think we would've liked Ray too.

Anji said...

I'm sorry that you've lost such a lovely friend.

Isn't it beautiful how life sometimes gives you little signs - like that sun flower.

Anonymous said...

".. was happy to stay in the background..."
That sums up the absolute top, genuine, funny, down-to-earth, nice (did I say genuine) bloke that he was and I will always remember him to be. He took me under his wing at WorkCover and for that I am truly greatful. As Ray would say and want us to do - "Turn around... get on with it."

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Romana - actually I was *his* boss for a few years - not that he was anything other than a pleasure.

You would have liked him, Hannah. Everyone did.

Anonymous, you're spot on - he was always naturally very generous with his time and expertise. "Turn around and get on with it" indeed :)