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Memories and Mist at Niagara Falls

Ray, 82, has been taking care of others for as long as he can remember. He thinks his deep desire to provide comes from his childhood on a ranch. Ray’s family was guided by strong religious values, encouraging them to work hard and care for one another.

When he became an adult, Ray enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he gained the rank of E5 and was a beloved cook. After leaving the military, he wanted to continue serving, so Ray and his wife Frances joined their local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapter, where Ray continues to volunteer actively.

However, Ray’s selflessness is not limited to his military service and volunteerism; it runs deep within him. He has been a caregiver for his stepson and wife, selflessly ensuring they had everything they needed while they both battled terminal diseases.

Ray and Frances often dreamed about the adventures they would take together after retirement. At the top of their list was visiting the dramatic back side of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, where they could see the world-famous waterfalls on board the iconic Maid of the Mist boat.

Tragically, Ray lost his wife in 2018 before he and Frances could embark on that adventure together. Losing Frances was challenging in every way and affected his outlook on life.

“For the first couple of years after her death, I just wasn’t ready to live without her,” he shared. “I especially wasn’t ready to go on adventures without her by my side.”

But as Ray processed his grief, with the support of his family and daughter Roxanne, he began to gain a new perspective.

“I realized I needed to get out and do things in order to live again, and by truly living, I would be honoring her memory,” he shared. “I want to do the things we talked about and visit the places we dreamt about together.”

When we heard Ray’s moving story, we were honored to help this selfless veteran and dedicated caregiver fulfill his lifelong dream of visiting Niagara Falls.

Ray and his daughter Roxanne traveled to the border of the United States and Canada, where they could witness the majesty of Niagara Falls for the first time together.

The pair was full of excitement as they donned their pink ponchos and boarded the Maid of the Mist, which would take them across the water.

“When we got our first clear view of the falls, my Dad was awestruck and silent,” said Roxanne. “Finally, he said, ‘Niagara Falls. I’ve waited my whole life to come here.’”

“My father is not a man who shows strong outward emotion,” she shared. “I knew I was getting to share a moment with him that was so special and full of emotion.”

For Ray and Roxanne, spending this time together was a meaningful way to connect, make new memories, and honor Frances.

“I know Frances would have wanted me to go if given the opportunity,” Ray shared.

As the father and daughter duo sailed across the water, being immersed in the powerful mist of the Falls was truly exhilarating. But Ray also experienced a powerful internal journey.

“It reminded him that there is life left to live, experiences that he hasn’t had yet, and memories to come,” Roxanne said. “He went home with joy, and nothing could make me happier.”

Surrounded by the power and natural majesty of the falls, Ray had a chance to reflect deeply on his own journey.

“Aging is a natural process. So is grief. I’ve learned through the stages of my own aging and grief to enjoy life while you can,” he shared. “Experience all that you can, when you can.”

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