Ray Dobratz Wake

Marc Robbins and I drove to Old Saybrook for Ray Dobratz wake tonight. There comes a time when you just say to yourself, “God, I’ve been to a lot of these.” I suspect the frequency will rise over time. This is another thing you don’t think about as a kid desperately wanting to be a grownup!

Ray was killed in the Middletown power plant explosion last week. He was sports producer Erik Dobratz’s dad. Knowing Erik got me pretty close to knowing Ray.

What a tribute. The line stretched along the length of the funeral home and around a corner. Most of Old Saybrook High School’s parking lot was filled with mourners. Marc estimates 500 in line. A co-worker I ran into told me she waited nearly an hour and a half. This was as many people as I can ever remember seeing for this kind of thing.

Because we came in the middle of our work day Erik told us how to cut the line. I’m hoping those who waited in the cold don’t feel we were disrespectful to them.

We approached the casket. It was closed as might be expected under the circumstances. The casket was surrounded with artifacts from Ray’s life. I saw a pair of fireman turnout boots first. There were work boots too and a fishing rod and photos. A bottle of whiskey and can of beer were at the ready. The moment was deeply poignant as seemingly random items helped paint a picture.

Erik and his family seemed OK–well composed considering.

I’m not sure what we expect when a family is so suddenly undone. The grief comes in waves. They’ll surely be knocked down again many times over the next few days and weeks.

I hugged everyone and told them how sorry I was for their loss. They hugged back. Ray’s wife, three sons, sister and mother each took a moment with everyone in the long line.

In my religion we don’t have wakes, but I think I understand a lot of what they accomplish. With every hug you’re assuming… offloading if you will… a little piece of the family’s grief. No, you don’t take it all away–not even tonight’s massive showing can do that.

The grief we have is directly proportional to the love we have. There was too much love for all this grief to ever go away.

3 Responses to “Ray Dobratz Wake”

  1. Evi says:

    Geoff, I really liked your view of the “wake” custom–about the hug assuming a little part of the grief? Some people really dislike wakes but they can be very comforting to the survivors. I find myself wondering about the custom of Shiva–people have told me “It’s just a Jewish wake”. Is it similar? I went to one when I was much younger–we just dropped off food to the family at their home and everyone was very quiet. It seemed nice and respectful but it left me wondering.

  2. Geoff Fox says:

    Evi – Shiva is a period of mourning after the burial, as opposed to the pre-burial wake. Burial happens very quickly in the Jewish faith–normally the next day.

    From a practical standpoint families and friends getting together has a similar effect in any religion. Obviously, Ray had many, many friends and his family will be the better for that.


  3. Love to the Dobratz Family says:

    Geoff, wow, very well said. We were there last night too and waited 2 hours outside to get in. I have never seen anything like it either in all my life, what a tribute. We went to school with Ray’s sons and the whole Dobratz family is very much the pride and joy of Old Saybrook. They are truly loved by everyone here and I’m sure the extraordinary turnout of mourners comforted them because they could see how many peoples lives were touched by the life of Ray Dobratz. The family photo collages were also very touching; I will remember Ray as a true family man who deeply loved his wife, 3 sons, 5 grandchildren, sister, mother, and life. What an admirable man.

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