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.