Be brave. Be calm. Stay warm. Stay dry. Stay out of the ditch.
Ask most people for the meaning to life, the way to live, the means to make the most of what you got, and you will find yourself in discussions, debates and people determined humanity cannot figure out the answer. Ask Raymond Clark, and you will get thirteen words. Word to live by, laugh with and learn from.
Raymond teaches us bravery doesn’t come with a badge or title. Bravery comes with the courage to walk through hospital doors day after day to face the unknown. Bravery means facing the future knowing you do not know what’s ahead, but that’s the best part. Bravery means smiling, some times crying but always trying.
Raymond knows when others tell you that you will not live, you prove to them that life can be defined by quiet defiance and wisdom cannot be determined by age but experience. Calm comes in knowing you know yourself and life truly lived is loving others unconditionally.
Raymond understands warmth comes through the comfort of laughing to Sponge Bob, being surrounded by friends and family and warming others with your spunk, your spirit – no matter the size of your body, and the sparkle that shines through those big eyes behind wire-frame rims that believe some day he will be a scientist.
Raymond realizes staying dry means pushing back the tears to make others smile. It’s giving other kids sick in the hospital your Christmas gifts so they can enjoy a happy holiday, even when the toys can be so much fun. Staying dry requires work because the rainstorms come when you least expect it and some times you cannot find your umbrella soon enough. And some times all you want is to stand in the rain, and in Raymond’s case, be normal and enjoy ice water like everyone else. But staying dry also means staying strong.
Stay out of the ditch.
Every small town South Dakota kid could tell you for hours the reasons to stay out of the ditch, on a dry or muddy day or the middle of a winter storm. They realize that when the fog rolls in and the road can be difficult to see, some times it’s the ditch that guides you home, the path you follow by but avoid going in. The ditch is where the wildflowers meet the weeds and where the beauty of life’s struggles meet the path less paved.
Raymond moved this week to a place where he will share more wisdom, wit and whatever other Raymond-isms he can conjure up. The world seems a little emptier, a little quieter, a little lonelier, and life seems unfair. But Raymond wouldn’t look at it this way. He would see the life he loved, giggles he gave others, the hugs he helped spread.
Thirteen words. Nine years. The wisdom of a lifetime. Thanks, Raymond.
KELO interviews with Raymond: