I met Ray and his grandmother outside Cracker Barrel. Granny had her hands full. Ray was running in circles. Ray is 11 years old.
It was the breakfast rush, the hungry crowd was growing impatient. People stood in clumps, waiting their turns to eat toast, eggs, and God-willing, applewood smoked bacon. Ray ran between the people, hollering.
“Weeeeeeeeeeeee!” Ray said.
Granny called for him, but he was too busy to hear. People looked annoyed.
A hostess paged a table of ten. A group of ten fortunate people followed the hostess into the Promised Land, while the rest of us Children of Israel licked our lips, starving to death beside the licorice whips and horehounds.
The old woman kept calling for Ray. When Ray finally came near, I could see he had Down syndrome.
He was a happy child, and he apparently loved his grandmother very much because he laid himself on her lap.
Granny and I talked. I learned that Granny was a lot more than just a grandmother. I won’t tell too much because it’s none of my business, but Ray is of no blood relation to her.
This gets confusing, so try to keep up.
Granny’s daughter-in-law brought Ray to her door when he was 2 years old. The girl was married to Granny’s son at the time. Ray came from the woman’s first marriage.
The very next year, the young mother bolted for parts unknown, she left the boy. So Granny adopted him.
“Believe me,” said Granny. “I never thought I’d have a child in my life, it’s not something I expected, and I can’t keep up with him.”
Her husband died several years ago, her son works offshore, and without Ray, all she would have is her cat.
“It’s funny, I had already accepted that I’d be alone in my old age, without anyone to look after, or anyone to tell my good-mornings to, but God has a sense of humor.”
Ray requires a lot of work. He’s got energy. Granny believes he is keeping her young.
Granny is 72 this year, and she is fulfilling the job of a 30-year-old. But there is something else.
“I won’t be here forever,” Granny told me. “So I try to make sure Ray knows he’s loved, and when I die, Ray will have to go live with my son.”
Something about the way she said that made me wonder. I asked a few more questions.
“Yeah,” Granny said, “I got cancer. I was cancer free for three years, but you know how that goes. That just means I was holding my breath until the next appointment. I was never really at ease.”
Her cancer has come back with a vengeance, and the doctors are saying that it could be even more serious this time.
But she does not seem grieved by this, nor does she seem frightened. Maybe she’s putting on a brave face for a stranger like me, or maybe her bravery is for Ray.
But if I were to place a bet on it, I would say that Granny knows something I don’t.
“I ain’t afraid of what happens next,” she said. “I know where I’ll go, and I’ll still be on the job when I get there.”
“On the job?” I asked.
She grinned. “I’ll be a guardian angel, and I’ll look down on Ray, and my son, and make sure that they have every opportunity in life they deserve, you know? What else do grannies do? What else are we here for?”
Ray leapt off his grandmother’s lap and greeted a few strangers who waited in the restaurant line. They were not impressed with Ray.
Ray couldn’t care less what they thought. He loves everything and everyone.
“Get back here, Ray!” Granny yelled. “Lord, that boy never stops.”
Ray jumped into Granny’s lap again. “I want bacon Gamma! Bacon!”
Granny pet his hair. “Did you ever have something happen that you just knew was meant to be, and you just knew it was what you were made for?” She kissed Ray. “That’s what he is to me.”
I asked Granny if I could write about her. She agreed, but she had one simple request.
If you write about us, call my grandson “Ray.”
“Certainly,” I said. “Why that name?”
“Because he’s a ray of sunshine in my life.”
MJ - March 22, 2019 8:31 am
Thank you again for sharing. I raised foster children along with my four children. We never knew what to expect when they came to live with us.
Nancy - March 22, 2019 9:54 am
God gave this world children with Down syndrome as an example on how to love life and people. Thanks for sharing this story, Sean
Elizabeth Edens - March 22, 2019 10:24 am
Cathi - March 22, 2019 10:45 am
That was almost the ugly cry…
Susan Kennedy - March 22, 2019 11:00 am
MaryJane Breaux - March 22, 2019 11:52 am
Oh my heart…it overflows and my eyes leak. ❤️
Loretta in Alabama - March 22, 2019 12:17 pm
I just said a prayer for Granny that she will have many more years upon this earth to raise Ray.
John Wheeler - March 22, 2019 12:36 pm
This reminds me of my uncle. His name was Ray Light. And the name was appropriate.
Grace Murdock - March 22, 2019 1:00 pm
So heaven worthy is she!
Mary - March 22, 2019 1:18 pm
Precious! Tell Granny I’ll take and love Ray…I LOVE sunshine!
Cathy Moss - March 22, 2019 1:43 pm
Granny is one of those people who is an angel on this earth. She is already wearing her crown and wings. I pray that God gives her as much time with her Ray is sunshine as he possibly can.
I have 8 wonderful grandchildren. Our youngest has Down’s syndrome. He is almost fifteen months old. He fought hard to live and spent a total of 12 weeks in Nic U. He now is 20 ils of love with beautiful blue eyes and rosy cheeks. He is a joy to our entire family. He has rocked our world in the best way. I pray that Rays dad is up to the task of finishing up Granny’s job. She will be watching from heaven????
flkatmom - March 22, 2019 2:17 pm
Granny and Ray will be in my prayers. Thank you for sharing their story.
Barbara Pope - March 22, 2019 2:37 pm
Pat - March 22, 2019 3:13 pm
Beautiful, just beautiful Sean! Down’s Syndrome children are soooooo sweet!
Linda Moon - March 22, 2019 3:50 pm
Cancer-Shmancer!!! The return of it is often scarier than the beginning of it. I’m glad Granny allowed you to share her story with us and that Ray Of The Sunshine is in her life!
Shelton A. - March 22, 2019 5:05 pm
Granny is someone who lives in the light and, with all her heart and mind, in the moment. She is blessed, not only with Ray, but in her life as a whole. May God continue to watch over her and Ray-let Granny be given more strength, courage, and hope than she already has.
Beth Ann Chiles - March 22, 2019 5:19 pm
Thank you for sharing this today— our own “Ray” Carlton passed away last night on World Down Syndrome Day. It was timely and appropriate just like your post. He will always live in our hearts as our special gift from God. We are so blessed when we have people like Ray and Carlton in our lives. Thank you so much for recognizing that and sharing Ray’s story. God bless his grandma.
Ann Marie Bouchet - March 22, 2019 5:30 pm
Thank you for sharing this. I cried when you said her cancer re-ocurred. Are you keeping up with her? She is a remarkable woman.
C.E. HARBIN - March 22, 2019 6:50 pm
Carol - March 22, 2019 9:49 pm
Beautiful. ?Prayers for them all ?
Charaleen Wright - March 23, 2019 3:37 am
Suemvi - March 24, 2019 12:17 am
Love. Pure and simple.
turtlekid - April 19, 2019 11:57 am
Don’t know any Downs folks, but they do make me smile if I see them. I am buying “Johns Crazy Socks “ because the founder has the syndrome, and I like the idea of joy!
Teena - April 19, 2019 2:21 pm
A reminder, in all of lifes’ chaos, there is Joy in the simplest of things.
“Downs”, ( an oxy moron) for it seems, keeps that “Joy” of innocence that many of us lose along lifes road.
Beautiful story, I’m most certain Grannys’ faith is the ” why & how” this child was brought to her.
Prayers she is healed of her cancer!
Steve W. - April 20, 2019 4:27 am
It’s so easy to look away when you see these kids. What you don’t see is the joy they’re bringing to someone’s life. God bless them & God bless you, Sean. Your knack for opening our eyes is uncanny.