This past Sunday, we attended a memorial service for the world renowned jazz pianist, Ray Kennedy, who died May 28th after a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. For us, Ray was more than just a phenomenal jazz pianist—he was our son-in-law.
No one really likes memorial services, however, I must admit this tribute to Ray was quite simply amazing.
I think that it truly embodied who Ray was in life—uplifting and positive—and focused on the two things that Ray loved most in this world: music and family. Everyone who spoke reminded us of the gentle, funny, and caring man who loved our daughter and granddaughters so deeply. The speakers’ narratives were filled with funny stories, sweet memories, and bittersweet tears. We were especially moved by John Pizzarelli’s talk about Ray. Ray had been John’s pianist in the Pizzarelli Trio for 13 years. John read letters he had gathered from people who wrote to John about how much they loved Ray and his music, such as comedian Billy Crystal, author Mitch Albom, Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe, radio host/columnist Doug McIntyre and more.
In additional to the speeches, there was music as well. The John Pizzarelli Trio and The Russ Kassoff Group played and sang songs that were special to Ray. Our granddaughters each got up to play tributes to their father: Lauren on the flute and Brielle on the piano. They played beautifully and I know that Ray would have been exceptionally proud and beaming at their performances.
The most amazing part of the day was the transformation that we felt as the service progressed. We arrived feeling such a profound sense of loss at the tragedy of Ray’s life cut so short by MS, but we left feeling at peace, knowing Ray would have loved the tribute—nearly as much as we all love him.
Good bye, dear Ray. While you may be gone, you will never be forgotten. Your spirit lives not only in the beautiful music you created, but in our lovely granddaughters who have inherited your love of music.