I knew you had been in and out of the hospital as your mother and I would talk about your condition. On Saturday morning, I was in Baton Rouge with the family for a baseball tournament about an hour and a half from where we live when I got the phone call from your mother. It was hard to understand her so your Uncle Dick got on the phone to tell me that you were in critical condition and and would be undergoing what I call a "Hail Mary" operation to try and stop the internal hemorrhaging (they did not know where the bleeding was originating at the time.) I was planning to fly to Maine the following week but this news made it vital that I get up there ASAP. Tami stayed at the tournament with the boys and made flight arrangements over the phone for me while I drove home. I was able to get a flight to Maine that would get me in at roughly 10 PM that night. All during my drive home and to the airport and while I was on the flight, I prayed harder than I had ever prayed before because I knew you were going under the knife again with an uncertain outcome. Dick picked me up at the airport and we made our way back to the hospital. I think it was late Saturday night (can't remember the exact time because I lost an hour and I was in a constant rush the whole day.) The waiting room was packed and I assumed that the hospital was busy with a lot of emergencies that night. Come to find out, all the visitors were there for you! Your friends and family had basically taken over the entire ICU ward. My purpose was being there was very simple; to maybe give someone an extra shoulder to cry on for comfort as we waited on news of your condition. As time passed, we would receive sporadic updates that sometimes would be encouraging and sometimes not. We would hug each other whenever Nikki or one of the doctors would tell us your vital signs started to trend positive and we would hug each other even harder when we received word that vital slipped back. Nikki was always solid as a rock. She was always at your side unless she came to the waiting room to pass us word of your condition or to unselfishly let someone else visit you. Phil provided the much needed comedy relief as he had everyone in stitches with his stories. The ongoing joke, except from Phil's perspective, was someone would knock on the bathroom door every time he was in there. He was convinced the doctors and nurses would wait for him to go and then run by and knock on the door. I got a turn to come to your room and your mother came in with me. We walked down the hallway of the ICU and I braced myself as I knew I would have a hard time seeing you in the condition you were in. We entered your room and you were lying in bed exactly how I saw you in my vision only I was on the other side of your bed. You had all of these machines hooked up to you. I still get the shivers when I think of the sound of those machines and the mechanical movement of your chest as the ventilator pumped air into your lungs. I stood at your side for a while with your mother and listened as she spoke to you. Your eyes were slightly open pointing straight ahead but looking at nothing while in a coma. I leaned forward a little, semi-firmly grabbed your arm, and gently rubbed it. I spoke in a normal voice, "Ray, this is Uncle Ray. I love you." At that time, you very slowly turned your head in our direction! It was only an inch or two but it was distinct. I looked at your mother and her eyes were big as saucers and I thought to myself - "Oh Crap! What have you done now Thombs!" With a stern voice I told you need to get to sleep and rest. At that time, you slowly turned you head away from us as if to say OK. Your mother and I looked at each other in amazement for a few seconds and then I realized that I was in pain. I looked down at my arm and your mother had her fingernails embedded in my bicep! The news of the story brought relief to the waiting room gang and hugs of joy. After sleeping on the waiting room floor the first night, I spent the rest of the nights with Dick and Marta. Every morning we would drive in to the hospital to see you and spend the day there. I went to the Mall with Uncle Dick and we found a guy that designed t-shirts. I had him make us a pile of the "Ray Strong" and "Team Ray" shirts that folks could wear around the hospital. They were quite a hit and people were always asking about them. You became even more popular while you were sleeping. You had gone back into the operating room because they wanted to see if the dressing they packed around your liver was having any effect at stopping the bleeding. The gang waited and waited until finally we saw a gurney being pushed by 8-10 doctors and nurses. About 20 of us lined the waiting room window as they rolled you by and we let out a cheer of relief as the last nurse to pass buy turned to us and gave a thumbs up. A few minutes later the doctor came into the waiting room and told Team Ray that things had gone much greater than expected. They went in with the intention to remove a small portion of the gauze they packed around your liver to stop the bleeding. As they began to remove the gauze, they realized your liver was starting to regenerate and the bleeding had stopped so they were able to remove ALL the gauze. This saved you from having to have addtional operations. You were still in a critical but stable condition. Dick and I went into your room to see how you were looking. We stood at your bedside and I reached down and grabbed your hand. I leaned down and said again, "Ray, this is Uncle Ray. I love you!" Immediately, you squeezed my hand and slowly opened your eyes and then turned you head to Dick and Me. Again, this completely caught me off guard and I told you to close your eyes and go back to sleep and you did. The funny part of this story happened later that night when Dick and I stopped by Pizza Hut to grab a bite. We were sitting across from each other in a booth wiating to be served and I started to reenact our visit with you. Dick wanted to know how hard you squeezed my hand. So as I was sitting there, I reached across and grabbed you Uncle's hand and gave it several gentle squeezes. Well, just at that same time the waitress came walking by to take our order and stopped in front of us. She kind of hesitated as I was sitting there with you Uncle's hand in mine. We quickly pulled back our hands but it was too late as she walked off thinking that the "couple" might need more time! We tried to explain to her but I could tell she was not buying it.