Georgia Gray and Michelle Gray

Recorded December 8, 2018 Archived December 17, 2018 39:27 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: cte000075


Michele Gray (51) interviews her daughter Georgia Gray (17) about living life without her sister, Ruby Gray, and Georgia's next steps for travel and college. They each share memories of Ruby's life.

Subject Log / Time Code

Michelle Gray (MG) asks her daughter Georgia Gray (GG) to talk about her sister Ruby who died unexpectedly two years ago
MG discusses why the song This Girl is on Fire reminds her of her daughter and why they like to play that song
GG discusses the ways she feels that her sister Ruby reaches out to her now
GG-"I think about me being a senior and how she never got to be a senior and how like it's weird that she's my older sister but I am now older than her"
MG talks about how not having her daughter at the dinner table, and not having to cook as much food was one of the hardest things for her
GG discusses other changes in her life that she has noticed since the loss of her sister, like where she sits in the car for road trips or on planes, as well as how Christmas changed after the loss of her sister
GG talks about how she was super grumpy for the first two years after her sister's death, but she has recently felt much more happier and has enjoyed how her family has grown together
MG discusses how her son JJ and GG now say that they love each other every night before bed but how they didn't do that before and how it's one good thing that how come from everything
GG discusses the colleges she has applied to so far and why she chose to apply to those schools
MG talks about how she encourages GG to expand her horizons but the reality of her daughter leaving home also makes her sad
MG talks about how she realized the reason GG wants to go to a big college is because of how everyone at her high school, since she was a freshman, knows who she is and what she went through
GG discusses about how she feels weird being the first one of her siblings to go off to college when her sister had always been the trailblazer
GG- "I've never been known for me, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it isn't really a good thing either"
MG and GG discusses the choice to not take down her daughter's instagram account and how people still interact with the account
MG talks about the way in which she communicates with her daughter now
GG talks about her favorite memories of her sister
MG talks about her favorite memories of her daughter


  • Georgia Gray
  • Michelle Gray

Recording Location

The Dougy Center

Partnership Type



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00:04 My name is Georgia gray. My age is 17 today's date is December 8th, 2019. I am at the dougy Center in Portland, Oregon and my relationship to my partner is that I'm her daughter.

00:17 My name is Michelle gray. I am 51 today's date is December 8th, 2018. We are at the dougy Center in Portland, Oregon and my partner is my daughter and her mother.

00:31 So I'll ask the first question. The dougy Center is a place where we come to help process the grief for having lost a family member and when we come to the dougy Center, we usually start by at least in my group. We start by saying the person we lost in the person we rang or the people we bring to the dougy Center that night. So so sorry that my name is Michelle. I'm here because we lost our daughter Georgia sister two and a half years ago suddenly in her sleep. She did not wake up one morning while we were on vacation and I brought today my daughter, Georgia.

01:21 And we're at the dougy Center to help us work through that experience. So my first question for you is can you tell me about Ruby by the person who died and then how they died and then something by Our Last 2 weeks, but so I always say my sister died tune of years ago and we don't know how she died and people kind of look at me like it's okay. You can say how she died we're all friends here, whatever and I just we don't know at all and I think that's like the biggest blessing in a way is to just know that she went peacefully because the first thing I think of when I think of her as just like how much of a peaceful person she was and how often it was a priority for her to bring that piece and other people's lives. She loved to ski, that was her Mane.

02:14 Herman hobby if you look at their Instagram, it's all ski photos and I just make fun of her for it because I hate to ski, but now my brother is on the same ski team she was on so it's kind of a whole family thing, but she we always call her the girl on fire and the whole school was saying that song by Alicia Keys and it really is like her personality of just being able to engulf everything in a room and a good way and just bring the light into people's lives and fire can be a good about thing, but she definitely made it a good thing.

02:53 Can you tell us why she why we use the girl on fire as the song that reminds us of her. I don't know. So there's a video of her up at the top of a ski race holding her phone and she had that song playing and she's belting and she first of all and none of us have good singing voices, but hers in particular. Don't say none of us. I do not have a good singing voice and Ruby did not have a good singing voice, but she was a very loud so she's at the top of the ski race.

03:31 Belting that song at the top of her voice just firing up all the other kids around her and they also have join in and it just became sort of emblematic of her share the video with you.

03:49 So the girl on fire is that's what I think about when I think about Ruby.

03:54 There is we are Catholic and there is the the quote that these guys one of the things that we Circle back too often when I think about Ruby is a quote from a song and I'm sure it's from a Bible verse that I don't know about there being a light there is no darkness that can overcome the light and there's always a light that can overcome the darkness and I have always thought about each of my three children.

04:27 In terms of light

04:30 And when I think about Ruby I think about fire and fireworks cuz she was loud and

04:40 Always exciting always adventurous always had something to say and wanted to be sure that everybody else heard it and when I think about my son who is 14

04:54 His light to me is a warm light. It's kind of like the sun or heat lamp is very warm and affectionate and when I think about George just like I think about a beautiful twinkling sparkling star starry night. And so that the image of light

05:20 I love that that song is Ruby song because it to me just means her and I whenever I listen to the radio and it just for me is always a sign when that song comes on and it's played often. It's always just her little way of reaching out to me, I think.

05:41 So that let that be my next question. What are the ways that you think Ruby reaches out to you?

05:49 I would say the number one saying is through other people and I'm not your little bit more religious than I am. But I do we have mass at school every week and I do go and there are just little moments and like so long mass and you're sitting there and just kind of falling asleep and then everyone will start seeing at the end and swaying and I think about me being a senior and how she never got to be a senior and how like it's weird that she's my older sister, but I am now older than her until a lot of people who unfriended that are older than me. I see a lot of her and them because they've kind of not adopted me but they've definitely taking me and us are a little sister to I think

06:35 A big one is the mountains and like I mentioned I don't like skiing but I love to go up and just look at the trees with the snow on them and watch my friends ski race like she used to do and I think that the other biggest thing is

06:56 Say it but just like family and us for being together in like the way we sit at dinner. There's three chairs and then my dad stands and my mom has her own chair and like ones always empty now, but we definitely didn't take that and like make it a bad thing that we have this game where we throw the paper napkins into the compost bin at the end of dinner and whoever loses gets sprayed with the cat spray bottle. But the way that all of us have chosen to not dwell in the grief and make it into something that is

07:38 Like family and being just being around each other and knowing that yeah, we're missing someone but we're not going to let that stop us from growing in us from being happy.

07:51 It's funny you mention that dinner to all that for me was the hardest.

07:58 Making Ruby ate a lot, and it was so obvious when she was gone.

08:10 Like I didn't need to cook a smile. Like I would have all this extra food cuz I dismiss, you know, she would consume a lot. She took up a lot of space. She's not she's not like overweight or anything, but she was just a big person.

08:26 And there was a long. Of time where I didn't want to cook cuz it was too painful and I could not set the table. Just that space was too big too much of a space and some people said we'll keep sending it to a space for her. I just I can't satisface for her. Just Airi. No, she's not there to empty. I will say JJ. Our son has said one of the good things. I think at the dougy Center sometimes ask if there is there. Is there anything good that's come from the loss and he said he upgraded his seat and anymore so

09:16 So I guess that seat at the table as a big and is a big gap and one way our life is really changed. Are there other ways you think that our world has changed her routine touching that's funny you say that chair thing because I don't notice as much at dinner, but whenever we drive anywhere and it's just me and JJ in the backseat and not having anyone to fight over the Middle With or like when are buying airplane tickets and it's I know that my mom and dad will sit together and then me and JJ will sit together next to someone else. That's not my sister just for some reason traveling makes it seem weirder and I think another big thing that's changed is Christmas.

10:01 And not we used to go to.

10:04 My mom's dad and mom's house every year for I think what would like 15 years in a row in Salt Lake and Ski and have like a big family Christmas and then we didn't go to two years ago and we went last year and we're not going this year and I personally never loved going because of the skiing and I love my family and I love being with them but it never was my favorite vacation and now especially being that her anniversary is on the 25th of every month. And so Christmas is always an anniversary and not something I notice a lot is like the 25th. So I guess holidays are a lot different. I don't get as excited about

10:48 Thanksgiving or Easter or anything because I know that there should like an MPC like Thanksgiving is really hard.

10:57 I would say another way. My life has changed is like this is going to sound weird. But I am a lot happier now. Not that I was not that I wasn't happy when she was alive. And I really was but like I went through a time right after she died for probably like 2 years of being like super grumpy and soup and like my mom was like I was super grumpy and just like upset all the time. And now I've liked come to realize that it's not all bad and I would do anything to bring her back, but I think our family has grown a lot closer and knowing

11:35 All of us are going to be together now and like we saw a realization if we can't bring her back, but we'll do everything we can to make sure that I like her Legacy is preserved. And I guess that's a big way. I've changed like the way I live. I guess that sounds really dramatic. But I've just noticed that a lot of what I do is like going into preserving her Legacy rather than trying to bring her back and I think that when that switch went off in my mind. Like there's no normal ever again and that we're just going to have to not move on because you never can but we're just going to have to deal with it. That's when I started seeing the good and seeing the same like how close it's brought us together.

12:17 I listen every night when you guys go to bed.

12:23 We've always been a close family. Right and of course, we always told our children. We love them.

12:30 But you and JJ every night before you go to bed. Say I love you to each other.

12:39 And you didn't do that before I need a jacket.

12:45 Matt Toomey

12:49 The only good thing is, I mean I shouldn't say that. It's it's one good thing that's come out of this is seeing how you two need each other and rely on each other and express your love for each other cuz you always have loved each other.

13:04 Georgia as a senior and has recently applied to colleges what colleges did you apply to, Georgia?

13:13 University of Washington University of Oregon University of Colorado Boulder Northwestern Boston College in Michigan

13:21 Can you explain why you made those choices Oregon number one because my dad went there and it's close to home in-state tuition. It's easy and my brother wants me to go there cuz he's a big deck fan University of Washington. I love Seattle and my sister one of the biggest reasons is my sister really wanted to go to Seattle you and I think it would be really cool to get to live into in the city for college where she wanted to go to college and not the same school. But like being there would be really cool for me. I also just think it's really pretty in they have a good football team. Colorado is a good place for my mom to visit so she can ski and I haven't seen the school yet, but I've heard it's just very very pretty and super fun, Michigan. My mom's parents both went there met their

14:14 In the quad in the main building like 57 years ago now and I think they've been married for 53.

14:25 But they are big Michigan people. They only own Michigan clothing. They only wear Michigan clothing. They are head-to-toe Michigan everyday and any person they see with any GM or any blue or any yellow. Is there all over them and I don't really want to go there, but I had to apply just to make them happy.

14:51 Boston College is a Jesuit school and I go to a Jesuit school and that's super important to me and it's super important to my mom Boston's really far away, but

15:01 I think I would really like going there and then Northwestern has the best journalism program and not something I'm super interested in. I've also never been to that school, but and Chicago be really cool place to live and where do you want me to go? I want you to go where you're going to be happy and I and I think you'll be happy at any one of those places. I think there's pluses and minuses, of course.

15:30 What's interesting to me is well, two things. First of all, I've really encouraged you to try to reach out and and expand your thoughts about where you wanted to go.

15:47 But when push came to shove and we were sitting there sending out you were using my credit card to pay for those applications. The reality of you leaving really really hit me and I just thought of what am I trying to encourage her? So having you nearby I think I think we all need that a little and I think you were talking about your relationship with JJ. I think it is really important to me that that relationship continues.

16:20 And I think if you're far away, it'll be harder for you to maintain that relationship at least as closely as you have it now, but that's not to say it couldn't happen. I know JJ looks up to you so much. The other thing that

16:40 I've come to realize and it was to having conversations with other people as Georgia all of those schools with the exception of Boston College are really big schools and I did not go to a big school Ruby was not looking at Big schools and you're not really an extroverted person. I mean you have obviously close friends and I just kept thinking out at a big school.

17:08 You might get lost or are you just there's just so many people and and

17:15 I said to you at one point I said you could have a class with a hundred and fifty students. And you said that's what I want and I thought who wants that like that's crazy and then as I reflected on that and spoke with other people.

17:31 Georgia has been you've been at school with me where I'm I teach at her High School.

17:39 And do your freshman year you lost your sister who was a big figure in the school?

17:46 So everybody has known who Georgia is from the minute. She walked on campus in and even before I mean you were you were baby sat in the back room of the library when you were a baby so that I could come back the Librarians watched you.

18:03 So you've been under the spotlight everyone is known her Georgia gray was and it occurred to me that you want to be a number that you want to be anonymous that and I know that feeling I know when we first decided not to spend Christmas in Utah part of it for me was I just wanted to go someplace where nobody knew who we were nobody knew our story. We could just be normal and not be on stage because we'd lost Ruby and and

18:36 So I get that and I also get that you're a good student and you're smart and you will make good friends, and you won't be somebody who falls through the cracks at a big school. You'll stay on top of whatever you need to do, and you'll find your people through whatever you choose to be involved in, but it when I realized that I thought I get it I get why a big school is important to you and and why maybe you want to be in a class with a lot of people and you'll still learn a lot and you have a great experience. It doesn't have to be smallest seminar classes.

19:17 So

19:20 I think it's an exciting time for you. I look forward to seeing and inviting what you choose it's weird being the first ones to leave and not like cuz I always grew up with her being like the Trailblazer and I always complained about being the middle child and being a little bit forgotten but I loved being able to look up to someone and I still have people in my life that I can look up to obviously but not in that way that's like cuz we were very similar people and we had like obviously she wanted to go to the small schools. I wouldn't have followed her but we had really similar interest and we can talk about a lot of this kind of stuff together this kind of stuff together. So not having that has been really weird and knowing that like

20:02 I'll be the first one out and I'll be the first one to graduate and hopefully I graduate and all that but I think you saying like everyone has not my name. Yeah, I run. So my name Bible so just been Ruby sister for the last four years and as much as I love that and I never want that to go away. Even JJ not kind of has died of being like a sister or brother and I never want that part of my life to go away and I will always carry that with me, but I want to go to a place where I get to tell the people I want to tell about what happened and not everyone knows and I can tell if people are a little especially right after it happened.

20:45 Eggshells in a lot of people were really like scared to say the wrong thing and I don't want to be in a place where people think they're going to say the wrong thing to me cuz I hate that I just want people to be honest, but there's something so like appealing to me about sitting in a class with like 200 other kids and the professor Never Getting to Know My Name.

21:09 Which is like weird and a lot of kids are the complete opposite and right now like they want to go to a tiny school and they want to

21:17 Like me other professors and no like a everyone at the school. They want to run another name. But like I've had that experience and it there are people at school and everyone knows our names because they're like the quarterback or because they want a bunch of state championships are because they're good singer or whatever, but I've never been down for me which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's a really good thing either.

21:45 Will you too I mean, I guess you can't say this now, but will you reach out to people at school and tell them your story? I mean people ask because it's like in my Instagram bio about such a weird thing but people and I'm sure in my dorm will be photos of her and you know, that's a question you get a lot is how many siblings do you have? And I never know how to answer it because I don't it's like you never want to get into it. But you also don't want to say it you only have one sibling when you down but I'm sure it will come up and I like the people that I am friends with their will know I don't want people to not know ever

22:30 Is it important to you to go someplace? Where?

22:34 There are people who know you like your best friend that's hard because you go to the ER if I go to Oregon that's will just feel like tissue it again. I think not that I don't think I would hate it, but I would not get to form my own identity and that sounds like so cliche getting to like reinvent yourself, but I don't need to remind myself. I just want to be myself without that attached to it. And I know like most of the schools. I apply to other schools other people apply to and so I can count on at least like 4-5 Joshua kids going to wherever I go. So heading there now and yeah, yeah.

23:19 So you might have mentioned Instagram a couple of times.

23:25 One of the things that we have chosen not to do was take down rubies Instagram.

23:37 I notice that people still post comments on her Instagram, for example.

23:45 One of Ruby's best friends just lost her mother.

23:49 Ellie and people write to Ruby to say welcome. Mrs. Grimes to heaven or you know, keep an eye out for whatever do you feel that's the way that you still communicate with Ruby? I don't think it's number one way, but I definitely to still come on it and I have my I have notifications on so when someone comments on her post I get the notification so I go look at it. But my band, you know this about me but my biggest thing has always been writing and that's I always write to her or write about her.

24:32 That's probably the biggest way. I'm not a big like I don't like to talk out loud to her or but I definitely definitely in my thoughts. I feel like what are you doing?

24:42 To communicate with her

24:47 I wear a necklace that is an angel and I whenever I think about it. I just told that necklace.

24:56 I try at night before I go to bed. I hold the necklace and I try to think of a memory of her.

25:04 And I'm now cycling through memories. I've started actually thinking about articles of her clothing and trying to imagine her wearing them. That's sort of my last thing I think about before I go to bed.

25:17 I also we have Ruby was cremated as you know, and we have we spread ashes at Mount Hood and we spread some at her favorite tune at the beach. Most of them are on our Mantel in our bedroom, which you will be responsible for when your dad and I are gone.

25:42 But we also have that.

25:46 Place a bunch of at Pittock Mansion where we have that quote about the light and I often will go there and just sit with her. Look at Mount Hood and I don't know that I talk out loud to her sometimes I do but I just go and I try to imagine her hugging me when I'm there.

26:10 And I just that's where I go. I think as a physical place to be with her.

26:18 Yeah.

26:20 I needed a place to be.

26:25 What is your favorite memory of her?

26:29 My favorite

26:31 I have three number one is when she died. We were in Sun Valley on vacation. And the last time we were there before she died was I think that summer before probably and the the room that we stay in in the little condo is there's two beds and then there's a loft in a bed up in the Loft and we've been out. How do I sleep in the Loft very very scary and you could fall off and just roll down at any moment, but we were sitting up there and we had just gone to like some store like maybe like Walmart or something or like whenever the Sun Valley store is and we had gotten a bunch of makeup and weird like doing one person was blindfolded and other person and they the blank of the person was doing the makeup on the other person and I have a bunch of photos of us and

27:28 Just like randomly makeup all over our faces and just like in the Lost up in Sun Valley and then we never took the makeup off that night and just like left it on for the next morning, which was just such a bad idea. But yeah, I think of that or my favorite video of her is when we're all at the beach and my dad had just gotten this new camera and he was laying down and all of us were jumping over him so he could get like cool shots of us jumping I guess and someone else was videotaping my dad doing this and I run and jump over it's unlike little jump. It was like not impressive at all. And then my sister comes like holding down and was always like my mom said she was like a big not like she wasn't overweight at all, but she just was always tall and like strong and she full force like went into my dad and just ruin the cameras and everywhere made like a lot of thumb pain this and I have ever heard and it we

28:28 Video and I love watching my video. And then the third one is I think in 20 December of 2014 or maybe 15 or it was 14. We had a family reunions kind of thing in California and we have a family Olympics and one of the events was a lip sync battle and everyone was doing like Queen and random things and then my sister and I we have matching.

28:59 Leopard print onesie is which is actually in this during the funeral. That's what she had on and wish you was my cat's with pigtails and we sang Watch Me Whip and did the whole dance and not like all of our grandparents were just so confused. But I love that. That's why my favorite. What about you?

29:23 I have a very strong memory of the last time not the last time I saw her but pretty close to the last time being in Sun Valley and she was with route with Molly and I was riding the trailer so that Daddy hadn't wasn't going to be in that day took the day off and so I was riding the chairlift by myself.

29:46 And it was a glorious sunny day and I look down the trailer Fantasy XI and Molly just flying down or whatever flying squirrel and just screaming and laughing and I was wide open and they were just skin so fast and then about two minutes later this whole group of guys like the McMahon boys, and I don't know if the two laser with household items flying down behind them and they were just doing laps and I just thought and then I bumped into her at the lodge when I was going in for lunch and she just asked my mom and she just was so at was just her happy place. She was so happy the other memory I have was

30:34 That fall she died in the spring that fall. She and I were as you know asked to go with a group from Jesuit to Philadelphia when the pope came to Philadelphia and it was just a really formative experience for both of us.

30:53 She also I think found some of her people there and and one of her best friends with with this was one of the other six kids and

31:02 It was just a lovely peaceful experience in the night before we were going to see Pope Francis. We had mass at the school where we were staying at St. Joe's and then they had reconciliation. They had confession and I had actually we're we're fairly newly Catholic and I had never done never gone to reconciliation and I don't know if she had or not but we were sitting there and she went and then I went and then we just sat together in the few in this beautiful church, and she just put her head on my shoulder and I just talked to her and

31:40 I think about that hug all the times at the El Royale.

31:49 It may be because there is a picture of it. That's why I think about it, but

31:53 I'm so grateful that I had both of those opportunities. I have both of those are the memories that stick with me of her because

32:03 It's two different sides of her but also.

32:07 She was so loving and so happy and so effusive.

32:10 So

32:14 Do you want to say any is there any other?

32:19 Comment or I don't know I feel like we've covered a lot and I can't read anymore.

32:29 I will say this that when I asked if when I saw that this opportunity was available.

32:37 And I asked if you wanted to do it. It's very much like you to say no first off and I said, okay, you know why there's no way I could force you but for some reason it came back around and probably asked again cuz my podcast because of your partner, but I have been looking forward to doing this and have an opportunity to talk with you and cuz I don't get to join you and the dougy Center we have a parents group and you have your kid group so I don't get to hear your memories of Ruby that much and it's not like we talked about her all the time. We come up and tell funny stories about her but I am grateful to have had this opportunity to spend however many minutes sitting and sharing this time with you, especially that it's coming up to Christmas and getting an opportunity to really sort of think about Ruby before the holidays cuz it will be hard for all of us.

33:36 So thank you. Nice to be here with you. Thanks for making me do it. Now. I'm actually glad that I don't even remember. I just remember you forward me the email if you're going to be there on December 8th at noon, but I'm glad that you brought me here and I think you and Dad are really good about making sure JJ and I feel comfortable at any point to talk about it, but we don't that often. I mean, it's always brought up but we never like really sit down and talk about it. So I'm glad that we had this opportunity. We will go up to Pittock before the holidays and take Ruby her ornaments.

34:19 At least before we go away this year and have a few minutes with her celebrate Christmas with her one thing that we did this year that we haven't done was we finally put the ornaments on the tree.

34:35 And that made me think of her cuz there's lots that she made and let them pictures of her. So I think things like this.

34:43 Things like being able to do that show that we're making I don't know if there's progress. I don't think there's no ultimate goal, but our grief is changing.

34:54 Her role in our life is changing.

35:00 Though it's still huge, right?

35:05 Do you think there's any other things we've done differently?

35:11 This year as opposed to other years.

35:18 I just think a lot of what we talked about it last night. Avoid if that we're not a very negative family. I'm definitely the most cynical out of everyone but

35:31 They're just we haven't fought a lot and we haven't.

35:34 Been really angry at each other or anything and I

35:40 Like one of the things that grief brought into my life was a lot of like tension and a lot of just being like on edge all the time and I've definitely lost a lot of thought and I think I would say that for her family as we're just really comfortable with each other and we're still learning how to deal with everything but I think putting the ornaments on the tree was a weird like

36:05 Like you said, it's not really progress but it felt like oh this is becoming something that we can like deal with no Daddy. I didn't even pull them out yet for this year.

36:17 And we also got Kendrick actually, you're going to laugh at best. But the other day I was look we have a cat Kendrick that we got for JJ last year Christmas cuz he wanted somebody to cuddle with at night. His name is Kendrick Lamar. I was looking at Kendrick and I had this moment I thought Ruby never got to meet Kendrick and then I got is Kendrick Ruby. He runs the show klutzy. He's kind of klutzy.

36:53 I don't know. Yeah, maybe Kendrick is Ruby in like rain, we've all kind of sort of become a cat person. I wouldn't say all I would say you. I do I like that cat for sure.

37:17 Yeah, I think I think we would have liked Kenny actually.

37:23 Yeah, she would have been there pick him up carrying around the scratcher the three weeks ago. It was a year ago.

37:42 That was a big change. Time to sell him.

37:46 #today any other last thoughts or comments are?

37:59 What are we going to do for Ruby at when we go to Amsterdam this year? I hope you had a Christmas again. He's sitting in the front row only people. That didn't know Dutch.

38:15 But take somewhere. I love rats with us. I hope we get to see all the lights again.

38:24 Yeah, I think going to Berlin will be weird because like she's such a history. She would like cried when she saw the wall. So I think that would be cool knowing actually looking forward to it good. I think we're good. I think we're less you want something else?

38:57 Bairdi crab it up. I can go have your rabbit entering the other people don't know how to do it.

39:16 Love you. Love you, too, and the best my sparkly light sparkly pretty life.