Charles Johnson Ratti
3/16/1967 - 6/15/2001
When somebody dies,
a cloud turns into an angel,
and flies up to tell God to put
another flower on a pillow.
A bird gives the message back to the world,
and sings a silent prayer
that makes the rain cry.
but they never really go away.
The spirits up there put the sun to bed,
wake up grass,
and spin the earth in dizzy circles.
Sometimes you can see them dancing
in a cloud during the day-time,
when they're supposed to be sleeping.
They paint the rainbows and also the sunsets
and make waves splash and tug at the tide.
They toss shooting stars and listen to wishes.
And when they sing wind songs,
they whisper to us,
don't miss me too much.
The view is nice and I'm doing just fine.
At the age of 18, just weeks away from starting his freshmen year at Florida State University, Charlie severed his spinal cord in an automobile accident and was totally paralyzed from the neck down.
He over came the obstacles in his path with courage and determination. Thanks to modern technology, Charlie was able to power his 'sip and puff' wheel chair, giving him independence to move aboout without assistance of others. An environmental control unit fitted with a sip and puff control allowed him to dial his phone, turn lights on and off and even chanel surf!
Charlie lost his father three short months after his parents, three brothers and sister moved from Long Island to up state N.Y. Charlie, ten at the time, never got over the loss of his father and kept him alive in his heart.
Charlie's dad once told him how he wanted to cut a big tree branch and trim it to look like a 'Y' and then run a thick rope through the top and tie a large knot in the middle and plant it smack dab in the middle of the yard! This way his dad said, "the next time someone asks me why I moved you all out in the middle of no where, I'll point to the thing and say: WHY NOT!"
During a storm in 1999, a tree fell in his yard. Charlie, as a tribute to his father's memory, (with a little help from his friends) created a 'Why Not' just as his father described. We planted the 7' Y shaped branch in about 24" of cement in a large bucket. In the spring 2000 we were all amazed to see the dead branch sprout leaves! This was a sign to Charlie that his father appreciated the gesture. I know they are together once again.
Charlie had several young nieces and nephews who he absolutely adored. With the aid of his handicap van he was able to attended their school programs and sporting events. He often took them on 'day trips' to movies, malls, pro games, fairs and arcades.
But most of all he loved going 'Trick or Treating' with them every Halloween and always dressed in costume. Halloween 1997, Charlie decided to be "Bat Man." He bought a mask, gloves, and cape, I built him a bat mobile that fit over his chair out of cardboard boxes. With a little toot on the mouth stick...the Bat Mobile was cruising.
Children, who on any other day would shy away from Charlie, ran up to him, and spoke freely. One child said 'I love you Bat Man!' Charlie told me that for the first time since his accident he was treated like a normal person, and not some guy in a wheel chair. This time when people staired and pointed at him, he didn't mind!
Charlie told me 'I want to be Bat Man every day!" I understood what he meant but reminded him that dressing as Bat Man on Halloween was cool. But dressing as Bat Man any other day of the year was nuts!
Charlie lived vicariously through his nieces and nephews. He enjoyed watching them ride the go carts at a small local amusement park so much that he purchased a Honda Odyssey for the older ones to ride on their visits to Uncle Charlie's and hid it in his garage. But as shocked as the family was to learn he had a go cart, it didn't come close to the look on the man's face when Charlie rolled out of his van in his wheel chair to buy the darn thing.
I cared for Charlie as a home health aid for over five years. I admired his spirit. If anyone had reason complain and indulge them selves in self pity it was Charlie. But did he? No! He was an inspiration to all who knew him.
The day I started working for Charlie I realized that when he was a teenager, he used to bag my groceries. The image of him running out of the store at the end of his shift to meet up with his buddies flooded my memory with many emotions. I'd like to think that he is running once again.
Charles Johnson Ratti
By: John Ratti (brother)
Charlie Ratti, Betty Ann and Jack's son. Our brother, uncle, nephew, Godson, and friend is free to walk again!
Charlie who was dealt such a lousy hand, yet managed to touch us all in some positive way, is gone but will live is in all of our hearts.
Who was that masked man that changed all of our lives? From 'Bat Man' to the Big Bad Wolf'. From 'Disco Boy' to the gracious host, he never shied away from the spotlight. He had as many lives as he had Halloween costumes.
Are we better because of his pain? I think so. Just as all of his nieces and nephews never saw his handicap as a handicap. He was just Uncle Charlie, their pal, their mentor, and the guy with a go cart!
He taught us compassion and patients. Not necessarily with his verbal prowess, but by the way he helped us find it within our selves. He brought out the best in all of us.
For Charlie and our family, I would like to thank everyone, especially care givers and friends who took him into their hearts as if he was a part of their own families.
To all of his nieces and nephews, you now share a guardian angel in Uncle Charlie. He is and always will be watching over you.
To Bill (Charlie's step father) Charlie, and all of us wish you a 'Happy Father's Day!" And thanks for being there for Mom.
To Mom: Charlie says "I'm sorry."
To Charlie, Our love for you is real. It will never fade away.