New York Times Portraits of Grief

Raymond Meisenheimer

Raymond Meisenheimer had the new patio penciled in, down to individual flowers and the Jacuzzi. He was supposed to retire in November, his 20th anniversary with the New York City Fire Department, and he and his wife, Joanne, and their daughters, Lauren, 15, and Kaitlynn, 13, were supposed to move from West Babylon, N.Y., to Holtsville.

"We found the house of our dreams and were getting it built," Mrs. Meisenheimer said. "He got to see up to the spackling. We spent our mornings out here; we'd have breakfast at the house. We had a lot of plans. Unfortunately it didn't work out. But he's here, I know that. I know that."

Mr. Meisenheimer planned to finish the basement. "It was going to be the He-Man Woman-Haters Club, because he had all girls," his wife said.

"He always called me Queenie, that was his nickname, and of course he was the king," Mrs. Meisenheimer said. The girls played along. "He'd say, `Who's the king?' and they'd say, `Oh you are, Daddy!' That's just the way he was."

All four were involved in choosing cabinets and tiles for the new house.

"Right now my girls want to follow through with everything he wanted," she said. "We are going to finish the basement and patio, finish it the way he wanted."