On the morning of April 19, Mary Ann found Ray's lifeless body next to a handgun. That his behavior—and his decision to take his life—stemmed from brain damage he might have incurred as a football player gives her, oddly, a sense of peace. "It's a disease that eats at the brain," she says, "and the player can't help it."
Not long after Mary Ann buried Ray, a woman from their church whose husband suffered from Alzheimer's approached her to say, "Do not feel guilty about feeling relieved."
"It was a relief," Mary Ann admits, "because every day [with Ray] was a conflict. Every day was like I was going to war—and not physically; it was all mental and emotional." She finds comfort in her faith and in Ray's final words to her in the note he left: I am ready to meet my Lord and savior.
The last three decades have made her tougher, Mary Ann says. Which explains in part why, even after Ray's death, she presses on in her legal battle against the NFL, intent that the league create the kind of medical-monitoring program that could have benefited her late husband.
Ray's framed Falcons jersey, his old football helmet and an old game ball still sit in his home office, exactly as he left them. On the ball are written the words YOU PAID THE PRICE. Mary Ann looks at it occasionally, knowing that the inscription applies to many other men—and so, too, to the women who love them.