One year ago today was Tom’s funeral service. I will always remember the generosity of his brother in saying it was ok to hold the funeral on his birthday. He said it was never a day that had much meaning for him and now it would. Happy Birthday, Rick and thanks for being a brother Tom loved dearly from cradle to grave.
Rick gave an improvised eulogy that wound up being just perfect. I slaved over mine and could not come up with a single thing I wanted to say until suddenly my pen just started writing this:
This is a love story.
Finding the love of your life at age 55 is a rare and special gift.
I was the lucky beneficiary of an internet search engine. Tom and I had each joined a dating site for seniors. He actually clicked on another woman’s profile but was told that if he liked Susie he might also like Debbie or Sally or Mary. He picked Mary because she liked music and he needed someone who would understand that weekly band practice was sacrosanct.
We had both been hurt before, but somehow recognized in each other a lingering hopefulness, a stubborn refusal to give up on love.
On our first real date he cooked me dinner at the beautiful house he had designed and built with his own hands, from ingredients he had grown in his own extensive garden. He pretty much had me at hello. I went home that night, September 27, 2010 and wrote a poem called First Impressions that began “Just in case we decide to grow old (er) together I want to always remember that I was once undone by the beauty of you slicing an onion, knowing that someone who was that careful with an onion — would surely be careful with me too.”
I was an inveterate planner and Tom was what he called “a gamer”—up for anything—Wanna go to France for a wedding?—Sure!
Drive the coast of California?—-you bet!
Hike the Grand Canyon?—-of course
Sit on a perfect beach for an entire day because the air felt like velvet?—why not?
And this very week he had agreed to take his first cruise ever… with my siblings
Tom got me off the couch and outdoors in all weather—hiking, biking, kayaking—and even eating a little less sugar—but we would also build fires at the cottage and sit for hours with good books. I found a greeting card once that said it best—“I would rather do nothing with you than something with anyone else.”
We did have a number of differences:
I was always cold—Tom was a human furnace
I was always in a hurry, wild horses couldn’t rush Tom
I was guarded and mostly kept my own counsel, Tom was friendly and open to all
I was my mother’s grammar snob, he couldn’t spell and didn’t care
And yet a 5 hour trip to the cottage seemed like 5 minutes as we talked and laughed and sang. He got me. He knew and understood me completely and, miraculously, loved me ANYWAY! And that was the greatest gift of all.
The truth is… I had grown a little fond of my tough girl persona and rock hard cynicism—the Bossypants, jitterbug, worrywart Mary that made my kids run for cover. Tom gently, slowly, sneakily stripped that away one layer at a time and left me so much better than he found me—-sad, yes and raw and more than a little mad at God but with a heart so profoundly grateful and so much bigger.
I do not have Tom’s wisdom, nor his patient calm demeanor, nor even a fraction of his skill set,
But what I can offer today is advice.
If you have been hurt and given up on love—don’t.
If you have never had a true love and feel too weary to search—keep looking.
If you are young and finding a mate seems daunting, look for someone who accepts you exactly as you are and then makes you want to be better.
If you think finding someone fine and good and admirable who also takes your breath away is a pipe dream—it isn’t.
Here’s what I learned from Tom:
Life is about love. Look for it everywhere. Spread it far and wide. When you find it, hold it fast.
I love you sweetheart. Save me a really good seat.