Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Thursday - In life and in death

In August of 1997, we moved into our first "real house." Not an apartment. Not a townhouse. Our first stand alone house. In the Silvermine section of Norwalk, CT. (Hence, the URL of this blog - Our daughter was three and our son just under a year.

Before we even got out of the car, our new neighbors were on our driveway. A luminous, smiling, pregnant mom, Barbara, and her two young children, aged three and two or thereabouts, greeted us with hugs and introductions and the warmest welcome we could have imagined. More than we had imagined, to be truthful. Later that same day, we met her husband, Tom.

When she explained that she would be having her baby at home just as she had done with her first two children, I knew that beautiful woman and I were going to be good friends. We talked about home births and nursing. We shared recipes and baked Christmas cookies together. We talked about homeschooling (which she didn't do) and public schooling (which I didn't do). Not many days passed without someone from our house going to their house or somebody from their house coming to our house.

My husband and Tom cut a path through the woody brush between our houses so that our children could run back and forth to each other's homes without having to walk on the road. They came to swim in our pool. We sat at their kitchen table for painting projects. (I still have a child's wooden chair that my daughter and I painted at their house in my bedroom.) They played basketball on our driveway. Our children ran in the woods behind their house. Chalk drawing on driveways. Trick or treating as a clan. Sledding together at a nearby golf course on snowy days. Hot tea and snacks with Barbara at the kitchen table while the kids played in their family room or in the children's bedrooms. Sitting at their island while she cooked dinner. Sleepovers.

One winter afternoon, Barbara told me that a few days earlier, after spending some time outside playing, her children had come into the house soaking wet. In their winter clothing. Wet. She asked how they had gotten wet and they informed her that they had been "jumping on Kristiana's trampoline." We didn't have a trampoline... turns out they had been jumping on our pool cover! We were all tremendously grateful that the cover didn't break under the weight of their little winter-bundled bodies. Once the shock of thinking about what could have happened wore off, we laughed at their antics - and marveled at how comfortable they felt coming into our yard to play. Truly excellent neighbors, from the oldest to the youngest of the two families.

Tom and Barbara proved to be generous, kind, funny, loving, and enthusiastic neighbors until they moved from Connecticut to Florida. We were sad to see them leave the neighborhood, but we visited them twice in their new surroundings. Beautiful people in a beautiful home creating yet another beautiful community of friends around them. We have lived here in Charlotte for more than thirteen years. They have lived in Florida longer than that. For the past few years, our sole contact with them has been through Facebook. But still, somehow, it felt like they were still good neighbors. Beloved neighbors. We couldn't have asked for better neighbors or friends.

I found out this morning that Tom recently passed away.
I don't know how. I don't know when.
But he's gone.
One of the kindest, funniest, brightest, gentlest men I have ever known - gone.
He who loved his wife and children with a passion and depth that I have not often seen - gone.
The sky over The Sunshine State is not as bright these days.
It can't be.
Because Tom is gone.

In life, there is no time to waste on mean-spiritedness or emotional stinginess.
There is barely enough time to show our loved ones how much we do love them.

In life, Tom showed Barbara and their children that no one and nothing mattered more to him than they did.
In life, Tom showed me how to be present with and to those we love.
In life, he laughed, he ate, he talked, he lived with his whole body and spirit. No holding back.

In death, Tom's light still shines.
In death, Tom's smile radiates from the faces of the three wondrous and stunning children he left behind.
In death, Tom's spirit brought great memories to the minds of my family here in Charlotte, smiles to our faces, and tears to my eyes as we recalled his joyful merrymaking. I am heartbroken for them and for all of us who will have to live without his enormous heart beating in the world.

In life and in death, Tom belongs to God.
May his soul, spirit, and body rest in divine peace.
May he enjoy and glorify the God he loved - forever.

May Barbara, GM, B, and LJ know the comfort of God's loving presence.
Today, tomorrow, during the memorial service on Saturday, and forever.

Thanks be to God for his life.
For his example.
For the gift of his presence in my family's life.
For all that he meant to so many.
Rest in peace, dear Tom.
Rest in peace.

No comments: