Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve


Tom and I loved New Years Eve. We usually stayed home and I rarely made it to midnight but it was always an evening when we were together cuddling on the couch. Sometimes we would get real yummy food like cheese and special crackers from Specs and drink Champagne and Jack. Sometimes it was pizza and a movie. There was always a couch and my head in Tom's lap.

Last New Years eve we had a busy day. My mom and dad and Uncle Pat came over and Uncle Pat shined up Tom's Merc like it was brand new. Tom got tired and laid down in bed and then proceeded to entertain visitors all afternoon. David came to visit and so did Ann Ronn and Gil. Tom was so happy and lively and conversational. Then he napped until evening when Michael and Theresa came over bringing all kinds of sushi and hummus and other food highly indicative of the celebration it was.

It was a perfect evening and when they left Tom and I walked them out and looked at the Christmas lights Tommy had hung under Tom's direction. They looked beautiful. We went inside and went to bed and Tom told me how he wished the night would never end. I held him as he fell asleep.

Hours later he woke up coughing and by morning he was on his way to the ER. New Years Eve 2008 was Tom's last night at home, in our bed, with me. It was well spent.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pick the Right Knife or Else

Tonight I was emailing with my sister Cris. I was making a calendar for 2010 with pictures of Tom but I could not find a single picture of Tom and Cris together. I wrote Cris and asked for pictures and the only one she had was the pub roll above. (Tom upper right, Cris second row from top second from right). How in the world Tom was in my life for 20 years and he and Cris only made it in one picture together was amazing and sad.

But when I was upset about this Cris reminded me that it was the memories that count not the pictures. She shared the following story with me.


One time Tom was in the kitchen cooking. At the time I didn't really think of him as someone who enjoys this domestic duty. Actually, I'm not sure I've changed my mind since then either. Anyway, Tom needed a knife and was looking everywhere, so Theresa went over and gave him one. It was the wrong knife and Tom continued to look for "the knife." Theresa and I audibly joked about him looking so intently. This precipitated Tom going into a short and intense one-way dialog on the necessity to use the right tool for the job! I was really cracking up now because I had never ever seen anyone get a rise out of Tom and we just had. I could tell Theresa was about to bust out laughing also, so the two of us didn't dare look at each other.

It was a rare occasion to see this wonderful, even-tempered man get excited about something like the right kitchen tool. Then again, he did take his pancake-making pretty serious also. Maybe he did enjoy cooking."


Thanks Cris. Man I miss Tom.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gotham Image Works (GothamImageWorks.com)


Tom loved his profession. And he was good. He was a good producer, a very good shooter, and a fine editor. I fell in love with him in an editing room (but that is another story). And he loved his job. And the people at Gotham loved Tom. He was a hard working, creative, dependable team player.

When things got tough his friends, David and Alan, Mikon and Suzanne, Robert and Asher and Alex, took such good care of him. David and Alan paid Tom for many months. David met with me and talked with me and we hugged and in our own ways prayed. Suzanne gave Tom wonderful help and gifts, Mikon and I had talks at the hospice, but David and I connected in ways which showed how deeply he really loved Tom.

And now it comes back again. Each year Gotham Image Works sends gifts to its best clients. Tom and David would head to Tiffany's at Christmastime and shop and shop. For several years though Gotham has changed its pattern. This year instead of gifts it gave a very generous donation to HomeAid Houston (HomeAidHouston.org) in Tom's honor. It is a charity that Tom respected and supported. HAH helps the transitionally homeless; underdogs that Tom wanted to help.

The love this company showed and continues to show Tom swells my heart. Thank you Gotham so very, very much. Tom loved you so much and I am so grateful you are in our lives.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tom's Albums


Everyone comes with baggage. Some figurative, some literal. As I may have mentioned before Tom had both...but mostly literal. I on the other hand have mostly figurative. But anyway...

Tom had stuff. A lot of stuff. Boxes and boxes of stuff. Stuff he loved and stuff he did not know he even had. Five wallets, 18 feet of CDs, notes from high school, six guitars, two turntables and albums. Lots and lots of albums.

We never had the turntable hooked up and he never played an album. But he had cases of music which he moved from apartment to apartment and house to house. And when he died they took up more than a closet.

At one point, copying a display, I got eight album frames. Tom picked his favorite albums and we placed them in the frames. We hung them on the wall using all the math skills we could muster. It looked wonderful and Tom was so happy seeing his music every day. The artists, the songs, the memories Tom so loved.

Today, there are different albums hanging on the wall. The albums Tom loved are with his sister now. His second tier is on the wall. Bruce Springsteen, a concert we went to and loved (he listened to me talk about Bruce's butt the entire show). The Blues Brother that cracked Tom up every time he saw them. And Shawn Phillips who Tom and I saw on our first real date at Fitzgerald's. Of course there are the Beatles and Donald Fagen - Steely Dan was the last concert we saw together.

But the truth is, there are a few others that were far more in tune with Tom's music than I. Donna, Hugh, and I and would go to dinners and within minutes I would be bored out of my tree as they talked music. For hours. And hours. I would change the subject to running and it would come back to Rush. I would talk about traveling and it would come around to the Rolling Stones. I would talk about politics and they would talk about U2.

Soon, Donna and I will update the wall of albums. It will reflect share experiences, musical taste, and a love of music shared by Tom and close friends. I'll keep you posted. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas B&B 2009


Every year for over ten years Tom and I and my mom and dad would take a Christmas trip to a bed and breakfast. It was usually a small town in Texas that had a parade and market and lots of beauty queens. We have sat on more curbs in more towns in the cold and rain, smiling and having a great time.

We have had some adventures and lots of memories. Once we starting eating fresh hot tamales and between the four us ate at least 30 steaming little packets wrapped in tin foil before the parade started. When it started the lead vehicles were ATVs with kids riding in cammo!

We have been to Waxahachie, and Cold Spring, and Marshall and even San Antonio. A few weeks ago we went to Comfort. This year it was just the three of us. It was a wonderful B&B and a terrific small town parade. There were dozens of floats and at least seven floats were full of beauty queens.

My mom picked this hill country B&B because it was right next to a small Texas river. She took Tom with her and early Sunday morning we walked down to the flowing water and mom left a Tom's pebbles there.

I'm sure he enjoyed this Christmas B&B trip very much and although the water was moving pretty quickly, Tom settled to the bottom and relaxed. He was still there when we left. He is in all of us and everywhere this Christmas season. And in a Texas river.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

I was looking through some old CDs I found in Tom's office. One was called "Funny and Cool Stuff". I opened it and found some jokes, some compromising pictures of cheerleaders at a pro game doing very high kicks, and some cute pictures of dogs and lion cubs.


Then there was a Word doc called "from Theresa" dated 6/17/02. It said:
Hi Tom,

I was driving into work this morning listening to The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and they sang the line: "if they offered you one final wish, for something simple as this, would you ask for something like another chance..."

So I thought about what my final wish would be. And I thought about world peace and a large Wendy's fries but realized that within the scope of a reasonable final wish there was only one choice: a long hug with you. Now if it ever comes to that know that they would have to rip me away crying and screaming but would I be ever so grateful for that hug.

Thank you for being part of my life. Love T


And it really cracked me up that over seven years ago, I knew that Tom's hugs were the greatest thing in the world and I never stopped thinking that. I don't recall writing this to Tom, and I sure did not know he saved it but it still so very true that if I ever get that final wish, I will never ever let go.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving with Tom... and Arlo


For as long as I can document (2004) and as long as I can recall (2001), Tom and I drove to Arlington to spend Thanksgiving with his family. We generally left early Thanksgiving morning to avoid the traffic and came home Sunday morning again to skip expensive hours on I-45.

The weekend was a special time for Tom and I. We had a quiet hours in the car together and always managed to take one or two quiet walks during the days or evenings. Tom and his family were very good at relaxing...I was less successful, so we often found activities to keep me busy like short runs and long runs, and even shopping trips. Once Tom and I even accumulated 32 bags of leaves from the front yard to burn off energy.

We did have one very special tradition that always happened. It happened on the drive up, or on a walk Thanksgiving night. It even happened in 2008 on Tom's last Thanksgiving. We would listen to Alice's Restaurant. If you don't know the tune, it is an 18 minute song by Arlo Guthrie about the draft. But it takes a while to figure that out. It sounds like a song about littering:
"Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile is better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we decided to throw our's down."
and evidence
"...the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one."


We would huddle up and sing along each and every word, cracking up the entire time.

I promise, you really should download this song. Or watch it in YouTube. But close your eyes. And imagine Tom harmonizing, groovin', with a very happinin' look on his face. Like the picture above (taken at an equally cool pub roll).

And then sing along:
"You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Excepting Alice
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant."


Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tom the Minister


As a few of you knew, and many more learned at Tom's service, Tom was a minister.

Now, I preface everything I am about to write with this: I really don't understand at a deep level what Tom believed. I encourage anyone reading this to correct me so I can accurately try and explain Tom's beliefs.

Tom studied with the The Michaels Foundation ever since I knew him and for decades before that. He was in a phone class every possible Monday night, and spent hours studying and writing about what he learned. Tom went to the annual conferences as a speaker and a student.

Tom was a Christian and spent his life advocating love and peace. He did not believe in death but in the transcendence to another level. Then the concepts get hard.

Tom would try and teach me. He would read to me cool passage from The Urantia Book or discuss thoughts Jean (his teacher and mentor) shared. But he might as well have been talking rocket science or Greek. I flat did not get it. But Tom loved the friends and people in the group, and clearly living the belief system made him one fine guy.

In trying to learn more about the doctrine I went to the Michaels Foundation website and am embarrassed to say that after reading and reading it is still outside my grasp. I do however, see some core concepts that helped make Tom what he was.

The Michaels Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization, is dedicated to the dissemination and teaching of the highest Truth available here and the highest Goals available to humanity on our planet — to foster peace and brotherhood. Since we cannot get off this world permanently in this life — we must change it and make it safe for humanity and for our children's future. Universal truth is for everyone!

Our perception is that one person cannot make a difference, but if you are good, you are great! Reaching for a goal that touches all around you with stability, sincerity and love will change far more than you realize! Our perception of what is real, what is possible, and what is attainable is critical to our comfort and peace of mind. Our perceptions, not facts, shape our lives, our environment, and our future.


Clearly Tom lived this belief as his life and death have made changes in the world view and experience of so many people. Check out themichaelsfoundation.com to learn more.

Tom's Mercedes


Way back when, Tom came home with an old, small, Mercedes convertible. This was a heck of an impulse buy for a 6’4” 200 pound man. He really loved the car but not having a mechanical bone in his body, and having a lot of body to fit in the little car, Tom did not get to drive it as much as he would have liked.

The hard top needed two people to take off, the rag top was a heck of a trick to take down, and every time the car sat for two weeks without being driven it needed a jump or a tow. I am certain there is a Merc mechanic out there wondering how to pay for his daughter’s last year at Harvard, since we sold the car. But I get ahead of myself.

Toms’ red car had a special place in both of hearts and in our driveway. It proved to be an unwise purchase but somewhere between knowing that, and Tom’s love for the car I never could get mad at him about it. I pretended it was a BIG pot of red geraniums outside our kitchen window.

Late in December 2008, when Tom was no longer driving, my dad got the great idea to sell the car in Germany. Ironically enough there is a big demand for older Mercedes in Germany. Even when they are shipped over and fitted to meet EU standards they can be very profitable. My cousin Stefan was interested and I approached Tom. By this time Tom had not been driving for over two months and felt it was time to let go of his red dream car. He was hoping it would get a new home.

On December 31, the last full day Tom had at home, my dad and Uncle Pat came over and Uncle Pat gave that car the cleaning of its life. He detailed that car so it looked like new. Uncle Pat washed and polished and waxed and loved on that car until is shined like a mirror. I rolled Tom out in his wheelchair and when he saw the car, so red and pretty, it was the biggest smile I had seen in a while. He was so very happy that it was heading to a new, active home.

The car made it to Germany and Stefan fell in love with it. He had it completely restored from leather seats to a new soft top and lots and lots of parts and pieces in between. And as you might guess, the Merc was never sold. Stefan and his wife Carola kept it and drive on warm sunny days and down to vacations in southern Europe. Tom's spirit lives in that car, in Germany, and in the hearts of Stefan and Carola.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gordon and Julia

Tom met Gordon on a job in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1997. Gordon was a freelancer and during the course of the event Tom and Gordon became quite close. Gordon, and his now wife Julia, came to Texas and stayed with us twice. They were excellent low key visits, with lots of relaxing and some fun in between. Tom and Gordon were very much the same: hard working, easy going men with great laughs and quick smiles.

With challenges on both sides of the ocean Tom and I were unable to go to Gordon and Julia's wedding and they were unable to come to Tom's service. But our bond remains strong. Gordon emailed this just a few days ago:

I have waited a while before contacting you so that you have had time to yourself, we both think of you often and hope you are keeping well.

I have made a special “Tribute to Tom Picture Frame” which is in our lounge and I would like to explain how it is made up from top left to bottom right.




1. A Dollar bill which we had left over from our last trip
2. A hand written note from Tom & Yourself when he posted the T Shirt I left behind at the Fire Museum (We always kept it on our Fridge)
3. Your Christmas message from your last card (I cut this out from the picture card bottom left)
4. Tom’s work & cell numbers for us to contact him if we needed to
5. A ticket to the Natural Science Museum from our first trip in 2002
6. Our ticket to the Livestock Rodeo Show in 2002
7. This is a picture of the crew who worked on the 2nd Cooper Cameron show in Aberdeen 1997
8. I cut this picture of a Stetson as it reminds me of Tom (It was from a postcard from the shop Tom took us to where I bought my Leather Jacket)
9. Our ticket to the baseball game “Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers” in 2006
10. This is a picture of us both outside your house in 2002 (The original is still on our window sill in our lounge)
11. The Christmas Card you sent us
12. The badge I got from our visit to Houston Fire Station 82
13. The British Airways ticket stubs from our first trip in 2002
14. Your senders address that I cut out from your Christmas Card envelope


Tom and I have been blessed in so many ways, chief among them with our friends. Thank you so much for honoring Tom with this tribute.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Our first touch

Tom and I met at work. It was UT/TV. Maybe it was 1990 or so. I got a job fresh out of graduate school working with two writer/producers. Tom worked with his business partner as directors, editors, and videographers. My team did not like Tom’s team and Tom’s team really did not like us. But Tom and I hit it off.

Secretly.

We started dating on some federal holiday like President’s Day or MLK Day. A day off work. It was a sloooow start. I lived in Montrose in a cute little house. He lived in an apartment over off 1960.

One night we went out and I don’t know if it was the first date or the fifth but we went into this gas station on the corner of Montrose and Westheimer. Tom was paying for something and I was at the counter with him. And the pinky of his right hand touched the pinky of my left hand. It was an accident. Neither one of us moved and I don’t know about Tom but I swear the earth stopped moving. I could not think and I could not breathe and all I was thinking was that we were touching! We were touching! People in movie theaters blocks away could not hear because the beating of my heart was so loud. We were touching! It was the single most memorable second of happiness in my life.

When Tom was in the hospital last January, I would lean over and sing to him. It was always the same little derivation of “You are my sunshine” and when I would finish he would always say “I love that song.” And then I would ask him how many kisses he wanted. If it is was me laying there I would have said 892. But Tom was much more actualized, far less greedy, and believed in tomorrow. He always said numbers like “seven”, or “five”. The last time we did it he said “six”. And they were good kisses. I put my hands on both sides of his face just like he did the day we got married. And we had six slow, gentle kisses. And two for good luck.

And those kisses were even better, though I never would have believed it, than our brushed pinkies on the corner of Montrose and Westheimer.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tom's last night at home - New Year's Eve



This beautiful story was written by Theresa Dawn Strong and edited by her husband, my brother Michael. It is long. Perhaps the longest entry in this blog. It may also be the best. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart.


"As we sat in the car just before backing out of their drive way, for the very first time I witnessed my soon to be husband succumb to the emotions that had been building inside since he first learned that one of dearest people in his life had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Michael’s brother-in-law, Tom, was just 51 years old at the time of his diagnosis. Yet, with a tremendous amount of confidence, determination and faith, Tom and his devoted wife Theresa embraced their battle and continued to enjoy their life each day, never missing an opportunity to show gratitude for the gift of each and every moment. It was December 31st, 2008, nearly eighteen months since Tom’s diagnosis. Michael and I were wrapping up an incredible evening, which we had the pleasure of spending with Theresa and Tom. With an ever encouraging spirit about him, Michael offered them his unending support and unconditional love as they traveled down this very difficult road together. However, much to my surprise, after saying our goodbyes and making our way to the car with only the two of us present, and for just this moment, Michael lowered his guard and allowed himself to grieve.



Michael and I had been looking forward to sharing another “first” together. It was such an exciting time for us, being newly in love. This was our first New Year’s Eve. True to form, we decided early on to abandon all tradition by first enjoying a relaxing evening, and then getting to bed at a reasonable hour so we could snuggle and ring in the New Year with an early morning run. So, when we received Theresa’s invitation to come early for a light dinner, a good bottle of wine and even better company, we knew this would be the absolute perfect way to spend our evening together. There was no one we would rather spend our New Year’s with, so we welcomed the opportunity.



Theresa and Tom had become understandably protective of their time. Theresa was increasingly careful not to commit to things that could potentially be a bit more taxing on Tom than he might be able to handle on any given day. Therefore, knowing things could change at the last minute, we anticipated a call from Theresa that day saying we were a “go,” or a “no-go.” About mid-day, the phone rang, and it was Theresa saying we were a “go!” With one stop on the way, just a couple of hours later we were in route to their house, unaware of just how significant this night would eventually prove to be. It was a quarter to six p.m. and there we were in Central Market cruising the aisles for goodies to take with us. Pizza or sushi, pizza or sushi, pizza or sushi….Pizza it was! We threw in some crackers and hummus and we were on our way. Upon arriving at Theresa and Tom’s, we were greeted with friendly smiles, big hugs and, as always, lots of love. We made our way to the kitchen, huddling around the counter where Theresa had already started preparing some of her own yummy snacks. She poured the two of us a glass of wine, while Michael spent a few minutes talking with Tom about his day. After a little chit chat of our own, Theresa popped the pizza in the oven, and we made our way to the living room where Tom was already seated and looking comfortable, relaxed and very content.



Tom, Theresa and I had spent a good amount of time together earlier in the week at his rehabilitation center, so I was eager to see if he was ready for a rematch in one of his newest exercises, finger soccer. This game is designed to build hand strength, motor skills and hand-eye coordination. When I asked Tom about it, he gave me a bit of a peculiar look at first. I could see it hadn’t immediately jogged his memory; however, he shifted his posture and appeared as if he was searching through his mind to recall exactly what it was I was referring to. Seeing how quick to engage Tom was gave me my first indication of how he might be feeling physically. With a smile on his face, he worked through the thought process of remembering what it was I was talking about. Once it came to him, we shared a little laugh together. Based on his response, I thought this day was probably like the end of most days, in that he was a bit tired from various challenges, yet in good spirits. His energy that night seemed focused on being in the moment and sharing this special occasion with the two of us and his lovely bride.



As we nibbled away at the appetizers, we each settled into our own comfy spot and Tom did the same. Michael and I were on the couch next to Tom’s chair. Theresa was across from us on a chair; perhaps it was the ottoman to Tom’s chair. The atmosphere was relaxed, open, warm and intimate. The energy in the room was the type in which everyone feels at home, as if you’ve been granted permission to kick off your shoes, curl your feet under you and snuggle up on the couch with a blanket. So, that’s just what we did. As I looked around the room, I noticed how much Theresa and Tom’s calming and gentle presence was greatly reflected in their home. Their loving connection, spiritual strength and confidence oozed from all corners. Our conversation flowed easily from one topic to the next. Theresa, or sometimes Michael, would reach out occasionally to give Tom a hand, but for the most part, he appeared on top of things and managing as best as one might expect or hope for. He looked especially well on this special occasion. Dressed in his usual comfy sweats and a t-shirt, Tom also wore a smile that I believe reflected his spirit that night. Theresa told us how Tom always loved this much celebrated holiday and never wanted to miss a minute of it. Theresa, on the other hand, did not always share the same level of enthusiasm, or at least she didn’t express it by staying up until midnight; however, every year, she did try to stay up as late as she could just for Tom. Since she was rarely able to hold her sleepy eyes open until stroke of midnight, every year, Tom was sure to wake her up and wish her a Happy New Year. I felt a little pitter patter in my heart as I thought to myself how considerate they were of one another. Even in tiny differences, they found common ground and created a lifetime of memories!



As the first pizza came out, Tom said a blessing over the food and gave thanks for the many things we all had to be grateful for. One thing I learned about Tom in the short time I had with him, was that he was always incredibly thankful. No trace of bitterness. No hesitation or doubt. His prayer of gratitude touched each of us so deeply that it brought tears to our eyes. Here was this man, whom we all loved, battling cancer, and on New Year’s Eve he asks God for nothing, only gives thanks. It was another reminder of why he was called “Big” Tom!



We’d been enjoying one another’s company for at least an hour as we bounced from one story to the next. We talked about everything from running, cycling, swimming traveling and holidays, to new friends and old friends and even ex-roommates who were never friends! As we began eating dinner, we did not miss a beat - not in eating nor in sharing stories. Throughout the evening, Michael and I tried to remain consciously sensitive to how Tom was feeling. While mindful of this, I began to notice something that I found incredibly amazing. I couldn’t help but notice how his body language shifted in response to Theresa. Occasionally Tom would appear to drift away from the conversation, as if it were getting lengthy, or especially when there were multiple people talking at once. Certainly, given the type of cancer Tom was living with, the challenge to remain focused grew harder as time passed. However, there was one particular subject that seemed to bring him back and hold his attention better than any other. That was Theresa. When Theresa spoke, Tom listened very intently. When she moved, his eyes followed her. And as often as Michael spoke of her, Tom’s eyes would light up and his smile would grow even bigger. He hung on every word she said, or that which was spoken about her. He looked at her with such admiration, affection and with great pride. Of course, it was no surprise, but that night it was so evident that Tom dearly loved his beautiful bride with all of his heart. It seemed to me that Tom and Theresa’s souls were completely connected, and the bond they shared so deep that even in this current condition, he was able to connect to her, and her very existence was life to him. This was incredible to witness - nothing less than beautiful, to put it simply.



It grew late, and we felt it was best for us to allow Theresa and Tom to wrap up the evening with some time for each other. Theresa moved forward and offered to help him up. He was reluctant. At first, I wasn’t sure if he didn’t want to get up or if he forgot that Theresa told him it was time to walk us to the door. After a couple of attempts to get Tom going in forward motion, Theresa asked why he was still sitting there. Tom

said, “I don’t want to get up, because I don’t want the night to be over.” His response was as touching as it was humorous. Touching, because it meant so much to us that he valued and enjoyed our time together as much as we had, and humorous, because it sounded like what he might have said on those past New Year’s Eve nights when Theresa was fading fast and Tom was waiting it out to the stroke of midnight. But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And unfortunately, our time there was ending. We all moved toward the door and said our goodbyes. More big hugs for everyone just before making our way to the car.



At last, there we were in our car, just the two of us, silence echoing between us. I had sensed Michael’s emotions concerning Theresa and Tom rising to the surface on more than one occasion. This however, was the first time I was certain they’d reached his threshold. Finally, unable to contain it any longer, Michael burst into tears as he yielded to those mounting emotions he’d long since carried. From the depths of his being, tears flowed. Tears of pain? No doubt about it. However, I later learned those tears were so much more. They were tears of respect - respect for the way Big Tom and Theresa were being fused together, rather than torn apart by this illness. They were tears of love and tears of envy that honored the living spirit that grew stronger between them, especially in this most challenging stage of their life together. With all the love he had in his heart for the two of them, Michael grieved, he let go and he grieved.



As the universe continued to unfold for each of us over the days and weeks ahead, it became clear that the emotions that emerged that evening were befitting. On December 31st, 2008, the four of us, Theresa, Tom, Michael and I shared our first and their last New Year’s Eve. It was also the last night Theresa and Tom shared in their home together. Special, significant, momentous, of great consequence – words seem to fall short of adequately describing the magnitude of this moment in each of our lives. Simultaneously, the life that Theresa and Tom shared together, at least here on this earth, was coming to a close, while the life that Michael and I were getting ready to embark upon was just beginning. I recognize and honor the evidence of the cycle of life and the wisdom of nature by acknowledging the gift that we were given. Their gift to us - a seed, planted deep within our hearts. It is a seed of gratitude and love. New Year’s Eve 2008 will forever serve as a reminder to us to give thanks in all things, and provide us with an understanding of how pure love really does conquer all. Even in separation by death, their bond, formed by love, is eternal. Exemplified by his actions, and in his final message to us all, therein lies Tom’s legacy; love truly is the greatest gift of all."




Saturday, October 24, 2009

Walking for Tom with Mom and Dad 10/18/09

Once again my mom had a stellar idea. In celebration of Tom's life near his birthday we would walk around Memorial park with lanterns. A few nights ago, just when it was getting cold we bundled up, got Blossom in the car and met at Potbelly's sandwich shop in Uptown for some pre-activity fuel.


It reminded me of a story. About one year ago, Tom was undergoing his second radiation and no longer driving. Lots of people pitched in and drove him to his radiation including John Picciotto. After radiation one day John suggested they stop and have a sandwich at Potbelly's on 59. John said he wanted to go there because Penny (his wife) would not eat there with him. John's comment was mostly conversational. Penny would eat anywhere but she is not generally a sandwich eater. But Tom took it to heart.

A week later John (pictured on left) again took Tom. Tom had been hankering for a chicken fried steak so I pulled John aside and suggested if they go out to eat to take him to a place where this craving could be satisfied. On the way to lunch John suggested they head to a nearby Texas style place for some good southern cooking. Tom asked if instead they could go back to Potbelly's. John said 'sure' and they headed that way.

Later that day when I found out, I asked Tom why he did not get the CFS he wanted. He said John was so nice to drive; the least he could do is give John a chance to eat Potbelly without Penny finding out. Somehow shortly thereafter things managed to speed up to supersonic fast motion and I don't know that Tom ever got his chicken fried steak. I'll bet Tom happily gave up that meal so John could be happy. In some ways Tom was really amazing.

Anyway, back to the walk. It was cool. There was a slight breeze and all the stars were out. It was quiet. We lit the candle lanterns and kept a good pace around the park. We stopped half way in the gazebo and said some prayers. Blossom laid there and sighed and seemed to know how special this walk was. A few people gave us encouragement and one man asked a lot of questions about Tom. At the end a runner took our picture.

For all the miles, one hundred or more I expect, that Tom and I did running around the park, this lap was perhaps the most special. Thank you for the idea mom. And mostly, thanks for all the support and love mom and dad. It was a wonderful, wonderful night.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tom's Birthday Gift



Tom loved art. And he really loved the Art Festival. We started going when it was on Westheimer and made it back most years. So when it landed on October 10, Tom's birthday I decided to go. Alone. Almost.

Tommy and Lisa (brother and sister-in-law) often go so I thought I might be able to catch up with them. I was not sure it would happen so steeled myself for the adventure alone. Around noon "I put on my big girl panties" as the expression goes and headed out. I drove to the museum district and parked for free, took the train into downtown, followed the crowd, paid my entrance and started walking around.

Now I'm sure no one reading this can even imagine what the big deal is. How scary is it to accomplish this trip when I have travelled over a whole bunch of the world, a lot of it alone? But I was afraid. I'm afraid a lot now and I don't understand it but it sure turns going to an art festival an act of bravery as opposed to a casual way to spend the afternoon.

I was there an hour or so and Rebecca, a friend from back in the 70s appeared. We have a serious cosmic (or karmic) relationship which I will share with any of you over a cup of coffee. Shortly after we met with Tommy and Lisa. Laughter, wine, and some fun art later I was actually having a fine time.

Late in the day, we landed in the booth of Tres Taylor. (http://www.trestaylor.com/). Mr Taylor does the most wonderful paintings on tar paper and I just fell in love with them.

From his website:

Tres Taylor was a biochemist for over 20 years. After visiting RA Miller in 1998, a Georgia folk artist, Tres believes a “paintbrush fell from the sky”. He paints about spiritual seeking, about love, Divine Love, peace, and joy. His subjects are usually monks, couples, and houses, but always the subjects are symbols of love. Tres’ medium is usually house paints and acrylics on roofing paper with putty, which enables him to draw freely, carving strong black lines.


Tres was kind, and generous and it was such a blessing to have met him. I often believe that nothing happens for a reason but encounters like this shake my resolve.

My Cosmic Drummer, which I decided to give to Tom for his birthday, hangs right inside our front door. I see it constantly.

Thanks to Rebecca, Tommy, Lisa, Tres, and Tom hanging around in the art or clouds or wine or somewhere, Tom's birthday really was a celebration.

Friday, October 9, 2009

10.10 Happy Birthday Tom



10.10 is Tom's birthday. So I am going to sing him happy birthday. But when you read the words I need you to picture it correctly.

Remember Marilyn singing to Mr. President? Start there. Then imagine the singer is many pounds lighter than Ms. Monroe but not nearly as curvaceous, or voluptuous. Both are blond. One is natural. Tonight's singer is in running shorts and a t-shirt and has wet hair from walking the dog. But in her mind it is a wonderful gown with sequins and full length.

The lighting is actually similar. While I am not under glaring lights in a huge theater I do have a very bright desk lamp shining in my eyes. The song's cadence is about the same in both cases. But tonight the song is neither sultry nor sexy. It is actually sad and quiet. And you can sing along if you want. Be sure and look at the pictures of Tom. It is the earliest (on right) and last birthday pictures I have of him.

Ready?

Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday Dearest Tom.
Happy birthday to you.

I miss you baby.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tom the Best Man


The backstory: When Tom died, Nicole (my sister) and Austin (her boyfriend) decided to get married. Specifically, they decided on the night of Tom's celebration. Nic and Austin were so inspired by the love Tom and I shared that they chose to commit after over 14 years together. However, they were not comfortable asking me to be a part of the wedding since Tom had just passed. They were also not sure a big wedding was appropriate since they had both been married before and even within their relationship Nicole had been a runaway bride at least once. So they waited.

During the first few months Nicole asked me if I had any regrets. I had so many. I should have never left the hospital, we should have gone to the Mayo clinic,we should have never had meat in our house, and 100 more that would not have changed a thing. But one stood out. I wished I had taken Tom's name. For both of us I wish I would have been Mrs. Tom Lawrence.

In June, Nic and Austin decided to elope and spent the next two months planning a secret and wonderful wedding to be held in August, on their 15th anniversary, in Sedona. There would only be four invited guests, two of which were Betsy and Keene, N&A's very close friends. They were invited two weeks before the event.

I was another guest and I was never actually invited. I was tricked into coming with a variety of stories including birthday celebration, FBI awards, and time out of Houston. They wanted the wedding to be a surprise!

Tom was the fourth guest – Austin’s best man.

When I arrived in Phoenix (to surprise Nicole when she got the top secret award), we drove from the airport up to Sedona for a picnic and to pick up some art work. The fact that I had just traveled most of the day and we were about to drive five hours round trip for a lunch in 100 degree weather seemed perfectly normal to them. Of course there was no picnic, no art work and no top secret FBI award.

It was only after we arrived in the parking lot of the B&B did I learn that tomorrow Nic and Austin were getting married at sunset in a beautiful park right outside the town. Tom and I were invited.

The best of all was that Tom was going to attend as Best Man. Nicole and Austin had brought up the last little pebbles they had of Big Tom and I had a photograph of him that Betsy would carry during the ceremony. Nicole had selected a poem for me to read during the event. Coincidentally enough I had a copy of the book with the poem in it – and had brought it with me to read on the plane.
;
The wedding was perfect. At one point Austin and I kneeled next to a stream and I placed Tom’s pebbles in the water while Austin placed some of his mom, Geneva’s ashes. We cried and laughed and in the many hours of food and drink that followed toasted the Mr. and Mrs. Austin Barrett, Geneva, and Tom many times.

I can’t imagine there has ever been a dead Best Man before, but I know Tom did the job admirably. While he did not hold the ring, he was there in spirit, clearing the rain, and giving us a glorious view. Thank you Big Tom. Thank you for your love and for allowing us to love you. Thanks for being Austin’s Best Man. And mine.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tom and Stevie


Tom loved music. He loved all kinds of music. Except rap. He especially loved anything blues-inspired. Like Stevie Ray.

As such, there are very few places more appropriate for Tom's pebbles than the Stevie Ray Memorial in Austin, Texas. Thank you Michael, Theresa, and Cris.

From my brother Michael:

Good Morning T-Bear. Theresa, Cris Ann and I went on nice run early in the morning one Sunday in Austin this summer. No crowds. Early start in the dark. Girls chatting the whole way. On our run back following the swim we planned on running past Stevie Ray. Not the route we always take but we wanted to go by before Austin woke up and it got crowded. With Tom’s pebbles at hand we thought a remembrance of and a prayer with him at the SR statue as most apropos. It was just a normal run, probably like hundreds Tom had made. But as Tom knew, there really was no such thing as a “bad” run, especially once it was over!

We gave thanks, asked for him to watch over all us and felt blessed for his presence in our lives and on our run. He really looked like quite the band mate there with Stevie and with his big smile we knew right then his “happy cells” were smiling!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tom's Pebbles in Minnesota


Our dear friends Jen and Mike Klein took Tom on their family vacation to the lakes of Minnesota.

Jen writes:

This is the channel between Crow Wing 5 and Crow Wing 6 in Nevis, Minnesota. These lakes are two of my most favorite places in the entire world. Michael and the kids and I placed Tom's pebbles here on our annual trip to Minnesota.

Tom is in good company here. There are lots of bass and bluegill as well as turtles, frogs, beavers, and deers. The resident Bald Eagle is currently nesting in the trees at the mouth of the channel. (This year, we got to see him swoop and catch a fish and fly away!) There are gorgeous sunrises, sunsets, and it's the perfect spot for watching a great storm roll in, or for just relaxing and waiting patiently for the fish to bite.

It is not hard to imagine Tom liking this place and it is easy for me to see Tom here -- relaxing on the shore with his feet up and a good book; taking video of the lake as Michael drives the boat; playing with Julia and Sasha in the crystal clear cooold water.

We did not get a decent picture of the picture of Tom and his pebbles but I think Michael captured the beauty of the place and the moment. I am happy that part of Tom is in a place that I love so much and in a place where I will get to visit him every year as will my kids and hopefully one day their kids.

Love, Jen

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tom's Pebbles in Greece

Tom’s Adventures in Greece - With Love from Joanne Vest

When Theresa first blogged that she wanted “Tom's little rocks to be in many, many cool places” I was bummed because I had no plans to go anywhere cool. A few weeks later I found myself booking a flight to Greece. I immediately asked Theresa if I could take Tom with me. She graciously said yes and shortly before my trip she brought me a baggie and the Flat Tom photo.

As I was finishing up my packing, I picked up the baggie and was struck by the peculiarity of holding the ashes of a dear friend in my hands. After a few minutes of tearful reflection, my thoughts began to turn to more logistical concerns. How the heck was I going to get Tom to Greece? Two of my three travel companions were attorneys and weren’t so sure it was even legal. My mom was worried sick that I would get arrested for cocaine possession when I went through security at IAH or Charles de Gaulle. Honestly, I was less concerned about getting arrested and more concerned Tom might be confiscated and spend eternity in a bin full of scissors, 4 oz shampoo bottles, and lighters. I decided to divide him into two baggies, one for my carry on and one for my checked bag, in hopes that at least one of them would make it. To my immense relief both made it safely!

Initially I was just going to take Tom diving with me in Mykonos so he could be part of the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea. But when I arrived in Greece I decided that he might also enjoy being a part of the splendid history of Athens and the breathtaking beaches of Santorini and Mykonos. So I picked the following places that I hoped my dear friend Tom would enjoy.

Odeion of Agrippa, Ancient Agora, Athens
While the nearby Parthenon at the Acropolis would have been the obvious choice, I picked the Odeion of Agrippa in the Ancient Agora of Athens for two reasons. First of all, the plaque by the site said it was a theater where musical performances were held. I figured Tom would feel at home here.


Secondly, although it’s hard to tell from the photo, he has an amazing view of the Acropolis and the Temple of Hephaistos as seen below.



Red Beach, Santorini
On August 3, I rented an ATV on Santorini and I set out to explore the island. My goal was to find Red Beach, one of the island’s most beautiful beaches known for its amazing backdrop of red volcanic rock. Not surprising, given the fact that all the street signs seemed to be pointing the way to sororities and fraternities with really long names, I got lost and ended up riding around for hours. Honestly, I didn’t really mind that much. After all, I knew I was on a pretty small island and I had Tom with me the whole time which I found strangely comforting. It was like I had a guardian angel riding along with me as I wound my way down the steep and windy roads. Needless to say I finally found Red Beach. It was even more breathtaking than I expected. I debated whether to place Tom on the beach or on the ridge above where the path down to the beach begins. I opted for the ridge. The view was just too magnificent! Hope Tom agrees!



Paradise Point, Paradise Beach, Mykonos
On August 5, I headed to Paradise Beach where Mykonos’s only dive shop is located. The dive master snapped this photo of us near the end of the dive at Paradise Point. When I returned to shore Flat Tom was gone. Despite the fact I was certain I had put him back securely in the pocket of my BC. I guess Flat Tom really liked this spot and decided to stay.



Plati Gialos Beach, Mykonos
Around midnight on August 6, despite Flat Tom’s absence, I held a private ceremony on Plati Gialos Beach where I said goodbye to the rest of Tom’s pebbles. When he had washed completely away, I found myself regretting not keeping a little bit of him. But then I realized I always would in my heart.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Class Paper - Life Viewed From the Golf Course



Tom loved golfing.
He never did it enough, but put him on a driving range, putting green, or a beautiful course and he was so very happy. The picture above is of Tom playing St. Andrews in Scotland. He played with his buddy, Gary while I took pictures, looked for abandoned balls and ate oranges. It was a magical day.

In going through Tom's files I happened upon this paper he was writing for his Urantia class. It was not finished but gives such insight into Tom that it so deserves to be read. Here we go:

Life as viewed from The number 7 tee box of the Olmos Basin Golf course.

I had the rare opportunity of being introduced to golf at an early age. My father brought home a couple of sawed –off 7-irons for my brother and myself one evening after work, and that was pretty much the beginning of the end for the back yard. I had no idea at the time how that single event would provide a window to the world, to myself, and to many of the lessons of life.

Looking back on it now, it never ceases to amaze me how God provides the things that we need when we need them, even though we don’t realize at the time that we do need them. There was a driving range not far from the house, and soon after we started to accompanying Dad to the driving range, the owner installed a nine-hole par 3 course. Not a better training ground for a couple of fledgling Arnies or Jacks could be found. This was the beginning of a journey into exploration of life, as well as the perfect swing. I might add that the perfect swing remains elusive, as does the perfect understanding of life, but the journey has been excellent!

While the number of stories and lessons learned could fill volumes, I’ll try to condense some of the lessons learned here, hoping that you enjoy hearing them as much as I enjoy learning them.

Lesson 1 – Equipment

I had been attending the Saturday morning golf lessons for a while and


He was amazing. His memories still are.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tom's Pebbles Near Run #34



This was sent to me from Tom's dear friends Trey and Erin.

Hi Theresa,
On Sunday, we hiked up to Albion Basin up Little Cottonwood Canyon. It's funny that in the summer it's this gorgeous alpine basin covered in wildflowers, but in winter it becomes Alta ski resort. It was nice to go up there and remember the times we both spent with Tom on the slopes. We hiked up to Cecret Lake looking for the perfect place to put Tom's ashes, and finally decided on this rocky outcropping in the middle of a meadow, about halfway up the trail. To the west you see the bald peaks that make up Devil's Castle (still snowy, even in mid-July), and to the east you can see the the Supreme chairlift.

Here's a map: http://www.alta.com/Newsite/images/trailmaps/trailmap_large.jpg

We put Tom somewhere near the end of run #34. We've attached the photo of Tom next to the ashes, and also a shot to show you the big rock he's on top of. We hope he's happy there. We know he always loved being up in the mountains and skiing. He barreled down those slopes with unmatched exuberance.


Much love,
Trey and Erin

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cuddling

Tom was a heck of a cuddler. Not "cuddler" like in "amazing sex machine" (that will be a different post) but "cuddler" like warm and cozy and inter-twined. Allow me to elaborate. There is the cuddler and the cuddlee. When you are doing it perfect the cuddler's knees fit in the cuddlee's back of knees. The cuddlee's butt fits in the cuddler's pelvic area. The cuddler's arm reaches over and the cuddlee takes the arm and bends it up so the hand is near the mouth for little kisses and breathing on. The cuddler breathes in the cuddlee's neck and hair.

Tom and I rarely went to bed at the same time but somehow in the middle of the night and in the early morning we found each other and cuddled like crazy. Every dawn we agreed it was the best part of our day.

Sometimes Tom would come to bed and read for a while. I would sckootch over and (much like Spenser used to do) manage to get my head under his arm. That made it very hard for Tom to turn the pages but how annoyed can you get when your love button is actively willing to put her face near your arm pit at the end of a long day?

Many nights I would go to bed to read and Tom would stay up to watch tv. When I was done I would stick my head around the corner and ask him to tuck me in. Then for no reason I can imagine I would race to bed and lay stiff as a board on my back pretending to be asleep. Tom would come in and starting with my neck tuck me in along the shoulders, down my sides, to my hips, down my legs and then my feet. And just to make sure he would tuck in again all the way up to my shoulders.

Then quiet as a mouse he would brush the hair from my forehead and give me a kiss on the brow. Then he would kiss my lips, turn out the light, sneak away, and close the door. I would fall asleep smiling.

Now I am telling you this for two reasons. One is my incessant need to recall Tom. The other is because it is so important for all of us to know that we are creating memories. It is not the bouquet of flowers, or expensive dinner that stays in memory. It is the gentle backward hug you give every time your love is doing the dishes or how you call out "Lovebucket I'm home" every evening at 7 p.m. It is the habits of love that make such a huge difference.

I promise you that I am right on this one.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

6 months

11/1991
Dear Diary,
I just started this job at UT/TV six months ago and I met the coolest guy. He is tall, and really fine looking. He is a videographer and director and even plays guitars. He is always talking to Susan M and it makes me crazy. I try and sneak a peek at him in the production meetings but I am already so nervous I could throw up. I can’t even talk to him. I hope he asks me out!

7/1992
Dear Diary,
We started dating about six months ago. I am head over heels. His name is Tom Lawrence and this is just amazing. The first time we touched was at this convenience store on the corner of Montrose and Westheimer. Tom was paying for something and my hand was on the counter. I moved it over and the side of our hands touched. It was ELECTRIC!!! (Since then we have touched more :))

2/14/1999
Dear Diary,
Tom proposed last night! Actually he proposed on our first date and we waited seven years because of me. But it is happening soon! We are planning on wedding in August!

1/17/2000
Dear Diary,
We have now been married for six months. What an amazing life I have. We are both hugely flawed but it is so great being married. We are a strong, united team and I can’t wait for every new day.

5/2001
Dear Diary,
We are in our house and finally moved in. It took six months to get unpacked but we are done and settling in for a long, wonderful hot summer. We got a BBQ grill from KnowledgeWire friends and plan on using it just about every night!

3/2003
Dear Diary,
In September we are going to climb Kilimanjaro in Africa. We are going with Siva and Michael. We have been training for months but really ramping up now. It is going to be the most wonderful and hard “vacation” of our lives.

8/2004
Dear Diary,
Tom has decided to run the Houston Marathon in February 2005. He started running with Galloway and I changed groups to run with him. He has about six months left to train and we will tackle that race like nobody’s business!


4/2005
Dear Diary,
It has been half a year since Tom’s dad passed away. I am so happy Tom went and was able to see Mr. Lawrence before he passed. Tom misses him so very much but the funeral was very noble. Especially the police parade thanks to Austin.


12/2007
Dear Diary,
It has been six months since Tom was diagnosed with GBM. Surgery & chemotherapy…He is strong, fighting like crazy and beyond optimistic. Boy do I love him.

1/2009
Dear Diary,
In six months we will have our 10th anniversary. With hope Tom will be back in the saddle. We always talked about going to Hawaii on our fifth anniversary but did not make it. This time I will make sure it happens.

8/2/2009
Dear Diary,
Tom passed away six months ago today. That is roughly 1080 nights and 1080 days. It is several 1000 cries, a few prayers and lots and lots of Tom thoughts. I can’t wait until someday I write: “I have been in Heaven with Tom 30 weeks now and it seems like the blink of an eye.” That will be a terrific diary entry.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thomas Garland & Mildred Julia Moise, & Tom's Pebbles



I don't know much about Tom's family. I know nothing about his paternal grandparents and very little about his mother's parents. What I do know is they lived for a long time in West U (in Houston) and he loved to go and visit them from San Antonio. They had a wonderful small, old house that needed a lot of work. The house was sold after Tom's grandmother died and a new McMansion built. We would drive down his grandparent's street sometimes and Tom would so regret he was unable to fix up the house. He knew that if he had been able to keep that property it would have been an amazing investment both financially and emotionally.

Tom's grandfather, Thomas Garland Moise (1896-1989) was a talented artist. He drew pictures of many presidents, one of which is on the top of this page. His work is in the Library of Congress. I have many of his original works in our house. Tom's grandmother, Mildred Julia Moise (1901-1991)played piano and was a very positive woman. I think Tom got the best from both of them.

Thomas Garland & Mildred Julia Moise are buried at Forest Park Cemetery on Westheimer in Houston. Tom and I visited from time to time and I have visited since Tom died. All is well. Actually all is better now...some of Tom's pebbles are resting peacefully with his grandparents. I can't wait to learn more about them when I see Tom again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wine tasting for Tom



On June 29, 2009 Lonnie and Sue Cox held a wine tasting in Tom's honor. They won the wine tasting at the fund raiser and were so gracious to conduct it in Tom's honor. It was hard not to drink his share of the nectar.(I refrained and drove home).

When Tom and I used to go to events like this together it was always interesting. Usually I wanted to go and stay, and laugh, and socialize and Tom wanted to make an appearance, be nice, bring flowers, and leave.

Maybe he rubbed off on me. Now all I want to do is to make an appearance, be nice, bring flowers, and leave. This night was special though and I remain so grateful for the friends and family that stay in touch and still love Tom so very much. I'm so afraid people will forget.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 17, 1999



On July 17, 1999 Tom and I got married. Ten years ago. It was a beautiful day and the best decision I ever made. But it had a few bumps. The largest being I completely choked as I started walking down the aisle and decided I did not want to get married. I was the stereotypical crying bride but it was primarily because I had decided I was not getting married. My dad had a death grip on my arm forcing me down the aisle, making sure than in fact, I was getting married.

Since it was a small church Tom saw this and had a bad feeling there was about to be a runaway bride. Everyone else thought I was crying from joy. Once I made it to the front and my dad firmly "gave" me to Tom I calmed down and figured I would go through the service and deal with the problem later. Seconds later there was no more problem. Tom was my husband. What a cool thing. Needless to say, except when he metaphorically left his underwear on the floor, I never regretted marrying Tom. I wish I had taken his name.

During the service a huge storm blew in and all electricity was lost. The reception was at my folk's house and so for quite a while we just sat in their family room, in the dusk, and drank. When the power came on we ate and drank more. We had our wedding dance to Elvis.

Tom and I had challenges, but to borrow a phrase I heard recently, by the end we were fused into one. Or another way I think of it is we were like a big, thick, powerful rope that might be on a ship. Even if you work real hard and rip the strands apart, pulling the rope in two, each half keeps the same wiggly shape it had before. Sadly, divided, it is just half as strong.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tom loved picking blueberries



Several years ago Tom and I went to pick blueberries. It was a wet year so the berries were really big and round and sweet. It was super hot out and we had a great time. We picked so many berries we had them for two years! On the farm we ate so many we were practically buzzing.

Those were some of our best days. Outside, really warm, sweating, and laughing. Ok in truth that was my perfect day. Tom much preferred outside, cool, sunny, and laughing. (Once again proving his better sense over mine). We had some of those cool, dry days as well but not as many as Tom would have liked in Texas.

At any rate heading out to Moorehead Blueberry Farm on a hot day late in June with Ron, Stacy, and RJ Walker brought back so many memories. I relive them every morning with my blueberries in the breakfast.

Tom's smile, and laugh, and sweat were still out there. Now some of his pebbles are as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Post Conquer Cancer Ride Summary – June 09




From Rona, Gavin's Sister

Hi to all the great supporters of our ride which took place June 13-14.
Wheezin 4 A Reason ( Rona Williams, Heather Williams-crew, Ed McMahon, Tamara Welbourn, Leanne Welbourn) would like to thank you for donating to our team because with a goal of $25,000.00 we raised more than $34,000.00!!! WHEREVER GAVIN IS, HE MUST BE AMAZED, he set the initial goal that we surpassed.

We rode proudly for him and with others in mind, Kyle McMillan, Tom Lawrence, Leanne’s friend John and also Joanne Stacey, last Saturday and Sunday coming into Niagara Falls without incident, just some sore body parts.

Starting at the Princess Gates in Toronto left us with mixed feelings of sorrow, happiness, reflection, pride and concern (are we gonna make it??? It’s HOW far? 220kms!).

Riding into the first pit stop we made a run for the portable toilets first and then to our crew member Heather, to say HI and refuel. Onward we went, passing many a roadside supporter with signs and cheers until we came into Burlington encountering more family support!

After many more kms back of Waterdown, through Dundas, down Sydenham Rd. which apparently has a reputation because “everyone knows Sydenham Rd”, except ME, but a thrilling downhill ride, until of course, and my theory proves right, “wherever there’s a DOWNHILL, there’s an UPHILL”. We make our way up to Mohawk College to have the BEST shower and the WORST sleep of the year in our little blue NOT soundproof tents. And yet, I wouldn’t have missed this experience for anything!

Then wake-up at 5:30 am, pancakes for breakfast and back on the road which, for the most part is flat and faster than day one. Then, we hit the second, more difficult (to some of us) HILL which we walked up with the other 90% of riders. Leanne, the youngest member and the MASTER of the mountains from training in Italy, burned up that Hamilton HILL (yes, I admit it, it’s NOT a mountain).

A beautiful ride across the escarpment looking east at the CN tower reminded us of how far we’d come. A couple more pit stops later, some “a535” and oreo cookies we finished in Niagara Falls, welcomed by countless people cheering as we crossed the finish line. It was truly overwhelming. And then the beer flowed.

If not for you and your generosity, helping us by donating so wonderfully, we reached the required minimum we needed to ride, and we couldn’t have done this without your help. I am quite emotional as I thank you and my teammates who, some of which are new at cycling (Tamara and Ed), who did a phenomenal job of riding THAT far! So please accept my heartfelt thanks and enjoy the pics.

Rona

Friday, June 26, 2009

June 22, 2007

June 22 was the two year anniversary of Tom's diagnosis. I really don't like using the word "anniversary" in this context. I know we have the anniversary of D Day and of 9-11 but I prefer "anniversary" to be a day of celebration like the anniversary of a birth or marriage. But for lack of a more complete vocabulary I am going with "anniversary".

Two years and several days ago Tom started complaining about not feeling right. He could not focus, he was having trouble typing and an email that should have taken 30 seconds to type was taking 10 minutes. We wrote it off to stress, or not sleeping well but finally Tom decided to go and see his primary physician about it. Dr. Reuben performed a few manual tests and determined Tom had "drifting." That is when one of your hands or arms moves on its own accord when you are not directly paying attention to it. So for example, you hold your coffee while reading the newspaper...and suddenly your hand has turned upside down and you are spilling. This is a sign of brain trouble.

Dr. Reuben sent Tom to Dr. Jones, a neurologist who did an MRI and within hours we knew Tom had a large tumor. It took days for us to figure out it was cancer and it was only after the surgery we knew it was GBM.

But two years ago on June 22 I got a call from Tom at work saying he had a golf ball sized tumor in his left parietal lobe and everything changed.

On June 22, 2009 I felt this was one of many chances I had to celebrate the life of Tom. After a yoga class Joanne, Donna, Hugh, and I spent a few minutes toasting Tom with a bottle of champagne. We shared a few memories of him and mostly wished he was with us.

I look at Tom's pictures every day, every hour. I celebrate his life and the way he approached the transition to his next life. And I am working really hard to get through each day. But I'll be darned if I don't keep forgetting he is dead and think it is his step in the hall or his car door slamming or him on the other end of the phone ringing.

It is not of course but the memory is strong and I remain so grateful for the years we had together.

Monday, June 15, 2009

GBM Cause and Effect?


During several summers during his college years, Tom worked on a crew at Arlington Stadium. This picture comes from a photo album published by the stadium in the "high school year book style". He is the one with the really long legs at a "jaunty" angle. Be sure and check out the 1975 outfits and hair cuts!

One day Tom fell out of the back of a slow moving truck landing on the back left side of his head. This resulted in a mild concussion and in a way I do not understand, ended up with Tom losing his sense of smell. He was back at work the next day, probably wearing even cleaner white pants and a wide belt.

The reason this is interesting is that there is a growing school of thought that believes many types of cancer, in particular brain cancer, is the result of direct impact or "location-specific assault". There are several small studies linking this cause and effect.

Tom's GBM first presented in a golf ball-sized tumor in the back left side of his brain.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Found Bookmark

A few days ago, on the four month anniversary of Tom's death to be exact, the following comment was posted to this blog from Aaron:
um...well I'm not really sure how to say this but, I checked out a book (technically a graphic novel) from the Austin Public Library yesterday. The book in question is the third volume of Buddha by Osamu Tezuka. As I was reading I found a bookmark that was left in the book. On one side is a photo of man on a plain or desert somewhere with mountains in the distance. On the far right it says 'In Remembrance of "Big Tom" Thomas James Lawrence October 10, 1956 - Eternity'. On the other side are several pictures of, i assume, Thomas along with what seems to be a Journal entry reading '6:00 AM The Idea that Keith Richards could survive me in death is so ironic to me - A bit twisted yes - but so sublime in the perfection of it all - humor me with this one - it's really funny -' and is cut off. One of the photos looks like the one you have with you at the thumb. I tried Googling Thomas name and a search for Big Tom actually got me to the http://tlcare-ts.blogspot.com/2009/02/toms-next-obituary.html page. Thought I'd leave this comment here and see if you knew about the missing bookmark.

Aaron and I have communicated back and forth and I am so amazed by Tom's reach -- now into a managa in the Austin Public Library. If you lost your bookmark or want to provide your comments on the book in question feel free.
Love Theresa

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tom on Big Tom's Thumb

Nicole and Austin live in an amazing place. About a 28 minute drive from her house, and five minutes from Scottsdale (technically at Bell and 104th St.) there is a trail head into the Sonoran Preserve. There are dozens of miles of trails there ranging from really-really-hard to just-plain-old-hard.

Starting at 5:00 a.m. (if you know Nicole you will confirm this is 100% accurate) we began a wonderful 14.5 mile hike. Parts of it were very challenging as we were climbing up one side of the range and coming down the other. At the pinnacle of our hike was (Big) Tom's Thumb. It is a rather large collection of boulders standing just as tall as you please.

You can see the Thumb in the first picture and there is a close up in the second. There Tom's pebbles joined many, many, other rocks and sand and promptly blew the lightest particles into my face (shades of The Big Lebowski).

We made it back to Nicole and Austin's home by 11 am where I promptly "napped" for a solid three hours. It was a deep sleep with good dreams.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tom on the Dixie Mine Trail



Tom loved hiking Arizona. Not as much as golfing but he did like the peace and quiet and hot, dry days. Some of Tom joined Nicole and I on the Dixie Mine Trail in the McDowell Mountains. He now rests there comfortably watching the lizards and snakes and seeing the beautiful night sky.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gavin


Through a chain of several people I came in communication with Rona and Leanne Williams who are doing the 2009 Ride to Conquer Cancer in honor of their brother Gavin. Gavin died of brain cancer on Feb 1, 2009, the day before Tom. Rona, Leanne and I have emailed back and forth several times and I also I have also communicated with Gavin's wife Tamera. They seem like wonderful people as you can tell by an email Rona sent me:

"The two days of the ride I will be carrying a picture of Gavin with me, I would like to bring Tom's pic along too. Know that, and know that our family team will ride in honour of both men. If you have a pic of Tom you particularly like, you can send it to me and I'll be proud to ride with it. Again, I'd like to extend a huge heartfelt thank you to you, I have reached my goal as of today and now I continue to train with Leanne, Tamara and Ed so we have an amazing couple of riding days together. Your contribution and connection has had a profound effect on our family, I wish for you to have experienced similar compassion that makes you know that somewhere Tom and Gavin have a sense of all this going on and they realize the impact that they have had on all of us."

On June 13 and 14 please send a quick prayer or thought to their team "Wheezin for a Reason" and know that there is another group of family and friends hurting and working just as much as we are.

For more information on Rona and the ride visit: http://tinyurl.com/Rona-ConquerCancer.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tom's Pebbles on a Golf Course


Tom loved to play golf. He learned from his father when he was very young and throughout his life spent many (many, many) hours playing. One of his special experiences was actually getting to play St. Andrews during a trip we took to Scotland.

One of our favorite memories was playing in Fountain Hills, AZ. We went to visit Nicole and Austin and set Tom up for a game at a nearby course. What we forgot is that Nicole lives quite near Scottsdale and they don't have golf "courses" there they have "resorts". We were quickly faced with the choice between making a mortgage payment or getting a round of golf. We compromised, and scheduled the game mid-week, mid-day. So we had the place to ourselves and 110 degree temperature (but it's a dry heat).

It was hot but really fun and Tom loved it. One of the highlights was seeing the sun move from overhead to a bit to the west, and in the process cast a shadow the exact shape of a saguaro cactus on the ground. The next time we looked, there were three little bunnies lined up in the shadow trying to get out of the heat. That was such a fun memory.

As suburban as it sounded I really hoped some day we could live (and not work) in a place where Tom could play golf day in and out. He loved being on the course.

To a small degree a part of that dream was achieved today. Nicole and I placed some of Tom's pebbles at Sun Ridge on the first tee. It was a beautiful cool afternoon and I know Tom was so very, very happy. Have a good game babe, I'll see you at the club house.