Thursday, October 25, 2012

45 is Too Young

As  mentioned in the previous post, this past week we lost a classmate.  He was only 45 years young.

Tom and I weren't close.  We were Facebook friends who graduated from a very small southern Illinois high school.  At reunions, I could always count on him to have an upbeat attitude and a smile stretching from ear to ear.

He loved life, his family and music. His life was a reflection of his loves.

Five years ago, when his youngest, a little boy, was born prematurely, Tom reached out to our classmates for prayer that his little guy would pull through.  And pull through he did.

Tom's Kids
Tom and his wife, Laurie

I can't say I knew Tom all that well.  Miles and years separated us, but he was still a part of the small band of 1985 graduates who are like extended family. There are those who are close like siblings and if something happened to one of them I would be devastated.  Then there are those who are like cousins. This loss is still painful and there's a sense of, "I wish I would have known him better, or invested in conversation a bit more."

One classmate wrote,
"I just wanted to send my deepest sympathies to the friends and especially the family of Tom. I knew Tom since junior high and was close friends with many of Tom's friends. Tom and I never became close friends as we were simply into different interests. As I've read most all of the posts of all who were affected by this loss, It's clear that I missed out on getting to know a remarkable man and truly loving father. My thoughts are with all of you through this extremely difficult time."

Our Class of 1985 is a unique one.  We're bonded in a way that is unlike many graduating classes.  We were a mixed group of military dependents and small town Midwest kids.  There was a constant turnover of students due to the fluctuation of the military influence.  I was one of the many military kids (not brats).  Due to reassignments, we usually attended a school for 2-3 years, yet despite the short duration, I developed close-knit circles of friends.  Was it because our school was so small?  Our class numbers ranged somewhere between 160-180 students.  Was it because on the first day of our senior year we learned that some of our own were killed in a tragic car accident?  Was it because even though we had varying groups (athletic kids, smart kids, etc), we crossed those lines and were part of many circles.  I asked a friend what her thoughts were on this and she replied,

"We learned that no matter the circle we were in, everybody hurt (great rem song) and the class went to one funeral after another - emotions exposed, emotions we didn't know, we hurt, we didnt understand, and we didnt reconcile. It was identifying we shared something, although a horrible circumstance, and no matter if you were a jock, or a freak, or a nerd we all had the same pain.  We were too young to know death so we held on tight. "
Perhaps that is it.  We experienced a pain that bonded us together.  When one of us hurts we feel it.

This week we made the trip south to attend Tom's wake with fellow classmates.  In addition to paying respects to an incredible father, husband, son, and friend, I wanted to invest in those who are still living.  I haven't seen these high school friends for years.  We text, Facebook or call occasionally, but I haven't seen them face-to-face for quite awhile.  Taking time from a busy schedule to connect with dear friends should be a priority.

Todd, Keith, Celia and Lisa

It's hard to believe one of our own is gone.  I still can't wrap my head around it.  I'll close with an incredible performance by Tom's daughter, Courtney.  Tom is behind her, wearing the cowboy hat playing the guitar.

Goodbye Tommy.  You are missed.

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