Lift A Glass To Tom

878. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Tom died this morning. I heard the news while standing at lands end, literally. I was at the end of a pier looking across the water when my phone rang. He would of loved the moment, the dramatics of the scene. I sat on a bench and talked with Marcia, Tom’s wife, and we talked about the good angels that were with her through the long months of his dying. His amazing beautiful mind scrambled into dementia and then his body let go and throughout the right help came just when she needed it. Life is extraordinary that way.

Many years ago, late one night, Tom and I were drinking white wine, and he suddenly turned to me and said, “I need your help. I have an obligation to Isabel and I don’t know how to fulfill it.” Isabel was his great grandmother, a woman he never met. She died 30 years before Tom was born but she was present with him all of his adult life. His obligation was to tell the story of Johnny, the son that Isabel lost to typhoid fever. Tom found plastered into the walls of the old ranch house a trunk of Johnny’s possessions. Isabel packed the trunk after Johnny died. People believed that the fever could be passed through possessions so Isabel was instructed to burn all evidence that Johnny existed. She couldn’t do it. She wrote notes that she placed with artifacts in the trunk and knew that someday, one of her descendants would find the trunk and tell Johnny’s story. Tom found the trunk when he was 52 years old. And, although he’d shared the trunk and Johnny’s story with scores of school children, he never felt that he’d honored his obligation to Isabel.

For a few years, every couple of months, I flew to California and spent a week with Tom. He unpacked the trunk for me and told me the stories. He took me to the graveyards and introduced me to his ancestors. He told me a tale of lost boys and covered wagons and an epic search for spirit. He took me to the land were his people settled and toiled and prospered and squandered their inheritance. Tom was the rememberer of his clan and because there was no one to pass the stories to, he passed them to me. Over and over he asked, “What am I going to do with that trunk?” We wrote a play for him to perform but his mind started to go before we could produce it.

Sitting at lands end, I smiled at the irony. I am 52 years old and the rememberer of a clan’s story – a clan that is not mine by blood. I knew this day was coming. I stare out across the water and of this I am certain: I do not know what to do with the trunk, either. But the right help will come along when I need it. And I need it. In the meantime, I’m going to get a good bottle of white wine and toast Tom and all that he taught me about life and the power of story.

One Response

  1. That is a wonderful remembrance, David. I shall lift a toast to Tom with you right now as I retread your post.

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