My main influence for starting my own blog on TCWmag.com was my friend Tom (pictured right, second to last in the back row…taken during one of our many trips to Michigan). I’ve written about him a lot, and I have an amazing group of friends who help keep his memory alive. That is why I’ve chosen to write another blog about our good friend today, on July 6 (the last time I saw him, in 2013), rather than on the anniversary of his death on July 9. I’ve already told the story about the last time I saw Tom, so I won’t repeat it. What I want to tell you about are the ways in which we carry him with us.
I mentioned the custom buttons in one of my earlier posts. What started as a way to show support for Tom through his fight has turned into a small piece of Tom that we carry with us wherever we go. These buttons have been to offices, attended sporting events, traveled on vacations and much more. The buttons we wear on our clothes and bags are a constant reminder of our hero, our friend.
The same day the buttons arrived we also received black support bands that say, “No One Fights Alone.” Since that day, I’ve worn the bracelet every day no matter where I was going. And I know many others have done the same.
The Birthday Party
Tom passed away less than a month before his 28th birthday (in August). Knowing how much he loved celebrating anything and everything, we didn’t want his birthday to pass without doing something special. Tom’s best friend (also named Tom) and family organized a picnic in the forest preserve. We played games, ate, drank, reminisced and lived for a good time…exactly how Tom inspires us to live.
The Traveling Picture Frame
Tom was the life of the party. As you can imagine, we had a rough time celebrating anything without him. At our “Thanksmas” party (celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas) in 2013, our friend Ray pulled up a picture of Tom on an iPad and placed it on a table. Tom was holding a drink and we felt like he was celebrating with us. We even snapped a group pic with the photo of Tom.
I then had the idea to put a picture of Tom from New Year’s 2012-2013 in a frame and bring it to our 2013-2014 New Year’s celebration. From there, Tom’s photo has traveled with us to all major celebrations, and I’ve often changed the photo to reflect each party: South Side Irish Parade, a weekend in Michigan, et cetera. We’re big on taking group photos, and we always make sure Tom’s included.
Although Tom was very sick, no one really knew just how sick he was. Like I’ve said before, it’s because he never acted like he was sick. He was incredibly strong,…titanium strong. So when our friend Jorrie often posted the lyrics to David Guetta’s “Titanium” (featuring Sia) on Tom’s Facebook, the uplifting tune sort of became an anthem for us, for him. Whenever it’s on the radio, we text each other. Whenever it pops up on Pandora, we text each other. Whenever we’re near a jukebox, we play it. Whenever we hear it, we think of Tom.
As noted above, and in another bog post of mine, music is an important part of my life. So when I heard an incredible instrumental version of “Titanium,” I had one thought: picture slideshow.
I downloaded instrumental versions of two songs that remind us of Tom – Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” and, of course, David Guetta’s “Titanium” – and immediately starting combing Facebook for the many photos we’ve taken of and with Tom over the years. I tried to make sure everyone in our group, and beyond, had at least one photo with Tom in the slideshow. I know the slideshow could have probably gone on for hours…
I spent hours, days, putting the slideshow together. There was one day I didn’t even sleep because I was so excited to finish. It was 4am and I had no one to call, so I just watched the video over and over, alone. While it does bring a tear to my eye, it also makes me laugh and feel so incredibly grateful we became friends. Tom touched so many lives, and I want everyone to see that. That’s partially why I added the video to YouTube, also so we can easily share it with the rest of our friends and Tom’s family.
These are just a few of the ways we keep Tom with us…the ways in which we carry on without his physical presence. Our lives will never be the same. But, thanks to Tom, we’re all better people who strive to live for a good time.