A Love Story

Feb 24 2012

Lisa’s thoughts on Tom

June 6, 1970. The last day of school. I was a freshman; Tom a sophomore. I was excused to the pool to celebrate the end of finals. The swim team was practicing. When I remember that day, I remember him bathed in golden light. He looked a Greek god on the starting blocks. We splashed around with some other kids and I think there was an immediate understanding between us this was the start of something big.


After a party later that night, we shared our first kiss. Tom wrote to me in a letter as he neared the end of his life that that kiss made his stomach jump like when he was on the starting blocks before a race. He said that feeling never diminished over the years. I was equally moved by that first kiss. I think even then I knew as soon as we touched that I was home. I felt so safe and protected and cherished by him for the rest of our lives.


We fell in love before I was even old enough to be allowed to date “in cars with boys”. He rode his bike to my house, we met at the park (my dog was in great shape that summer!) and we talked on the phone for hours. When we were finally allowed, we drove around in big old cars with no radios and Tom would play the blues on his harmonicas. He was always singing me some funny song I had never heard before.


Tom loved the blues, my Mom’s fried chicken, the mist on his face at the ocean, fresh squeezed apple juice, swimming, his family, his friends, his son to the ends of the earth, and his dog. But most of all, he loved me. He loved me with a capacity I have only seen once or twice in my life. To my great fortune, one of those examples of love was between my grandparents. Tom reminded me so much of my Paw-paw. Early in our relationship he began to take me to visit his grandmothers on Sunday afternoons. That was a pretty sure sign to me that he would be a wonderful family man. He sure proved my hunch to be correct.


We dated for 8 years before we got married. It wasn’t long before we knew we were ready for a family; we knew each other so well we were really ready to share our love with children of our own. Prior to that, we had borrowed the McCrary kids about as much as their parents would allow:)


It would be another 8 years before we would finally be blessed with John-Paul. Tom also wrote to me in that final letter that he could still taste the tears of happiness on my lips when he got home from work that wonderful day we found out we were expecting. I remember running to meet him in the street and him swinging me around in circles. John-Paul’s birth was the happiest day of our lives. A very close second was the day he graduated from college.


Tom reminded me in his letter that we always said we don’t remember anything from the mid-80‘s but John-Paul. We knew nothing of the music or events of those times. We soaked up every moment with John-Paul and each other.


Of course you all know Tom did work when he could and he always did work hard. People who would tell him to work less couldn’t have known his true nature. You might as well have told a race horse not to run. He loved to work. He loved his friends at work and he loved the satisfaction he got from a job well done. He loved helping young people at work in particular. He especially loved providing a good life for me and John-Paul.


Tom was a pretty simple guy. He didn’t need fancy cars or clothes or the newest phone. He just wanted to be with us. He’d call me if he was going to be 10 minutes late. There were a few things I knew he needed to be happy – a huge stack of new, clean underwear was one – well as a matter of fact, he just was pretty into clean laundry all together. I have been searching the house for his scent on his clothes, but he was so clean and so were his clothes, I’ve yet to find anything that smells like him. A common call around our house was, “Got any whites? I’m doin’ a load!”


Tom also loved to be prepared to keep us all comfortable. We could count on him to keep us warm, safe, fed and cozy no matter where we were going. He got up extra early before a road trip to pack with precision and tie everything down. It was adorable. One of the happiest days of his life was when John-Paul quoted his famous saying, “It’s better to have it and not want it than want it and not have it.”


What I miss the most about Tom and what I should never have taken for granted was the way he loved me. He loved every single molecule of me. He loved me even when I was unloveable and he made me feel beautiful every day of my life. Our values were so very similar and yet our personalities couldn’t have been much more different. He was unwaveringly solid, steady, calm – just like a rock. I am the driven one, the one that’s likely to fly around until everything gets done. We always said I am the kite and he is the string. I came to know I needed him there to keep me grounded. He had a necklace made for me for our last Christmas together out of one of our beach combed agates. It’s a lovely kite with a silver tail and I will treasure it forever.


Tom and I did just about everything together. Often he would say to me, “Go put on one of your pretty tops and let me take you somewhere.” We loved to go for drives in the Gold Country or for longer road trips. We held hands in the car and listened to 5 hours of Trisha Yearwood non-stop, winking at each other at the same lyrics time after time. We ate dinner out holding hands across the table and giggling. We were never going to be that old couple you see in a restaurant with nothing to say to each other.


Tom was so quick-witted and funny. I used to call my Mom all the time with quotes from him that had me in stitches. On the last night we would be able to speak with him before he went into the coma he said the funniest thing. He sprung awake with what we now know was that last burst of energy the hospice booklet talked about. He was ravenous and very thirsty. We couldn’t feed him fast enough and it would turn out to be the last time he would eat or drink. After eating, he said he wanted a cup of tea – with honey in it. I said, “Ok, honey, I’ll get that for you.” He replied, “No you don’t understand; I want a big scoop of honey.” Again, I assured him I would get it. He stopped me and said, “Listen, you are the love of my life but there are three things you never gave me enough of.” Imagine my concern at this point…What would he list? “Honey, salt and mustard!” I figure if those were the only things he was lacking, I guess I did pretty well. It’s fitting that the last time he was lucid he was very, very funny. John-Paul and I will remember it forever.


As most of you know, the next morning Tom slipped into a coma that lasted 10 days. There would be a couple of moments when he looked into our eyes and tried to speak, squeezing hands and kissing me, but we would never have a conversation with him again. He hung on to life like no one we had ever heard of. The care he required was complicated and oh so very difficult. I can never ever thank the people enough that came to my side to care for him with such devotion. John-Paul put his life on hold for a full three months. Our hospice team was so wonderful. My sister, Tracy, our niece, Olivia, my best friend, Becky and her daughter Alyssa rounded out the team of miracle workers. They took turns giving Tom his medication every two hours for 9 days and nights. Olivia didn’t go to bed at all for 4 nights. Alyssa slept a little on the couch. We bonded in a way we could never describe and I cannot express my gratitude enough. None of us will ever be the same and we know we can all count on each other for anything for the rest of our lives. Tom’s greatest wish for me and John-Paul would have been for us to have people like that in our lives if he had to leave us. God bless you, our angel crew; you have granted his wish.


I will not say goodbye because I know he is all around me and he is deep within my soul. I will not say we have lost him or that he has lost his battle. Let’s borrow from Elizabeth Edwards and say that he has won the battle of a life well-lived and that in that there is no losing. For now, I will simply say:


“Rest well, my darling. I promise you, it will seem like no time at all to you before you turn around and I will be there. I found you once and I know I will find you again. You’ll be the one bathed in golden light…”


3 responses so far

  1. So amazing Mom! It’s very touching. We were so blessed to have him guide us to where we are today.

  2. I’m so proud of Aunt Tracy for making it through reading this infront of all those people

  3. My dear sweet Lisa, I thought I was done crying for today, Brooke’s family is moving to Utah and we had to say goodby to them. Then I read what you wrote. Oh, how I wish I could have been there for you and with you. What you shared was so amazing. There was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that Tom loved to tiny bits and little pieces. He was your protector. As well as Scott’s that one day in the ocean in Cabo. He love for people was so genuine, he was a gentle giant with a huge heart.
    Even though it’s been so long since we have seen the both of you, our friendship and love will always be there. We shared great times together that will never be forgotten. I remember when we went on the Oriflame cruise on the Norway, and the company put us up in Miami the night before in a hotel. When I knew you were there, I could not get to your room fast enough to see the both of you.
    Thank you for being such a wonderful and dear friend to me.
    Love from the both of us, Rae Ann and Scott

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