The other evening I sat down to dinner at a friend’s home with some family and friends of the hostess. Eventually, a guest started telling a story about a college friend of her son’s who was on his school ski team. He died while snowboarding in Vermont. She continued on about his funeral, how the entire ski team came to California for that, and how sad it was. I finally asked her how long ago this happened, and she said “Two years”. I told her that my youngest son died just over a year ago in a snowboarding accident at Lake Tahoe. He was 16 1/2. I think that she had probably been told this by our mutual friend. I just don’t talk about it very often. It’s not easy.
I am continually amazed by the human spirit: how we are fascinated by death, especially the unexpected death of a young person, but, for those of us who have experienced it personally, it becomes so hard to talk about. It is nevertheless a big part of who I am. It just never goes away. I am trying to learn to accept that. Thoughts of Tom, although they are fading as time goes by, come to me at the most unanticipated times. I get them when the seasons start to change, or when I see a particularly outstanding sunset, as those are the familiar experiences available to us who roam the surface of the planet that I cannot share with Tom. I hope he is seeing the sunset, and feeling the warmth, but I don’t know that for sure. He lies in a box in a wall overlooking a field less than a mile from where I live.
His classmates will be graduating from high school next month and going on to college. They will be going to the Senior Ball in a few weeks. Those events are especially difficult for me to think about when I remember Tom. He would have been so proud of himself and having such a good time. It is difficult for me to imagine him at almost 18 years old, as I will always remember him as 16 1/2. Tom’s high school will be giving us his diploma at graduation, and I will be helping to decorate for the Senior Ball. I have gotten to the stage where I like to be around Tom’s friends. It is wonderful to see them grow up so quickly. They all remind me of him, in one way or another. I want to be invited to their weddings, and I have told one or two of them, as that will help me to remember Tom.
The President of Tom’s high school says that we will all be called to join God and all those that have been called to Him before us. I feel closest to Tom when I go to his grave and close my eyes, touch the stone wall and imagine walking through it to the coffin side. I guess this is my prayer. It makes me feel very close to Tom and God. Eventually, I open my eyes, look behind me to the fields, and remember that I am still on the planet. I feel very lucky to have been given this gift. I feel lucky to have been Tom’s mom for 16 ½ years and to be here to feel the sun’s warmth. I feel that I will always be looking for Tom, trying to hold on to my memories of him. I am learning to look for him in the faces and lives of others. This I believe.
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