He writes: “These days are cruel and harsh to say the least. Faith is the only answer. There is no other. I feel each tiny hurt as a stab in my side, my heart. The tumultuous blend of the past and the present at times overpowering. Hope this writing brings a new perspective.
“To find a hand in this life. To find some help. To make a connection. A good word. Some(thing) to fill the emptiness. Back to faith, directed by spirit. As (she) said, put it all in a box …”
I found a book among the bookshelves. It looked empty – but a few scribbles in it. I was going to use it for school. It seemed as though the grandkids had scribbled in it and I could use the graph paper. I saw a few words as I grazed through it, but nothing that caught my eye. There were too many other things happening that day. We were separating the possessions of two people that I loved and admired. Both were gone – taken too young and too close together by cancer. Not just any cancer, brain cancer. They died within seven weeks of one another. The last year of their lives was spent battling cancer together. Today they are in heaven together. Of that I’m sure.
Pam was a talented artist with the most wonderful sense of humor. No matter what happened to her she always could laugh and make you laugh. She was a beautiful soul and she touched many lives – not just those of her family, but of anyone she knew.
And she loved Tom. He was quiet, an artist in his own right. Whatever he did, he did with passion and commitment. But he seldom talked. He loved animals, nature and he loved Pam. She had been sick for so long and he took care of her. You never knew what he was thinking because he never really talked to anyone except Pam. And he spent more time with his animals and his motorcycle than he did with people. I don’t even think he talked to Pam that often. But she loved him. And he loved her.
When her cancer took a turn for the worse and Tom started to act a little unusual, everyone assumed that it was the trauma and his feelings for Pam. Little did any of us believe that he too was suffering from brain cancer. This happens in movies (only bad ones) not in real life. And certainly not to Pam and Tom. Not to anyone I know.
Tom never fully recovered – although he lived for nearly nine months after his initial diagnosis. He did see Pam buried and I believe he did understand what was happening. After she was gone, he didn’t last long. He wanted to be with her. I wasn’t able to attend the funeral. I can’t describe the feelings of not being there. I still can’t talk about it.
It was during the days between when Pam took a turn for the worse and when we discovered that he had cancer that he wrote the words above. When I first found them, I assumed that it was Pam who had written them. But it wasn’t. It was Tom, trying to make sense of the cruelty of the cancer that was ravaging Pam. Little did he know that it was ravaging him, too. In the end, though, they are not words of despair but of hope and of faith. It makes me wonder, could I have that same faith, that same hope under the same conditions? Can I put the things that I don’t understand “in a box” and have the faith that one day I will understand them?
This man who said little, who related better to his cats and to Finney his Cairn terrier than he did to most people, had so much going on inside of him. The world – and me included – assumed he was just unusual. I thought I knew who he was because of what he showed the world. I was wrong.
Each person has a unique perspective on the world. He or she sees the world through the lens that is their life and their experiences. If we are lucky, we get to view a very small portion of that lens. If we are wise enough not to judge another by our own lens then maybe, just maybe, we can get a small glimpse of the kaleidoscope of another’s perspective.
Tom left me a gift and for this I feel truly blessed. It is a gift that I am not meant to keep but to share. So today I share it with you. Maybe it will touch you.
This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.