Some quick family things:
- Dominyk's truck tires are shot and he reported to me that he was having a mid-life crisis;
- Tony sent me a porn video on Facebook Messenger by accident. Frightening to wake up to;
- Salinda's car broke down (I may tell this story exclusively on the email newsletter -- that alone would make it worth signing up for);
- John has been reported by his son's mom who he is currently living with that he is an awesome father and provider and that makes me proud. I have been praying and listening to this song about him for years.
But if you asked me "What have you been doing this week, my main answer would be "grieving." On Monday my friend Tommy died and I have thought about him and his wife Betty every 7 minutes (at least) all week and shed more tears than I have since I my dad died 4 years ago. I'm going to try to explain why without making this post a zillion words long, but I may not be able to with less than a million.
Tom was the head usher at our church and he and his wife, Betty, both in their early 70s, instantly clicked with Bart and I when we came to Mt. Vernon. Because they are adoptive parents we had an immediate connection, even though their boys are much older than our kids. There was also something unique about my friendship with Tom.... Bart says it was because we are so much alike: A tad bit gruff, addicted to humor and poking fun at others, workaholics that will not and can't be stopped from completing whatever mission is set before us, tenderhearted but tough, and almost always misunderstood.
From day one Tom and I went back and forth and I stood up to him and got the upper hand at least half the time, something that I'm not sure he was used to. We started having dinner with Tom and Betty once a month and had some of the best times I have ever had. (Note: We try not to let everyone at church know when we have social relationships outside of the church with people in the church because it causes misunderstandings. Clergy boundaries say you shouldn't have any because it is impossible to have relationships with everyone.... but once and a while you make an exception or two. There are many people at Mt. Vernon that we would love to have dinner with once a month, but there just isn't time).
When we had dinner in the middle of this summer, we had no idea it would be the last time. We would have had dinner again in August, but he was recovering from knee surgery. We had an especially lovely evening at a place we had never been before and left full of joy. On the way home Bart said, "We better be long gone from Danville before either of them needs someone to officiate at their funeral. I do NOT want to bury either of them." The thought was unthinkable for me too.
So on Monday, when Tom was in physical therapy minutes after happily harassing a fellow parishioner and had a massive heart attack and died, we were plunged into a grief I have not experienced often in my life. I was absolutely not ready to say goodbye to him. We had plans. Lots of them. Here are a few:
- We were going to have dinner every month for another 10-15 years. At least that was my plan. Those dinners were so fun -- one of the highlights of every month. In fact, I often considered making it twice a month, but Bart has this thing about me being too pushy :-)
- This summer I became a Reds fan. That in and of itself is a really long story, but you can't be a Reds fan without hating the Cardinals. And everyone who knew Tommy knows that he was a Cardinals fan. We had plans for multiple seasons of harassing each other about baseball. In fact, the last text he sent to me through Betty congratulated me on a win, expressing admiration for me for being such a strong woman to endure so many losses, and saying I deserved "that one win." :-)
- Tom had season tickets to the Danville Braves and next summer was going to be our summer. I was going to use that second ticket that Betty seldom wanted for multiple games.
- I hadn't told him this, but I was gong to declare myself a Redskins fan this winter so we could be on the same side at least one season of the year.
- He was going to remodel the parsonage kitchen which I can't really call "my kitchen" because I don't cook. We had talked several times about how he was going to raise the money to remodel it and that he and his "guys" at his company would do the work. I knew that it was going to be an amazing kitchen because everything he did he did well.
- He was going to help me keep Dominyk in line at church.... a constant joke and struggle. One particular day involved Tom allegedly using a bad word to encourage Dominyk to remain in his seat which Dominyk found hilarious and Tom denied completely.
- I was going to hug him a bunch more times ... at least twice a week. Tom hated hugs. But I was teaching him to love them by practicing often. It started out feeling like I was hugging a cactus, and then a piece of plywood, but finally by this summer I was hugging a human. And I don't think he was hating it any more ... at least not every time. :-)
- He was going to hand me several more packets of copies from Sports Weekly with things circled in red and pages of jokes he had found particularly funny that he would hand me every few weeks.
- Tommy and Betty were going to come to dinner at our house a few times. We had talked many times about how they needed to come and sample Bart's cooking. We were excited about this -- I was waiting for his knee to heal because I knew he would insist on coming in the front door and walking up the 24 steps instead of going to the back. Stubborn. :-)
- After church every Sunday for years to come he was going to come over to my pew, say something borderline rude but hilarious, give me a hard time, and make me laugh. Yesterday at the funeral I sat in my regular spot for the last time. I am moving to the other side of the sanctuary because being there in that place will make church too sad for me.
In the midst of my grief I do know these things: God is gracious and we are all going to be fine. Tom would hate it if we didn't move on and love life to the fullest. My grief is that it all ended too soon and that I only got to have this man as my friend for 20 months while others knew him for decades.
Betty is now going to find out that I loved them both equally -- something she always joked about, saying I loved Tommy more -- because it simply wasn't true and she's stuck with me now.
You can read his obituary here to find out the ways he impacted everyone else, but I needed to write about how he impacted me. I was hoping that the funeral would give me personal closure but apparently I needed to write all that above.
Tom Leggett was a good man. He lived his faith in countless ways. He made every day more fun for the people around him. He was fiercely committed to his wife, family, friends, community and coworkers to a degree that isn't seen often. He changed lives, he made a difference in the world, he lived well.
If heaven is how I imagine it, Tommy is having a ball connecting with everyone who went before him. I hope he's had a chance to meet my dad, because they will really hit if off. And I imagine that if there are jobs in heaven, Tom will be the head usher up there -- the first person everyone meets .... just like he was the first person people met at the door as they walked in to church at Mt. Vernon UMC for 46 years.
I'm looking forward to that day when he greets me in heaven. May his body rest in peace and may his soul have an eternal blast as he is reunited with his Savior and all of those who were waiting for him in heaven. Heaven suddenly became an even better place on September 4th.