I went to a celebration of Tom, an old friend who had died. It’s the kind of event that takes place now instead of wakes and funerals for those who aren’t religious.
I didn’t know Tom that well—he’s the younger brother of one of my closest friends—and I hadn’t seen him in over twenty years. But I have a few memories. One was when Tom took us on an epic mountain bike ride way back when I first was into mountain bikes.
The ride was rocky, muddy, rooty, hilly—and Tom was one of those enthusiastic riders difficult to keep pace with but always cheering on his mates. Afterward, he pointed to our mud-splattered bikes and said, “Who wouldn’t be proud to have their bike looking like that after a ride!” It was a simple moment, and one I’ll never forget.
Tom was New York State Forest Ranger. He was a father and a brother and a good friend to many. A lover of the wilderness. He was man who had a special relationship with trees. I hadn’t known he was also a musician and would jam with local bands where he lived in rural West Fulton, NY. There was a lot I didn’t know about Tom, but at the celebration of his life on a beautiful day in a lovely park, I listened to one person after another stand up and speak about Tom.
There was the person who served him coffee at the café. The friend he’d helped rescue on a mountain. The fellow rider. The brother who had lost his best friend. The sister who wasn’t done with Tom yet. The neighbor who could always count on Tom for help.
What I came away with was wishing I’d known Tom better. That having more of Tom in my life would have made my life more worthwhile. That’s when the loss hit me the most: I’d missed out on Tom.
I resolved to try to get more people involved in my life while I still can, and to keep closer to the ones I already have. It’s really all we’ve got.