As I begin this blog I am reeling over the death of Tom Walton. He is just someone I didn’t expect to die. Although he was 74, he was the picture of health and strength. He is just someone I thought would live to be 100. Sometimes it makes no sense. Why him? Why now?
And now I am thinking about Molly.
I hope they meet up where ever they are. Coach Luti is up there. Emmet Collin’s dad. Michele Bartlett. So many others gone too soon. TW lived 61 years more than Molly did and I still feel he left too soon. I do not do well with change sometimes. The death of someone ends an era of some sort. Life will never be the same.
We will all continue forward. Without them.
Tom was always a supporter of me. He was unafraid to tell me what I needed to hear. As an athlete, as a student, as a teacher, as a coach, as a mother. He spent a long visit at NHTI with me one sunny afternoon shortly after Molly died. He acknowledged he could not fully relate to my grief but he understood pain. He was a major supporter of me when I lost my job. He was a victim of Chris Rath as well. We were going to share our Concord School District exit stories with one another.
We never did.
In past years as I pulled away from the running community it was always fun when we ran into each other. He asked lots of questions about my CrossFit and was always suitably impressed. He often asked about my sister Johanna. He was her PE teacher at Rundlett Junior High in the 80’s.
He knew and remembered everyone.
In my heyday coaching at Concord High School Tom started a cross-country program at Pittsfield Middle High School. He hosted the Capital Area Cross Country Championships there. I imagine those runners, all adults now with children of their own are as sad as I am.
He was ageless.
I remember when I worked at Weeks Family Restaurant (where Sal’s Pizza is now) he would come in with Deb and their two young daughters. I was in high school then and he taught a class called Traditions Worth Preserving. I had taken it with him, the only sophomore in the class and was excited to wait on them. His daughter Ali looked at me, looked back at her dad and said, “Her looks pretty to me”.
We all laughed.
The gift of a death like Tom’s, where it was likely quick and painless at the time for him, but lengthy for us, brought time to his family. When you can be with your loved one as their heart still beats and they still breathe you can say good bye to what seems to be them in their alive body. Molly actually died at Concord Hospital on May 2nd at 1:30am. We had her for 6 days before her body stopped breathing.
What a gift.
The Tom Walton we all knew died on February 12th on a river bank holding a kayak. Medical intervention and a heroic neighbor gave his family another 10 days to process all that goes along with sudden loss. Their final goodbye was right where it should have been. Home, with family, in a place he loved.
He had nicknames for everyone but quite honestly, I do not remember having one. He called me Higgins, which is what lots of folks call me. Many times, simply Barbara. I called him T-Dubs, a shortened version of TW, which is what I called him in high school. I will miss him and all that he had yet to do. I miss all of the things Molly never got to do as well. It’s a lingering and painful piece of grief. All we can do is honor him through our actions and deeds. Our words of encouragement and support. Our kindly shared honesty. Our stubborn insistence on seeing the best in everyone we meet.
Enjoy the other side TW. We miss you already.