My husband loved our kids, he loved me and he loved sports and games — maybe in that order. He loved lots of other people and things as well, but with no particular ranking. This is a preface to what my kids and I did recently.
Tom never gave up the fight to beat brain cancer, but his brain and body would not cooperate. So despite his remarkable efforts and positive attitude, the disease rendered him unable to be logical over time. This meant he would rarely address the fact that he might not make it, so we never discussed his funeral wishes. A few times I almost went there, but it was too difficult.
When he died, the kids and I came up with a funeral we thought he might like. As it turned out, it was the kind of funeral I would like, but no regrets there as funerals are for the living.
I’m Catholic and I raised our children Catholic, so I had a Catholic funeral mass, a eulogy by his best friend (who did a tremendous job) and meaningful readings and hymns. Tom was agnostic, but was raised Catholic, so I figured he’d be good with what we planned.
The kids and I felt the funeral had just the right tone and so did family and friends. More than 500 people attended, and, afterward, we had a modest reception of beverages, cheese and fruit in the church basement. At night, we had a grand dinner with immediate family and best friends at a restaurant Tom liked. I knew for sure, he would have loved our gathering, and his presence was felt there.
Time moved along. I wanted to do a memorial of some sort and came up with a party at a friend’s bar or a chili cook-off (we hosted those regularly). But that first year, I could not move forward with either idea. I looked into getting a plaque to post at our city Little League fields, which happen to be a block from our house, but I wasn’t sure about it. Another year passed, but it still bothered me I didn’t do anything. I had to take action.
Tom loved baseball and coached Little League and Babe Ruth at our city fields for 15 years. A whole group of boys my son and daughter’s ages grew up on those fields, some more talented than others. Tom, in his often loud, enthusiastic voice, taught them the finer points of baseball and good sportsmanship. He mentored some of the more troubled kids, and even the weakest player was encouraged.
Many of those boys are fine, young men now, and when Tom was sick, they came over to give him a baseball hat signed by as many of his former players as they could find. It was a touching visit.
Tom never gave up that passion for teaching and watching kids play sports. He coached our daughter in soccer and our son in hockey as well. A solid tennis player, he taught both our kids how to play the game well. Our daughter ended up playing high school tennis; our son played three varsity sports.
Often, before he got sick, he would walk up to the fields to see what was going on — catch a few innings of the games with kids now younger than his own. In the early months after his diagnosis, he was still able to walk around the neighborhood. Consistently, he went over to those ball fields and the tennis courts to check out what was going on. When he could no longer walk, per his request, I’d drive him around the park.
What I needed to do became crystal clear last fall. I called my contact with our city foundation and ordered the bronze plaque. It was installed a couple of weeks ago on the brick column that marks the entrance that Tom and our son entered to go to practice and games. It looks perfect there.