We came wishing for a better outcome. After three days of a hospital vigil, ending with a very moving hour with family and friends, toasting Tom into his next adventure, we left the hospital Sunday saddened to have said goodbye to Tom. Today we’ll be a part of the Catholic Mass created by Father Berg and Tom’s parents. We hope to also make it back for the less formal service offered later by Jan and the boys at their home and in the shop that Tom loved and was the place he designed and built from scratch, his red sports car, the Campbellini .
I loved hearing so many stories about Tom, and what I will remember most is his love of cars. As a little guy, age four, he owned one of those red cars that runs on leg power. One day he informed his mom, Julia, he was off to visit Dad. Not thinking too much of the comment, Julia assumed he was playing as he usually did in the yard. The family lived a ways off the base so visiting Dad was not really an option. However, after a bit of time passed, the silence concerned Julia, and she went looking for Tom. He was no where to be found. She ran through the neighborhood finally asking a postman if he had seen a small boy. The postman shared that indeed he had seen a boy pedaling his car out on the highway with traffic moving around him towards the base. They took off to find him. He was determined to visit with his Dad. Fortunately he was fine. The story is one that set the stage for the two of Tom’s true passions in life; family and red sport’s cars. Just before he died he finished his twenty year effort to design and build his own sports car, the Campbellini. He had won a very prestige award just months into his chemotherapy and as the story goes for a few weeks after that the cancer seemed gone.
Jan, his wife, and his boys now have the car, the trophy and the priceless memories of his work in the shop behind their home, with them at his side, he brought the Campbellini to life. The shop will continue as a place for the many friends and colleagues Tom touched in his career as an engineer. Jan and the boys want those close to him to come and build their dreams. I have no doubt at some point the boys will have their projects our back.
Personally, I hope Tom is enjoying whatever red wheels are available beyond the limitations of this physical world and have no doubt he will be making sure he can visit family as needed to let them all know he’s out there and doing just what is perfect for him now.
I have learned a great deal over these past few days. People all grief differently, and it has been special to see the Campbell’s make sure each of them will have a way to let go of Tom. Today, it will be the Catholic Mass. In a couple weeks, it will be the Shop party. For CrisMarie, I think it has been the opportunity to be present and with her family through it all.
For me, it has been knowing that Tom lived and loved fully right until the end. Some may see his passing as cancer having won. But not me. Cancer may have shortened Tom’s life, but it’s clear to me that the quality in which he lived it was never compromised! His boys, his partnership with Jan and that red Campbellini are clear proof that he did indeed Live Strong!!