Our good friend, Tom, passed away yesterday. i'm not going to go into the particulars, but suffice to say that his passing was sudden and too soon.
Mike and I met Tom and his wife, Judi, a few months after we moved back to Las Vegas in 2009. Tom and I connected immediately because his family was from a small town not far from my grandparents' town in Abruzzo.
"You FBI, too?" he asked.
"Excuse me?" I was confused.
"Full Blooded Italian," he laughed. "Haven't you ever heard that?" Oops. I felt pretty dumb, but he just laughed, introduced me to Judi, and our friendship commenced.
From that night on, Tom always greeted me with the Italian cheek-kiss. To most people, that might be a little thing, but to me it meant that Tom really understood how much reconnecting with the culture means to me. When Mike and I told them that we were heading to Italy in the fall of 2010, Tom and Judi gave us a lot of advice because they had actually lived in Italy for seven months some years ago.
When I found out that I was a finalist for the Fulbright last December, Tom and Judi were two of the few friends to whom I mentioned it. They were both supportive, and over the six months it took to receive final notification, Tom was always very encouraging.
"Call us know as soon as you know you're going," he urged me. As I promised, I called them the afternoon I received the "Sorry, you're out" letter. "I'm sorry," he told me. "They don't know what they're doing."
"Tutto bene (Everything's okay)," I replied, "I'll just go to Italy instead."
"Good idea." When we had dinner with Tom and Judi before I left for Italy, they were, as usual, interested in my plans, and they shared maps and books they thought I might use.
I arrived home about three weeks ago, and I was looking forward to seeing Tom and Judi at a party this weekend so that I could tell them about Italy.
I won't get that chance.
Tom's passing is a reminder that life can change in an instant, that our time on earth is finite, that we do not know when or where. It is also a reminder that we must "seize the day," and as Maraboli says, forgive, explore, share, love. And, to his list, I must add enjoy. Enjoy life. Enjoy love. Enjoy each other.
Enjoy, because we never know.
We are blessed to have had you in our lives, Tom. We're going to miss you.