Passing. It’s what cars do on the road, what children do in school, and what people do in life. Pass each other, sometimes forming friendship lasting for decades, sometimes for minutes.
Two weeks ago, my best friend and production company partner suddenly and tragically died. As I started writing the news to a mutual friend, I welled with tears, not able to put down the “D” word.
Instead, I chose “passed,” and pushed my laptop away to stare at those two words.
And that is exactly what he did. He passed in, then out of, my life.
What an amazing five years he gave me on that journey.
He taught me…
- the value of friendship
- history of coal miners
- airplane aeronautics
- which airports to avoid
- the secret to caramelized onions
- never to overuse the word “that”
- to take the word “can’t” out of my vocabulary
- to enjoy life as if every day were my last
- to under-promise and over-deliver
- to do what is best for me
- to put Cholula on my scrambled eggs
- the importance of living in truth
- to slather butter on my baked potatoes and toast
- to use an inch of toothpaste (though I still think he’s wrong about that)
- to believe in myself
- to rid myself of the poisonous people in my life
- to not allow myself to be taken advantage of
- to be open to love
- to live without fear
- the power of a smile
- to believe there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish
- and far too many other things to list.
That man was the smartest, most generous, selfless person I have ever met and probably ever will meet. He was one-of-a-kind. Irreplaceable.
But the most important gift Tom gave me was when he called me on my self-destructive behavior and helped me find what he called “the real Jeanne.”
Find her we did. But did I ever put up a fight. In our five-year friendship, I pushed and ran from the truth. I hid in dark places, allowing people to hurt and use me both professionally and personally, until one day, about a year ago, he took a 2×4 to my head, forcing me to see what I was doing to myself.
Then together, we picked away at each problem, eradicated my life of poison, and underneath those complicated layers, we found the real Jeanne.
Not only did he help me discover her, he helped me love her. After 49 years, I had finally learned to love myself.
And then, he was gone. Almost like a dream. Just as I got myself together and on track, ready to start a whole new life and career, he vanished. Forever. Gone.
As he passed, a part of me died. The searing pain was indescribable. I wanted to curl in a ball and never leave my bed. I have never experienced that kind of physical and emotional pain before.
I was lost.
Then I read the last email he sent me on the morning he left this Earth.
“Be all you can be.”
While Tom’s time in my life was too short, he brought more wisdom and guidance to me than others who I have known for decades. He would be furious if I curled in a ball. So, I slowly started breathing again, and made a decision to live and touch as many lives as I can while I am passing through.
Today, as I resumed my life at work, digging through past digital issues of Script Magazine, I came across an obituary column announcing screenwriting industry deaths in 2002. But instead of the title being “Obituaries,” it read, “Passages.”
It all clicked. This time on Earth is a passage, not our final destination.
I know some of my readers aren’t spiritual, but allow me to share a thought my priest has on death. He believes death to be a metamorphosis of sorts, transforming bodies into butterflies, where our souls lift up and fly.
I’d like to think Tom is flying onto his next passage, touching more lives, changing others’ destinies, and teaching someone else to love.
I’m blessed he passed through my life. Even though it was only five years, he brought me a lifetime of love and lessons. I plan on passing them on to all of you, both in my words and by living in his example.
The real Jeanne. She’s here to stay… for however long her passage lasts.
Note: My post ‘Live in Truth‘ is a perfect example of the invaluable lessons Tom taught me. And this post, ‘12 Rules for Being a Human Being‘, is the kind of advice he would have forwarded on to me. Enjoy.