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.

“Tom passed.”

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.

He passed.

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. 

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31 thoughts on “Passing

  1. So beautifully said. I know someone will say time heals all losses but I’d rather say “Time rejoices in all love that is shared”. Not a moment of writing, laughter, tears or successes will be lost without your friend because he will still be with you every step of the way, on a new journey, I’m sure he can’t wait to tell you about one day. -3amfright

    May you find hope & peace with this.

  2. Wonderful post! What an incredible way to view life and passing. I feel lucky to have met your friend as he passed through your life. His enthusiasm for life was contagious.

  3. Jeanne,

    First, my heartfelt condolences. Moving on from the death of a loved one is hard and I wish you the best as you continue on the very difficult path ahead.

    I, too, lost someone very special to me; I write about this person often on The Black Book. Even after all this time, he is still a huge part of not only my life but who I am. Though it hurts without him around, I am reminded how blessed I was to know someone like him. As you did, I found the strength to move on by remembering that he would have been very cross with me for giving up. We had a very symbiotic relationship; each drew strength from the other. And even with him gone, I could still feel all that he had given me in life.

    What you’re doing is the perfect way to honor him and as long as you keep his spirit alive, I believe that, like “Angel” is never far from my heart, Tom will always be a part of you.

    Best Wishes,

  4. Well, it seems to me that Tom gave you everything he thought you needed to “be all that you can be.”

    You have the tools, and you can honor him by doing just what you’re doing right now. Uncurling from the ball of despair and living life large as the real Jeanne. He would be so proud.

  5. thank you for reblogging my post from marc and angel
    12 rules for being human…
    i am deeply sorry for your loss. i feel for you..

    and i know no words would make it any better… but it will.
    you have a good heart. im sure it will give you the strength you need.

  6. Oh, Jeannie. You are so right. Tom has passed from this place to another; and yet, the light that he brought to you shines on… the essence of him is still here, like a scent that lingers in the breeze. I wish that his time here was not so brief, but I am so happy that in his time here, the two of you were able to meet, to work and to grow together.

    Putting this one up on my wall.


  7. Jeanne,

    We know what an extraordinary human Tom was, I am still having difficulty switching to the past tense… and curbing my anger and self pity at our loss. The world lost a great light, and those of us lucky enough to have shared his touch, smile, laugh… we grieve at our loss, and I pray the reality of the situation comes clear soon. Please never hesitate to reach out to me, he loved you. I would do anything for that man, and that extends with all my heart, to the people he loved.

  8. I believe with all my heart, people are brought into our lives for a reason, or a season. They can be our Judas and teach us the value of true friendship. They can come along and be a mentor, lead us and guide us. Or, they can come along and simply make our lives better for having been there.
    Call it deep but that’s my take on life. As I’m now old enough to know a few things,
    it’s my opinion that while we may miss them, our lives are truly the better for having known them.

  9. Jeanne I feel the pain of losing a friend. One of my oldest friends passed a year ago from a long bout with cancer. She was my friend since kindergarten. She meet her husband at my wedding. Nancy lived every second of her life with passion. She was always loving, kind and full of laughter. She was never jealous or envious of anyone. That always impressed me about me. She lived a simple life and was happy for what she had.
    But what I want you to know is that, with the words you write for everyone to read also has an impact on me. Although we never meet, I feel like we are life long friends because it seems we have alot in common. Now stop making me cry.
    Big Hug!

  10. Jeanne, I read your words on Tom’s memorial page and had to write you. Just found out about it the other day and am blown away. I have been his friend since 1982 and we were supposed to have pints together at the ATL airport on the 29th of August. We have been doing that a few times lately since I work overseas and pass through ATL quite often. If at all possible could we talk or chat or something. Like everyone else, I just can’t understand this tragedy. Thanks, O’Bie

  11. Wow, I’m sorry. Had no idea this had happened. What a beautiful tribute you penned. The last time I lost a close friend, I was 16 years old. He died tragically and I remember the sudden emptiness where our friendship used to be. Knock on wood, I haven’t lost any other friends in death, but I’ve lost some none the less. No matter how a friend leaves us, it’s always a searing pain mingled with sweet memories and gratitude for whatever time and lessons we come away from the experience with. I’m glad you had such a wonderful person to share your life with, and I’m sure you do have an angel on the other side.

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