Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Welcome to "Tom Allison Way"

Dear Tom,
It has been two weeks since you passed away.  I haven't been showering much, and it is harder to check my voice mail.  Harder than normal and you know how hard it already was.   But as we know, that problem has nothing to do with your death. :)

But The Girl and I have found our answer to all those chores we aren't doing. 
All the junky snacks we have been eating. 

"We are in mourning."   The answer that has no reply.

I read about mourning periods and some even say you should mourn half the duration of the relationship.  That means we could mourn for 4.6 years. 

Man, that is A LOT of truffles. 

But, to be honest, as the days have passed, it seems less and less heavy.  The numbness has worn off for me anyway, and most of the time I can see you healthy, happy and in peace in my mind.  Like the old days.  Old pictures have really been helping replace the body and mind image you had at the end of your earthly journey. 

Plus, having an eternal perspective is nice too.  It sure helps.

I wanted to tell you that I have much to do in the next five weeks.

RYLA begins on Saturday, then the big Tallants Fourth of July Party on July 2nd, and then we are off to the long-awaited-postponed-several-times-trip to Alaska. 

Today I am feeling it is a good day to tell you what I have to say.
I have officially renamed 108th Street where the cemetery is "Tom Allison Way." 

No, I didn't ask the City of Kansas City. 

Or the Mayor. 

But I am now on the Communications Committee for the City of Smithville, so I bet I can get permission from Brother Mayor Fullmer.  I mean they drive by the cemetery when they are going to the WalMart, so I am sure it counts the same.  :)

So, that said, I wanted to record some things I have figured out since you moved to your new home.

The viewing was a lovely evening.  My favorite kind of clouds...which I am sure you had something to do with. 

We were careful to make sure you got your red and white flowers (camaro colors).  Mike did an excellent job following out your desires.  Including donating any flower donations to the 5th floor of the hospital...oncology.  The nice Hixson-Klein people even delivered them for us.

We saw this on the way to the funeral.  I know you like it when good conquers evil.

The procession was long and we took 92 Highway to make sure we could all stay together.  You know I love me a country drive so I enjoyed it.  Janeel had given us cookies at the church so we ate them in the car while we followed the hearse and camaro.  Carol T was with us since she was kind enough to give Joey, Jennifer, and Connor a chance to ride in the camaro to the cemetery.    Dave wanted to burn out, but he was afraid he would ram the hearse....which would have been awkward.

Speaking of the camaro, there was something extremely therapeutic about it attending the funeral.  I think it is a combination of things.  That you loved it so much.  When it came out it meant sunshine, happy, and perhaps some ice cream.  I will always be grateful to the Tallants for buying it from you and bringing it that day.

It wasn't sunny per say that day,  but there was some nice cloud work.  Again.  Thanks.

The pallbearers got you to where you needed to be.  It is such the perfect location that I can hardly stand it.  It is on a hill, with a most interesting view. 

See the arrow?  That photoshopped yellow flame marks your
spot.  We see it almost every day.

The traffic of 169 and 108th  Tom Allison Way reminds me of your life in San Fransisco.  Traffic sounds.  City noise.  But when you turn your back towards it, you see green rolling Missouri hills.  Birds chirping.  Quiet peace.  It is so lovely...representing both factions of your life. 

Of course, a big tree for Allison tree climbing--which, since I am in a naming mood, have named Tree.  Now, when you are running fast in your Star Wars shoes after you are resurrected make sure you don't run immediately to that tree to climb it.  You will need to come visit us who have missed you in case we didn't connect at the Eastern Gate.

You know I like "moments."  So, for good measure, I kept my promise to look after you until you were buried.  I got up early the first morning you were at the cemetery and threw on my jammies (I wanted you to recognize the "crazy lady" from the temple chasing mornings).  We are only 1.2 miles from you.  Closer than when you lived on McGee.

I came over to make sure your casket was in the ground.  I came over to smooth the dirt above for when your family comes to visit.  I came over to see the first sunrise.  I only did what I thought you would do for me.

The morning was cloudy and grey, at first.  The ONLY opening was right
about me and and Tree.  Blue blue sky only there. 
As if the Heavens opened for me to look up and see you happy and peaceful there. 

As I watched the sun peek through, the clouds went away and the bluest sky came about. It reminded me of the peaceful green of Ireland.

There is something else that I have figured out about the cemetery.  When a veteran is buried, the Christian Motorcycle gang comes out to scare away the Westboro protesters.

They also bring abot 20 flags to honor the way to the funeral home.

I know you will love hearing the loud motorcycles.  You know the kind of loud I mean.  The kind that I would cover-my-ears-and-you-and-Dave-would-be-embarrassed-that-I-was-covering-my-ears-at-a-car-show-loud.

So, the reason why I think the street should be renamed Tom Allison Way is that it has an Tom Allison history.  Your last work project was installing the flashing red light on 108 and Platte Purchase.  Remember that day?  You called after me and said that you had a strong feeling that you were seriously ill and going to be sick a long time.  You were standing right there at that intersection when you said it.  I will never forget the spooked sound in your voice.

There are plenty of cows to tell us the weather when we drive on it.

And it is always the way that we drive when are going to your former home for your kids or to see your parents. 

See, it is the perfect name.
Now, there is the matter of your new cemetery neighbors.  There is another Thomas, who had his funeral at the Antioch Baptist Church.  Good thing you have been hanging out with the Baptists almost the last two will have plenty in common.  I like his scripture because at the funeral we sang "God Be With You Until We Meet Again."  :) 

There is Elma.  She died two months ago and has her sod replaced over her tomb.  She doesn't have flowers like everyone else so I try to bring some for her when we come over to visit.

There is Dave.  He has an American flag so I wonder if he is a veteran.

And there is Austin.  Austin was five when he passed.  He caught a unknown virus and died 12 hours later.  It is heartbreaking.  He has two older siblings and a mother our age.  He died about 2 weeks before you.

How do I know Austin's story?

One night last week, The Girl make some Boba Fett cookies from the cutters she got from Melissa M.  She wore her Star Wars apron and we took them to your grave to eat them. 

We met Jill, Austin's mother, while we were there and had such a warm conversation.  She said Austin was an angelic boy and that his favorite things in the world were cars.  Red cars.   :)  Funny, we said, our angelic friend loved a certain red car, too. 

It comforts all of us to think that Austin is not alone there in that cemetery and that someone as great as you is there with him. 

Enjoy your sunsets, Tom, on Tom Allison Way.  You are loved and
we speak of and miss you every day.  :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An ode to Val

It isn't really an ode.  It is more of a note about Val.  Me.  To a golden statue from a best kind of friend named Cheryl.  Thanks girly.  :)

We are ok.  We now understand what it means to have
 "bad days," "waves of grief"
and how just sometimes getting out of bed is as good as it gets that day. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Returning with Honor

Dearest Tom,
Seems silly to write you a letter since you have passed away and it might be a while until you can read this, but I have been known to talk to things that don' t talk back.  My animals (including the two cats you so nicely donated to the mix), the plants, a gold statue on the top of the Temple, and my dead ancestors who are still actively eluding my rescue work of them in the Czech Republic.   That said, I want to remember every detail of this week.  This year.  This relationship with you and us, and the blog is the best permanent place to do that.  Get ready.  I have a few things to say.
Tom's beloved Camaro made the funeral
Thanks Tallants

Dear Tom (again),
Remember when we went to Utah some ago or I was there.  You know since the epilepsy has come along, my recall of more recent information isn't what it used to be.  However, that said, I remember giving you the "Return with Honor" sign that you had on your front door.  I got the idea from a family that we love in Utah, who raised 19 children.  They had it engraved on a sign (it is still there even though they are all grown) on the inside of the front door.   It was to remind them of who they were when they went out and to live the best they could.  I have always loved seeing it.  However, being the cheapwad that I am (sort of cheapwad, since I have so many pencils in Africa to buy), you got a paper version.  I have always loved that you loved it.

That sign on your front door was referenced more than once during this funeral week.  It is my humble opinion that you have done just that...Returned with honor.  I know I don't have much pull in the afterlife, but I would be the first in line to vouch for you, be "your second" as they say in the movie "Grease", or your "wingman" as they say in "Top Gun."  You know Andersonville....all of the great lessons in life come with their own movie quote.  :)

Here is basically my serious declaration.  I know you love yourself a lot of "Law and Order" (not), but I have learned a few things when presenting a case to a jury.  Clear.  Serious.  Concise.  Try not to cry.

If I had to present a case for you in Heaven, I think I would start my story with this talk I gave at the funeral.  If you remember, we had such a blast at the Celebration of Life and that I gave the fun part of the funeral talk there.  But you were more serious that not, and it seemed that I was specifically led to these words.  The day before, I dreamt over and over the exact words and phrases to use.  I hope that I honor you my friend with it.  I wrote it with you, your parents, your brother and your children in mind.
My name is Valerie Anderson, and I am one of Tom’s best friends.

As you look around, you can see there are many people here who feel that very same way.

I wanted to say thank you for taking time out of your life to come and honor Tom.  It would be humbling for him to see this and the effort made in his behalf.
I would like to get what I believe to be the most emotionally difficult part of my talk out of the way first.  My apologies for reading this portion.

Joey, Jonny and Jennifer.

When your father put together his funeral, he had one very specific instruction for me as a speaker.

He asked me to publically say that you mean the world to him.  He loves you more than anything.  He is proud of you and did the best he could for you as your father.

He asked me to recognize the quality about each of you that he felt most connected to you, as individuals. 

He also wanted me to share a special moment that he shared with you in your personal relationship with him that made him feel so happy.

He said if we shared these things here today, there would be a room full of people that could help you remember a teeny tiny piece of how he felt about you.

Joey:  your father felt most connected to your spontaneous personality and risk-taking.  One of his favorite moments was when he found out that you loved flashlights, too.

Jonny:  your father felt most connected to your logical side.  One of his favorite moments was when your report card grades would come out and he could see how terrific you were doing in school.

Jennifer:  your father felt most connected to your heart of love and service.  One of his favorite moments was when you asked him if you guys could go serve in the Bishop’s storehouse, preparing food orders for the poor.

Dear children, there are many people that love and care about you.  Your father wanted to let you and your families know, both your mother’s side and his side, that if any of you need a friend, there are a world full of them you can call on.

It is true what your Uncle Mike said.  Tom did fight to live as long as he did for you.

I have one last piece of advice:  Please always remember that your father loves you with all of his heart.

Whew.  Deep breath Val.

There is a story from Mormon Church history that was Tom’s most favorite.  There was a group of pioneers in November 1856 traveling west towards Utah that who were stranded out on the frozen plains of Wyoming.  Brigham Young, president of Mormon Church at the time, heard of their peril and dispatched a rescue team to go and save them.  During the rescue, they had come to the banks of the Sweetwater River and here is what was written of the scene:

“The river was about one hundred feet wide and almost waist deep in places. To make it worse, big chunks of ice were floating in the water. Men who had once been strong sat on the frozen ground and cried along with their wives and children. They did not know how they would cross that icy river.

Then 3 eighteen year old young men from the rescue party stepped forward and carried almost every member of the company across the river. 'The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great, that in later years all 3 of these young men died from the physical effects of what they did that day.

It is said that President Brigham Young cried like a child when he heard what they had done. Later he said, ‘That act alone will ensure them an everlasting celestial salvation in the Kingdom of God.’"

Tom used that story of service as the benchmark example of the kind of servant to his God and his fellow men that he wanted to be.  He called it being “that guy.”

These last several years have proven he is just that. 

Despite what it may look like from the outside today, he had so much joy these past years. 

He got to do everything on his “bucket list.” 

He lived to see his sons become Eagle Scouts and his daughter become a young woman, his two greatest desires. 

He travelled. 

He laughed. 

He got to eat all the Hawaiian haystacks and rocky road ice cream he wanted. 

Looking through the photographs out in the church hall, he was happy.  You could see the smile in his eyes.

He would have loved last night.  All these people in his life coming together, enjoying each other.  And of course, having a cookie snack in the meantime.

The last several years have also been filled with experiences of “weightier matters” for Tom as well, naturally including his health.

He endured much suffering and years of endless pain.

He lost much.  His job that made his money and made him feel good.  Some friends who didn’t know how to handle his illness.  His camaro.  His privacy, which was most precious to him.

But he never gave up. He was never angry.  Never complained. He never asked “why me?”  And he was kind to the end.  Gracious. And full of love.

That is what makes him “that guy.”

He will always been known for his kind and quiet service to so many of who he considered to be his heavenly brothers and sisters.

People like his his family.  His congregation.  His church.  Other churches.  His friends.  People he didn’t know.  The aged.  The homeless.  The starving.  And people who had lost everything.

He felt that his ability to work hard was his gift to use in service, and he worked endlessly. 

In Ephesians 4: 28 it says:
Let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Tom never stopped looking for the need.

For example, not too many days ago, Linda and I were talking about the destruction of Joplin.  It looked as though he were sleeping.  But no.  He lifted the pillow and blanket off his lap and started to stand up. Linda asked him if he needed to go to the restroom. He said "No, we are going to Joplin. There is work." The only way we could settle him was to convince him they weren't ready for us yet.

That is what makes him “that guy.”

I know people use the word “exceptional” in every day conversation about every day things.

But regarding Tom, it truly fits. 

He was “exceptional.”

He was diagnosed with a year.  He lived almost five.

His chemo was to last a year.  He survived three.

He drifted on the edge of death several times and several times he came back.  His hospice experience was so exceptional, they said over and over that threw the book out when it came to Tom Allison.

Referring to Tom’s wrestling background:  “He just won’t be pinned.”

 One of the things that was most exceptional about that guy was he was never afraid.  He wasn’t afraid of anyone.  And he wasn’t afraid of anything.  Not even of death.

In Alma 27:28 there are those guys who believed just like Tom:
They never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for because of their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.

Not long after Tom’s diagnosis, there was much despair and heartache among so many who cared about him.  But it was one sweet, inspired sister in our congregation that too believes that Christ has the victory over death.

She said with such a tender voice and smile, “The great blessing of his death is that he will be Tom Allison again.”

The Allisons don’t know this, but in the beginning the reason why Tom came to Matt and I and asked us to help him with his cancer journey was because he knew there would be great suffering.  He said he did not want his parents and brother to see him suffer like that.  He thought it would be easier for Matt and I because we were not family and more objective.  I believe that he was right.

Several short months ago, while Tom was beginning to seriously decline, a mutual friend of our lost their young son in an accident.  Tom was close to the boy’s father, having served along side him in church work for years. 

After the passing their boy, Tom wrote the father a note which he sent to me for my opinion.  “What do you think?” he asked me.

This is what the note said:

“At this time, I have no words to describe my sorrow for you and your family.  I am thankful you have the gospel in your life to comfort you in these trying times.  I often think of how it will be when I pass away.  I personally will be so happy.  I will have no more pain or distress.  But I also think of how it will affect those who are left behind.  Even with all the time I have right not there is no way to prepare them or make it any easier for them.  The only hope I have for those left behind is that they will remembers the gospel principles and understand that I will be happy and in a better place.  This is a difficult time but remember God knows that you and your family will have the strength to move forward and continue to have a blessed life.” Tom Allison

 Tom Allison, what do I think of your inspired message of love and kindness?  A message that applies to us right here and right now?

 I think it is this kind of love of your fellow men that makes you “that guy.”

Tom, we love you.  Thank you for the cherished opportunity to get to know you, work with you, talk with you, to love and be served by you. 

God be with you til we meet again.  We will see you at the Eastern Gate.

In the name of Jesus Christ


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Silver Lining

It didn't come how I thought it would.

I thought I would cry more.

I thought there might be sobbing or wailing by someone. Me, I guess.

I thought it would be dark. And I thought he would be in his bed in his room.
Tom died Monday.

There. I said it.

Say it again, Val. Out loud.

No.... the word sounds too permanent. "Passed away" is kinder in my mind. Kinder coming out of my mouth. It reminds me of traffic...."Matt passed us quickly." Passed is a word I am quite familiar with, especially driving with Mr. Fun. :)

I got there the minute right after he died. Literally. He was still warm and I got to hold his hand.
He was there with his hospice nurse and his beloved cousin, Candi. I am so happy he wasn't alone.

Speaking of happy, Mr. Fun has said it more than once. How happy he is I mean. Happy for Tom.

For those folks who are not of the belief that our spirit is eternal, it might sound sort of coarse. Callous. 

I see it as a "win-win" plan. 

If there is no God and when we die we go into the ground and we cease to exist, then I won't know I was wrong.  I win.  But I lived better because of my wrong belief.

If there is a God, and when we die our spirit lives and we continue to exist, then I will have chosen well.  I win.  And I lived better because of my belief.

See, it is thoughts like that that I am choosing to think right now. 

Tom didn't *think* this.  He believed.  He knew.

Today is National Best Friends Day.  Seems only fitting that I should write my feelings. 

Don't tell Jesus but we had a snowball
fight at Adam Ondi Ahman.  :)

outing with the kids
While some best friends are at lunch right now, my best friend is being lovingly dressed by his family for his burial. 

While some best friends are chatting on the phone, I have called his cell once to hear "Tom Allison" in that deep baritone voice.

While some best friends live in the same neighborhood, I am missing mine who are far from me. Living and "passed."

After Tom passed, I paced in the driveway calling those who I thought I should.  His best friend Joe from high school.  His favorite spiritual brother, Jack.  His best car friend Dave.  His second family....Mr. Fun, the baby goats, and King and Queen of Popper Holler.

It is strange what goes through your mind. 

The people I wanted to so strongly to personally see were the oldest living couple I know. They have seen death take so many....and yet, they still believe we will see Tom again.  

For whatever reason, Dan wasn't surprised to see me show up unannounced so late at his door.  He had told his wife, Betty, earlier that day that I would come to them.  That they would see me. Strange eh? I hadn't even been home to see the children yet.

Before I went to the Dodsons, I went to the temple grounds.

I didn't go to take any pictures. 

I didn't go because of the light or clouds....really, the lack there of. 

Frankly, I didn't even notice the sky.  I know...a big thing for a cloud appreciator like myself.

I went to be alone.  To ponder.  To catch my breath.

And I wanted to call his brother, driving back home from far.

I climbed on the retaining wall by the freeway (sorry, JE Dunn I broke my self-governing rule and got out and left the truck).  The view was best there and the rocks were warm.

If you know anything about my photo work of the last almost year, you know I have been to the temple grounds.  A lot.

And I saw something I have never seen before.

A silver lining.

The silver lining of this story of the best friends is that we have been blessed.  We are better people for knowing Tom. 

This post has taken me hours to put into words and I have much work to do.  I do not have the energy to write it all now, but suffice it to say that we are a blessed family. 

One more thing.

The Angel Moroni on top will always reminds me of Tom.  "You know he is going to get cooked right?" he would say. 

Happy National Best Friend Day to the "all-natural" "Hoover Dam Cool" "Tom Allison." 

ps/  Tom, one more thing.  Monday night, Moroni wasn't cooked, but he did look a little sunburned. :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bob the Builder Award: The Mark Chapman Band

Got this sweet note from my mom--a forward from a forward kind of email:

D7 District Utilities Engineer Greg Chapman and his brother, Mark, have a popular local band called the Mark Chapman Band. They wrote a song called "Where Would You Go (If You Couldn't Go Home)," which is on YouTube. All proceeds from downloads of the song go to the American Red Cross to help Joplin. It's available for download June 5.
Senior Community Relations Specialist
Missouri Department of Transportation, Joplin

Great job to The Mark Chapman Band.