This is a tribute to a man I've known and loved my entire life.
As in water... face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. Proverbs 27:19
Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same. My brother is the first person that I think of who has left and continues to leave footprints on the hearts of all who knew and know him.
As long as I can remember we were friends.... always together, playing peewee baseball and football, attending grade school, high school and college together. Knobby Knudsen affectionately called us "The Bobzy twins as we road into Stodgell park each game on our bicycle with Tom peddling with me on the handle bars holding our spikes and gloves securely.
Together, we played every conceivable game baseball, football, basketball, hockey, raced in soap box derby’s, threw baseball cards against the wall, played strikeout against the wall at St. Genevieve school, marbles, you name it we did it together. To this day people still call us by the wrong names he Rog and me Tom...I've always considered that a compliment. Brothers seem to know without verbalizing that they care deeply for one another.
As the years moved on prior to his liver disease, he married Carol Eagan and they raised 4 wonderful children, Dorian, Aaron, Jess and Emily with 10 grandchildren. Tom with Carol by his side was very active in their church, he volunteered for almost every cause, raised funds for many causes, helped our brother Bruce in his journey for children with Autism, he was a TGLN Ontario volunteer, sold cheese and every possible ticket you could imagine. His lifelong commitment to volunteering and his efforts in organizing Sport Fest Windsor no doubt will be his legacy.
Aside from all his charitable efforts, the real reason he leaves foot prints on our hearts is, he quietly and in an unassuming manner shows us how to be better people. In the words of lifelong friend, Hector Marinacci, "Everybody loves Tom"
Even though Tom has been dealt a few unfortunate cards he experiences life without complaining, bitterness or anger. He chose to face the future with courage, faith, and love.
In 2004 Tom was diagnosed with a severe liver disease and went through a very difficult liver transplant. After his transplant he experienced breathing problems, his kidneys were failing and his liver was not responding. He spent 8 weeks in this condition as his life hung in the balance. Then, in his words, a higher being took over and miraculously overnight the Doctors announced that his liver is finally responding, his kidneys are functioning and his breathing problems have ended.
One of the most incredible events happened in his life shortly after he returned home. He was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night inspired.
He sat down by himself and in 20 minutes he wrote an unedited beautiful poem as a tribute to his donor. It's called "At the Edge a Tribute to My Donor". See poem above.
That is such a powerful and beautifully written stroke of genius!
Tom's character and his views on life have inspired me and so many to be better people. He constantly advises me to look at people on the inside. He did NOT stand in judgement of man nor did he utter a complaint. He chose to play the cards dealt to him, forever focusing on the positive, family & friends. If he did judge people he judges them by their heart.
Tom now is currently battling a second challenge...the dreaded Parkinson's Disease. Even though this debilitating illness saps his energy, he continued to play slo pitch until recently, attends his grand children's hockey, soccer and baseball games, not to mention his ongoing commitment to organ donation awareness events.
For someone who has experienced two major setbacks in life, he continued to inspire all of us, He without a doubt Tom was my and everyone's friend and hero. Finally, in the words of Santa Claus from the movie Polar Express...There is no greater gift than the gift of friendship.