Thomas Wood – 1965-2014

A week ago I found myself trying on dresses.  It was the first time I had left my house since I had arrived there Monday afternoon.  As I stood among the clothing racks I had this sense of dislocation.  I was doing this completely ordinary thing – picking out a new dress – but it was for this terrible new reality – I was a new widow trying to find something to wear to my husband’s funeral.  How could this be happening to me? I stood there weeping silently, hoping no one would would notice me, trying to pull myself together, wanting nothing more than to escape back to my home where I could mourn in private.

It’s been a little more than a week since I heard those words, “I’m sorry ma’am; your husband has passed away.”  I thought we had been lucky and had managed to put off death when Tom’s heart condition was discovered and corrected.  I don’t pretend to understand why, after we had begun to breathe easier, everything ended so abruptly.  I’m not sure I could understand it , even if God tried to explain.  I think to myself often, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” (Isaiah 55:8) and “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10).

What I do know is how much I love Tom and how much I will miss his daily physical presence in my life.  Tom wasn’t perfect and we didn’t have the perfect marriage but we did love each other and we were committed to each other and certainly the last ten years of our marriage we were partners in the truest sense of the word.  We worked well together, we understood each other, and we enjoyed being together.  You can’t ask for much more than that, I think.  We have some unique challenges in our family and there was strength for us in facing them together.  I’m at a loss to know just how I will cope with them on my own.

Everyone has their own memories of Tom.  Some wonderful and true things were said of him at his funeral – how much he loved BYU, what a great cook he was, what a great sense of humor he had, how quietly he went about doing what needed to be done and helping where help was needed.  What I want to remember was how well he took care of me and of our family.  He worked diligently to make a living.  Even when we were unemployed, Tom worked at whatever he could find in order to make sure our physical needs were taken care of.  Tom was my partner in parenting.  We had our own styles of parenting, but we backed each other up and we relied on each other for the things that we weren’t so good at.  I loved to watch Tom in action with our children because his love for them was so obvious to see.  He was the “fun” parent who would buy treats in the grocery store or say, “let’s go to the movies”.  And he often did this when we had been struggling with a child and we needed to lighten things up and move forward from hurt feelings.  That was such an important part of what he did as a parent and one I will be hard pressed to duplicate.

Finally, I will remember, and miss greatly, his hugs and encouragement, his occasional forays into the truly romantic (it wasn’t his default mode!), his reassurances when I was  struggling.  I know that I’m not always easy to live with (the Cottle temper isn’t famous for nothing!) but Tom managed to see past my faults and appreciate me for who I was and he did that more easily than I have ever managed to do.

A couple of things I’m grateful for.  One, that I learned early to let go of things that don’t matter (like Tom’s messy cooking style or his pacing in front of the t.v.).  I don’t have terrible memories of nagging him (because I didn’t).  While I miss him like  crazy and will always wish he didn’t have to go, I don’t have any real regrets about our relationship and that is such a blessing.  Two, that we were not only married but sealed together forever.  Tom is gone from the earth – but some day we will be reunited and we won’t be separated again.  I know that as much as he is able, he will be working for us from the other side of the veil that separates us from those who have passed on.  Our partnership hasn’t ended.  He still loves and cares for us and I haven’t lost that, even if I have lost the physical companionship I so miss.  I love you so, Tom.

10. September 2014 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Family | Tags: , , | 19 comments

Comments (19)

  1. I just left you this huge comment – and then I got erased :/ but basically I wanted to tell you this was so incredibly and beautifully written. The last week, I have felt a struggle in my thoughts and encouragements for you – everything just feels so rote or trite, but you have this great way with words. I love Tom, I miss Tom, I’m so glad to read the things you wrote about him – I will read and reread this over the next weeks and months. You captured so many of the best qualities of him. I love you, Johanna!

  2. Johanna, Never stop writing. It’s such good therapy for you and I know your children will love reading your thoughts some day. Wish we had known Tom. He sounds like he was such a great guy. We are praying for you to have peace and wonderful memories. Everything else will come in time. Wished we lived closer.

  3. One of favorite memories about Tom was when he worked in the nursery with my Sam. Sam was 2 and had barely 15 words in his vocabulary. I worried about him being okay in nursery, since he couldn’t communicate his needs.

    One day Tom got up in sacrament meeting to either bear his testimony or say the closing prayer, and Sam stood up on the bench, pointed at Tom, and yelled out, “MY FRIEND!” I’d never heard him say a word in church before. It made me so happy that he had connected with Tom–another not-so-chatty guy.

    Love you.

    • Amy, so many people remember Tom in nursery! He must have been memorable in that calling. Thanks so much for sharing that. And thanks for your friendship. Love you too!

  4. Johanna,
    I love your post! I have been so worried about you, so I’m relieved to hear from you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and beautiful photos with us. You and Tom were darling together! I, too, love knowing that you and Tom WILL be together forever. What confidence and peace that knowledge gives those of us married/sealed in the Lord’s temples! Please know how often I think of you, and pray for you. 🙂

  5. Johanna, thank you so much for sharing. I know everything you have said is true. We all love and will miss Tom, but not the way we I know you love and will miss him. In the meantime, we will try to fill in for him as best we can (and probably fail miserably). See you soon.

    Andrew

    • Andrew, I know you and our whole family will step in and help me and my family through this difficult time. I’m so grateful for that knowledge that I’m not completely alone. Thanks so much for all your love!

  6. What a beautiful tribute. Your strength and faith have always amazed me and inspired me, very literally since the very first day I met you. I am so grateful God saw fit to make our lives intersect. I, too, am grateful for the knowledge that families are forever! Sending much love and light and many hugs as you enter into this new chapter of your life.

    • Diana, thanks so much for your prayers and hugs. I have felt so uplifted by all the people who have done this for me and our family. It helps so much!

  7. Sitting here…crying as I try to understand what you are going through. We don’t know when the ones we love will pass on. I am trying to live in a way where if my husband did die, that I would be at peace with it. I admire how you are able to see the positives despite great loss. (((HUGS)))

  8. We have thought and talked about you a lot these past days in our home. Our hearts are broken with you and for you. We feel so blessed to have been a part of your lives and we have so many wonderful, fun memories that we will cherish. I know he will be close by to you and your sweet family. Especially when you have those moments where you feel so overcome with grief. I’ve seen it with my mom these past months. My mom and I were talking and remembering where Tom (and my dad) are time is so different. It will be a blink of an eye for him. But us here…. Time is so slower. I know you will see your sweetheart again. I KNOW it. Until then, lean on all of those who love you both. Let us lift you up. Love you my friend. ❤️❤️

  9. Johanna,
    It just so happened that I was at a sealing in the Bountiful temple at the same time Dan was attending Tom’s funeral. Never did I feel the importance and magnitude of those promises as I did at that time. My heart was bursting with love and excitement for this beautiful couple and at the same time deep sadness for your physical separation from Tom. You have amazing perspective and I hope you keep writing, no matter what. Love you, my sweet friend!

  10. Johanna, such beautiful perfect words. Know how much we love you and your family. We have all been blessed by knowing Tom. He truly was a great brother and I will forever treasure my memories of him. We will see him again but in the mean time we have your back. We love you and are here for you. <3

  11. What a beautiful way to share with us more about Tom and your life with Tom! I pray you receive comfort, peace and if possible, understanding.

  12. Johnanna and family: What a sweet, emotional post about this painful event in your lives. We will keep you in our prayers as you all forge your new normal with Tom’s influence coming now from the other realm.

    We love you dearly,

    Carin and Kent

  13. While at Tom’s viewing I had a few thoughts that I wrote down:
    The Early Graduate. There is no great rift or regret that Tom leaves behind, only a void in our hearts wide as eternity, a void that only the love of the Savior can fill. The bright light that he is in our lives is not dimmed one bit by his passing; it burns ever brighter in the realms of eternity. And now he waits for us to join him there.

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