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.