- By Eileen Vandergrift
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Nine years ago today, my 24 year old nephew,Tom, died of a hemorrhagic stroke. It was one of the most staggering days of my life… and in our long family life together. The meanings of that loss continue to unfold.
Over these years, I have developed a new relationship to Tom by trying to understand him better, retracing the steps of our relationship and growing closer to an articulate sense of what he struggled with. I have also cultivated reminders regularly of how funny, infuriating and vulnerable he was. I loved Tom…BUT I also love Tom. What I have absorbed of him rises up at times when I am not even looking for him…Tom was bold, angry, beautiful, expressive and, when he loved you, remarkably tenderhearted.
Tom’s death did not end my relationship to him…we are always an afterlife for the people who have marked us, and though it is not everything, it is not small either.
For Tom…Who Still Belongs To All Of Us
As the sun rose
east to west
each time zone weighted in.
The bright light of the internet
warmed me through all the day
where my own heart’s sun never rose.
9 years, the last age you were before it all began to unravel
a lifetime or an afterlife time…no matter.
I give myself away
to those not yet lost today…
and then, there you are,
an absent presence,
developing like a darkroom photograph
in every other life I do get to touch now.
I am growing you up again, using it all…
heart and breast, death and the struggle for final rest.
There is no close to this story.
I bring you forward,
work never ending
when it matters…matter spiriting our every cell
keys opening the gates of heaven and hell.