Honoring a Bright Young Life

Michelle Stimpson & Tommy

We recently honored the 20th  anniversary of our little buddy’s transition to heaven. My godson, Tommy, was born with a rare disease of the immune system and died before he reached his 8th birthday.

* * * * * * *

For seven years, there were four of us. And we were “the grandkids.”

Michelle Stimpson & Cousins

Lucky me, I got to be the babysitter for Tommy and his sisters, Kristin and Maren. We’d play house, doctor, school, hide-and-seek, build forts, read books, walk to the local store, watch movies, and just hang out and laugh.

Tommy was a goofball. I remember one time playing school and Tommy was one of the students. As soon as his classroom role was assigned to him, he sat down at his make-believe desk, raised his hand and said, “Okay, my name is gonna be ‘Egg Whites.’” Huh?!

TommyI also had the privilege of being the community summer playground leader for the three kids. Our days were spent face-painting, playing hopscotch, making ice cream, creating art projects, and playing capture the flag. After Tommy’s mom dropped him off in the morning, he’d run over to me in full summer gear—shorts, tank top, and flip flops—and hand me his lunch to be put away. Then he’d catch a glimpse of his other little buddies and he’d be the first one to shout out: “Come on guys, let’s go!” And they’d be off for the rest of the day playing cops and robbers on top of the hill.

Tommy would play so hard under the summer sun that he’d often forget to eat his lunch until I reminded him. He was an expert at following his joy, ‘cause that’s what kids do.

There are countless fun and good and wonderful memories. And then there are also quite a few visions that are pretty difficult. I’ll never forget seeing my great-grandpa Elmer leaning over Tommy’s bedside at the hospital after he had endured brain surgery. It just didn’t seem “right” for an 80-something guy who had lived a full life, to have to see his great-grandson on a journey toward death. Seeing a kid at the mercy of disease is gut-wrenching.

But then shortly after that poignant scene and after waking up from surgery in his hospital bed, Tommy ran his hand along the big scar on the side of his head. His mom, wanting to make sure he wasn’t alarmed, explained: “That’s from your brain surgery, Tommy.” And Tommy’s response (which made us all smile) was: “Duh!”

His boyish spirit remained alive ‘til the end.

Tommy_Kindergarten Graduation

Tommy was certainly a bright light for our family and for the world. He once told his mom, “You’re perfect because I love you.” And I’ve never forgotten that wisdom from our deep and insightful little guy. Yes, we are all perfect—each one of us—because we are loved.

For 20 years now, “the grandkids” has been a team of three. And between the three of us, there’s been college, growing into adulthood, marriage, moving away, finding jobs we love, creating homes of our own, traveling, having kids, and continuing on with the legacies we each want to leave.

Michelle Stimpson & Cousins

And Tommy is always with us. He’s in the cardinal that flies in front of his mother’s path. He’s in the thunder whose rolling echo mirrors the thunder from the night he died. He was in my heart last week when I shot out of bed, wide awake, at 1:30 a.m. wondering what was going on. And then I realized that was the exact moment, 20 years ago, that Tommy died in his mother’s arms.

I just found a copy of the talk I gave at Tommy’s memorial service as a junior in college. Here’s an excerpt telling about one of my babysitting experiences with him:

“At night, I’d lay with Tommy in his bed and read to him. I’d stay with him until he fell asleep. Then, as I’d tip-toe out of the room, I’d watch him; marveling at his sweet face as he clung to his stuffed animals. Those peaceful moments alone with Tommy were priceless.”

Tommy

So for all of us, let this be a reminder that life is precious. Each moment is brand new, perfect in its essence…and will never come again.

What will you do today to embrace what is precious in your life?

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15 Responses to “Honoring a Bright Young Life”

  • Renee says:

    Thank you, Michelle, for reminding me how precious the moments are with the little ones in our lives! I know I am going to hug mine a little extra today!

  • Janice says:

    I love that you are celebrating Tommy’s life by sharing this story with me (and everyone else here too – it just seemed so personal like it was just for me). In turn we are all able to honor the little guy by reading this and thinking about him and how precious life is, like you said.

  • Wow. So powerful, Michelle. I feel like I know Tommy based on your wonderful accounts of him and his free spirit. You can just see the light in his eyes in each picture. How lucky you were to have him for a short while and how lucky he was to have you!

  • Clint says:

    Michelle,

    I’m not sure quite where to begin, so how is “Thank You” for sharing such a soulful and beautiful story of life. For those of us who have not experienced anything similar, thank you for sharing the depth of what you have learned and how you and the other “grandkids” have grown. For those of us who have been through such an experience, thank you for reminding us of the good that can come from it. More so, thanks for the reminder that we need to remember and connect with whatever is precious, now.

    Your description and pictures tell a story of sacred meaning that still flows from Tommy’s time on this earth. And I know he smiles still — at the meaning he brought that is remembered, and the grandkids’ lifelong celebration of his Joy.

    Clint

  • @ Renee: Glad to know that Tommy’s story inspires you to hug your sweeties a little extra today. Perfect. :)

    @ Janice: Yes, I’m honored to be able to share this story with you and everyone…so that we can all keep Tommy’s memory alive together. Thank you for taking the time to honor him today by reading his story.

    @ Liv: Thanks, Liv. We definitely had a ‘mutual admiration’ thing going on, and what a blessing he was for our family! So delighted you got to know Tommy a bit today. I know he would have loved you.

    @ Clint: Wow. You are welcome. And thank YOU! Your eloquent words and deep heartfelt sentiments are so appreciated–your kindness means so much, as always. :)

  • Joan says:

    Lovely, Michelle.
    What a great blessing to have had him, and a reminder that blessings continue, even when we feel they’ve been cut short. What a connection you must have!

  • Sharon says:

    oh Michelle! Dear sweet, funny, tender, brave Tommy. He was such a unique “kid”……….and I use that word with love. I feel blessed that I got to be with him several times…..and I really believe he was an angel on earth…and has transitioned (as you say) into his heavenly role of angel in heaven……..God Bless him and God Bless all of you….especially Jane and Mike…Maren and Kristen. I cannot even begin to imagine……….

    I remember I was back visiting Unc Liney during one of Tommy’s hospitalizations, I went to the hospital to see Tommy and Jane. I have never been so humbled in all of my life at their love and endurance and faith. wow. I also remember during that trip, that Unc Liney had a little cracker box gold smiley face ring on his pinkie…when I asked him about it , he smiled, “Tommy gave it to me”………..Godspeed little Tommy, Godspeed. love, sharon xoxo

  • Anna Bjerken says:

    Michelle,
    Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m glad that you shared the pics too. The light in all of your eyes shows how much you love each other.
    Saying an extra prayer for you & your family tonight. I’m so glad that you are the wife God gave to my brother!!! What a blessing!
    Love you both so much!!
    Anna

  • Jane says:

    I cried. Tommy is my son. Even after 20 years Mike, Kristin, Maren and I miss him, yet in his life we were given new direction and gifts.

    Tommy loved Jesus so much he once said, “I wish I was 100 years old so I could go to heaven and be with God because I love him so much.” He got his wish!

    And the great rolls of thunder that rumbled on that Saturday morning of his 20th anniversary made my heart leap with a comfort of God’s presence.

    Thank you Michelle for the neat tribute and reminder to all of us how precious and short life is. Tommy was blessed to have you for his godmother as I am to be yours! :) I resonate too with Anna’s comment about how glad they are that you are the wife God gave to her brother. Likewise, we are so happy that Bill is your husband!!

  • Cindy Lopez says:

    Michelle-
    What a beautiful story. Tommy sounds like an amazing little boy. What a great reminder to “live in the moment” like children do. Sometimes I find myself having to get this or that done while the kids are playing. I think for today, I’ll keep the messy kitchen and dirty laundry and just play and enjoy the sunshine and day with my boys. Thank you for your inspiring message. Maybe Dawn is playing with Tommy today up in Heaven.

  • @ Joan: Thank you! And I’m glad I could share Tommy with you. :)

    @ Sharon: I, too, have been humbled by their love and faith. You said it perfectly. LOVE the story about my grandpa’s smiley-face ring–precious!

    @ Anna: Thank you for your heartfelt thoughts and love that radiated from your message. I’m smiling!

    @ Jane: I like how you said in Tommy’s life you were “given new direction and gifts.” And yes, that comfort of God’s presence is always with you. Tommy had the best parents in the world–you and Mike–to love him and care for him. I still think back in awe of the love you all shared together. What an honor not only for me to have been his godmother, but to also get to be your goddaughter!

    @ Cindy: Cheers to the messy kitchen and dirty laundry! Enjoy the sunshiny day with your boys. What a gift! Thank you for sharing this with us. :)

  • Char says:

    I just came from a funeral home where I tried to help comfort a friend from work who’s husband passed suddenly last Sunday. She is in such pain right now, she said she just wanted to be with him forever. She will after a time realize that he is still with her and her family and be able to as you just did, to celebrate the life that was lived, whether it be 8 years or 65.
    I am so thankful that you share so much of yourself with everyone! You help us all to look at the joy in life and remind us to stop and hug our children or kiss our husband or wife and just smell the roses and live our lives with joy! Tommy was so lucky to have you in his life as you were to have him!

    Love,
    Char

  • Connie Nelson says:

    I cannot believe it has been 20 years since I experienced this. Not quite as intimate….but was on the other side, supporting the Dr (Tommy’s dad) I worked for. Never knowing that in our future, I would meet you, who loved this boy so much. What a crazy life we encounter every day, not knowing who or how the instances that impact us, will impact someone else and such, impact our potential future.
    None of that probably makes sense, but to have known Tommy’s Dad…..before knowing you and forever have a connection with your family, makes me believe we are all connected….we just dont know it yet.
    What a precious gift and love you shared. Thank you……

  • Michelle- what a gift you give to others, just look at all of the reflection and support present here. Thanks to you for baring and sharing… you inspire me to do more of that too.

  • @ Char: What a big day for you, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have someone you love die suddenly like that…as it is for your friend. I’m SO delighted to know that the stories in the blog resonate with you the way they do and that they help you to pause and embrace the joy. Mission accomplished! Thanks and love.

    @ Connie: Isn’t it amazing how our paths crossed when they did…and then we realized that we were already unknowingly connected? You said it best: We ARE all connected. And I’m beyond grateful for my connection with you. Thanks, Connie.

    @ Jen: Thank you for the sweet thoughts and for reading Tommy’s story. I love having you here and watching your blog–and journey–unfold in the most beautiful way. So happy we can inspire each other.

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

The Parent Company



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