Friday, August 17, 2018

Mourning the Loss of My Brother

My birthday on August 11 was secondary this year to a solemn family gathering near Birmingham, Ala. to mourn the loss (but also to celebrate the life) of Tom Harwood.

It was a sad truth and irony that Tom, the youngest of us seven children, would be the first to pass.

Tom, pictured with his wife Janet and children Josie and Logan, was a great brother, father, husband and friend.

The gatherings of family and friends during the weekend brought forth numerous testimonials about his many qualities and how he touched so many of our lives as a brother, son, father, teacher,  soldier, coach, mentor, friend and athlete (rugby being a sport he loved and brought with him from Northern Virginia to Birmingham).

At Tom and Janet’s church, Christ the King Lutheran in Hoover, Pastor Chris DeGreen officiated the Aug. 11 memorial service.

He seemed to say all of the right things and touched on all the appropriate themes. It was a sad and moving ceremony. The boxes of tissue provided on each row of pews were shared among Tom's grieving loved ones, myself included.

The reverend gave attendees the opportunity to get up and talk about Tom. A U.S. Army fellow soldier spoke of Tom's leadership and friendly manner, especially with new members of their company. A young man talked about how "Mr. Tom" encouraged him to become involved in rugby, an activity that he said helped him greatly with confidence and fellowship.

Members of our family shared remembrances too, some humorous about the kid brother affectionately nicknamed "Tommo" and "Bonk."

Not long after graduating high school Tom enlisted in the Army where his postings took him to Washington state and Germany, among other places.
After his military service, a job in computer-assisted design (CAD) would send Tom to Alabama where he would meet the lovely Janet. They had two beautiful, smart and talented children Josie and Logan.  
Wedding bliss for Tom and Janet!  These were among the dozens of pictures shown at the lunch after the service, then again that night at a dinner at the hotel where many of us were staying. Many thanks to brother Pete Harwood for the hours spent producing this fine tribute to our brother. I personally found it very difficult to watch the images the first time for the sad emotions they evoked, but the second time I appreciated it more, seeing what a full life Tom had lived and what a fine family he had.  I felt compelled to take some photos of the slideshow, thinking the images will help me remember my brother. Later the idea came to do this blog post.  
Pete's slideshow is on YouTube and can be found here.  

My large family is, literally, spread out from coast to coast, making it rare to have us all together at once. Only sister Mary was unable to attend, as she was tied up with a Colorado to New Mexico move, and a sick son. We missed seeing Mary. It was great seeing so many family members and meeting and hearing from Tom's friends.

Bless you in Heaven, Tom. You are greatly missed and warmly remembered- forever. 

Tom, third from right, in front of our mother- Bloomington, Indiana 1966 (give or take) 
Rest in Peace Dear Brother!  

My niece Cami in North Carolina recently shared with us this drawing she made as she was thinking about her Uncle Tom, as the Carolinas braced for Hurricane Florence this month. Lovely work and thoughts Cami! 

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