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Missing Tom

I recently lost a good friend. Never would I have imagined that I would become such good buddies with a man old enough to be my dad. I met Tom over seven years ago in a Rock Steady Boxing class. I entered class as a shy, teary-eyed, newly diagnosed mess who didn't like to sweat and had never boxed. Tom quickly took me under his wing, introduced me to the movers and shakers in the local Parkinson's community and eventually recognized a potential in me to further help the community. Within a year, with the encouragement of Tom and others, I became a certified Rock Steady coach. Tom and I would go to the same conferences and seek out the newly diagnosed. Ever the salesman, Tom would ask me if I "closed the deal," meaning, did I convince someone to come to an exercise class or attend a support group. Tom knew the benefits of attending these groups and he wanted everyone else to know also. He just wanted everyone to live the best life possible, even while living with Parkinson's. 

 Over time, I increased my role as an advocate for those with Parkinsons. Although I thought I was doing all I could do to help the PD cause, Tom always had yet another idea, another group that needed information or a speaker. I would often tell Tom that it was a great idea but my plate was full and I couldn't do any more. Countless times, I would end up agreeing to whatever he suggested within a matter of weeks. He would plant the idea, accept my "NO" and wait...until I would give in. I swear that when I said my plate was full, he was thinking, "I'll get you a bigger plate and find someone to help you carry it." 

 In our Rock Steady program, we all had fighter names like Killer, Ms. Tyson, The Punisher and The Tiny Dancer. I was The Beast. I honestly don't remember Tom's real fighter name because I had dubbed him The Delegator. He had big ideas and somehow got me or someone else to carry them out. The truth is, much of the time, things wouldn't have happened without Tom's nudging. He was instrumental in the growth of the South OC support group, in forming and continuing PD Buzz and he raised tens of thousands of dollars to help people living with PD afford medications, exercise classes, therapies and more. In the most recent months, Tom was key in finding (nudging) someone to carry on our work and take PD Buzz to the next level and become a much needed proper organization itself. I was thrilled to be able to tell Tom just weeks before he passed, that we had a director and plans were in motion for the much needed Parkinson's Orange County. I am sure whenever someone comes up with a big idea that I am not sure we can handle, I will feel Tom nudging us along. 

 Tom was my mentor, my cheerleader, and my dear friend. I will miss him calling me QB (Queen Bee) and asking if I could come over to play (come over and chat with him and Martha) and I will miss him harassing me with new big ideas. For a while, I know my instinct will be to call him first when I have good news. I am sad that he won't be there to pick up the phone. I am sad at the loss of my friend. I am sad for his family. And I am sad for those to come in the Parkinson's community that won't have the benefit and the honor of knowing him, and I pray that there be more Toms to come in the future.

 Tom, I know Heaven's doors were wide open for you my friend and I will see you again someday. Until then, I will do my best to carry on what you started and nudge others along with new big ideas.


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