I pray that none of you have to ever write a brief on the passing of a good friend. I had to do it this week and I never want to do it again.
My week was awful before it even began. Even days after the fact, Tom O’Rourke’s passing on Sunday does not get any easier to understand. My mind quarrels with the questions that don’t have an immediate answer and probably never will.
Why is he gone? What kind of cruel fate made this nightmare into a reality? How can someone so young, so talented and likable be gone just like that?
These past few days have been so bizarre that the unseasonable April snow almost seems appropriate. With the world bustling along while I remain on the outside of this bubble, it feels like I’m trapped outside of a snow globe.
Since Tom’s passing, it’s been days of staving off tears and emotional tantrums spurred by the unexpected. I’ve spent my time on Facebook, looking at posts from his friends in New Paltz and Long Island. I’ve observed the crucial role this lanky kid with empathetic eyes played in all of our lives, the happiness he curated on our behalf because he was just that kind of guy.
No judgment, no hostility, just an embraceable presence. No one ever spoke a bad word about Tom because there were simply none to say. He was welcome in any room he stepped in, just as he’ll surely be welcome at the pearly gates.
With Tom, I remember an amiable feeling that he delivered consistently. There was never a time where he wasn’t ready to inject his lackadaisical character into conversation. In the classroom, at Italian Club, at Happy Hour, Tom was there to provide comic relief and comfort to anyone who was in need of it.
On New Year’s Eve, my friends and I descended on East Northport and rang in 2016 at his home. Those hours spent together that night, with all of us there, felt like the burgeoning period of a great new era. It was a night of drinks, of celebration, of unity.
These past few days have been the exact opposite of those glory days, a reminder of the importance of one life on so many others. If there’s a lesson to take out of this tragedy, it’s that everything in life requires your repeated love. Take time to call your loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you, it’ll be well worth it.
Tom, I hope that people forever remember you as the wonderful, goofy person we all treasured in our lives. I hope that you remain the sassiest goddamn Long Island mom on the planet. Above all, I hope that you find the peace you so especially deserve.
As Bob Dylan once wrote, “May you build a ladder to the stars / And climb on every rung / May you stay forever young.”