Day 41: Tommy Shewmaker

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Dear Tommy,

It was around 10 a.m. when I learned. I couldn’t speak the rest of the day.

It was as if I’d been punched in the heart. I sat there staring at the phone for 15 minutes as paralyzed as I can ever remember. At some point I walked into the grocery store, but couldn’t even remember why I was there.

You were diagnosed with an aggressive cancer around Thanksgiving as I was nearing the end of the Camino de Santiago, and 50 days later you were gone. It was that fast.

Decent. Radically good. That’s what you were.

You loved your family. Spoke about them all the time. They were your highest priority. A great storyteller with a distinct voice, I always thought you belonged on radio. You loved the ribs I’d occasionally cook for a company lunch. Loved sports. Worked out almost every day. You were many things. But mostly, you were kind and decent and normal. I loved that you were so normal. Blessed you were so kind.

We didn’t even really know one another that well when my father died. And so I couldn’t have been more surprised when you walked up and gave me a hug at his funeral. It was just the right thing to do. That’s what you always did.

We said we’d get together and talk travel and retirement in far-away places, but that talk never happened. I never saw you again. I should give you a call, or write a note, I thought on so many occasions. You were dying and I didn’t even know. I’m so sorry for my selfish behavior.

You were a passionate servant to your family. Purely decent. Humble. Real.

I sure miss you, Tommy.

Your friend,

Steve Watkins

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