Late summer 1968:
That was when I first met Tom Harris, we were both enrolling freshman at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse New York. We came from two different but similar worlds. He was from Baldwinsville. We teased him it was where all the farmers lived. I grew up on the West side of Syracuse. He was 6 foot tall and weighted over 200 lbs. I was 5’ 2” and weighed 98 pounds. He had a brush cut and walked with great posture. I was a little scrawny kid that had smiling eyes.
We got to be friends that first year and have kept in touch with all of our classmates on a very regular basis. From weddings, to funerals, to golfing trips in March we all have remained close. We all had nicknames, a Syracuse trait; he was TH, I was Slits. There was Fatt’s, Hack, Grove, Deke, MC, La, Rego, Sig, JED. Maybe it was the fact that it was an All-Boys school, maybe it was because Syracuse was such an easy town to know everyone. All I know is he was our leader, he was the rock, he was the BEST.
As our lives moved on after college, we all went different paths but we remained friends, maybe not with weekly contact but certainly any time we were able we got in touch with one another.
Tom and I also share a birth day.
As life goes there are the highlights and the lowlights, Tom and Ellen both experienced a loss in 1988 when their oldest and only child at the time, Seth, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A crushing blow for anyone but this was their first child and it hit all of us hard. I remember not knowing what to do and like many others I didn’t do much. Little less than a year later my third child and son, Mick died at the age of 4 months of the same syndrome. Tom was one of the first to contact me and extend that comforting voice telling me things no one else could comprehend. That was when I vowed to never let an opportunity pass when someone experiences a loss to say something, anything. Tom taught me that.
When I heard the news of Jordan, I could hardly believe it. I called him immediately and connected as bestI could, I told him how sorry I was, I told him I thought he and I would be spared any further losses because of our SIDS loss. I thought we would be protected from further pain. Life doesn’t work that way.
I met Jordan when she was 2 or 3 and Tom would put her on the phone with me and she would tell me that she prayed for me each night, I was touched by that. She was a special person that will somehow make us all stronger. She lit up a room.
I am amazed at the strength that Tom and Ellen have shown me, and I am honored to count them as my friends. I am so glad that they came into my life because they make me want to be a better person.
I love you Ellen, I love you TH.
I am glad we have remained close on this bumpy road …
Author: Jim Kearney