Curtis, Tommy, Ellie and Travis. February 14th 2016
You haven’t seen me on Q13 News in the last few weeks. Many of you have reached out to ask me why. I have tried to answer each of you as honestly as I was able to at the time.
I have said that we had experienced a death in our family. That the people of Q13 News and our parent company, Tribune Media, have been incredibly generous in allowing me to grieve our loss for as long as needed. I have said that I believed I would return to television, but that I wasn’t sure when that would be.
(Travis shared his story on Q13 News This Morning on Thursday, May 12. Watch him tell his story in the video player above.)
Still, the time to share more about our loss has arrived. I hope that as you read this, you might understand why we have decided to share it with each of you.
On April 9th we took our 2.5 year old son Tommy to Children’s Hospital here in Seattle. He had had a cold for a few days, but on that day his nose had started to bleed during his nap. After a few minutes, we realized we needed help to try and get it to stop.
Just after noon on April 10th, we held our precious baby boy in our arms in the ICU and sang him to sleep one last final time. Our previously perfectly healthy Tommy died in the arms of his two daddies and surrounded by those who loved him most.
What exactly went so wrong in those 24 hours remains a mystery to us. We have some medical facts in hindsight, and countless assurances that we and those who cared for Tommy did everything right and everything possible.
But "why" is an answerless question we will likely ask for the rest of our lives.
What we do know is this simple fact: We are broken.
We will never be fixed.
We have to find a way to be broken in this new, harsher, darker and lesser world.
Yet we are determined.
We are determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other even if we cannot see where each step will land, or whether we even have the strength to stand as our footsteps fall.
We do it because we believe there is a path forward. We believe that we must move forward so we do not forget how to move forward. So that someday, when we can see a glimmer of light illuminating anything in front of us, we will be able to move toward it.
So I find myself here, fumbling at the keyboard to try and share news that we ourselves will never truly accept.
Our son is dead. Our daughter is without her twin brother. Our former lives are over.
Still, one foot in front of the other.
And to that end, I feel called to share something deeply personal with you.
I am OK at many things. I am great at only a few things.
Being Tommy’s daddy was one of those things I was great at.
The other thing I am pretty good at is telling stories. Telling them in words, to loved ones, to an audience.
So since I cannot continue to be a daddy to a living Tommy, I have just one thing to offer him now. That is that I tell his story.
That is a huge task. It will take a lifetime. It is a task that will never be enough, but it is what I have.
So to take the next step in telling my son’s story and our family’s story I share those words I spoke at his memorial service.
I have been told they provided strength, hope and comfort to many who gathered that day. I hope that by sharing these words beyond that day, I might offer the same to even one more person.
Tommy loved so much it was constantly spilling out on to his face in the biggest smile ever.
Tommy loved so much his body would wiggle, shake and shimmy when he giggled.
Tommy loved when he woke. He loved when he slept. He loved in the space between.
He loved being with us. He loved being on his own.
He was satisfied, content and deliberate in how he loved.
It was ordinary and miraculous all at once.
In the same way he could sit quietly and attend to how his trucks, trains or toys worked. In the same way he could find any button that needed to be pushed. In the same way he could construct and deconstruct his train tracks or legos.
He was focused and intentional in all that and in how he loved.
If there is anything any parent has ever wanted for their child it would be to say that he loved without question.
We are blessed in that way.
Tommy may have only loved for a brief time in this life, but it was enough. It will always be enough.
Because it was so true and so pure.
In turn Curtis, Ellie and I loved Tommy.
As Curtis told me the other night he would do it all over again…even knowing how it would end…because Tommy & Ellie have brought us more love, joy and happiness than we ever could have imagined in this lifetime.
Incredible joys like their first words, first steps, first time in the swimming pool. But very simple joys as well. Walking hand-in-hand with their ‘two-daddies’ as they loved to say… to the park near our house. Feeling the sun on our faces, watching a worm wriggle in the dirt, stopping to play with friends at the playground.
Our seemingly ordinary neighborhood playground is actually a miraculous, sacred space. It offers sanctuary and courage. It is a place where our kids found friends and others outside the safety of our home to share their love.
Rain or shine…cold or hot…you can ask any of the mommy and daddy friends we made and they’ll tell you I had a uniform at the playground…and it always included cargo shorts. Many of you may think of me as fashionable. Cargo shorts are unequivocally not fashionable. Yet I wore them with such joy. Because I used them. I used every pocket. First to hold the items we needed, like wipes or toys or water bottles…and then as the kiddos grew…their treasures.
Tommy loved to run off into the Arboretum and find a stick or some mud…or a rock. He would often ask to put it into one of my pockets. He could just get his hands into the lowest pocket on my cargo shorts. He could reach in and deposit his finds…and just as easily remove them when he wanted them a few seconds later.
When they were born and we held them in the delivery room, we made a promise to both of them to love them forever and to show them the world.
While we have been on many adventures over the last 2-and-a-half-years…we have only fulfilled the first half of that vow to Tommy.
There just wasn’t enough time to show him the world.
Instead I have very empty pockets, memories of walks to the playground and a forever-broken heart.
I wish I could stand in front of you and tell you that I believed that heart would mend someday. But it will not. The three of us will forever be broken. There is no changing that. What we have to do is find a new way of being. Being incomplete in a foreign and unforgiving new world.
That means subsisting. Surviving. Existing.
But for later, we must do more than simply be.
We will smile again.
We will laugh again.
We will thrive.
How can I be so sure? Because Tommy lived and Tommy loved.
I could say it’s the work Tommy began. But that’s just not true. What Tommy started wasn’t work. It’s something else entirely.
It was life, it was being and it will be his legacy.
We knew from the beginning our children would be world-changers.
I have watched Ellie so closely over the last two weeks and I am more convinced than ever she will do incredible things in this lifetime. She among us has shown the deepest wisdom and the truest grace. She will bring everyone she touches joy, hope and peace. I don’t believe that. I know it. With every ounce of my person.
She won’t do that in-spite of this heartbreak…but because of it.
Tommy’s love was and is so great…even death cannot end it.
Tommy was named for the wisest, kindest, gentlest world-changing man I have ever know: My grandfather, Thomas.
When we found out that we would be having a girl and a boy I knew I wanted to share my grandfather’s name with our son. I wanted to do that to honor my grandfather, but I also knew from the beginning that our son would be a world-changer too.
That’s how Thomas came by his name.
Now our Thomas and his namesake are together. And while one lived a lifetime and the other’s flame burned hot and bright so briefly… their legacy is the same. Their love is the same. Their miracle…though simple, plain and perhaps ordinary…is the same.
And while I stand in front of you and vow that Curtis, Ellie and I will continue that love… it is you who can help us today. Help us fulfill the vow we made the night they were born.
Please help us show Thomas the world…by showing the world Thomas.
Please smile. As often as you can. Smile when it’s easy. Smile when it’s difficult. Choose to smile when it is impossible.
Laugh more than you imaged you could. Laugh often. Laugh with those you love and with strangers.
Touch people. By example. With intention. With purpose.
We all have to do it.
If each one of you walks away from this with just that… Tommy goes on being a world-changer.
And in that way…we all can leave this place someday having performed a miracle both ordinary and extraordinary.
And Tommy will love forever.
Editor’s Note: If you would like to share your thoughts and prayers with Travis and his family during this impossible time, we encourage you to post them to his Facebook page. You're also welcome to send an email to email@example.com.
Many have also asked about contributing in some way in Tommy’s memory. With that in mind, a fund has been established in his name:
THE THOMAS MAYFIELD-MAN MEMORIAL FUND:
To contribute, please send a check to:
Thomas Mayfield-Man Memorial Fund
c/o Cade F. Mossman
601 Union St. – Suite 2500
Seattle, WA 98101
• Make checks payable to “Pershing, LLC"
• Check notes line should read: "Thomas Mayfield-Man Memorial Fund SG1-173470"