5 years.

Traditionally, I’ve written a reflection of Tom, family, and sacrifice this week. This year, it felt natural to do something else, so instead of forcing a post that wasn’t heartfelt I focused my attention on what felt right this week.

As of yesterday, my brother Tom has been gone for five years. And for reasons I can’t articulate, it’s especially hard on the day of the anniversary. Harder that day than the day before or the day after. And this year, it was a Sunday. THAT year, it was a Sunday.

But. This year I felt more positive energy than in years past. I felt more hope. More peace. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this year we absolutely surrounded ourselves with our Cabot family during this traditionally tough week.

My parents got to Fayetteville last Sunday, but I’ll share more about the first half of our week together in a separate post. Wednesday, Tom’s birthday — Mom, Dad and I headed to Cabot. The church our family called home for nine years had invited us to their Wednesday night youth praise service. We couldn’t wait.

We were met at the door by dozens of familiar faces, hugs, and tender smiles. It felt good to be back there. The service was incredible — an entire evening dedicated to Tom. His story was read, a video had been produced with photos and memories, and our family friend Tara shared her memories of Tom and our family as we all grew up in that church and in Cabot.

It was dark and tough to grab photos — but here’s an attempt.

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As the service came to a close, we were given a chance to say a few words and I can only hope our words of gratitude and family were heard. It is tough to claim a “home” as an Army family — but we all think of Cabot that way. Dad stole the words right out of my mouth when he urged those kids not to take their church home for granted. I hope and pray each one of those youth feels about that youth group and that church family the way I do — even all these years later.

The three of us represented the rest of the Foundation board and proudly presented the youth group with a check to support their mission work. I am thrilled that we’re able to give back like that — to a group so instrumental in Tom’s “growing up” years.

Thursday, the rest of the family gathered in Cabot. Laura and Leo came from Dallas. Jeff, Colt, and Becky came from Fayetteville. And we all met at Larry’s Pizza for the 2nd Annual Pizza Fundraiser. We tried this last October for the first time, and had a great time! It turned out to be the perfect way to reconnect with so many families we’d known over the years — through church, scouts, 4-H, softball, forensics, school. So we did it again!

Our family – along with a handful of volunteers from Boy Scout Troop 201 (Tom’s old troop) – served pizza, bussed tables, and filled drinks in exchange for a cut of the evening’s pizza sales.  There was plenty of time for visiting and catching up, too. Here are a few pics, and there’ll be more on the Foundation Facebook page.

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Below pic: Martins + Boy Scouts (scouts and leaders) + Tara and Evan Finney (Bottom row on the left. They might as well be family!).

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In lieu of “the post” I mentioned, I spent my energy maintaining the Foundation’s Facebook page, posting photos and stories, and re-posting those sent to us by friends, family, and Tom’s fellow soldiers. It turned out to be a very good way for my heart to spend the week and there’s probably reason to do it more often.

Thank you a million times over for the messages, thoughts, and prayers this week. It will likely always be a tough week, but as the “Tom Family” continues to grow I know we’re spending our time and energy the right way.

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