The look. I remember the look. The look I got from friends at the memorial service in Cabot when we saw each other for the first time since hearing the news. The somber, lips-closed, half-smile. Sad eyes fighting tears. I remember being so relieved to be among friends, people who KNEW. People with which there was always visiting and catching up, and laughter. But not that day. As we walked down the hall and toward the pending service in the sanctuary, I met friend after friend who gave me that look. No words. Just the look. And then some of the best hugs I've ever had. Then tears. Lots of tears. Then we would break our hug and I would walk ten steps and repeat the whole thing.

I'm reading and studying a book called Crazy Love. And parts of the first chapter didn't sit well with me. The author cites a few different occasions within the Bible in which people try to capture God in words. And fail. It hit me really hard. I believe in words. I trust words. Things written down in black and white have always meant something to me. If it's in writing – it's real.

But I guess sometimes there are literally not words to describe something or someone so amazing and powerful and beautiful. Words do their best because they have to. They're all we have. But when an experience is SO incredible or an emotion is SO devastating, words can only do so much.

My brother died three years ago today.

Just words.

The emotion and pain and heartache and grief behind those seven words is unspeakable. Indescribable. Those seven words seem completely inadequate and totally worthless. Because they really don't tell you anything. They can't really tell you how it feels to catch a certain song on the radio and choke back tears. They can't really describe how fast the hours fly by when I get caught up reading old stories and blog entries and I look up and somehow it's already 2 a.m. and I could easily stay up longer to keep reading. They can't really tell you how it feels to wrestle with what-ifs and what-could-have-beens. They can't really tell you what has happened to my family. What this has done to us.

My brother died three years ago today.

So simple. So deceivingly simple. Just like every word of every news article and obituary. Just the facts. Shortly after his death I remember reading countless articles and memorials, and being touched by the words of people who knew Tom and loved and remembered him perfectly. And I remember the feeling I got at the end of each of those articles. The feeling I still get now when I read something written about him. It's beautiful and touching and thought-provoking and so, so special, but it's not HIM. It's such a frustrated feeling. To read something and think – but "funny" doesn't even describe it! Yeah, he was "a character", but oh my gosh – he REALLY WAS. These WORDS – pride and honor and duty – it was so much BIGGER than that for him.

Just words.

KIA bracelet_Sarah

Maybe that's why hugs and tears and smiles are so effective. We have these limitations to how we can comfort each other with words, and sometimes those hugs and tears have to step in and do the heavy lifting. Maybe that's why a salute or a hand over your heart is more meaningful than the words to the song could ever be.

There's a reason they say a picture is worth a thousand words. And I think sometimes, they're worth even more.

Tom and Girls WP grad field




Tom Sarah WP Grad

last family photo_April 2007

"Thank you" is never enough, but THANK YOU for all the notes and messages and calls and texts and thoughts and prayers this week and always. I can feel the hugs, even if they are coming from hundreds of miles away. And if you're looking for more information about Tom, please CLICK HERE. I've updated his information page with some new links.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.
– Tom Martin (and Garrison Keillor…)

5 thoughts on “Just words

  1. Well said. Love you Sarah

  2. Thinking about you today!

  3. Love you, friend.

  4. My friend~ You are an amazing writer. I know in your mind there is no possible way to do Tom justice with just words. However, from the outside looking in I think you have done an remarkable job. Not just in this post but in the many before. Your strength is incredibly admirable. Tom obviously brought so much love and joy to so many people. I only know Tom through the stories you have told but if he was half as amazing as you (which I am pretty positive he was) he was simply incredible. My heart is especially heavy for you today. I hope you find peace on this day of heartache and know that your brother was a hero. Thank you for sharing your story with those of us who were never blessed enough to meet him. Love ya~ T

  5. Beautifully written, Sarah. My thoughts are with you on this sad and difficult day. RIP, Tom Martin.

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