This is one of my all-time favorite photos of us.
It is utter nonsense.
We were supposed to clear plates after dinner one night, and one of us decided it would be fun to do that “together”. So I am indeed clearing the plates one at a time — from dining room to kitchen — while being carried piggyback. We were probably 18 and 20 years old when this photo was taken.
This was before the days of iPhones and Instagram, before moments such as this were constantly and compulsively captured. I don’t know which of my sisters took this photo, but I love that someone did. I love that this nonsensical moment between two “adults” is forever captured — on film, people. FILM.
I like it because it’s the part of Tom I remember most vividly. The nonsense. Because he served and because of the way he died, he is often positioned alongside the pomp and circumstance and formality that comes with the military. For the Foundation, we use photos of him in uniform and we talk about him as 1LT Tom Martin — and all of those things are certainly part of who he was.
But the smile in that photo is what I miss.
This week I was sharing with a friend that I realized I’ve been grieving Tom in a whole new way. He died at 27 years old. I was a few days shy of 25. In 8 years, I’ve surpassed his 27 years, become a mom, and started navigating my own career and grown-up relationships. And he’s still 27. And he’s not here for any of it. He’s not here to be my grown-up sibling/friend, and he’s not here to offer a grin and a poke in the ribs when the adulting closes in — and he’s not here to find the nonsense in mundane things like clearing the dinner table. I can’t help but think our 30s might be a really, really good time, and I’m desperate to know what our grown-up relationship would be like. I didn’t just lose my 27-year-old big brother. I lost my 30-year-old big brother and my 35-year-old big brother and my 40-year-old big brother.
So I have memories of that 27-year-old kid — and nonsense photos like this. And confidence knowing that smile never seems to fade.[hr]
There is so much more to know and love about Tom Martin – soldier, hero, goofball. I encourage you to click here and read other memories being shared today by people all over the world who crossed paths with this guy in his 27 years. And if you are so inclined, The 1LT Tom Martin Memorial Foundation is inviting family, friends, and supporters all over the world to give a small but impactful $8 donation in memory of this 8th Anniversary of 10/14/2007.