Our friend, Brian, and Tom after the Allendale Triathlon.
When you lose a child, time is one of those things you battle with every single day. It becomes this very strange thing that sometimes seems as if it stands still in the life you once knew and then there are other moments when you feel as if you are in a fast-paced whirlwind.
The emotions that come into play on a daily basis can be all-consuming.
My husband, Tom, is a go-getter. A man who has always set goals in his life and who works tremendously hard to obtain them no matter what. Losing his only son, Tommy, at the age of five was certainly not in our hopes and dreams of what our life would be like. There are moments when it seems impossible to take another breath, let alone achieve another goal.
But both Tom and I knew Tommy would want us to live the best life possible, even in his absence.
In his grief, Tom found running as an outlet. He began by running in some local 5Ks including our first annual RunTough for Team Tommy. Shortly after that race in October 2017, we watched the Chicago Marathon and several of our dear friends running in it for Tommy.
We were honored that they committed themselves to Tommy and to children with pediatric brain cancer, but it also lit a fire under Tom. He realized he wasn’t content on the sidelines. He said he could feel a physical pull telling him he had to do more.
So that’s what he did.
Grueling training through wind, ice, snow, and rain, he persisted and was able to finish his first big run – the Fifth Third Riverbank Run 25k. He finished in an incredible time and with a smile on his face. Without a doubt he was able to persevere through his struggles and pull his strength from Tommy.
Several more races under his belt and yet he was still feeling compelled to do more.
Tom’s race bib had No. 164 – equaling Tommy’s No. 11. A little hello.
Today he did more.
I watched my husband crush the Allendale Triathlon.
I was so emotional watching him during the event, this determined athlete fueled by love for our son. After the swim – which was his toughest challenge – I could see the pain in his eyes. I asked him how he kept going and he said, Tommy fought with grace and a smile and I will do the same. This is nothing compared to what he went through.
Tommy’s presence was all over this event. It started with a little sign from him … Tom’s bib number was 164. If you add them together they equal 11. It’s the same thing that happened when Tom traveled to see the Eagles win the Super Bowl on a whim. He purchased his ticket and looked down at his seat number … Row 11, Seat 11. Our sweet Tommy’s birthday, November 11.
Always with us.
It’s been an incredibly difficult journey for us on this pathway of grief, but we do our best to keep moving forward. I know Tommy is so proud of his Daddy and so are Isabella and me.
– Amanda Ruddy
Tom, Isabella, and Tommy.