Yesterday, Tom Magliozzi, co-host of National Public Radio’s (NPR’s) "Car Talk" show and one half of “Click and Clack The Tappet Brothers” died from complications due to Alzheimers. Though I’d never met Tom, I feel like I've lost a special friend.
I can remember the first time I heard Tom’s laugh come bellowing out from the radio of my brand spankin’ new Honda Prelude. At first I listened because I thought I should know something about cars now that I owned one. I kept listening for the next 24 years because their banter (“Is that Catherine with a ‘k’ or a ‘c’?”…as if the answer would possibly make a difference in the advice they gave!); their expertise (oh no! not the CV joint!), their genuine love of each other (“don’t drive like my brother!”) and people in general gave me something to look forward to on Saturday mornings. For me, like so many others, “Car Talk” was my "gateway drug" to National Public Radio.
Tom's passing is a reminder that even though death is indeed a part of life, it can be so extraordinarily difficult. One day someone is here and the next…they’re not. When someone passes, emotions can be overwhelming, yet at the same time we want to do whatever we can to celebrate their life and do our best to provide support and compassion to those surviving them. Here are some remembrance ideas to consider after the loss of a friend or a loved one:
-Express your sympathies-the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming, whether or not it was anticipated. The surviving family members/spouse/friends greatly need comfort and support from others. As deaths are seldom conveniently timed, make a point to express your sympathies as soon as you become aware of it. Whether a phone call, card or the traditional flowers, act upon your good intentions. Gifts of food can also come in handy as routine tasks like preparing a meal can be too overwhelming. The advent of social media has allowed people to share their memories in a way they wouldn’t have been able to do before. Take the time to post because it may be your comment that brings a much-needed bit of sunshine into someone’s life.
-Attend the funeral or memorial service if at all possible-people have full lives and most of us have entire days planned with little to no white space on our calendars. But funerals and memorials are about community and supporting each other during this very real, but very painful, life event. While it may require acts of logistical fortitude, make every effort to attend and honor the life that was. I’ve never once heard anyone say, “What a waste of time that funeral was.”
-The survivors are likely to need your support several weeks after the passing-As my cousin said after her husband died, “Dying is a lot of work.” Once the funeral/memorial service has been held; insurance policies have been located; and various mundane matters have been addressed (what should we do with his iPhone? Is it okay for me to sleep on his side of the bed?), the family has to go back to their normal routine, only now there is a new normal. This is the time when a memorial gift, whether a garden stone or a lovely locket, can be truly appreciated. There are also a host of religious gifts that may bring a sense of peace.
-Make a donation in the name of the deceased to a charitable cause they were passionate about-I think of charitable donations as a way of paying it forward. No, it won’t bring back the deceased, but it’s a way to honor their life and legacy…never mind charities can always use more funds to further their cause.
-Remember “firsts”-the loss of a loved one is difficult every day, but the first birthday, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas after someone has passed can be exceptionally difficult. Help the survivors get through these difficult times. You may feel you don’t know the right thing to say, but just being there can make a huge difference to someone grieving.
-Celebrate the life-one of my dear friends, Vickie, lost her beloved daughter, Ashley, to heart disease much, much too young. Every year on her birthday, her family has a beautiful celebration of life. This year, they released beautiful heart-shaped lanterns to the sky. I like to think that Ashley can hear all the lovely things her amazing family wants her to know. Vickie has taught me that survivors want and need to talk about their loved one long after they have passed because their loved one was such an important part of their life. “Listening is the most generous gift we can give someone,” said Julian Treasure and I think it applies beautifully here.
Being there to comfort and support our loved ones in death and in life is a privilege we can’t take for granted. On Car Talk’s website, Tom’s beloved younger brother, Ray, wrote a remembrance that would have made him proud. It included this line:
“We can be happy that he lived the life he wanted to live; goofing off a lot, talking with you guys every week, and laughing his ass off.”
May his life serve as a lesson to us all. Rest in peace Tom Magliozzi. Please keep Ashley laughing.