(Right now, I’m focusing on my memoirist work that I’ll call, simply, “Pictures of Tommy” -- all about my psychotic brother and his legacy. If so inclined, please share, and tell me what you think. . . )
At Tom’s wake -- held in the usual place, Doyle B. Shaffer funeral home, Little Neck, NY -- we met several people who figured into Tom’s everyday life, his mysterious private life. There were several people from the Phoenix house program who knew Tom, others who battled mental illness their whole lives but were still in the fray, fighting the good fight. But when you think about it, it’s the only thing they can do. To give up is to really cease existing in one way or the other. . .
We met one of Tom’s doctors and one of the social workers who were on his “case” in more ways than one. And I said earlier the wake was “at the usual place” because that’s where our father’s, then our mother’s, then our brother Tom’s, bodies all laid in state for people to come pay “respects.” Let me ask here and now for them to NOT do anything for me at that godforsaken place. . . don’t know what I want, I just know what I DON’T want. . .
We also met a tall man, sixty-ish in age, who dressed well. A gentleman. And he was indeed a gentle man. He was Frank Drollinger -- Tom’s (former) friend. Frank was a writer and editor of the paper for St. Thomas the Apostle Church, The Reporter, where some of Tom’s poems had been published. He was also one of Tom’s only friends, towards the end. Something motivated Tom to “cut the cord” and end the friendship, something I’ll ask Carrie about but don’t really understand.
In an email to me a few weeks after we buried Tom (in a plot next to our mom, as we knew it was available and he didn’t leave any instructions for us, anyway), Frank emailed me back when I sent along the eulogy & obituary I wrote.
“Lauren, Well--it's so good to hear from you. I love your family. I like these remarks very much, and especially the 'coincidence' of Tom and St Thomas the Apostle. And your eulogy is so good, most especially because you let Tom speak for himself. The poems you included were not familiar to me, and they are gems. I'm grateful on that count alone--Tom used to send me his poems and read them to me on the phone every week for years--and I hadn't seen or heard one for a very long time--a couple of years. Even the brevity of the eulogy is special. I felt honored that you mentioned me (I do think it was more hope than optimism that lie underneath Tom's daily life). Finally, I feel that you and Carrie pay special honor to Tom as your elder brother. Whatever has been the history of your family, it is truly a family.
Wherever we feel Tom is now, please don't stop praying for him. God bless, Frank”