Remembering Tom Ricketson on his 40th birthday.

Greg Ricketson with son Tom Ricketson on his way to his school formal in 1999 in his dad's dinner suit. © Lorrie Graham Blog

Today would have been Tom Ricketson, Anon’s son, my stepson’s, 40th birthday. He died in a fire in a nightclub in Siem Riep Cambodia in 2014 at the end of the his first big travel adventure. In the images above from 1999, 17 year old Tom is on his way to his school formal in his dad’s dinner suit. An exceedingly handsome young man.

This from Joan Didion’s book ” The Year of Magical Thinking”, the book she wrote after the sudden death of her husband John Gregory Dunne

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing”. A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days.

We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing “to get through it”rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day?

We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact ( and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience meaninglessness itself.

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Comments 12

  1. Thank you so very much for your beautifully eloquent prose . I am experiencing the Alzheimer’s ‘ long goodbye’ of my dear mother . Thanks again for your understanding & tenderness .

  2. Dearest Tombo , I will always remember his light touch and the twinkle in his eyes – such a lovely baby and sweet young man. Our hearts are with you both…….all of our love
    Arnold & Chris. XX
    Looking tearily at the pics you gave me

  3. So sad, sorry for your loss and yet we wish to remember to say cheers for the birth day being celebrated. Sending hugs to you both

  4. Thinking of Tom, and of both of you, today – a sad day and a sad four years. Joan Didion’s words capture the enormity of grief so well…

  5. Happy birthday Tom and big love to you and Greg – what a gorgeous photo of dad and son and how true are those words – never ending – I hope the beautiful memories can wrap themselves around you both today…..

  6. I hadn’t read Didion’s words before. They capture grief so well Lorrie. It’s so true that the funeral is part of a process but by no means, the hardest part. My thoughts go out to you and Greg today. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures with us.

  7. These are beautiful pictures of this young man with his Dad. Much love to Greg and you.

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