When Tori was born I know her parents knew she was special. When I first met her in 1987, I did as well. What really captured me beyond her natural beauty was her caring, fun, demeanor as well as her depth. There was nothing superficial about her. Family and friends have described her as consistent, down-to-earth, steady and wise and I completely agree. She had the amazing combination of being super smart with an even greater amount of common sense while remaining humble-traits that pre-destined her to be a great mother and pediatric nurse practitioner.
Everything was so natural and drama-free in our relationship. When I asked her to marry me we had just come back from walking our dog Kasey and I said, “Do you think we should get married?” and she said, “Yeah that would be cool.” I hadn’t even thought about buying a ring yet but that was of no concern to her.
We had an amazing marriage and she was a perfect mother.
The last couple of weeks have been such an overwhelmingly sad time in our lives but our relationship, marriage and home life was filled with such fun, love, laughter and respect that I want to celebrate her today by reviewing the legacy she left our family.
1. Almost all decisions or minor conflicts were worked out by an almost daily family walk around the 1.9 mile loop in our neighborhood. “C’mon, let’s go for a walk,” She would say. We walked it thousands of times. We often joked that our walks kept us out of therapy and off mental health medications-it was the best form of medicine.
2. Family dinners were always a great way to determine what was going on in our lives away from our home. She realized if she just asked how everything went during a school day invariably Tom and Ellie would say “just fine.” Instead she decided to have them go through the day period by period. It was then that details about what they had experienced and witnessed came out. They also learned that there was virtually nothing they could say that would shock us given our own experiences at work. This allowed any topic to be open for discussion. Family dinners were also a great time to talk about choices/values in life and as they got older to review potential colleges and careers.
3. She encouraged Tom and Ellie find their passion and then we supported it. In regards to sports she reminded me many times that “kids don’t ruin sports. It’s the parents who ruin sports for their kids.” She was the behind the scenes assistant coach for all the YMCA sport teams we coached. I know the kids who played on those teams over the years had improved skills but more importantly maintained a love for having fun through sports, more than actually remembering our won-loss record. We were there for virtually all of Tom and Ellie’s extracurricular activities and sporting events. She served as Ellie’s faithful assistant throughout her middle and high school riding career that spanned trips throughout the east coast-literally only missing one show due to being on home quarantine after going through I131 treatment for thyroid cancer 2 years ago.
4. She was selfless and always thought about her family first. Just about a month ago, we decided to go to the Reebok outlet for some new work-out clothes. I found two pairs of shorts and went looking for her. I saw her carrying an arm-full of clothes but found out she had picked them out as a surprise for Tom, who was away for the week traveling with his girlfriends family. She hadn’t begun to look for anything for herself yet.
5. She created wonderful memories through themed birthday parties, holiday celebrations, overnight camping trips, weekly family game nights and travel, instead of concentrating on material possessions. She always went out of her way to make everyone feel so comfortable in our home. She loved having Tom and Ellie’s friends hang out at our home or with us when on one of our beach vacations, always making sure to have plenty of food and drink and one of her famous cookie pies available. Through trips to theme parks, zoos, local parks, most all of our national parks and extensive travel throughout our country and around the world, our kids experienced so much. The list is by no means complete but due to her planning, Tom and Ellie have ridden horseback, swam in multiple oceans, cruised, snorkeled, water-skied, hiked, biked, canoed, kayaked, canyoneered, repelled, zip lined, white water rafted, geo-cached, sled, snow-boarded, snow mobiled, snow-shoed, jet skied, banana-boated, tubed, dune buggeyed, navigated urban subways, rode the Euro-train throughout Italy, accidentally came within 25 yards of a Grizzly bear in Yellowstone and taken death defying car rides in Ireland with me driving on the opposite side of the road with a manual transmission car; the most memorable of which was along the ring of Kerry with the narrow roads, a cliff on one side and tour buses coming the opposite way who didn’t seem to care that they were half-way in our lane. Even long car rides were always memorable-creating word games or coming up with pseudonyms for our family in case we ever needed to go into hiding or protective custody.
6. She instilled a love for health and fitness in Tom and Ellie by limiting what she called “electronic time” to no more than an hour/day when they were young and gaming was just getting popular. She would have them go outside to play when the alarm on the timer would sound that meant their hour was up for the day.
7. She kept our home a safe place, a sanctuary. My brother would always say our home was so peaceful whenever he would visit and it was because of her. At some point of most every night she would say its “Jammie Time,” usually around 8 PM and she would change into a baggy t-shirt and an old pair of boxers. We would all follow suit and then settle into a night of reading or watching a TV show together. Silence in our home in the evening meant nothing more that its’ been a really busy day and we are all just tired of talking. While quiet, over the years our home also included 4 dogs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, turtles, hermit crabs, a newt and multiple fish that always seemed to significantly outlive their expected life span. And of course we also ventured into horse ownership twice. She occasionally referred to our horses as “kitchen cabinets,” to gently remind Ellie that we choose to support her passion rather than to remodel our 1970 kitchen for many years.
8. She gave Tom and Ellie the tools needed to be independent, responsible adults by having them pick out all their own clothes and do all their own laundry starting at an early age, as well as weekly house chores, open and manage their own bank accounts, do their own shopping and most recently learning to plan meals and cook because both are coming off the meals plans at college this year. I picked “Sweet Home Alabama” as one of the songs for the opening video because she would play it most every Saturday morning as a sign that housecleaning was about to commence. A hidden video recording would have captured some pretty goofy dancing by all of us on those mornings while dusting and vacuuming.
I loved how she used humor and sarcasm. Typically when going out to eat at a restaurant that specializes in Hamburgers, for example, I might ask a stupid question such as, “what are you going to get to eat?” and she would look at me and say “a pizza.” When I once said, “Lets’ go watch the fireworks at Lake Eola today,” she said, “sure, just let me go to Costco first to buy some sun block, rain poncho’s and mosquito repellent.” She then said the weather report shows a brutally hot and sunny day, followed by afternoon rain with the onslaught of mosquito’s to follow. We laughed and then came up with an alternative plan.
Every night ended with saying “I love you” to each other before going to bed.
I know we will all be faced with asking “what would Tori do?” in the future. We have all so benefited from having her in our lives.
I am so thankful for our years together and our two awesome children.