Tribute to a Friend


“We can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” Russell M. Nelson

I want to share my thoughts from the last couple of days. I am so very grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who gives me His strength when I have run out of my own.

Amidst the chaos that is my life right now (between packing to move and also getting ready for a 3 day event selling my flannel board stories in Bear Lake) I found out yesterday that one of my very dear friends has passed away. So I’ve been moving forward with the action that life demands but with a lot of breaking into tears moments as I grieve for myself at his loss. I just want to take a minute to pay tribute to my friend, Tom Petko, and share my top 6 things he taught me over the last 19 years of friendship.

1. You don’t have to be blood to be family. This man came into our lives and treated us as if he were an extension of our family. He treated my children, my husband and I like gold. I did what I could to reciprocate the love I always felt for him. That usually came by the way of a homecooked meal or baked goods, but it never seemed to measure up to his generosity. He and his parents always spoiled us!

2. Chasing your passion is a good thing! He opened my eyes to the sport of trap shooting, something I never knew I could love so much! He would always laugh about the fact that he and Chad made plans to shoot and I tagged along. He admitted repeatedly that he initially thought, “The ball and chain can’t just let her man have some time with the guys.” Then I asked if I could try… I always loved changing the way that man thought about things! We spent hours and hours shooting together or traveling to shoots with kids in tow to shoot little orange clay disks out of the sky and it was fabulous! He once bought me a shirt that said, “Happiness is a warm shotgun.” I fully concur with that! One of my favorite memories was a turkey shoot we attended in Weber County. We won so many turkeys together that there were some men who really wanted us disqualified from winning any more. (As Tom pointed out he probably just hated being outshot by a girl!)

3. Taking time to pursue my dreams actually makes me a better wife and mother. There were a couple of times that Chad (and my sisters) watched the kids so that I could take a road trip with Tom to go shooting. I always came back refreshed and ready to put more energy and love into my roles at home. Not only was the hobby enjoyable but Tom was such a great conversationalist! I am really going to miss our discussions!

4. You can have completely different beliefs from someone else and still respect and love them. I am a bit of a religious nut and Tom was far from it. But I honestly learned so much about myself and my beliefs from the deep conversations we had together. I knew he didn’t always agree with me, but I never for one second doubted that he respected me. He even nicknamed me the “shooting saint” because I refused to shoot on Sundays. And he would help me find the nearest church and drop me off so I could worship in my way while he “went to church” in his way (shooting).

5. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. After many years of “batching it” (as Tom called his bachelor days) Tom found love and companionship again. And though I was so glad that he was not lonely anymore, his new companion seemed to find me and my family competition for some reason. Because of this and Tom being restricted to a wheelchair, our relationship has been limited to phone calls, text messages and Christmas gift exchanges (Tom was the best gift giver I’ve ever met!) We have missed him so much over the last few years. We have missed our regular dinner dates (my kids learned a lot about patience as we would sit for hours in a “BS session” as Tom called it). We have missed his irreverent sense of humor and his hilarious way of looking at the world. We have missed his vocalized support and encouragement for us as parents. I have missed shooting with him. And I have really missed his giant teddy bear hugs!

6. Life is short. Tom was a big man! This caused complications with his knees. He was not a candidate for surgery unless he lost a certain amount of weight and being in a wheelchair eliminated the ability to lose weight through exercise. Tom had big dreams. He worked very hard for 40 years to save for retirement. He planned to travel and shoot and fish. He planned to go on safari and shoot some amazing pictures (a different kind of shooting he found a love for later in life). He planned to really live and enjoy what he called the “best years.” And so, even though I grieve for me and the fact that I will never get to have the catchup dinner he promised us once surgery restored his mobility, I mostly grieve for him and that he never got to do all those things on his bucket list that he worked so hard and saved for!

Tom was a good man! He had a huge heart! He was one of the most loving and generous men I ever knew. He was so good to me and to my family. He was our family! And he will be sorely missed. I realized as I looked for pictures of my friend that I don’t have them. But I am so grateful that I have hundreds and hundreds of memory pictures in my data bank! We made some really great memories together that I will treasure forever!

I look forward to the time when I will get to stroll along this giant of a man and catch up on all we have missed out talking about. That is going to be the grandest of all BS sessions!!!