Guest blogger Kimberly lost her son Tom to suicide in March 2015 and returns with a second post about how her family chose to honor his memory in their home.
Soon after we lost Tom, I started organizing the things in his room to pull out what I wanted to keep and what I would pack up to go to storage. Part of me was hopeful I would find more hints about what led to his death, but I did not find anything enlightening, which in a way was kind of a relief. If there had been something there, it would have been impossible to forgive myself for not finding it when he was alive.
I am glad I went through everything early on rather than waiting. I am pretty sure the longer I would have waited, the more difficult it would have been for me, and I would have ended up with a room which was more a shrine to his memory than usable space. His bed and most of his personal items went to storage, but we kept out some special items. In the closet, there are just a few pieces of his clothing, which still smell like him, and the guitar his stepfather, L.J., and I bought him for Christmas. Some of his tchotchkes are on the shelves including a stuffed white Pat the Bunny I decorated with red spots when he had a viral infection which did the same to his skin, a stuffed flying monkey from the day we saw Wicked together, and some special stuffed animals he bought me over the years for Mother’s Day, Christmas, my birthday, and when he travelled to Disneyland with his father. His last school picture, his fedora and a funny note he wrote in my drama class sit on one of the shelves next to his ashes, along with a battery operated candle with a yellow ribbon which turns on for a few hours each night. So there are nods to him without his presence overwhelming the space.
L.J. and I talked about how best to use this newly open space in our home. We decided to turn the room into a place for my desk. The boys and I used to share the family room for all three of our computer desks, and when Tim left for college, it was just Tom and me using that room each afternoon. He would do his homework, and I would work on my contract work. I can remember making work video calls and Tom waving to people over my shoulder and all of us laughing out loud about it. So when Tom passed, the family room felt empty with both of them gone. Using Tom’s room as a workspace seemed like a reasonable decision. We rearranged Tom’s bookcases and moved my desk in there. We painted the walls a soft beige and although the flooring still needs work, I am now using the space almost daily.
Figuring out what to call the room has been a struggle. It feels wrong to call it “my office” after being Tom’s room for more than 16 years. But logically, in his absence, it no longer functions as his room. So for months now we have been referring to it by both names, trying to figure out what feels right. When I call it “my office,” it feels empty and like I have cut him out of the history of the room. But when I call it “Tom’s room,” it seems like I am refusing to move forward. Although this seems like such a small issue in the big picture of life, it has been heavy on my heart for quite some time.
A few days ago, I referred to it as “The Toffice.” I think it came out that way by accident, a combination of “Tom’s room” and “the office,” magically merged by my brain and tumbling out without thought. But as soon as I said it, it felt right. Because the room will always be where we laughed and cried together, had our serious talks, where his dad and I read to him at night, and where I fell asleep with him after singing him to sleep. (Fly Me to the Moon was his favorite.) So it only seems appropriate we do not completely remove him from the room’s identity. And when I am in there, I cannot help think of him and the joy he brought me. A day does not go by that I do not think of him a hundred times. And when I am in “The Toffice” working, I feel a little lighter and a little closer to him.
Copyright 2015 Kimberly Starr
About the Author
Kimberly A. Starr earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Theatre from Whitman College and a Masters in Theatre Production from Central Washington University. She teaches Theatre Arts at Yakima Valley College and Prosser High School as well as owning StarrBright Consulting, a performance coaching business. After her son Thomas died by suicide in March 2015, she started writing as a way to process the events and her feelings. She is married to L.J. Da Corsi and is mother to Timothy and Thomas.