Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thomas Fullmer, 1962-2012

I got caught in the worst kind of traffic yesterday. It took over 30 minutes to go 1/4 mile. I thought that was the worst thing I would experience on a Friday. It wasn't.

When I got home, DeadEye told me the bad news: my brother, Tom was dead.

Talking to my mom on the phone, it took every ounce of strength for me to choke back tears -- hell, what I feared would be SOBS -- to be strong for her. I thought I was prepared for this. I wasn't. There's no such thing as being prepared for the loss of someone you love so much.

Understand, Tom had been dying or in the throws of death for 20+ years. First it was the ultra-rare blood disorder that knocked his white cell count down to around 35. Then, after a near-miraculous recovery as a result of an experimental drug, the so-called "side effects" of said miracle drug began to finish the job the blood disease started.

After a few short years of good health, Tom developed polycystic kidney disease. Literally hundreds of cysts grew in and around his kidneys, most small, but some as large as grapefruit. The tumors pressed against his internal organs, crushing them and causing incredible pain. Worse, they made it difficult for him to keep his meals down.

And yet, he lived another 15 years. For 15 years he defied death. Even when his kidneys began to fail, he defied death. It took liver failure to finally bring him down.

It's fitting that he defied death for 15 years. Because the man Tom Fullmer was one tough hombre. In his youth, when he was healthy, he was the manliest of men. Women wanted him. Men wanted to be him. Hell, I wanted to be him.

His was a life filled with irony. He was terrible in school. But, after taking an entry-level job as a laborer, he worked his way up to carpenter, and then to licensed electrician. I've looked at schematics. There are no stupid electricians. He wasn't dumb. He just didn't get school, and school didn't get him.

He read voraciously, particularly books of history. He was as knowledgeable about the history of Europe from Roman times to the present as anyone I've ever known. He was even knowledgeable about Nordic mythology: he is the only person I've known besides Internet Superintelligence Vox Day who could speak knowledgeably about Radnarok.

His diseases were especially cruel. He was robbed of his home, his marriage, his ability to work...but never his dignity. His mind remained strong, albeit dulled by the drugs, right up until just recently.

He had the ability to make everyone around him comfortable. He made everyone laugh with his funny stories, goofy faces, and general outgoing nature. He remained upbeat even in the face of incredible suffering.

I loved and respected Tom. We weren't especially close as kids, due to the fact he was 4 years younger than I and 5 grades behind me (do YOU know any high school seniors who hang out with their 7th grade brother?). That was my mistake. Tom, it turns out, was an indispensable friend and mentor.

Tom helped me through the tough times I experienced after I got dumped by my girlfriend of several years, dropped out of college, and lost my faith in God (and pretty much everything else). He shepherded me through times when I didn't much care if I lived or died, until I could get my feet back under me. We effectively swapped roles; he was the big brother, and I followed his example.

I will miss Tom, more than I can express in mere words. If there is a heaven...if there is salvation (and I believe there is)...then Tom is in the loving embrace of his Savior right now.

Tom, your 50 years on this earth were too short, and too filled with pain. But what you left behind -- your legacy -- will live on and on.

You once told DeadEye that you loved her and thought of her as a sister. She was lying in bed last night SMILING at that memory. Your legacy lives on with her.

You taught my boys how to handle weapons and shoot. They loved and admired you with all of their hearts. The men they have become -- that, too, is your legacy.

As for me? I might not be here now if it wasn't for you. I certainly wouldn't be the man I am now without your influence. 

Tom is free of the pain now. Free from suffering. Free from this maddening world. Rest, strong man. Know you were respected in this life. Know you were loved by family and friends. And know that you WILL be missed.

I love you, my brother, my friend, forever.