• olivialwilmot

This is a post about love

Today, May 19 marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of our journey with pancreatic cancer. I suppose technically Tommy went to the emergency room for the first time on February 14, but we did not know until May 19. What a year it has been.

It is a strange feeling to be just so sad and to miss your best friend, partner, and co-parent while you are in awe at how much love people have for your family. Yes, much has been taken from us, but we have been given so much.

Having only fifteen years with Tommy was not the plan, but, man I would do it all over again. We had a lot of fun. We ate a lot of great food, laughed to tears, traveled to interesting places, listened to amazing music, and most importantly felt loved and known. Oh, and we made the two most precious little girls in the history of the world.

A lot has been said of Tommy since his diagnosis was made public. All of it is true. His passing is a huge loss to Memphis, the city planning world, Memphis Medical District Collaborative, his friends near and far, his family, and to his girls. I do hope, though, that we all are able to learn something from Tommy. Yes, he had lots of degrees and trainings and certifications and whatnot. I think the thing that distinguished him was that he was full of optimism and that he cared AND tried. He was optimistic enough to think something could be different and cared enough to try to do something about it. Even on the day he lost his battle with cancer, he was hoping he could have another treatment the next week.

When we first learned of Tommy's diagnosis, we knew we would have to accept a lot of help to make it through not only his treatment- but his treatment during a pandemic with two small children. Neither Tommy nor I were prepared for the beautiful, painful period we were about to begin. I say this in honesty, not to gripe, but it was not always easy being married to and co-parenting with Tommy Pacello, because he did not just belong to me and the girls. Tommy understood this, as he often felt pulled in 1,000 directions at the same time. What we found was that while he was spreading himself perhaps too thin at times, he was also building a lovely community. It was not only his career, but his life’s work. And his community showed up for us in a big way when we needed you the most. I am so grateful.

What we thought would be an exercise in accepting help for two stubborn, self-sufficiency obsessed know-it-alls turned out to be a life altering exercise in learning how to accept love. It was such a gift to be able to go through that process with Tommy, and to witness near the end of his battle how he was able to receive radical love in a way he was not able to just months before.

Fun Tommy fact: he didn’t care for The Beatles. It was probably his worst quality. When his health began to fail dramatically in early November, I played my favorite song for him, “The End,” and told him that it is true: the love you take is equal to the love you make. All he had to do was look around to know that was true. He described his battle as the most beautiful thing he had ever experienced. I am so proud of him, and I miss him so.

Much love to all of you reading,


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