Thomas Russell Sheridan

When Tom passed away in June, I immediately asked my mom when we should get tickets to fly out West for whatever service would be happening there.  She said that Ginny and Tom had discussed other options, and that she didn't know all the details yet, but she didn't think we would be flying to Oregon.  At first I was a little upset- mostly just worried that I would be missing something important there.  But as I learned more details, I realized that wouldn't be the case.  And Ginny, being as amazing as ever, picked the weekend of August 3rd, a weekend everyone could attend, for a memorial service for Tom.  We had time to prepare everything and ensure this would be the most beautiful celebration of a beautiful life.

The weekend would include a family gathering at Locust Lodge, the cottage Granddaddy and Grammie (with the help of my great-grandfather) built in 1948, and the Sheridans grew up going to.  Tom had requested that his ashes be spread in the Columbia River and the Potomac River, so during that time, Ginny would get in her kayak and spread his ashes near the cottage.  We would slowly move to Ginny and Tom's house, a little down the road (and across the creek from my parents place), and be joined by neighbors, friends, and colleagues of Tom's.  Have I mentioned yet that Ginny's twin sisters, four kids, their spouses, and her grandkids were all here as well?  It was my first time meeting them, and I'm so sorry I hadn't met them sooner.  I enjoyed meeting all the new family members and had a great time with everyone there.  It was so special to have so many people there in honor of Tom.

You read about me baking for days already.  Many other family members were preparing finger foods, desserts, photo slide shows, and coordinating a horn trio for the day.  Yep- Becky contacted two of her coworker/friends in the Army Field Band, and got them to join her at the River to play during the spreading of his ashes (playing the Naval Hymn), and then during the beginning of the gathering at Ginny and Tom's.  She was arranging pieces for 3 horns, to songs Mom and I had suggested (some Beatles songs, Country Roads, Rolling Stones...) whenever she had a free second.  We were all giving everything we had to this weekend, and the results showed. 

And now, to let some pictures do the talking.  Please understand that this was the first time in many many years that so many family was together, and I took as many pictures as I could to try to make sure I didn't miss anyone.  So like usual, this will be a long post, but I hope you enjoy it :-)

Becky and I carpooled down on Friday after I could get away from work.  We're crossing the Nice Bridge, in VA, over the Potomac.
Some bottles that washed up on our beach.
Since Ginny had rented tents for the gathering at her house on Saturday, she figured why waste 'em!  She invited everyone over on Friday evening as well.  We headed over to her place in our boat, but not before I saw a huge THANK YOU written in the sand, by Ginny's family, who my dad had brought Kayaks over to so that they could enjoy the water and come over and visit us often :-)
Sun setting while we boated over.
Tim, one of Becky's coworkers in the Army Field Band, who joined us for the weekend, and Becky really into a story.
And my gold glitter boat shoes.  Necessary.
A lot of people were already in town, so there were already a lot of great catching-up discussions going on!
We talked and visited late into the evening, finally leaving in our boat when it was reeeeally dark.
Riding back across the creek, we realized that with no moon, we could see the stars crazy well.  The Milky Way was beautiful, and I of course was going to sit out on the pier and capture some of this.  I was so upset I didn't bring my wide-angle lens, since I think we were getting a prelude to the Perseid Meteor shower and I saw 4 shooting stars- one huge one that streaked across the sky and it was like I could actually see the meteor burning up in the atmosphere as it streaked by, and another large one that my mom was lucky enough to see when she came out to join me for a bit on the pier.
Big Dipper
Milky Way
Milky Way in the lower corner, probably a planet in the middle there
The next day saw a lot more family together.  Shelley (Tom's daughter, and my godmother) and Robert had arrived around 11pm or so, and I got to visit a little before heading to bed.  Matt and Beth got there around 2am, and countless other family members who couldn't make the Friday night visit descended upon the cottage.  And apparently about 5 minutes into getting to Locust Lodge, Cole passed out mid-talk with Jess, and we decided if he was going to make it through the day, this nap was probably a good choice.
Becky and Tim started playing the Naval Hymn.
Ginny, surrounded by her four grandsons, headed into the Potomac to spread his ashes.
The rest of us had flowers and petals and lined the pier to scatter them in the water, and honor Tom.
Uncle Ralph stayed with Grammie, who held a rose for her oldest son.
Aunt Jody had even made some paper boats, in the Naval Academy's colors.
Tim was a trooper, and had 3 or 4 cameras given to him to take a family photo.  Cole is inside napping, and Brittney was called into work last minute (when you work for an obstetrician, you don't necessarily get to always plan your hours), but everyone else was here, I can't believe it.  And we had Ginny's family in here too.  This is a great one :-)
The Sheridans, and our next-door neighbors for over 60 years, the Mortons, flew their flags at half-mast for Tom.
It was time to head over to Ginny's.  There was a beautiful set-up there to host everyone.  Flowers... accompaniment...
...and of course food for days.  The "light finger-foods" turned into a spread so big that the dessert was moved inside until there was more room on the table for it.
There was more visiting with family members
And Rich and Janis, on my dad's side, even drove up from North Carolina to come and honor Tom.  They are just simply the best, my family is amazing.
After about an hour of visiting and snacking, Ginny's son Pete said a few words, thanking us all for being there, and opening up the floor for some memories to be told.  We had a full tent at this point.
Uncle Ralph gave a brief history of his life, with a few funny stories in there as well.
An old friend from Tom's Navy days, apparently Tom was this guy's first Skipper when he had just started in the Navy, shared a funny story about the first time he met Tom, his superior, and managed to be making fun of him later, only to turn around and realize Tom was standing right behind him.  Tom didn't say anything, despite it being clear he had heard, and it immediately gained his respect.
Another old friend from the Navy days shared some stories about being in Vietnam with him.
Tom's cousin Hart told some stories about growing up with him and causing trouble.
Dad said a few words, mentioning that Tom and he always discussed things and problems Dad was having with boats, or lifts, or whatever- and now he had tried some of those things, and they had worked, and he missed that he couldn't tell Tom that he was right.
Then Mom told a story about when she was 7, and playing in the sandbox, and her older, cooler brother Tom was running out of the house holding car keys in one hand, and a bunch of bread in the other.  He looked at his younger sister there and said "Mom said I couldn't leave until I had eaten something.  Well, I have 3 pieces of bread here, so that makes a bread sandwich, so I can go!"  It was a cute story that I had never heard before, and Mom had said it was just something she had always remembered about him.
After these great memories, we got back to visiting.  The second cousins all had some cheetos together
There were many rounds of cornhole played.
And Cole really loved driving his "tractor" (riding lawn-mower).  Ginny's grandsons really loved playing with Cole, and it was fun seeing them interact.
Cole running around with his second cousins Pink and Larsen.
Cole becoming a bit of an obstacle during cornhole...
Then Cole said "Daddy, beer?"  We all thought he was asking for one, so Ed jokingly changed it up and said "Sure Cole, I'd love one."  Cole repeated it, and Ed repeated his line, and Cole ran off to the coolers.  I definitely followed this development.  He opened the closest cooler, and quickly closed it.  I realized that he had seen only soda and knew that was wrong.  I was amazed.  I then pointed to the cooler I knew had beer in it, and he opened that one, and squealed in delight.  He carefully picked one up, and went back to where Ed was and delivered him a beer.  I'm not entirely sure if Ed knew he could do this, but it just opened up a world of possibilities if not...
Second cousins on the pier
Looking across the water to our house
Ed and Cole walking down the pier
Ralph helping Grammie to the car
Proof that I was here!
Second cousins catching stinger nettles.
The enemy
Ed and Wes
Erin, Tim, Larsen and Danielle dedicated to catching stinger nettles.  Samantha, Beth, Matt and Ed visiting on the pier
Me and my godmother
Tim caught a crab
Ginny.  Clearly pleased with how many people were around her and were there to honor Tom
Ginny and Becky
Shelley, and Ginny's grandsons Kyle, Kevin, Jackson and Coleman
Shelley then told a story about her dad rescuing her when a lot of roads were flooded and his car never ran the same again, lol, but he was there in an instant.
We shared more funny stories and memories of Tom as the sun slowly set along the water.
Then we saw a rainbow!  Shooting stars and rainbows?  I think someone up there was smiling down on us this weekend :-)
The gorgeous sunset as we continued to talk
Patti, Ed, Wes and Cole had already left to put the boys to bed.  Ed had kayaked back over when it was getting rather dark and surprised us all, haha.  And when the mosquitoes got to be too much for us and even bug spray wasn't keeping them away, Becky, Tim and I headed back to our place. We jumped in the pool to wash off the layers of bug spray and sunscreen before bed.
Baby burrito Wes
The next morning, we were all hanging out, when Mom's cell phone rang, and Patti answered it.  Ginny's daughter Kris was calling to inform us that there were dolphins in our creek and we should all come out and see!  They were on their boat, and the kayakers were out already and gathered around watching.  Sorry I was so far away, but you can see fins in these pictures!  Look how close they all were!  There were at least 6 based on fins in pictures, but I think there must have been more around.  Shooting stars, rainbows, and dolphins.  Magical weekend.
And one last awesome picture of Wes in a plaid outfit before Becky and I headed back to MD on Sunday.  He's so different already, and he's barely a month old!
I can't say enough how beautiful it all was.  Tom would have been proud and honored, and I don't think there was a dry eye on the pier as we scattered petals, listened to the Naval Hymn, and watched Ginny surrounded by her grandsons.  And recounting all of this for my blog wasn't easy either.  But being surrounded by family members, and new friends, and all of the love we had for Tom was an amazing thing.  It was a fantastic weekend and I was happy to be a part of it.  We love you, Tom.

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