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The Legacy of Tom Gilliam

This article is not a tribute, nor is it a eulogy. It was humbly written to recognize, not to mourn, Thomas West Gilliam IV. To truly see what he has left behind, I urge the reader to put down this paper and look around. I have faith he will find some remnant of Tom's legacy.

March 28th, 2012, 10:15 a.m.: I finally confront the fear that's haunted me for the past year, "What's actually left?" A year ago I told his friends, his family, his brothers, his mother, his father, I told everyone he would "live on in the lives of everyone he touched." Sure, there are memories, but they've spoiled with time. And sure, there are pictures, but a thousand words could not begin to describe the person he was. There it is again: the person he was. So it was a lie, I made a promise I couldn't keep. It's been a year since Tom's death and all I have left is an empty Word document and a tab open to "Quotes about Death." The first one reads, "A friend who dies, it's something of you who dies."

Tom and I were very different. I've always relied on the tangible, what's actually there, while Tom, well, he had faith. There's that word again: faith. I hate that word. Okay, I don't really hate it, but it's overused. It's an out for anyone who can't rationalize tragedy. It's an out for those of us who can't sack up and acknowledge the truth. So after all this time, I guess it's been an out for me. After a year of having faith, I've finally come to confront the truth and what he's actually left behind.

A tombstone encircled by some of his closest friends - so after a year is this all that's left, a group of kids struggling to piece together why he left us? As we all stand there, I can finally see what he's really left.

"He'll live on in the hearts of those he touched most deeply. His memory will live on, solidifying his legacy."

The words from his memorial resonate within me. During the past year, I've come to accept something inside me has died. All of my discontentment, all of my guilt, has disappeared, outshined by the most important lesson Tom ever taught me. I never had a promise to keep; that was never my job, nor was it anyone else's. During the past year, Tom has solidified his own legacy, and it lives on in me, as well as in everyone he has ever touched. And as for Tom's life now, I have faith he is in a better place.

William Everett\nCLAS 2014