Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Dash

Yes, sadly I have neglected my blog once again. I have been busy enjoying the summer and at times I feel like we are busier than during the school year...but as I type that I'm thinking that maybe life is just busy year-round.

I know the following pictures are heart wrenching, but I feel it is important to share them.

My father-in-law, with the family's input, has placed the monument (I really dislike the other word for it now that I've been through this) at the cemetery. It was a long process because we all wanted it to be special, and so he went to great lengths to ensure that.
I am going to retell what Thomas did on Caroline's bathroom wall a week before the accident since it is so significant to the monument.
It was December 30th 2008, I believe, when I went to a "game night" at my good friend Laura's house. Thomas gave Caroline a bath that night before putting her to bed. When I went into her bathroom the next day, this is what I saw:
For those of you who have not had biology class in a few years (or never understood it the first time, like me) this is the Kreb cycle. Thomas was teaching our not quite 2 year old daughter the innerworkings of the cells in our bodies. (He was also practicing drawing if from memory to teach it to his AP Biology class.)
This drawing of the cycle shows how our cells use oxygen to give us LIFE. Thomas took his job teaching high school students very seriously, and he very well probably thought Caroline could handle this science since she is a very advanced little girl ;-)
So, of course, those of you who know me well, know that I do not scour the bathroom walls on a weekly (or monthly...) basis. Thank goodness. Less than a week later the accident occurred.
I was in such a daze for a while so I really don't know or remember how Thomas's family saw the bathroom wall, but they for sure knew the significance (they are all doctors.)
Thomas's older brother has since presented a couple of lectures to Thomas's former students at Har-ber High in their biology classes using Mr. Culp's drawing as the focal point of the lesson. It was a tribute lecture that involved life lessons as well as the importance of understanding biology and why Mr. Culp had a passion for education.
Thomas knew the importance of living life to the fullest. He knew also how life is fueled.
So this leads me to the pictures of the monument.
The front includes lots of words to describe Thomas: son, father, husband, biker, musician for example. It also includes the Spanish and Marshallese words for "friend" because he had such a passion for his ESL Biology class students.
(there isn't an image on the background, the picture turned out like that because of reflections):And the back includes the picture from our bathroom wall. I love that it is in his own handwriting. It also has his signature in the lower right hand corner:
I remember as a teenager hearing that poem about how our entire life is what happens in the little "dash" between the dates of your birth and death. It made an impact on me then. And I think about those dashes when I visit cemeteries. I would wonder how the person spent his or her dash and I would wonder if anyone was still alive that remembered or loved the person.
I think my father in law did an amazing job on the monument. I know anyone passing by it would be able to tell how some of Thomas's dash was spent and how much he is loved.
What's even better than that, though, is because of the kind of person he was, he made lasting impressions on everyone he met and the impact he had on his students and Caroline (and Baby T with my help) will affect the future forever.

From the "dash" poem:
"What matters is how we live and love And how we spend our dash."

I would like to add that it also matters how we are going to spend our time after the final date.

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.


  1. Bonnie, it is beautiful and such a tribute to his life. I didn't know Thomas but I know from you and from watching your children and listening to his students...he DID live life to the fullest. He made the most of that dash. What a very fitting tribute to him. It really is "his last lecture" for his students...always a teacher even in his goodbyes!

  2. Beautifully written, Bonnie. Your family has certainly created a wonderful memorial for Thomas.

  3. Perfect. I love it.
    Caroline Dockery

  4. That is amazing Bonnie. Absolutely perfect!

  5. Thank you for sharing this with us. It's a beautiful monument and a touching story. We're thinking of you here. Love you!

  6. That is so BEAUTIFUL. Really. My friend's husband passed away three years ago at age 35 and on his day this year we went and saw his monument (I like that word and will pass it on). One thing that struck me was that it was so handsome. It was that same dark stone, and she said it reminded her of him being dressed up in his business suits for work. She wanted something that "looked" like him. And even though obviously a monument can't look like a person, it matches him.

    I think that monument is gorgeous, and is a special and great way to capture Thomas's life!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing that, what a wonderful monument and so very special

  8. tears. love it. love you more!

  9. That is the most beautiful monument (it is an awful word) that I've ever seen. Amazing that it's in his own writing, depicting his passions, from a special time with your daughter...amazing.

  10. A "friend" praying for you in MDAugust 16, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    I am not even sure how I found your blog after you lost your husband but I prayed for you often and checked in. I have not checked in as often lately, but what a blessing to come and see how God has been sustaining you and your family. What an amazing monument! May God continue to bless and sustain you and your precious little ones. May you continue to give Him the glory and continue to rely on Him.

  11. Bonnie, I guess you could say we are friends of friends...HA! I have a good friend Ashley Keylor and she has been telling me about you for a while. I have been praying for you and your family and occasionally read your blog. All this to say I will be teaching at Mt. Comfort this year and noticed Caroline is on my class list. I thought that was too neat. I guess I will get to know your sweet family even more this year!!!

  12. Love this beautiful, simple, and sweet tribute to great man. It's obvious that you are doing great things with your dash.