The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday ~ Mary Schmich

This saying has always stuck in my head. It seems that as much as we may concern ourselves with our futures, there may be other plans for us – plans over which we have no control. There was a great cloud of sadness that passed over the Hill this weekend. It was the thing referred to by Ms. Schmich, the type of thing that you don’t think could happen and it blindsides you.

Our neighbor and dear friend, Tom French, originally introduced to us as the “mayor” of Sugar Hill, had a stroke while having dinner Thursday evening. This man, (I cannot even begin to tell those of you that have never met him, and to those of you who have, I don’t need to say anything more) is one of the most caring, generous, kind people that I have had the pleasure of knowing in my lifetime. He is outgoing like I could only imagine. He is the type of person that meets you once, listens (I mean really listens) to you and remembers it all. Should he meet you again, years from now or next week, he will recount the details of your conversation and ask about the family, friends or situations that you discussed during that initial conversation. He remembers and he cares. He is a regular visitor to our home and my boys enjoy talking to him and hanging out with him up at the cabin in the woods. For many of the young and older children here, he is a grandfather figure. For some of us, he is a cross between father, grandfather and friend. He is a force, his enthusiasm is contagious, his generosity without limits. He gives freely of himself and always has a story to tell.

Throughout the weekend, our little corner of Vermont became a gigantic web of information. Our phone has been ringing off the hook, much like everyone else’s. Any piece of information or news that any of us received was hungrily passed from person to person. We all prayed and hoped and wished that he would be okay. We received some encouraging news through this “grapevine” of concerned friends and neighbors. He has suffered a massive stroke. He has sustained left sided brain damage and presently has right sided paralysis. He is intubated so his speech is presently unknown. We hope that the swelling of his brain might reduce and take with it some of the paralysis. No one is sure at this point and of course, the danger exists, as it does in any stroke, that he may have another. He does have range of motion in his left side and he has shown signs of recognition and comprehension, responding to his family and caretakers.

We have prayed long and hard. Tom and I have spent the better part of the weekend, sitting around and staring at each other, thinking about Tom. We have known him since we bought this house, actually even before that. Of all the things that anyone could think, this was definitely not it. It was the blindside that struck us all like a slap in the face. It is the type of thing that leaves one struggling with how something like that, something that could rip everything from this man that gave so much of himself to all of us, could happen to such a nice man. It is a scary thing, a reminder that none of us really have control over our fate and that in and of itself is humbling and frightening and saddening. Today, tomorrow, next week one of us might not be here or might not be the person we knew. It brought a profound sense of sadness over me. Sadness for him and his family – sadness for me reminiscent of the stroke suffered by my grandfather and the way that the man that I knew left us that day, never to return. Hopefully, this is not the fate of Tom. He is strong and he is surrounded by love and faith – lots of both.

His family has set up a website to keep everyone apprised of his medical condition and give us all a place to leave our thoughts, prayers and good wishes for his recovery. Perusing through it is simply astounding. Well wishes and prayers are literally coming from around the world. I don’t think there is anyone in our neighborhood that hasn’t left their mark on the site.

If prayers have the ability to heal, then there is no doubt in my mind that this man should be up dancing the jig and singing his heart out in short order. The outpouring of love is amazing. He has truly touched the hearts of everyone that he has ever met.

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