Sunday, June 27, 2010

Remembrance from another sideline Dad

My favorite part of this remembrance is the line that Thai's sudden, senseless death inspired others "to live the life that we want to live now and not squander the precious, yet limited time we have with our family and friends." My connection is too close to this situation to feel that comforting message, but I have felt it other times when a tragedy has touched me, but not so closely.

My last words to Thai were an utterly mundane good night and the last time I heard him truly alive was to be awoken by the comforting, familiar sound of his bike shoes clattering out the door. It did make me realize that you never really know when you will have your last words with someone, so striving to keep your interactions with those you love as positive as possible is always worthwhile. Of course, as I've spent a few mornings this summer scolding my kids out the door to their 8:30 swim practice, I realize that's not always an attainable goal. But always something to work towards . . . Here's Neal Nemeroff's rememberance:


I know since the tragic events of the last two weeks you have received messages of love, support and memories providing a foundation of strength helping you and the boys get through each day. I am fairly sure that my message to you will do little to ease your pain, but maybe my perspective on Thai and the meaning of all this will offer some solace in a truly incomprehensible tragedy.

The truth of the matter is I did not know Thai as a close friend. We have talked every month or so over the last 4 years; sometimes a “hey how things going” and other times an intimate conversation about our kids, while still other times more in depth conversations that oftentimes went a bit over my head. The healthcare debates in particular, early in the basketball season last year, would subsequently lead me to carefully choose my seat for the next game as far away from Thai as possible so I could actually watch the boys play. The frequency of my conversations with Thai would ebb and flow in correlation with the sports seasons that Nathan and JJ shared. With that said, I am not the most emotional guy in the world, so I have been at a loss to understand why the tears have been uncontrollably streaming from my eyes since Memorial Day. I found myself playing hooky from work last week wanting to be close to home, incessantly checking my email for community updates from you on Thai’s status and constantly thinking about what JJ and the rest of the your family were going through; my heart ached.

Katherine, in the soul searching that a senseless tragedy like this facilitates, I have realized that I truly admired Thai and I am pissed that I did not take advantage of all he had to offer and get to know him more closely. I am sure your perspective on Thai was obviously quite different than mine, but in my eyes he exhibited qualities that I admire and value most: Passion above All, Family Man, Quick Wit, Unparalleled Intellectual Curiosity and Compassion. These are all traits that make a great man and a great father. Nobody can deny, whether it is his very close friends and family, or me, a good friend, that these were traits (among others) that became the foundation of Thai’s persona.

Furthermore, in my eyes, Thai was the resident Bethesda Renaissance man. He was fully versed (and at times full of hot air) in a wide swath of subjects. Being of a more simple mind I appreciated his thoughtful approach to having fun at soccer (water guns – I mean who could have imagined); the idea of I.V.s at Starbuck’s so we would not have to drink the coffee to get the caffeine; his guts in buying a boat online and worrying about how to get it to the East Coast later; and his truly unmatched understanding of global economics that were often way over my head. Regardless of the subject matter or event, however, it was his passion in delivery and substance that always resonated with me. Nothing he ever engaged in was employed half-ass; everything was with conviction. He couldn’t even have a mild heart attack. He had to do it with gusto.

Finally, Katherine I have spoke to many Bethesda men over the last 2 weeks that cannot bring themselves to talk about Thai without tears welling in our eyes. The reasons are obvious, as past sons we know the value that our fathers have played in our lives and the compassion we feel for your boys is overwhelming. Moreover, and selfishly, Thai’s death reminded us of our own mortality. This incomprehensible situation has ignited a new passion in many Bethesda men to live the life that we want to live now and not squander the precious, yet limited time we have with our family and friends. These are not just my words, but those shared by many within the community that I have talked to. Because of this tragedy, hugs between Bethesda men have been rampant the last two weeks. I know Thai would get a big kick out of that on many levels. This is not a fleeting response. We (the Bethesda community) now want to live the “Thai Way”. The Thai Way reminds us to live with passion and compassion. To each of us that manifests itself in different ways, but to all of us it means we will become better because of Thai.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter I am sure my message to you will do very little to ease your heartbreak, and in fact I guess this message is more of a catharsis for me. I think, however it important for you to know that Thai’s untimely death yet tragic, is not completely meaningless. Where memories of Thai will remain in your heart and new memories will spawn from your sons’ eyes as they grow into men like Thai, Thai’s memory and will be served by all that knew him by following his lead of living life the “Thai Way”.

My deepest sympathies,

Neal Nemeroff

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