The family started down a path with doctors and specialists that led to a diagnosis of autism. While Tommy could not do many things, the family focused on what he could do and on what Tommy loved: school, swimming, playing with his siblings and golfing with his dad.
“Tommy was nonverbal, but he could use hand gestures to show me that he wanted to golf with me,” Dave said. “Our community and our school embraced our family exactly as we were, and so did my company.”
Dave and Sandy did not realize just how much they would need to rely on the support network until Tommy was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. As hard as the family tried to manage this medical condition, a seizure at the age of 14 took Tommy’s life.
As they mourned their loss and celebrated Tommy’s exceptional life, Dave was surrounded by colleagues willing to help in any way they could. And help they did. As Dave returned to work, he appreciated the routine that Tommy taught him to love and found that work helped him stay connected to important people in his life.
“Tommy found joy in the simplest things, and that is a feeling I take with me every single day. I look for the joy,” Dave said. “Because of Tommy I am more patient and able to handle difficult things. I appreciate that my work family continues to support me and remember my son nine years after his death. Tommy gave us all something to celebrate. I am who I am today because of him.”
“Wherever you work,” Dave added, “expect nothing less. Find a place that values your family as much as they value your work. These are two sides of who you are, and you need to bring them together, especially during the most difficult times.”