“Tiger” Tom

My uncle passed away yesterday. The picture above was the last photo I ever made of him. He made me… no, dared me to make the picture.

I had stopped by to visit him while he was in the hospital battling cancer. Considering he was in the fight of his life, he seemed in great spirits. I walked into his hospital room and had brought along my gear, since i was driving my Jeep that day, and didn’t have a top. I couldn’t leave my cameras in the car, so I brought them into the hospital. He was impressed and said “Cool. Now take my picture!” I told him he was crazy. He said, “I dare you to take my picture! Uhhhh… OK.

Here’s a guy with lying in a hospital bed with stage 4 cancer, and he wants his picture taken. I put my camera up to my eye. My uncle sits up in his hospital bed, puts on a grin from here to Texas, and starts posing. Making muscles. Just hamming it up. I could hardly focus because we started laughing hysterically. For the whole 7 frames I was able to capture, we chuckled through all and then some. When we stopped laughing, he deadpanned, “I’m sick, but still look good.” We laughed some more. Didn’t matter how bad it looked. He still had a great disposition and a strong will to live.

I’m happy I brought my cameras into the hospital that day. I will cherish that moment. It was the last time I saw him.

When I was a young boy, my uncle was always around our house. He helped my parents renovate the house when we moved to the suburbs.

I saw him allot back then.

One time my uncle caught me playing with matches. He yelled at me for about twenty minutes, “Don’t ever let me see you do that again!” I thought he was nuts. What could happen? Well…he showed me. When he was a boy, he played with matches. He was burned over 60% of his body. The scars were horrific, but he wasn’t afraid to show anyone if it taught them a lesson.

I never played with matches again.

Over the years I asked about the accident. I imagined it must have been rough. He said it was excruciatingly painful when it happened. He figured if he could live through that, he could survive anything.

He was the most selfless person I have ever known. Every time I ever saw or spoke with him, he always asked about me, my wife, how we are, and how was everyone else. When I’d tell him all was good, his response was always, “I’m glad. You’re a good kid.” He would have given the shirt off his back to help someone. He never asked for anything in return.

He was fearless.

He was a fighter.

He taught me to never, ever give up, no matter what the circumstances.

I will always remember that.

He was my uncle.

He was my friend.

I loved him.

I will miss him.

He was “Tiger” Tom.