A week ago we lost a friend. TC Cheever passed away on January 16th from an extremely quick battle with pancreatic cancer.
I’ll be honest – I did not know TC that well. He was a part of (will always be a part of) ImprovBoston, the theater where John performs comedy and directs an improv show. He knew TC for a long time. Many people at the theater had known TC for a very long time. I knew him for a few years, seeing him out at karaoke when John and I first started dating and also at the theater here and there over the last 5 years. Despite not knowing TC very well he would always address me by name, showing a genuine interest in me and what I was up to lately. I never assumed that I would be embraced into John’s theater community. As “wife-of-John” it’s hard to form a bond with folks you only peripherally know. I’m perfectly ok with it; I’ve never wanted to intrude and that’s not really my world anyway. But TC was kind to me and I was always grateful for that.
I knew him as a force: physically commanding with a beautiful singing voice, warm eyes, and powerful laugh. He was one of those people that filled up a room by just being.
John and I saw TC just before the holidays in Central Square right near the theater. Ever since he passed away I have been trying so hard to remember all of the details of our 5 minute conversation. To me, it has seemed so important to freeze it in my mind, to hold it down, to not let it slip away. We asked how he was doing and he told us his doctor wanted him to start another round of treatment but he wanted to wait until after the holidays. He asked about our holiday plans, interested and engaged. Smiling. Always smiling. I envy that strength. Being able to smile after all of it. I would be so drained, so tired of being brave. I would stay home and not want to be seen. Really, that’s what I remember so vividly about that brief conversation. That TC wasn’t allowing his cancer to best him, to take away who he was.
John told me in early January that TC took a turn for the worse and that his doctors let his friends and family know the end was coming. A few days went by and somehow TC was still hanging on. We waited. The outpouring of messages, anecdotes, pictures, and memories flooded Facebook. It was amazing. But it was sad. It’s hard to be helpless. What can you do? We banded together with what we knew – making the memories tangible so that they wouldn’t slip away. Our strength came from remembering. Our strength came from TC.
When he passed I went through the obvious emotions of grief and sadness. Then I felt guilty – I didn’t know him that well and so many other people were infinitely closer to him than me. Was my grief selfish? What about his family? What about his children? I felt small and insignificant in the face of how tragic and final these things are. How unfair cancer is and how you don’t get to chose if you recover from it. I am still angry at how cold and arbitrary that is. But that’s life. You do get to chose what anchors you to the past and future. Anyone who knew TC knows that his presence is still here with us. It was larger than life and will remain larger than death. In the end, I am just so thankful to have known him even a little bit. You take those kinds of people with you. Into your heart and soul whether they were close to you or not. I guess we didn’t really lose anything. We love you, TC, and we miss you, but you are not lost. You are forever.