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"Those Who Tell the Stories..."

"When you stop talking about the people you have lost, it is like they have died twice."

By Judey Kalchik Published 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - July 2023

August 8, 2021: Vocal's Subscribe option went live. When I saw it at 11:29 PM I rushed to the profile of the person I most-wanted to read as-soon-as-possible-every-time!

I hit the Subscribe button, then made a Facebook post on the Vocal Creator Support Group page (now dba The Medium Writer and Vocal Creator Support Group).

I urged everyone to share their profiles so we could subscribe to each other. And I let Tom Bradbury (Tom Brad on Vocal) know that he had his first subscriber. By August 15 he had his 100th subscriber.

excited post by author

On September 27, 2021 Tom died.

There are several stories about Tom on Vocal, including one from me, but this is more than a story about a man; it’s a story about writers, about the families we build, and the enduring power of the words we write.

Vocal 2021 to Now

Vocal has changed a lot since 2021. Subscribing was something new, and we were tickled it was on the way- even though we weren't sure what it meant. There was no subscription feed (that came about when the app was launched), but we wanted to subscribe nonetheless.

There were no comments on stories on the Vocal platform, either. No way to know what people liked, or disliked, no feedback. We just dropped the stories and shared them widely, hoping word word get back to us somehow.

That's one of the reasons the Facebook groups were so meaningful- we communicated with each other there, asked questions, got a second-look, rejoiced, and commiserated among ourselves.

It’s possible that we all bonded through Facebook because we couldn’t do it through the Vocal platform. The habits of leaving comments and giving feedback on Vocal stories were made through the Facebook Vocal communities. We were just as, if not more, likely to read and comment on stories shared in our groups than to post our own stories.

We collaborated on story series, gave each other prompts, edited and audited each other’s work before submitting, and commiserated during what could be many many days before a submitted story went live.

There were several folks then with which I interacted several times a day, many of them I still do so with today. Why was Tom my ride-or-die Creator? Oh, honey, for so many reasons.

Why Today's Vocal Creators Should Know About Tom

Tom was only on Vocal for 8 months, but in those 8 months he changed the way his Vocal family felt about writing, Vocal, and each other. In fact, the way I interact with the platform and its Creator writers is due to those 8 months in 2021.

These are some of the things that knit us together, and a final reminder from him that I received this week.

Honesty and Transparency Show You Are Real

Tom could get frustrated by the limitations of the platform and lack of communication about why things worked the way they did. Sharing that frustration, and from a talented and supportive writer, let us know we weren’t alone.

He didn’t just gripe, though- he encouraged us all to remember our why and stay the course.

Post from Tom

Find Reasons to Celebrate

Tom encouraged Vocal creators to set a monthly goal or two… or seven. How many reads are you going to get? How many reads will you give? What have you learned from your writing? Where did you share your work? What would you change?

Encouraging the group

Read For Read Doesn’t Build The Community

As groups grow, especially if they are public, sharing can devolve into a ‘read mine and then I’ll read yours.’ That wasn’t what our groups did, and it wasn’t what Tom demonstrated. He found ways to encourage creators to share and to interact. Our least read, our most hearted, our personal favorites, the ones we think may need redone; share and read more than you share.

Post from Tom after a Challenge was announced

Creators are More Than Their Work

Often we pour our lives out in stories, pain in our poetry, passion in our prose. In the eagerness to share it can be more a ‘See ME!’ as we promote our writing. The groups encouraged us to know each other as people, as friends.

Place was important to Tom. Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, he was not in his home country, and he yearned to be back.

-and you know, this could be a writing prompt, too

Still Teaching Me Even Now

This week I watched something I hadn’t thought possible: I saw Tom’s funeral mass, recorded in England and observed now because Tom’s ashes were returned to the place his heart never left; Tom returned home.

Although I thought I was done crying over the loss of this man who became so dear to me so quickly I found that grief pouring down my face even before his brother gave the eulogy.

Because much of the eulogy was the reading of Tom’s first Vocal story, in it’s entirety.

Tom moved to France with his father, respecting his father’s decision for privacy when he became ill, and caring for him during his last days.

He started writing on Vocal to tell the stories of isolation, of longing, of connection. But, especially, of remembrance.

Tom’s brother shared the story, which I hope you will read, and echoed Tom’s words (which are the subtitle to this piece) as he asked all in attendance to use the link to Tom’s Vocal profile and read Tom’s stories.

What we do here matters. Even if we never win a Challenge, or get a Top Story, or have 100 subscribers, or place on the Leaderboard, or by whatever measure there is or will be.

Words have power. Writing them, reading them, commenting on them, encouraging them; all of those actions imbue the words with the sacred solemnity of who we are. Our creativity, our desperation, our humor, despair, compassion, grief, wonder, and joy.

Because, as Tom said- Those that tell the stories rule society. And, as he worked through the pain of his father’s death, he reminded his reader that we keep those we care about with us by talking about them.

So, since his bio encouraged us to share his stories if they make us laugh or cry- and they did both yesterday- I share Tom’s with you, along with the lessons about being a good Vocal community member.

I’m ever so glad you are home, Tom; may you rest easy and your memory live on as a blessing.

Tom’s bio

Please let me know your thoughts and leave a comment.

extended family

About the Creator

Judey Kalchik

It's my time to find and use my voice.

Poetry, short stories, memories, and a lot of things I think and wish I'd known a long time ago.

You can also find me on Medium

And please follow me on Threads, too!

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Comments (35)

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  • GeekyOwenabout a month ago

    Tom's passing was a deeply emotional moment, and even during his funeral, his influence was felt. His brother reading Tom's first Vocal story as part of the eulogy symbolized how Tom's words and spirit will continue to touch lives, transcending time and space.

  • Rose Smithabout a month ago

    "In 'Those Who Tell the Stories...,' the author beautifully underscores the power of storytellers as custodians of human experiences. This thought-provoking piece celebrates the art of weaving narratives that bridge cultures, transcend time, and preserve the essence of our shared existence."

  • Veronica Coldiron2 months ago

    I will definitely have to check out Tom's work! I love this article! I gave up on having a bunch of subscribers and reads shortly after my mother passed and haven't gone after them like I should because just having joined this community of writing friends is catharsis enough. LOVED this!

  • Sheila L. Chingwa2 months ago

    I find this platform so warming now. I remember the beginning when there was so Little. Tom cheered all levels on.

  • Gerald Holmes2 months ago

    Thank you so much for writing this, Judey. Just reading the comments, from Tom, that you have included here, has brought a tear to my eye. He is greatly missed.

  • Chloe Gilholy2 months ago

    I want to make the dandelion lemonade to his recipe.

  • MANOJ K 2 months ago

    Judey Kalchik keep it up very good visit my posts and subscribe mine too good luck

  • Lamar Wiggins2 months ago

    After I read this article, I went straight to his profile and read - A Cowboy is More Than it's Stetson. It was remarkable. I felt I got to know a good part of who he was as a writer and a person through one article. It would have been nice if the community was called Stetson. That would have been the ultimate tribute. Who knows, it could still happen. Thank you for creating and sharing this. Keeping his name alive is working because more of us know about him now and will read his work. 💖🙏🏽

  • Gina C.2 months ago

    What a beautiful tribute piece, Judey. I wasn't on Vocal when Tom was here, but you definitely made me see why he was so loved by all. What an inspiration!

  • What a beautiful way to pay tribute and pass along words of wisdom and inspiration. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Lilly Cooper2 months ago

    I am sorry for your loss, the world's loss. This is a beautiful tribute.

  • Linda Rivenbark2 months ago

    continued...(accidentally sent the comment too soon). We sometimes feel like we know them better than some people we see often. I think that losing Tom from the Vocal community, we have learned how to appreciate each other more and not take each other for granted.

  • Linda Rivenbark2 months ago

    I have tears in my eyes and my throat feels tight as I just finished reading your story about Tom, Vocal, all of us as a massive and diversified community. Having been blessed to discover Vocal and get to know so many amazing artists, including you and including Tom. I have come to believe that in opening up to others we have not had the pleasure of meeting in py

  • Thavien Yliaster2 months ago

    May the good that he has brought forward continue to remain instilled.

  • Shanica2 months ago

    I read the title and instantly I had to hit like.

  • Dana Stewart2 months ago

    I didn't know Tom but have read some of his works. While he was a gifted writer and storyteller, also in his legacy is his ability to lift others up, remind them to keep perspective. This piece is such a good reminder, Judey - for us to keep going. Thank you and a hearty Congratulations for Top Story 🎉

  • 🤍🕊️RIP- Tom🥹❤️💯This is so Beautiful and Congratulations on your Deserved Top Story🎉💯🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Choked up!!!❤️❤️💕 Congratulations on Top Story!!!🥰

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    There it is. Congrats on the TS. So well deserved.

  • Heather Lunsford2 months ago

    Beautiful tribute. He was before my time here but I really enjoy the supportive community he helped build here. Thank you for sharing your well written tribute with us.

  • Mariann Carroll2 months ago

    Congratulations on Top Story Judey 💕

  • J. S. Wade2 months ago

    From one who knew him so well, your tribute is magnificent Judey. Thank you 💙 I’ve debated writing an article for the men’s community in his honor. My difficulty, 9/27 is the day my son died in 2018, I woke that day reliving the horror of loss and then learned of Tom. Somehow, the two, on the same date, have meaning, a connection of loss for different reasons but yet the same. Still sorting it.

  • Caroline Jane2 months ago

    Lovely tribute Judey. ❤️

  • Excellent tribute Judey

  • I never got to know Tom, but I'm glad that you did & that you treasure his memory so fully. I'm going to have to look into his catalog if for no other reason than you hold him in such high regard. Peace to you, Judey. Thanks for sharing him with us. R.I.P. Tom.

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