All We Can Do Is Throw A Flower On The Water
A tribute to Tom Bradbury
All we can do is throw a flower on the water,
Look for the sun through the rain.
Lay a little frangipani gentle on the water,
Remember how we loved you.— John Williamson
I wasn't going to pen a tribute to Tom Bradbury. It felt wrong, given how brief our interaction was. But then, when questioning how I could feel so sad about the passing of someone I never met in person, the response from a friend made me realise that it's not the quantity of interaction with a person because the briefest of connections can leave a lasting impact.
"You feel sad because you impacted each other's lives."
It's true. When you hesitantly join online Facebook groups, it's almost like the first day of school. You do a bit of lurking, read a few posts, check out who's who in the zoo.
It doesn't take long to figure out who the popular members are. And let's face it, most of us want to be noticed by the popular ones. We want to impress them and seek their approval as the unofficial welcome into the inner circle.
Tom Bradbury was the popular one. And he used his powers for good. He wasn't selective in his support and kindness. He gave anyone a chance, and often his initial comment or 'like' would trigger others to follow suit. His endorsement of your work mattered because not only was he popular in the community, he was also an incredible talent himself.
There was no inner circle, and that was because of Tom and his relentless inclusivity. His absence will be felt heavily, and though his death has brought the community closer than ever, I can't help by worry that once it is all said and done, there will be a disconnect that never fully repairs itself.
Evidence of his impact can be seen in every Vocal Facebook Group. They are currently flooded with touching recounts of his kindness and friendship.
The tragedy surrounding Tom's passing is almost incomprehensible. To have been taken so violently and so suddenly seems an almost fitting end for such a colourful character. You need only read Tom's work to get an insight into the fascinating, yet tragic life he led. Like most creatives, it was clear he was not without his demons and had experienced more than his share of hardship and loss.
He had a brilliant, imaginative mind. His fiction is what will truly immortalise him in the most bittersweet way. Like most brits, you could tell he was a born storyteller, but he had figured out how to take his craic and translate it captivatingly onto the page—which only speaks more to his incomparable talent.
He was a conversation starter and a thought provoker. He was the embodiment of outside the box thinking. Whenever I would see a notification that he had posted I'd make sure to check it out, because I knew that whether it was the link to his latest story or commentary on the latest challenge results, it would be worth a read. Controversial, maybe, but always entertaining.
Most of my interactions with Tom were simple back and forths on a comment thread, even the occasional healthy debate on a contentious topic. He was never rude and always responsive to what you had to say. He took feedback better than most, even when it wasn't positive.
I had a recent, private exchange with Tom, which is what solidified him as a wonderful human, in my opinion. He reached out to me when I placed second in the SFS Long Thaw category—I'll admit, I was hesitant to check the Facebook groups out of fear that my work would be subjected to the harsh criticism that often follows challenge announcements. I had a small sinking feeling in my gut when I saw the notification on messenger—
"Tom Bradbury wants to send you a message."
Oh god, is he here to tell me that I didn't deserve it?
Of course not. He was far too kind to go out of his way to be mean. But he was also brutally honest and, at times, a harsh critic. This is why when I opened the message from him, I knew I could trust that it was genuine. After all, if he had nothing nice to say, he wouldn't have bothered at all.
I told him about my worries and he cheekily responded that he usually led the charge with those threads—ever the shepherd.
He congratulated me on my win, praised my work (even though he is a far superior fiction writer) and told me that it had reinstated his faith in the judging of the challenges. That he was going to pull a piece he had in the works for a while but couldn't find the motivation to finish. He finished that piece and submitted it for the 'Day in the Life' challenge. He won second place and messaged me again, thanking me.
That was Tom.
Thanking me? For his incredible work that I had absolutely nothing to do with. In his post in one of the groups, he referred to me as a friend. And I'd be lying if that small gesture didn't make my day.
You were a friend to me too, Tom. I only wish I had told you so. I wish I didn't cut the conversation short for fear I was annoying you with my replies. I now realise you would've been more than happy to chat with me.
That's my brief, but important anecdote about Tom. Because it speaks volumes to his character. A small exchange that I will be able to hold dear as a memory.
In the parts of my mind that are still processing, and sitting in denial, I'd like to believe that he isn't gone. But rather, he has pulled off the grand illusion that will allow him to peacefully retreat into his secret life. Just as he was depicted in the wonderful fiction serial by Arpad Nagy—
We all process grief in different ways. I turn to music, I always have.
I'll get lines from different songs stuck on a loop in my mind when I'm thinking about someone I've lost. I've always been more for lyrics than a melody.
I'm sure you know the songs I'm talking about. The ones with those powerful lines that penetrate your subconscious even when you're deep in thought about something else. The distinct mix of words that make your ears prick up and stop what you're doing and start the song over so you can really listen to it. I've compiled a playlist at the end of this article made up of the songs that have been on loop in my mind since I heard the news of Tom's passing. It's my hope that comforting lyrics and good music will offer some therapy to those who are feeling the impact of his loss.
RIP Tom. You will be dearly missed, my friend.
If you made it this far, be sure to check out Tom's profile. Choose a story and share it. Through his captivating words, and with the magic of the internet, he will live on.
To quote Tom from this article by Arpad Nagy—
“I write because I want to leave behind evidence that I had an impact. That my time here offered more than just working for someone else, even working for myself, more than just working to produce money. I find much more fulfilment in work that produces something tangible, something valuable, something that contributes to life. Like raising sheep. Caring for another creature, a family of animals. Work that gives you something in return much more than a paycheck. Writing does that for me. I want to leave behind something that says, “look, this man had more to say, more to offer, more to share, and more to do here than just live to earn a dollar” I have stories I want to tell. Imaginations I want to stir. I want to be inspired and inspiring. I write because I am more than just a cog in the mechanism. I write because Art matters and Art is hard to attain. I write because it’s a lofty goal to be immortal. I write because the words that float around dreams, ideas, and imagination never stop coming and I need to put them somewhere. I write because there have always been storytellers that weave together legends, history, fairy tales, teachings that tie our humanity together and there is room for more chapters to be added."
About the Creator
I have too many thoughts. I write to clear some headspace. | Instagram: @thelittlepoet_jw |
"To die, would be an awfully big adventure"—Peter Pan | Vale Tom Brad
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