The Passing of Tom Sexton
Note: Mike Sexton has just announced that his brother Tom Sexton has passed away. He died of pancretic cancer. Tom will be remembered as one of the most joyous people some of us have ever known. He will sorely be missed. The following article appeared when Tom’s illness was first announced a months ago.
One extraordinary moment in someone’s life can tell you a lot.
Consider what once happened to Tom Sexton.
Years ago, Tom was a professional ballroom dancer. He even competed in national dance contests. From an early age, Tom always loved the art of dance, probably because it’s such a wonderful expression of self and symmetry. Don’t be fooled by Tom, who now resembles a teddy bear. Back then, he was in extraordinary physical shape, a carry over from his college days as an athlete and gymnast.
One time Tom was competing in the finals of a prestigious ballroom dance competition. The live performance was filmed. That footage was later shown at a party I attended here in Las Vegas. I had the rare treat of viewing the video years ago along with a room full of people. And, I’ve never forgotten it since then.
Tom and his dance partner held the audience’s attention in total captivity. The couple spun and circled and turned and twisted transforming their waltz into an unmistakeable esplanade of coordinated splendor. The music and dance lasted for perhaps five minutes. But in reality what we were all watching was the consummation of months of mistakes and missteps, the end result of an arduous and even painful period of practice and personal sacrifice. The dance appeared to be going spectacularly well.
Then, disaster struck.
Late in the performance, Tom slipped and fell. He tumbled down and crashed to the floor. Such a glaring misstep was highly unusual, especially at that level. Tom’s trip and subsequent fall meant the duo was finished. They had no shot of scoring high or advancing to the next round of the competition. Tom’s devastating fall meant the end. For them, the competition was over.
Tom was sprawled out on the dance floor laying flat on his back. His partner stood above him, not knowing quite what to do. The crowd watched to see what would happen next.
Those few moments which followed have became my indelible impression of Tom Sexton. They reflect the extraordinary manifestation what makes this wonderful man so special, to so many.
Gallant, totally unfazed, with unbridled determination, Tom lifted himself from the floor. Within seconds, right on beat and up to tempo, he latched onto his partner’s arms. In an instant, the duo began circling and spinning around the dance floor again — only this time with even more robustness than before. And even amidst that majesty, what we all saw that night wasn’t a recovery but a beaming smile upon Tom’s face that could be seen from farthest seat away.
That smile. Tom’s smile.
That special one-of-a-kind smile that’s become Tom’s personal trademark, shared with friends and strangers alike. An infectious smile that’s gift to us all with no strings attached.
I’ve seen that remarkable video only once and it was many years ago. But that memorable portrait of Tom picking himself up off the dance floor and returning to his routine without missing a beat, and then celebrating that unusual moment like he’d won the contest instead of losing it is the way I think of Tom.
It’s the way I will always see Tom. It’s the way Tom should forever be remembered.
The full previous article can be read HERE.