On the eve of All Saints Day, I contemplate tomorrow, All Souls Day, my 65th birthday. Yesterday, my wife Martha and I spent a lovely afternoon with old friends, and honored our friend Warren, who was no longer among us. And we thought about others who had left our world too soon.

Our host Maryann asked us to bring a small personal item of someone we wanted to honor. We brought Theodore. A week earlier we had attended a graveside service for the not-yet-15-year-old young man who died in a tragic fire in Camden earlier this year. Our friend Tom shared sweet memories of his son, and Martha and I left with some of Theodore’s ashes in a small, smooth metal tube that hung from a necklace.

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Theodore Hedstrom

Tom started the service by telling the group gathered on a warm late October afternoon to “Please lean in on your loved ones now.”

He continued: “Theodore had a calm nature. He was usually a quiet presence. One thing I remember best and miss most is his gentle touch. We would be standing in line somewhere, or watching his older brothers play sports, or sitting around a campfire, and Theodore would gently lean against me. It was the most gentle and affectionate touch you can imagine. He never said anything when he did it. He just leaned in and that expressed more than any words could have. He did it to his sister Pearl sitting in our San Juan hotel lobby four days before he died, and he did it to me standing at the Sea Bright dam three days before he died — the last time I saw him alive. He did it his whole life. I am sure some of his family and friends remember it. If you are here with someone you love, please lean in on them now.”

Theodore was special, comfortable in his own skin — when asked if he wanted to be called Ted or Teddy he would respond “Theodore is fine.” He made everyone around him feel special and he had a way of inclusion that very few people master in a lifetime.

More excerpts from the service follow, to honor Theodore and to convey the point that people remember not what you tell them, but how you made them feel. Theodore was a master of that.

Tom said: “We do not know how long we have on this earth. We do not know how long the people we love will be with us. I was blessed to have Theodore in my life for almost 15 years, and yet I want so much more. I mourned for all the things you want for your child and do not even know you want them until they are taken away. The excitement and heartaches that come with romantic love, driving, college, careers, family, and all the struggles and joys that life brings. I have learned that life’s struggles are as important and defining as life’s successes. I have learned that love and affection are directly related to grief and heartache. I grieve for Theodore so much because I loved him so much, and I am grateful for it.

“Theodore was born March 17, 2006. A Saint Patrick’s Day baby, Theodore always considered himself lucky. He was born 10 pounds and 11 ounces, but he was in my pocket from the start. We were both quiet by nature, and that shared appreciation of unspoken communication made us close. His calm personality was infectious. Theodore shared contentment without words. We should all be so lucky to have those quiet moments with people we love. He was big, chubby, quiet, and snuggly. He loved being outside. When I was working in the yard, he would sit outside and watch me, quiet and content to be close. He loved sitting with us on many sunny fall and winter days, facing south with our backs to the sea wall at Georgianna McCabe’s Sherman’s Point property while his brothers flipped rocks looking for crabs. He developed a lifelong love for beaches and water at that young age.

“When Theodore turned 1, he had a Superman cake for his birthday. His desire to be with and keep up with his brothers was strong. He was still big and chubby with shockingly blonde, unkempt hair. He had a deep voice and I remember telling my brothers he was going to be a heartbreaker someday; he would say such sweet things to his mother and me. He was the Flash for Halloween, settling for one of the lesser superheroes, but he didn’t care as long as he was part of the group. He burned his arm on the woodstove while I was at work, but he was so tough even with all those bandages. Still happy.

“When Theodore turned 2, he had a football cake. His older brothers were playing youth football, and this somehow got him closer to that. He was independent, confident, snuggly, quiet, and thoughtful. Pearl was born and she brought an extra intensity into the house, but Theodore was so patient and sweet with her. They immediately developed a close relationship that endured his whole life. We went to Hawaii for the Ironman race. Theodore was determined to learn how to surf. He would stand on a boogie board, right where the small waves broke and hope he could catch one. We rented him a small surfboard and he practiced for hours next to the Kona pier; I remember holding his hand. Two-year-olds don’t really surf, but he was so happy. We went to the rain forest and he made up a song about a banana tree that I know his siblings can still sing. He was a Ninja Turtle for Halloween; again, ecstatic to be part of the group.

“When Theodore turned 3, he had a Surfs Up birthday; the movie about the surfing penguins. I have watched it again a couple of times since he died and I know why Theodore loved it. He had a lifelong ambition to surf, and even on the night he died, while he was snowboarding with Cameron at the Snow Bowl, he told Cameron he liked snowboarding but he would really like to someday live somewhere where he could surf every day. He was developing his love for animals, and he especially loved to look at and talk about birds. He would speculate about what the bird was thinking or why the bird was doing what it was doing. He did the same thing with all animals, and I remember sitting on top of Megunticook a few years ago with him, watching a field mouse, and he just loved to look at and talk about what that little mouse was doing.

“He loved his little wheelbarrow, and when he was 3 I was finishing up the construction of the building that he eventually died in, and I remember him with his little wheelbarrow and me with my big wheelbarrow backfilling that building. He was always in my pocket. He and I built a birdhouse. I still have it, though it is in rough shape. He loved that birdhouse and was so proud of it. And even when squirrels moved into it, he was proud that he had made a home for squirrels and he would talk about how much they loved their little house. He was Batman for Halloween and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone happier. Martha Brower sent us a card that said something like “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, then be Batman.” And that was Theodore, so happy to be Batman.

“When Theodore turned 4, he had a King Arthur birthday. He loved King Arthur and every night, after I got done reading to the kids in bed, we would turn on a King Arthur CD and, although the CD was only about 80 minutes long, we never heard the end. We were always long asleep before the CD finished. Theodore had a little red scooter salvaged from the dump. He loved that scooter and he would scoot all over our neighborhood and into town. He would scoot it down the grass hill at Harbor Park.

“He wanted to go to school so badly with his brothers. He even tried to sneak on the school bus once or twice. Despite his disappointment when the school bus left, he was a loving and patient brother to Pearl. They would play all day. They had a little dog stuffy that they called “yo dog” because Pearl struggled to say the word little, and it came out sort of like “yo.” To this day in our family if you refer to something as “yo,” everyone knows you are saying it is little. Pearl and Theodore grew so close and stayed that way for the rest of his life. At Halloween he was a member of The Incredibles.

“When Theodore turned 5, he had a school bus birthday cake, and his dream of going to school with his brothers came true. In August, he went to his Uncle Chris’s bachelor party at Grand Lake Stream. He was so proud to be a part of that group, and he always had a special connection to Uncle Chris, his godfather.  He learned to ride a bike and a rip stick. He was a determined kid.”

“At 6, Theodore continue to develop his love for animals.  He caught turtles and snakes and played with them gently until he let them go. He learned to snowboard at the Snow Bowl. Theodore and Cameron took to calling each other “best buddy,” and together they really were best buddies, but never to the exclusion of their siblings, and Theodore was, as ever, especially kind to Pearl. He loved school and he swam on the Sailfish swim team.

“At 7, Theodore was building lifelong friendships and many of those friends are here today. He broadened his friendship with Martha Brower and was proud to receive his first communion. He had a pair of sandals he loved because they simply said the word “sports” on them. We moved into our new house at 24 Mount Battie St., and Theodore shared a room with Cameron. We took the first of two family trips to Culebra, Puerto Rico, and Theodore again affirmed his love of the beach and the water, and I now imagine an adult Theodore surfing in Puerto Rico. He took his first snowboarding trip to Tuckerman’s Ravine. He was a tough, brave little guy.

“At 8 years old, Theodore loved reading. He read the Harry Potter series and the Percy Jackson series. He played football for the Five Town Jammers, and he started playing hockey for the Maine Coast Storm. He had a natural affinity for hockey, even before he knew how to skate. When we would watch Connor swim or Brady play football we would say “they have the eye of the tiger”; those certain moments where you know they are going to make the play or win the race. Theodore didn’t have that edge, but you couldn’t have Theodore‘s personality and “the eye of the tiger.” He was the steadiest, calmest, kind person I have ever known.

“At 9, Theodore played minor league baseball. He preferred catcher and first base, but I always knew he was going to be a pitcher someday. Unlike me, he threw with a long, elegant arm motion, built for pitching. He loved being with animals and we had our good friend Kate’s dog at our house often and Theodore loved having Persaeus in our house.

“At 10, Theodore started middle school. He was happy to be in the same school with Cameron. He played saxophone in the school band. He continued to play hockey for the Storm, and he moved up to Little League baseball. He was a Knoxer, just like Connor and Brady, and he was proud of it.”

“At 11 years old, Theodore joined the middle school golf team. Golf was a great sport for Theodore with his calm personality. Golf was something Theodore and I could do together, and we often played nine holes at Goose River, walking next to each other and saying very little, sharing contentment in each other’s company. He continued to love to read. He read the Cirque du Freak series, and he read them all a second time before he died. It was his favorite book series. After he died, I read the book series, and I understand why he liked it: vampires and adventure. My nephew Dexter read the series too, and it is something we both share with Theodore now.

“When he was 12, Theodore, Pearl and I went to Disney World. Being with them, being so close for that week, and the pictures and videos that we have will be in my memory forever. I still have Theodore‘s autograph book from Disney World. At an age when he was starting to turn into a teenager, he was all kid for that week. He was fearless on the largest waterslides in Florida.

“We took a trip to Minneapolis to visit my brother John and his family. We had one epic day that Theodore loved, with Vikings football in the afternoon, and Twins baseball at night, with a big restaurant meal in between. We went to several Red Sox games, but Theodore and Pearl’s favorites were the Sea Dogs. We always had seats close to the field, and they really felt at home at the stadium. Multiple times they were selected to participate in the between-inning contests on the field, including one when Theodore and Quincy memorably beat Pearl and Katy in a pizza frisbee toss.

“At 13, Theodore set up his own bedroom with a gaming chair and an Xbox. We played catch, golfed, and snowboarded. Grandma came to stay with us during the pandemic. Theodore set up a jump for his mountain bike in the yard. I still have the video of him going over it. We visited grand Lake Stream to see the new puppies at Weatherby’s Lodge. A common theme throughout Theodore’s life, at least one trip to Grand Lake Stream every year. He enjoyed peacefully kayaking, fishing, and catching turtles. He would wheel a kayak across the street, to the Seabright Dam, and cast off onto the Megunticook River, on his own, and the great people at the Coastal Mountains Land Trust have erected a beautiful granite bench at that location for Theodore.

“At 14, Theodore started high school at Camden Hills. He, along with Connor and Pearl, surprised me with a kitten on Father’s Day. We named her Ash and Theodore loved her. Theodore loved all animals, especially cats, and he died with his mother’s old cat, Puff, in his loft, as Puff could not get down the ladder without Theodore’s help.

“He took up sailing with friends in the last summer of his life. He spent a few days on Penobscot Bay and some nights sleeping in their sailboat on Camden Harbor. He played on the golf team and enjoyed it. He was a good student, despite the difficulties of school during the COVID pandemic. He was a hippy for Halloween, and we had a campfire in our yard. We had a wonderful last Christmas and everyone enjoyed using the new hot tub with frozen hair.

“The week before he died we took a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Theodore loved the electric scooters he could rent on the city streets. A couple of mornings I was surprised to find that he was up before me, riding a scooter on the streets before they got busy and hot. We played football on the beach, and Theodore found a beautiful sand dollar while snorkeling, which I still have. He took great care to get it home safely and I cherish it.”

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And that is a life well-lived and well-loved, cut short by tragedy, but always serving others and understanding the meaning of life is bigger than any one person. Rest in peace, Theodore.

Be like Theodore: Lean in on someone you love.

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“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, then where are you? — Fanny Brice, entertainer (1891-1951)