Memorial Letter from Kirsten Saylor

Memorial for Thomas Hansmeyer
I met Tomas in Agroecology at the University of Minnesota, winter term (uggh, back in the nineties). It was a bizarre and difficult winter when we got inches of rains on top of packed snow and then it would all flash freeze in –20 degree weather. I remember one of those mornings when I spent hours trying to unstuck my car wheels from the ice and then managed to crawl through the hatchback door to get to school, to Agroecology. Not many folks arrived that morning at class, but he was there. And conspicuously the only one who wasn’t ranting and raving about how badly their car froze and the hell it was to get it unstuck. So I ribbed him – gave him a hard time about being a graduate student with a house and a garage. I remember his mischievous grin. He wasn’t defensive, but understood that I was just hazing him. That grin sold me and I knew I wanted to get to know him better.
Tomas and I started dating shortly thereafter. While Thomas and I were never destined to stay together, I think our friendship came at a good time for both us. We were both trying to get over bad break-ups and we saw someone who could understand us, someone we could be good to and someone who would be good to us. He helped me find an emotional strength that I had never known before. He’s the first one that helped me get over my fears and to love, work hard and still lose love, and know that in the end I would survive. Shit, I didn’t get the chance to tell him that and share that with him. For that gift, he has and will always have a special place in my heart. I really wanted to tell him…
And for my grandfather. I can’t describe the alienation my grandfather felt upon moving from Philadelphia to Minneapolis. But with Tomas, I think my grandfather felt he had someone he could relate to. It was a fun joke between us – Tomas always said he could relate to seniors – but Tomas went beyond that. Whenever my grandfather called him to help him with a project, Tomas was there – even long after we had split up and I had moved away. My parents extend their deepest sympathies and regrets to Tomas’ partner, family and friends. His friendship with my grandfather touched my family deeply.
While we dated, I went to Tomas’ farm by St. Cloud nearly every weekend. It was during this time, that Tomas was finishing roofing the big old barn. I can still see him up on top of the barn, waving his long gangly arms hello sitting astride the roof apex. Imagine: A huge barn (looked three stories tall or more!) sitting on a hot tin roof in the middle of summer in full sun. I was always shouting after him to drink more water and wear sunscreen!
Tomas taught me how to dumpster dive, make chocolate chips cookies with garlic (yum!), make a quick health assessment of the health of the soil, some car repair tips and the value of place. Just letting yourself be where you are at any particular moment.
I swear there wasn’t anything that he couldn’t do. Not only was he good with his head and his hands, but he held storming-good fall parties at his farm house. He was generous with his time and his possessions – he taught me to let go and live. I thought I had already done that, but with him, I realized that I still had a ways to go!
But in all of these accolades, I’m not striking at the heart of what I want to share about Tomas. Our break-up was not a pretty thing, but I resolved not to let it end with us hating each other. I pestered him until he agreed to meet and talk it over. Over the several weeks we worked it out – the misperceptions, the hurt feelings, the fears we didn’t dare speak earlier. He had an emotional strength that one sees so rarely – an ability to move beyond the petty self and find a higher place to co-exist with someone. I wanted us to remain friends – I wanted to remain in that presence. That was a bit naïve, I know now…we were too unalike. But I just didn’t want us to not be angry with each other anymore and to forgive each other as well as ourselves. I think we accomplished this. While we did talk periodically, we no longer hung out and eventually the emails became fewer and fewer as our paths separated.
It was several years ago when I last heard from Tomas. I was living in Oregon and he had mentioned that he was going to a retreat center on the West Coast. There was something about this that I still can’t put my finger on, but it makes me smile.
It’s October 18, 2005 and it still hasn’t hit me that Tomas is no longer… knowing that he was in the world made me feel, well, more comfortable, safer, more at ease.
I am struggling to end this memorial. There is no good ending. There is no finishing touch to this young man’s life. There were supposed to be more paragraphs, more reflections…more. So, to his family and friends I wish to add my memorial. My family and I wish we had learned of his death in order to attend the funeral – to extend our sympathies, our condolences and to let you know in person that he is not a person we let easily go.
Kirsten Saylor, Vibeke Saylor and Thomas Saylor
4114 39th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55406