Loss of a Dear Friend and Mentor

The Mourner.

By now many of you will have heard of the killing of the NOOR eye team led by my dear friend Tom Little. Tom was/is one of those special souls whose very life is dedicated to service – in Tom’s case service to the medical needs of the Afghan people.  It was a vital part of him just like his skin was a vital part of his being able to live. This was evident as I would follow him as he worked in Afghanistan.  Mr. Tom was deeply loved and respected by those who he worked with, helped medically or just talked with.  To watch him drop what he was doing to help examine someone’s eyes and give them a pair of corrective lens or deal with a medical issue with no questions asked was a treat. Then he would pick up where he had left off or move to the next task at hand.  That could have included fixing a piece of equipment, dealing with a government minister or organizing the next project, soothing a difficult relationship and, yes, always chasing the needed funding to keep the program running and expanding to cover as many of the needs as the program could.

It didn’t matter who you where or which side of the political conflict you were on. It was about the people and making their lives better and politic often got in the way. The conflicts were always considered and by no means dictated action. Tom knew that there was risk involved but this did not stop him from working to make a difference for the people he served in Afghanistan. This work was what he loved.

My last recollection of Tom was in July when he was in the US for a short time.  We were sitting under the wysteria on my back porch around a table filled with good food surrounded by family and friends. As would always seem to happen, I was filled with questions, the jest being how did he see things were currently in Afghanistan? I was looking for the wisdom and incite he always had as Tom and Libby openly shared their knowledge and observations from years of experience. Tom responded with a certain amount of frustration about what he and his wife were yet again experiencing.  And then, there was that ray of hope as they both spoke of something in their work that inspired them to continue to see a future of promise in this complicated country. To Tom and Libby it was simple – service for the greater good.  Tom spoke of the work he was doing and his forth coming trip into Nuristan a place he saw with great need.  Yes, he always saw that ray of light.  Sometimes he had to mumble and grumble at the time things would take or something that had happened.  In the end often with a sense of humor the ray would be discovered and he would move to the next  project. These acts of caring and kindness were received with great gratitude from those he served.

I have been through every emotion you can think of and then some, while still carrying out why I am here. Each day we move a bit forward. You will see photos and more information about NOOR on this site from previous journeys I have made to be with Tom and Libby and to document the NOOR project. Many of you know I have continued to support IAM and NOOR as they work in Afghanistan by speaking of their work and encouraging others to because of the difference I see it has made in the lives of the Afghans they train and serve. A big thank you to all who have contributed and let us continue.

I was surprised to find how quickly my site was discovered by the press….I guess a better way of saying it is that I wasn’t prepared to comment much less negotiate over costs for using photographs so I graciously declined.

Thank you to all of you who continue to hold us in your thoughts. I have been touched and supported by each of you.

In gratitude,

Connie

22 Comments on “Loss of a Dear Friend and Mentor

  1. Connie, you have been in my thoughts ever since this tragic news reached us. The TV news here carried a story last night of Tom’s church holding a service to celebrate his life. His family has a lot of support and his wife appeared to be strong and firm in her belief that he died doing what he loved. I know you too are doing what you love and it has to be even more challenging at such a time, dealing with this loss. Just know that we are all praying for your safety and the success of this present mission you are on. Namaste,dana

  2. Connie, I heard the news Sun morning on NPR and prayed aloud in distress in my truck. I never met him but he was a hero. I feel such grief over someone I never even met. —–Field

  3. Connie, know that my heart and thoughts are with you during this most incredible and heart-wrenching time. Your tribute to Tom is beautiful and reflects so much of what is in your soul. Bless you dear lady, Namaste, M-J

  4. Thank you for your very moving tribute to Tom. I am thinking of you all the time – keep safe. Love, Maud

  5. I had heard only in passing a few years ago about a guy who does amazing medical work in the middle of major conflicts…I know now this is Tom. I am sorry for your loss and the loss to all those additional people he could not help, but I am sure his legacy will be an inspiration to everyone who is tempted to help and go the extra 20 miles. Love, Howard & Iva

    • Thanks it means a lot to me just how far this event has rippled out around the world. These young men and women’s lives will continue to make a difference for all.

  6. Tom and Libby were friends to us here in Richmond as well. We got to know them as supporters of the Noor clinic, and he had visited us just 4 weeks ago.
    The man had tremendous courage, and a great faith that kept him working to share the love he felt he had received, by working seflessly for the Afghans.
    He also had worked to make the medical clinics autonomous, so the work will continue in his absence. But he will be sorely missed.

  7. Dearesr Connie-
    My heart goes out to you. I feel like I knew Tom and Libby from all the stories you have shared. He was a remarkable person-a gift to us all. I know you were close friends and shared a love of Afghanistan in addtion to your experieces in Afghanistan and Albany.Yout tribute to him is very moving. I have great admiration for him and his work and for you and your work. I send you love and comfort . Please travel safe and return to us in Albany. We love you. Mabel

    • Thank you . i know that with your love and involvement in Cuba you know how important people like Tom and his team and the others working tirelessly here are for all of humanity and to loose one or more is a terrible tragedy.

  8. Dear Connie, I am so sorry for your loss, and the loss to the world of Tom and the rest of the group. Very glad to hear you are all right and proceeding with your work. Best of luck and please be in touch when you’re back home. Warm wishes, Tim

  9. What a resounding “Well done, good and faithful servant,” they must have heard at Our Lord’s Welcoming them Home. Connie, I know of you, your mission work and comrades via my friend and churchmate sister-in-Christ, Peggy Sommer. We have been praying for you all for a long time. We remain faithful supporters. Such tragedy and loss, such courage and such “Calling.” Bless all who carry on in HIS FOOTSTEPS in this manner. One thing I noticed: IAM==”I AM.” NOOR==(no “or”) AMEN!?!?!

  10. Dear Connie, You have been very much in my thoughts as I pray that you will find safe sailing during your visit. I am so sorry that I missed meeting Tom when he visited you in July but from the many articles and news report, I feel that I know well and I am very happy to have been able to support his good work for NOOR. I was also astonished that his beautiful wife Libby has taken the time to keep in touch with us during this whole terrible ordeal and loss. The world is diminished by Tom’s death but he sets such a remarkable example that I have to believe that others will be inspired to follow suite.

    Please take good care until your return…

    My best, Carol

    P.S. Frank told us yesterday that you will be home in about 10 days and he is anxiously awaiting your return!

  11. I have just returned from a 3 week family vacation in VA Beach (where I originally came from) and have been thinking of you and grieving for you and all of your team. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Blessings,
    Bunny deBeer

  12. connie,

    i don’t recall if i’ve written you before about the tremendous loss tom represents to you, his family, and the many people he served. but here it is: i share your grief. i know many who serve in palestine and israel who could easily suffer the same fate as tom. may you and i and other artists continue our witness, despite the grief we open ourselves to. aluta continua, may the struggle continue.

    –skip

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