Life

 One of the most distinct and early memories I have of Todd was going to see him play the role of the Tin Man in a high school production of The Wizard of Oz. I had to have been somewhere between six and eight years old at the time.  .  .  And I was absolutely memorized. Over the years, of course, I saw him in many, many more roles and productions, but somehow the image of him, center stage, spotlight on, shiny silver head-to-toe, with a big red heart painted on his chest has always stuck with me.

I don’t know much about the early years of his life, my understanding is that before the family was reunited in Portland, in his mother, Dianna Jean,  and father, William’s, home that his life had held much unhappiness. Establishing a new life at the age of nine, with his brothers, William and Michael, in a new home; reuniting with his father and building a strong and enduring relationship with Dianna, who quickly became quite simply his mother, began the life in which I knew him.

Todd had an incredible amount of talent and creativity. Growing up, I remember him playing, in the full fashion of the 1980’s, carols on an electric keyboard on Christmas Eve, singing in his powerful, beautiful, voice lyrics that he would repeat many times around the holidays and as an adult, as a Caroler for the Grotto’s Festival of Lights. He played the violin, he acted, he sung, and he pursued many other venues of creative expression: painting, writing, tap dancing, collage and mask making, to name just a few . . . and eventually, from what I have been told, even cooking . . .

After graduating from James Madison High School in 1986, Todd attended college at Southern Oregon University in Ashland majoring in theatre. After a brief interlude in Los Angeles Todd returned to the Portland/Vancouver area and pursued acting for many years, He even made a brief on screen appearance in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 famous film Drugstore Cowboy. Over the years Todd worked  for many, many different theatre companies, giving memorable performances in such productions as Angry House Wives and Nunsense, to name a few only—Involving himself fully in any community that he became a part of; Eventually even becoming a board member at the Slocum House Theatre Company.

 Acting, doing what he loved, Todd worked many odd jobs to support his passions and pursue his dreams, and in some instances , perhaps to broaden his social network. Working in downtown Portland at the Brigg under a somewhat less than legitimate ID, Todd met his lifelong friend James Lillas and celebrated two birthdays that same year—which in retrospect may act as a testament for his love of life. . .

Diagnosed in the early 1990’s with HIV, the following decades would be both fragile and triumphant; often both at once. In a memorial that Todd wrote for his mother Dianna Jean, at the time of her passing, the pattern of his thoughts on her life was prominent: “She persevered” He eulogized her as a “fighter” that “beat unbeatable odds.” Todd did the same . . .

He returned to college, attending Goddard University in Vermont, majoring in Social Services; utilizing his education. Todd worked for organizations that helped people, people who were disenfranchised or at risk . He worked for OutsideIn and Multnomah County‘s Outreach Services, until the time came when he could no longer work.

Early, during those same years, Todd married with the support of friends and family, if not the State of Oregon, never letting politics dictate how or to whom he could commit himself, purchasing a home with his partner in S.E. Portland, to live in as he saw fit. Although eventually divorcing and losing the property, it remains, as a strong statement of character, that when he could he owned his life fully . . .

In closing, I would just like to say, that I believe that often it is the case in the nature of human relations that what we know of each other is limited. Sometimes this is due to our own personalities and but often times I believe that it is not . . . What I do know is that undoubtedly there was much more to Todd’s life than the broad brush-stokes I have painted. But in not knowing fully, in the mystery, I see expansive beauty.

 How we experience the world and each other may be a matter of our perspective and relationships. And while I believe that it may be possible to know another’s soul . . . to know another . . . I also believe that the mystery of not fully knowing makes this, our time here, our interactions, somehow more rich.

Arguably, best testimony perhaps one may give another is not necessarily to say that “I knew him, fully,” But rather, and quite simply that “I knew him . . . and I loved him.” Because in saying this it means that we leave room in our understanding of others and their memories that are more diverse than our experiences, and that we can understand that our experiences are varied, and in this way can understand that life, Todd’s life, was more full because it too existed, at times, outside of ourselves . . .

 Hopefully as we mourn, we will celebrate, the things we knew, the things we may discover, and perhaps, most importantly, the things that will always be a mystery to us . . .

 -Annette