For the love of Tom

Waking up in Amsterdam with a heavy heart on the one year anniversary of my brother Tom, I feel his presence when I wake so early, checking the clock to realise it’s the same time as he passed. Too crazy. It’s with so much sadness that I think of him not physically been in my life for all this time but it is with so much pride that I am fulfilling his dreams and sitting in Amsterdam reminiscing his precious soul.

We laugh and cry as we read through the many thoughtful emails we have been sent by loved ones sending their warmest empathy. Blessed to have caring people thinking of us.

My mind wanders through various stages of Tom’s colorful life, from the day he was born to the end of his shortened adulthood, we think fondly of him and make sure today is a day doing just as he would do if he were here in Amsterdam. Man! This is going to be a crazy task but a fun one at that..

In true Tommy style, we rush around a million miles (no slower) an hour trying to track down an international adaptor, I manage to get one from the back of a truck easily enough. That’s no lie, not one technology shop sold them but we found a dodgy little back yard Internet café that probably sold more hot property than international charges.

We negotiate a price (it was peanuts) in a cloud of smoke and I wondered whether we’d be walking out of here with emphysema… the sale wouldn’t be so cheap then.

On recommendation we had pre booked tickets for the Van Gough museum; an express tour was our option knowing that Tom would dash his way around this joint in no more than an hour.

The Bedroom- Van Gough’s famous painting

Twinning at Van Gough

It’s lucky that our tour was quick as we were all Van Goughed out after the exhibition at Orsay in France. Van Gough does continue to intrigue me though, he has such a fascinating story.

At the front door of the museum is the iconic IamAmsterdam sign, we sat at this and asked ourselves what would Tom do next.


Both agreeing that he would line his stomach before finding a coffee shop to enjoy a couple of beers. We found Lombardos- a superfood eatery that made the most delicious sandwiches and fresh squeezed juices.

Bit slow on the service though – I wonder if they needed a hand behind the counter, my old days of working at the road house days could have been put back into practice here.

We moved onto the coffee shop and cracked ourselves up to no end with those big belly laughs that left is in stitches. You know those laughing moments that hurt your stomach and you kind of can’t breath. That’s us, for about three hours. Please don’t ask what was so funny because I couldn’t tell you.

City Streets of Amsterdam


Amsterdam canals

We decide to float around the city in search of a Swatch store. I have been to every Swatch store since London trying to find this really cool ring in my size but have had no luck.

I’m desperate for this fun ring because it has a component that represents a date of birth. I thought this would be my personal treat as a sentimental memory of this trip with Tom’s date of birth.

After stopping by about 15 stores since London, I wasn’t really expecting my size to be available but to my surprise it was the first ring the lady gave me. Wow, such a paradox! Available. Today. On. Tom’s. Anniversary. It is fascinating explaining the coincidence of such moments.


Busy bike park at the pub

We stopped by a well ranked local pub for dinner and beers. Monday nights pull decent crowds here and I guess the rays of sunshine lingering about probably have something to do with that. It’s potluck to nab a seat in this joint and we are lucky enough to even score a table.

We order a decent spread and enjoy hanging out in such an unbelievable city – everything is just rad. What’s not to love about a city that has more commuters than drivers, great street style, delicious super foods, progressive legislation and the best spec frames that I’ve ever seen, I need (or want, same thing) them all. Amsterdam is just an all round cool place.

We chilled at the pub watching the sunset, reflecting on the print that Tom has left on our lives, the choices we have chosen and the changes we have made since his passing. It hasn’t been an easy task but it’s been so positive to be able to make some pretty big personal adjustments.

Amongst a long journey through grief, the last twelve months has been a real case of perspective for me. I realised pretty quickly that I was going to completely embrace what I can and live life every day for two. The greatest gift that Tom has given me is to completely enjoy life, do what I love and do it with my whole heart and this is exactly what I’m doing.

As we take in the daylight that hovers around until 10pm, we graciously raise our glasses to life as a blessing..

There’s time to loiter at the pub as it’s on our walking route home so we are in no real rush to leave.. X

Anna Owens is the founder of ownsit! A mama working in Community Development and Partnerships Education. Anna is a colour crazy, creativity enthusiast who loves to design, collect shoes, eat & travel.. x

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