Six months ago Thursday, six-year-old Thomas Wedman died when he was hit by a school bus while crossing the street.
Every day the Wedmans – dad Jeff, mom Sheri, sons Ethan and Isaac – grapple with the reality that he is gone. They were a family of five and now they are four.
But they haven’t been alone in their grief.
“I have lost track of how many people continue to feel our pain, that Thomas has not been forgotten by this town,” said Jeff on behalf of the family, in a letter to the Gazette.
Thomas was a Grade 2 student at École Marie Poburan. He was walking to school with his dad and older brother Isaac on the morning of Sept. 27.
Both boys ran ahead of their dad and when Thomas went to cross the street, he was hit by a school bus making a right hand turn onto Woodlands Road from Sir Winston Churchill Avenue.
The school bus, contracted by St. Albert Public Schools, was on its way to Keenooshayo Elementary School.
More than 1,000 people attended Thomas’ memorial service a week later. They remembered the boy “who was not scared of heights, pulled out his own baby teeth (and) ate almost every kind of food willingly,” as described in his eulogy.
Thomas participated in Beavers, swimming, skating, piano and art lessons.
“He lived life to its fullest … not by doing crazy stunts or facing life and death experiences, but by bringing joy to everyone he met.”
Six months later, the Wedmans still “miss him desperately.”
“Everywhere we turn, we see reminders of the wonderful little boy he was,” said Jeff.
He explained that in the process of selling and giving away some of Thomas’ belongings, the six-year-old’s hockey gear ended up in the home of another local family.
The Wedmans received a card in the mail from the mom who bought the gear for her son.
“After she got home and her son energetically put on the equipment, she noticed a ‘Wedman’ label in one of the pieces. She put two and two together and realized that at some point not long ago this equipment was Thomas',” said Jeff.
“Instead of being horrified that her son was now wearing a dead child's hand-me-downs, she was touched and honoured to have a small piece of Thomas for her son. In the card she wrote she thinks of Thomas every time she jogs up Woodlands Road.”
The Wedmans were floored by the response.
“We did not expect the wider community to walk beside us on this journey. But you continue to do so, being a source of comfort and strength with each step. For this we are profoundly appreciative,” he said.
Following Thomas’ death, the Wedmans were flooded with gifts – movie tickets, meals, gift cards – and prayers from total strangers.
But the greatest gift of all, said Jeff, is having other people grieve with them and share in their sorrow.
“When you see us on the street, in the schools, or simply in the grocery store, please do not hesitate to stop and talk. If I get tears in my eyes when we meet, please don’t apologize; and absolutely do not hurry away embarrassed.”
“I remain absolutely amazed at how Thomas’ death has touched this whole community.”
Jeff recounted a memory from when he served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Kandahar in 2009.
Following the ceremony for a Romanian soldier who had been killed, the chaplain turned to thank the mass of people who had come to pay their respects and said, “All this for a simple Romanian soldier.”
“He could not believe so many others – who did not personally know this seemingly insignificant soldier – were touched by his death,” said Jeff.
“I feel like that Romanian chaplain, a little overwhelmed by seeing that we are not the only ones who still mourn for our little boy.”