photo from 2018, Real Life Photographs

Some people come into the world and bring shine to everything they touch. Finn Thilo Trommer, born on September 11, 2004, exuded radiance. Wherever he went, he brought his curiosity, tenacity, discipline, integrity and goofiness. In the classroom, he achieved straight A plusses. He won the fencing tournament, the chess tournament and the science fair. He built his own gaming computer, then built computers for his friends, too. Finn was, as a family friend once noted, “150 percent alive.” He gave everything. Everything.

He loved using his body: He danced for eight years with Palm Dance learning hip hop and tap with Keri Sutton and had recently begun ballet. He loved skiing and learned to do backflips. He joined the golf team and took up tennis. Finn loved using his hands: building Legos, making wooden crafts, making stained glass and mosaics. He loved using words: he was an articulate communicator, mature beyond his years. He loved using his brain, and he endlessly researched what interested him most: cars, the stock market, gaming and photography. He sought out mentors who would push him—and many adults poured their love, energy and time into him, helping him become his best self. The family thanks every one of these people.

Perhaps most of all, Finn loved using his heart. He cared deeply about others and went to great lengths to be kind. One classmate recalls how when she was struggling on a backpacking trip, Finn carried her backpack for her. Another remembers how he helped her and other younger dance students feel included when they levelled up. He travelled to Guatemala and participated in mission work in Chujulimul. And for years, Finn volunteered once a week at the library with his mentor Dan Bergstrom-Noel tutoring other students in math.

Finn also had a strong sense of patriotic duty. He planned to join the military and hung an American flag in his bedroom.

He was a button pusher. A provocateur. He could never understand why others didn’t also bring their best, and sometimes he pushed others harder than they wished to be pushed. He loved to argue for the joy of arguing. In a town of liberals, he was a conservative. In a state that legalized marijuana, he was staunchly against its use. He loved country music and cello. He was so utterly, unapologetically himself, stumping any stereotype.

Because he was so blessed, it is hard, perhaps, to understand why he took his own life on August 14, 2021. Perhaps some people are so radiant because they have to be—because they have an inner struggle that forces them to show up brilliant just to be able to meet a morning. This was the side of Finn that few outside his closest circle knew. He was never satisfied. He was insatiable for experiences and knowledge and things—almost as if there were a hole inside that could never be filled. He felt life so deeply—felt it all. He desperately wanted to feel at peace, and despite therapy, mentorship, medication, unconditional love and other healing modalities, peace eluded him. His first word was “shadow”—a word that now feels prophetic. He was forever linked to both the light and the darkness, and though it was the darkness that took him, it is also what shaped him into the luminous being he was.  

He was known to his mother Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer as My Beamish Boy and Finnito Bambino; to his father Eric Trommer as Tall Man; to his sister Vivian Rose Trommer as Finny; to his sister Shawnee Trommer Adelson and her husband Drew Watts simply as Finn, to his grandmother Julianne Wahtola as Sunny Funny Finn, to his grandfather Charles Wahtola as Finnstermuffin, and to his gaming friends as Green Tractor.

The family thanks the community for all the generous love and support in this difficult time—we are astonished by the goodness of people. The love doesn’t diminish the pain of his loss, but it helps us meet the pain and move forward. Finn was a comet—brilliant, then no longer here, but not gone. With his unrelenting realness, he forced others to meet the world as it is. Let x equal x. In Finn’s memory, consider an act of kindness, especially toward someone who pushes your buttons. A community gathering will be planned in the future.

A short update

Dear Friends, 

I have never felt such an infusion of love. And I have never needed it more. Thank you. 

This is the most difficult time of my life. My beautiful, beloved boy, Finn Thilo Trommer, killed himself on Saturday, August 14. He would have turned 17 on September 11.

As I wrote to one of his mentors earlier tonight:

“It was something I have known about Finn since he was born. He carried inside him a deep unease, a lack of peace. He expected so much of the world—he wanted everyone to be as dedicated and as 150% as he was. He shined so brightly, I believe, because he had to summon that much luminosity just to meet the darkness that was ever inside him. And so although the inner struggle is what eventually killed him, I refuse to vilify it, because it is also what shaped him into the radiant and magical being he was. He lived such a big, rich, full life. He gave everything. Everything. He was a comet. Astonishingly brilliant and then gone. I pray every day now that he finds the peace he never had in this life. I pray that peace finds him. That he feels what it is to know no lack. To know his own beauty and sufficiency.”

In fact, I pray this for all of us–that we may all know for a certainty the love that supports us, that is all around us, that is us. I pray that we may all know beauty and communion with the world, with each other, with the divine. I pray for us to know and practice love, to choose it in every moment. 

I am so grateful for all the notes you send. I read each of them, and as I read them, I thank each of you by name. I am sorry i cannot respond to you all personally, but please know that your love is sustaining me. I don’t know how anyone would ever meet this heartbreak, this devastation, without a tsunami of love. 

I have been deep in a cocoon of grief and love. This weekend I will celebrate the wedding of my wonderful stepdaughter to an amazing man. In the meantime, I am protecting this tender, raw space in which I am able to meet grief so nakedly, in which love is transforming me in the most astonishing ways. I am being rewired, rewritten, remade. It is the most unwanted and powerful gift I have ever been given. 

It will be a bit longer before I resume the daily poems–I am not ready yet to have any commitment beyond meeting each moment. I want to experience every second of this, to feel it all, and it is taking all my energy. But soon there will be poems to share. They are shaping me, helping me meet this most heartbreaking, heart-opening time. 

If you pray, please pray for the peace of all who do not know peace–pray for my son and for anyone who has been unable to find peace in an enduring way. 

I have never been more certain that love is everything. Everything. It matters so much how we treat each other, how we treat ourselves. I am so grateful for you, friends. 


A time away

Dear friends, 

I am experiencing a family tragedy. I am not sure when I will return to posting daily poems. Thank you so much for all your good thoughts and prayers. I may not be returning messages for some time. 

With gratitude, 

At first, I wish my mother
would consider giving them away—
her new apartment is shy on cupboard space.
How many wine glasses do you need?
I ask, trying to sound reasonable.
She responds by saying,
But they’re for red wine,
as if that explains it—
as if of course, she needs eight
beautiful globe-shaped glasses
for serving pinot noir and merlot.
And they’re so hard to find
in this exact shape, she adds,
clearly pleased with these glasses
she has transferred
from home to home to home.
And so, I think, of course,
she needs these glasses
round as grapefruits, clear
as happiness. I imagine her
sipping a fruity red with easy-drinking
tannins and a super-soft finish.
I imagine the smile on her face
as she sips from the larger goblet
designed so the wine can contact
more air and thus open up
so its cherry and raspberry notes
shine through. I imagine the smile
on her face—and I slide
the glasses onto the shelf
and move on to the china,
the measuring cups, the spoons.

When in Rome

What a loss it would be
to not have born so I
would have missed a
Thursday night like this
in which my son and I
walk the dark streets
in Georgia and watch
the lightning transform
the sky into pink flares
and smell some sweet
unnamable flower and
talk about Dodge Chargers
and knees and roaches—
I swear it has all been
worth it, every second
of fifty-one years, for this
hour in which there
are no bells, no shoulds,
no other tugs except
to take the next step
down the centerline
while in the distance,
raps another clap
of thunder.


It’s not the meteor shower
with its wild arcs of light
that unzip the velvet dark—
what moves me is the one star
that manages to shine
through the thick atmosphere,
a lone light in this giant dome,
not more than a speck,
yet it persists, constant.
There are many ways to shine,
it seems to say, its tiny glint
winking against midnight.
And the dark is deep and long.

One Illumination

night so dark
even my thoughts dim—
then (oh!) fireflies!

Shade Loving

Bless the astilbe, the hellebore,
the hydrangea, bless the lobelia,
the bright impatiens—
it is no small thing to grow,
more notable still to grow in the shade—
to not only grow but to flower,
to bring color to the dark.
I take it to heart, the fuschia hanging
in the shadow, cascading
deep pink bells all summer long.
Oh tough beauty, teach me
the art of thriving in regions
where light is scant,
where light is not.
Teach me to bring to the world
the beauty
I wish to find.


For hours we stand in the kitchen
and slice cucumbers, peel garlic,
prepare the brine. There is joy
in preserving what is wonderful,
in letting the self believe in a future
when we will pull the jar from the shelf
and remember what it was like
this summer day—as if we could also
fit into the jar the laughter, the pink
of the zinnias up to our waist,
the chickadee song and the warm,
warm nights. To be present
does not mean to ignore the future—
but oh, as we prepare, such joy
in singing along to an old favorite song
on the radio, scent of dill in the air,
summer still unfolding in the yard,
in the jars, in our joy.  

Sitting in the Dark

tree crickets so loud
I grow smaller
until all that’s left
of me is

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