A Hundred Thousand Million Words

February 1, 2016 By Tom

What the hell is there to say?

That’s not meant to sound crass, or angry, because somehow I’m neither.

I’m….Sad. Shattered. Heartbroken. Hurting.

Denver died. It was woefully sudden. It was unexpected. It happened quite literally, over a single night.

Now, there were three years leading into that single night, I’m well aware. There was the real fact that she fought through every day to make it much further than I think her doctors expected. But, when she went to the hospital on that Friday, I had no idea I would be leaving without her.

I’ve told Denver a hundred thousand million times in the three years I’ve known her that that I loved her. Hell, it’s been every version of love that I’ve ever known. In fact, I told her a hundred thousand million times in those last few hours alone it seems. At first she responded, then she squeezed my hand, and in those waning dark hours that turned Friday night into Saturday morning—I could only hope that she heard what I was saying and the weight I put behind it.

I have a lot to write, I have a lot to be thankful for. These past weeks have been the hardest in my life, which says a lot given what I’ve already experienced in 29 years. I want to write about the amazing moments, the kind words, the generosity of an entire city, and I’m going to spend my February doing just that. I hope to write five days a week, I hope to use this as an outlet for the emotions I’m wrestling with as I stumble back to my feet. But I just can’t return to writing on an automatic high note. It’s just not realistic given the circumstances.

I think I did a pretty good job saying what I wanted to say when I spoke at Denver’s celebration. I’ve had a lot of people email me asking for a copy of it and it seems like the best way to capture many of these still raw feelings.

I’ll write again, and I’ll write about the sunlight that I’ve experienced during this occasionally dark journey…but not today. Not yet.


#TeamDenver (spoken by T. Hanley on January 21, 2016)

When I first met Denver in early 2013, my world was a totally different place. So was hers. It was friendship at first, and as things changed in both of our personal lives, it became love.

A love that I think we both actively resisted, as it was a chaotic time for both of us.

But, that chaos brought us together, and as all of us who know Denver, managing chaos was a skill of hers, which meant she managed me to perfection.

Early on in our friendship…..Denver told me she had one rule, she didn’t date Speak Easy members. After lots of flirting and talking, I decided to swing big and told her we had to go on a date, and if she needed me to cancel my Speak Easy membership to do so, it would totally be worth it, even if the date crashed and burned.

Fortunately, she let me keep my membership to this amazing space.

Denver and I, we had a unique relationship—it was beautifully simply complicated. It has no lines, our work life was our personal life, our social life was a combination of all of our worlds. She was a true partner-in-crime, and I’m a better man for spending the last few years with her.

We had the chance to travel together and Denver’s favorite thing was to adventure. From traveling back to Santa Monica like we did one last time just a few weeks ago, to spending time in New Buffalo with her father for long weekend trips multiple summers, trips to Chicago and Bloomington and the occasional cross country drive back from Durango, Colorado—-she never let anything slow her down.

She was a tough woman, she never wanted to be “that girl with cancer” and she never let cancer define her. She knew that she single-handedly could change this city for the better and she wanted to maximize every minute, every opportunity, to do so. Maybe it was the knowledge that time was limited, but she woke up every morning and charged forward with a vigor and ambition that was both inspirational and exhausting to keep up with.

Looking around this room, there’s not a single person that I didn’t meet because of her.…and that was Denver’s favorite thing. Making introductions between people she knew. Bringing people together. Making magic happen. Helping Cool People do Cool Things.

And, look around, Denver did it one last time. As I talked with the Speak Easy staff this week, Tori and Danielle, we realized that Den made sure she connected all of us here in the space she built, with the collaborative partners that she spent almost four years working with.

I feel fortunate to have spent so many evenings over dinner, mornings over coffee, talking about all of you. Denver was so proud of what you all did and how her guidance hopefully played a role. I feel like I know so many of you at a deep level just from the stories Denver told me.

Larry, Ethan, Daniel, Marcie, and Amanda—Denver was humble in sharing her successes with you because she always believed she was onto something bigger…and she was. The impact you all had on her made her who she is. She never backed down, something I attribute to her being the youngest of four kids. She was always down for an argument when she felt she was right, or that she was wronged, or that I was wrong (which was most surely always the case), and I attribute that to her being the daughter of two very good attorneys. Denver spoke highly of your mom, often. I know she felt she had the same free spirit as Evelyn and the many letters that Gail shared with her and the stories that she knew only reinforced that belief.

All of us here who represent this community, Denver pushed us all to do better. We can ALL do better. We must. She accomplished so much in her short life but it is now our responsibility to take what she taught us and carry on her vision and legacy. Indianapolis is a great town, and it took a Californian-Hoosier to remind us of that. Denver would be telling us all to dig in deep and fight harder than ever before to continue to grow this place, help support the entrepreneurship and tech startups, and of course; make sure that women have an equal place at the table.

Denver, Love, the impact you had on me cannot be described. Being able to hold your hand through this journey has profoundly shaped me and forever changed me. Last Friday, you gripped me tight and told me you loved me, and made me promise to make sure I found happiness. To not dwell on this for long. To pick up the pieces and continue moving forward. I promised you then, that I will carry on with all you’ve taught me and with the impact you’ve had on me.

Saturday morning, in a moment of quietness alone with you as I held your hand, I read you your favorite poem.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)

i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Denver signed off her final blog post with words that have been published time and time again over the last week. And what words they are.

I will ask that you smile at strangers more this week. Be kind simply because you are a kind person. Judge a little less. Hold the door open.