T-man’s Goodbye Draped in Blue ’n’ White

Sandra Lewis went to the grave Wednesday morning where her son lies buried in his Tie Domi hockey jersey, first to dust the freshly fallen snow from the flowers, and then to plant a Toronto Maple Leaf flag next to the temporary marker that bears her son’s nickname. Trevor Lewis—the beneficiary of two heart transplants, now dead at the age of 19—loved to be called T-man.

The pallbearers at his funeral last week all wore Maple Leaf hockey jerseys, and each will soon have T-man emblazoned on the back, along with the number 84, for the year in which their young friend was born.

The pastor at the Bendale Bible Chapel wore a Maple Leaf jersey, too, as did the majority of the mourners who packed the small church a week ago Tuesday where Trevor Lewis’ casket was draped in a Maple Leaf banner.

“At the cemetery, it was a sea of blue and white,” said his mother. “There were 45 cars in the procession. It was unbelievable, and so very, very touching.”

As was written here two Sundays ago, Trevor Lewis was buried in his cherished Tie Domi jersey not just because he was the hardest of die-hard Toronto Maple Leaf fans, but because he, too, was a fighter like Tie Domi is a fighter—not as a fighter knuckling his way to a team record in penalty minutes, but as a fighter for life against an odds-on death.

What other word but “fighter” could be used to describe Trevor Lewis, a young man who was born with a major heart defect, had life-saving surgery at birth, then a heart transplant at the age of six, and a second heart transplant only three years ago at the age of 16?

Sadly, however, the fight is now over. Trevor Lewis died of heart failure at Toronto General Hospital on Nov. 13.

Trevor Lewis’ death brought out the human side of the Toronto Maple Leaf franchise. Without an advanced word spoken, Maple Leaf vice-chairman Ken Dryden showed up for both the viewing and the funeral, taking Trevor Lewis’ two young brothers aside for some private words.

“I don’t know exactly what he said to them,” said their mother. “But whatever they were, they were very comforting words. They had a calming effect on those boys.”

Because the Leafs were playing in Edmonton that day, Tie Domi called the Lewis family’s home from his cellphone as the team bus was making its way to the arena.

“He must have talked to me for five to 10 minutes,” Sandra Lewis said. “He had read your article about Trevor’s death, and said he was sorry he never got to meet the ‘little fighter’ who admired the Leafs so much—even when the team wasn’t playing the greatest.”

In his emotional heart of hearts, Trevor Lewis was torn between two right wingers on the Leaf squad—the rough-and-tumble game of Tie Domi, and the soft-hands and deft touch style of Alexander Mogilny. He had jerseys for both players, but took No. 28 to his grave.

When the Lewis family arrived at the funeral home that night, there were flowers from Tie Domi and his family and, in the lineup of mourners, was Domi’s brother Dash who, despite being centre stage in the MFP computer imbroglio, left his problems behind and wore his heart on his sleeve.

“He came up to me, and he put his arms around me,” said Sandra Lewis. “And then he began to cry. He said he was there to represent the Domi family. He was very emotional and so very sincere.”

A friend of a friend came up with two tickets for the Leafs return home, and their game Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Sandra Lewis took her daughter, Samantha, and they sat high in the stands as the Leafs secured a 2-1 victory, and as Tie Domi’s first-period fight with Bryan Allen gave him his 2,000th penalty minute in a Leaf uniform, and therefore the team record for the amount of time spent in the sin bin.

“Trevor would have loved that fight,” his mother said.

In the end, Sandra Lewis couldn’t find the strength to stay until the end of the game.

“There were just too many Tie Domi jerseys in the crowd,” she said. “Everywhere I looked, there was someone wearing a Tie Domi jersey, and all I could think of was Trevor in his. The feeling of emptiness and loss became just too unbearable to stay to the end of the game. I just couldn’t hang in.”

Before she left the Air Canada Centre, however, Sandra Lewis went to one of the concession stands and bought a small Toronto Maple Leaf flag.

The very next morning, she made her way to her son’s grave at Pine Hill Cemetery—first to dust the freshly fallen snow from the flowers, and place the toppled flowers from Tie Domi and his family back atop the pile.

And then Sandra Lewis unfurled that Toronto Maple Leaf flag she had bought the night before, and planted it next to the temporary marker that will bear her son’s nickname until his tombstone arrives.

By Mark Bonokoski
The Toronto Sun, Friday November 28, 2003 Page 6

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