Today was a hard day. Yesterday was even harder.
Yesterday – one of the best men I have ever known passed away. If you knew him – I am sure you agree that he was truly 1 in a million. He was one of the most amazing guys you could ever have the privilege of knowing. That fact was evident by the dozens and dozens of people who poured into the hallway outside his room at the hospital when they learned of the prognosis he was facing. For him, it was mercifully quick… for those left behind – it was a mixed blessing. Certainly no one wanted him to suffer but it was a shock to see him slip away so quickly. He was such a gregarious, fun-loving, kind hearted guy. Everyone wanted to be his friend – and everyone he met was. He never met a stranger as his wife would say.
As a pastor – you find yourself a lot of times in these situations where a family asks that you come and spend time with a loved one who is dying. It’s always tough – never easy. If it ever gets easy – you better find another line of work because your heart has withered away. Yesterday was the most of emotional days I have spent in my life. I wasn’t just there to support a family in grief – I was there to spend the final hours with a friend.
Today – I met with his wife Nancy – who happens to be my assistant – and their two daughters. We were making preparations for his funeral which we will hold on Tuesday. We laughed and cried together as we talked about Tom’s life. That’s always the interesting thing about funeral planning meetings. There is always lots of both – tears and belly laughs. Usually they come in waves of both – alternating back and forth. It’s an excellent mechanism that God built into us – I’m sure to keep us from cracking under extreme grief.
There are not enough words to express the sadness I have felt these last 36 hours or so. Certainly I know that Tom is in a far better place, enjoying an existence that we all long for. I know that he is no longer in pain. I know that we will see each other again … one day. All of those things are reason for celebration. But I will miss him… his jokes… his infectiously optimistic spirit… his love for a good german beer!! … his example of what it is to be a wonderful husband and father … and friend to all.
Thank you Father for allowing me to know Tom. Thank you for not leaving him to suffer on and on. Thank you for giving your Son so that the end of this life is not even close to the end . May we all pursue the same love of life, family, friends and Jesus Christ that Tom had.
I leave you today with an Irish prayer …
“Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I and you are you, whatever we were to each other – that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Pray, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort. Without the trace of a shadow in it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you somewhere very near just around the corner. All is well.”