I want to begin by welcoming you all here. This parish was one of Tom’s homes on planet earth, and it is better for his having been such an important part of it. I’m sure he’d be happy to know you are all here in this sacred place praying for him. I also want to extend my condolences. Marge, Linda and Julie, John, and Drew, Whitney, Addison and Jocelyn–I am so sorry for your loss. Tom loved you all deeply and still does. Even though Tom had been at Greenwood Village for some time and we knew in the back of our minds that this day wasn’t too far into the future, in a real way we are never prepared to say goodbye to someone we love. Know that we are praying for you here.
We do say goodbye in a way, but in another way we don’t. For we who have Christ, we believe that when one who has been faithful to Christ passes from this world, life is changed but not ended. Tom now has a new address, but he is still very much a part of our lives–the life of his family and the life of the Church. St. Paul tells us this in the second reading. He asks, “What could possibly separate us from the love of Christ?” He has a whole list of things that cannot separate us from Christ, and he says even death, even death cannot separate us from Christ. Because Christ overcame death. And because of that, he has opened the gates to life eternal.
And what a life that land of glory is! We know that eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him! David in our first reading, he praises God in song for the glimpses of heaven that he could see even here on earth: “Yours, Lord,” he says,” “Yours are greatness and might, majesty, victory, and splendor…riches and glory….greatness and strength!” All of this we can taste even on earth, and we know that what God has ready for those who love hime….it far outweighs all of this. And Tom loved our Lord. He loved our Lord and the Church and this parish deeply.
There are so many ways he proved this love. He was an EMHC here for many years. He was an usher. Marge remembered with us how he would drive all over Greenwood as he lay out the bus route for the school many years ago. There were the fish fries, and the time he injured his leg in a fall from a ladder while trying to help paint the old school gym. And he loved donuts, which I call the 8th sacrament. I bought 8 dozen yesterday in his honor for our 8th graders. Judy Koch, our pastoral associate, remembered being in an informal bible study with Tom and how much they all loved it. One of his favorite parts was the donuts. Tom’s patients would bring him donuts. Julie remembered stumbling upon a refrigerator full of donuts at Tom’s office when she started working there. Of course he worked it all off biking. He rode a bike on US 31, which he bought for $15, to and from the office for 25 years until he retired. And he rode that old bike until he got a new one when he turned 80. He liked the old one better. I think he liked the idea that he got so much use out of something so cheap. You see, he was very generous in time, but he was…shall we say “frugal”…when it came to money. He served as treasurer for the Chordlighters for a number of years, and they spent about five dollars in all the years he was treasurer.
You know, there are good lessons of discipleship in every Christian, and Tom is no exception at all, as we’ve seen. So, with the help of Marge and the whole family, I want to focus on three lessons that came about from the latter part of Tom’s journey on earth.
First, Tom’s journey teaches us to look for the blessings. Tom knew how to do that in life, and Marge has certainly done that the past few years while Tom has been living at Greenwood Village in the Memory Care Unit. They were always both so thankful for the blessings around them.
The second lesson from Tom’s journey is to remember only the good stuff and forget the rest. Tom’s illness caused him to lose his short-term memory and left him with few long-term memories. Tom forgot all the bad stuff that had happened in his life. He forgot the bad days. The conflicts. The difficulties and sleepless nights. His family shared that he could remember only the good things. Linda told Marge that maybe that’s how God is with us: he forgives and forgets the bad we do, and remembers only the good. I like that.
The third lesson: live for the moment. Tom always enjoyed visits from his family and friends these past few years. Like anyone with his illness, he could never remember after the fact that anyone had visited him. But enjoyed the visits when they were happening. There was one time he enjoyed a great deal—his 50th wedding anniversary. They brought cake and pizza to the nursing home. He forgot about it as soon as it happened, but he enjoyed the experience and knew, somehow that it was a gift from God.
Today as we celebrate Tom’s life and pray him into the land of Glory, we thank God for his life and that we should all be so fortunate as to have had a share in it. We thank God for the witness of discipleship he was for us all and remains for us all. And we remember those three lessons he taught us: to look for the blessings, to remember the good stuff, and to live each moment as a gift.