Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Though I never asked Tom what his favorite Bible verse was, I know by which verse he lived. Let us rejoice. Let us be glad. Here is a day that the Lord has given to us on this earth, let us live it to our fullest.
Tom lived his life to his fullest. Each day was filled with the promise of meeting someone new, seeing something exciting, reconnecting with old friends and family and always, always laughing. Life was to be lived, not endured, experienced, not observed.
Being Tom’s daughter was not always easy. While I can’t speak for Ashleigh, I often felt like I was the more mature person in the relationship with Tom. I often warned him about being too trusting of other people, not being street-smart, of being too naïve. But Tom was never dumb, he was just generous and believed in the basic goodness in his fellow man.
His optimistic attitude spread to other parts of his life, as well. He believed that everything would always work out in the end, so he didn’t waste a great deal of time developing contingency plans. I once went to visit him in Mexico without checking the weather report before hand. When I arrived, Tom told me at the airport that a hurricane was scheduled to hit the next day. I asked him if he had everything at his house that we needed to ride out a hurricane. He assured me that we did.
When we got to his casa, I discovered that Tom’s definition of “emergency supplies” was 23 beers already cooling in the refrigerator. Since he knew that I didn’t drink, I assume that he expected that to be the appropriate number for a category 1 natural disaster.
I’m sure that most of you have similar stories about Tom, times when he made you laugh or frustrated you because he didn’t do as you expected. He loved to make people laugh and to pull off the unexpected.
Some of the unexpected things that you may not know about Tom:
1. Tom was very musical; he could play the saxophone, clarinet and the piano. He minored in music in college.
2. Tom could break any engine—car, boat, lawn mower, weed eater, you name it, he could break it.
3. Tom kept ice cream in his refrigerator all the time. He liked to eat it in a big glass with milk poured over it.
4. During college at Appalachian, Tom had a summer job as an Indian at Tweetsie railroad. I think that it was the only time that he was paid to be entertaining.
5. Tom kept a daily record of his life, almost like a diary—if he ate dinner with friends, where they ate, if any friends or family visited, the scores of any Carolina Panthers games, or new out-of-the-way places that he found to explore.
6. Tom had his pilot’s license, but was happiest on the water, even living for a time on a boat.
Some of my best memories of Tom are of time spent on water, from boating on Kerr Scott in Wilkesboro to finding hidden coves around the island of Espiritu Santos in La Paz. I can so easily remember him, captaining the boat, with the music turned up, skimming across the water. He would have a huge grin on his face, look at me and yell, “Whoo! Cristy! It doesn’t get any better than this!” Translation — “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Tom spent the last 8 years living in Mexico, a land that he loved. He had found the place that he meant to spend the rest of his life. Ashleigh, Dan, Matt and I had the opportunity to meet many of Tom’s Mexican friends and co-workers over the last several days. We were overwhelmed by their love for Tom. One of the things that struck me time and time again was that from the President of Tom’s company to the lowest-paid employee, they all said the same thing to us: “Mr. Tom, he was my friend.” Tom didn’t treat any one differently because of their social status – he treated everyone as a friend.
I know that everyone here is saddened and shocked by Tom’s passing. I am heartbroken that I will never hear Tom say my name ever again, but I am also sure that my father would be the last person who would want us to be unhappy. Have fun, he would say. Life’s too short to spend it on the sidelines. Get out and do, never meet a stranger, and never miss an opportunity to laugh.