Thursday, December 8, 2016


A year ago today, my cell phone rang. It was 11:30 a.m. on a Tuesday.

On the other end of the call was my mother-in-law Jean, and she was crying. Although it was hard to make out exactly what she was saying, when I heard her say something about not being able to wake Tom, my father-in-law, I didn't ask any questions. I threw on a pair of old running shoes ... I have no idea when I'd worn them last ... and flew out the door just a few seconds after ending the call with Jean.

I prayed hard during the five, maybe six-mile drive to their home. Surely, he was just really tired and when I got there, he would be barking at Nanny for waking him up. I considered not calling Jeanie, who was in court in Yadkinville.

Tom and I on the day Jeanie and I were married. Just before we left the church, Tom gave Jeanie some cash. He'd carefully placed a $1 bill on the outside of the roll to disguise the $501 total amount.
It was a short consideration. We have something of a code. When it's important, we say call me NOW. Otherwise, it's just call me when you take a break and get a chance. This was a call me NOW situation if ever there was one. She called ... I answered ... and she, too, was out the door.

Jean was watching for me, and later said that she saw me coming into the driveway on two wheels. I ran to the door, entered their house, saw Tom ... and knew he was already gone.

The 911 operator asked me if I wanted to try CPR. I had to do something, so she told me to start chest compressions. I knew how to do them from my training at the Y. Just do 600 compressions until help arrives. I was on maybe 300 or so when the first sheriff's deputies arrived. They jumped in.

I went outside, breathless and my legs quivering. I called Jeanie. I didn't know what to say, other than I was sorry. Her dad was gone.

EMTs arrived. Somebody had helped Jean to a back bedroom. I took over compressions at some point, and whilst I did, I both felt and heard at least one of Tom's ribs break. I paused a split second and mentioned it, but was told to keep going.

Even today, a year later, I can still remember the sound and feel of the crack of that bone. Tom, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. 

Honestly, though, it didn't matter. Tom was already on the other side of his life's journey. What remained was merely his Earthly shell, and he didn't need it any more.

As hard as that day was, it is remarkable how everybody involved was exactly where they needed to be. Jeanie, the boys and I were supposed to start the journey to Houston, Texas by car the next day. I cannot begin to imagine what Jean's phone call would've been like had we been somewhere in Mississippi when it came.

I'd run that morning, and had already showered. Jeanie was in court in Yadkinville. Her sister, Angie, was working from home.

Tom was a lot of things to a lot of people. He could be cantankerous. It didn't take long to figure out that you did not want to talk politics or the Rapture with Tom, because he had set opinions about both and was not about to be swayed on either.

The one thing I will always remember about Tom was the lengths he would go to for his family in general, but especially his grandchildren. There was nobody in the world quite like Denver, Jesse, Adam and Lauren to Tom.

That's the man I want to be. Rest well, Tom. We'll see you soon.

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