Monday, June 6, 2016

My Friend Tom

My friend Tom is a dancer and a singer.

Like... full time.

24 hours ago his title was "Digital Production Specialist II" - but that all changed Sunday morning when he ended his race here on earth and went to be in the presence of our Savior.

Now he's dancing and singing and worshiping our Savior - in person - all the time.

And Tom had already been doing this new gig of his pretty darn well while he was here on this earth - so it's no surprise God would give him this promotion.

But promotion or not... I'm gonna miss this guy.

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I first met Tom back on November 4th of 2013. I had flown out to Compassion International to interview for a position with a whole team who didn't want the position filled. This was made pretty clear to me.

And Tom was on that team and he was part of the interview process. And the one thing that struck me about him was his incredibly gentle and kind demeanor - a calming disposition of sorts. He actually helped calm ME down and if he didn't want me there - I'll tell you this - he never showed it.

I was blessed to get that job and incredibly blessed to get to know Tom just a little bit better over the next 2.5 years.

I didn't know him nearly as long or as deeply as some of our team did - but he made an impact on my life and there are certain things I'll never forget about him.

Like his smile. He was ALWAYS smiling. This guy never once complained to me in 2.5 years about ANYTHING regarding his work, his job, etc. Nothing.

He was over-dedicated and underpaid and he counted it a blessing.

I won't forget that.

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Or his sense of humor.

Tom was always cracking a joke about something.

He knew I couldn't stand the term "boss" - so he used it with me often.

I smile even now as I can hear him saying "Well - what do I do with this, boss...?" as he'd bring me some digital production fire with a smile on his face.

I won't forget that.

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Or his love for his team

Tom loved the people he worked with deeply and would do anything for them.

He was as loyal as anybody I'd ever seen and would step in and help with zero hesitation on anything at any moment. Even outside of work.

Like the time he came to my house to blow out our sprinklers and had every tool imaginable in his pocket to do the job. I called him MacGyver for a good while after that. He just smiled.

And he loved to make US smile and laugh - and he did it often.

I won't forget that.

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Or his personality.

He was HUMBLE.

He was GENTLE.

He was KIND.

He was MEEK and I believe he took God at face value and His word on what the Lord said about this.

He'd put himself last - pretty much every time.

Even near the end of his time here - he stayed last. I remember a team member saying "I can't figure out what he needs or how he is cuz all he keeps doing is asking how I am!"

He reflected the very nature of Jesus in the way he lived.

I won't forget that.

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Or his love for the Lord and His word.

Tom was super active in our team bible studies and I loved listening every single time he weighed in.

To watch the emotion well up in him when he prayed or talked about the influence of Jesus in his own life was inspiring, transparent and fully authentic.

I relate to this feeling of being overcome with emotion (he and I talked about this similarity we shared) and it is something I absolutely adored in him.

I won't forget that.

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Or his love for kids.

Tom LOVED the kids! And not just the Compassion kids, either!

One time he was in my neighborhood and his car needed a jump. He knocked on our door (I was gone and Laura was in the shower) and my then 7 year old opened the door! (I am still in disbelief of this). Tom was stunned too and kindly asked if her daddy was there. Meron to this day claims she recognized him after peeking out the window - but I tell you - I thank God regularly it was Tom on the other side of that door. Knowing his love for kids - pretty much nobody else I'd want standing there when my kid throws open the door and welcomes in people!

And then... a few weeks back - when he was being released from the hospital but his doctors told him he couldn't travel up to Denver to do a Compassion Sunday event - Tom pulled me aside while I was visiting him at the hospital and he conveyed how concerned he was for those Compassion kids consigned to his event. He desperately wanted them to be unconsigned and made available so that they wouldn't lose out on sponsorship because he couldn't do the event.

THAT'S just who he was and how he loved the kids.

We made sure his kids were unconsigned and made available.

I won't forget that.

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I could go on and on and on about this guy.

About how he was an incredible husband.

An amazing father.

A stellar grandfather.

Or how just by simply witnessing his faith - it made my own faith stronger.

But you guys reading this who know Tom... you know all this stuff already.

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Friday, May 20th around 3:30 PM was the last time I saw Tom.

He had stopped by to get some passwords cuz this crazy guy was STILL working at home.

He was quiet because the radiation on his throat had made his voice and throat a little weak.

We walked the long walk down to HR to discuss some stuff and it was a slow one for him.

When we were done and he and Cheryl were getting ready to leave - I looked him in his eyes and said:

"Tom... you need to know - you have honored and glorified God with the way you have carried yourself and walked this walk these past few months. It's been an honor to watch. I just wanted you to know that."
He didn't say anything - he just smiled... that same smile he has flashed a million times and I swear to you there was a sparkle in his eyes.

He KNEW God.

"...then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
[1 Corinthians 15:54-55]

I know where Tom is. Death didn't sting him at all.

Nope... my friend Tom is a full-time singer and dancer now.

But sting or not... I'm gonna miss this guy.


Pam said...

Tom was awesome. I will miss him. I know he is smiling down on his and would not want us to be sad. Your blog is a vary accurate description of a great man of God. I only hope that I can take a page from his book and do better.

mappqwest said...

I so loved reading this. I am witness to this depiction of his character. When I head of his passing, I wept aloud. I didn't know he was in the hospital. His team had moved and I had not gone to check on him. I was saddened. I remember when I found out he was ill. He told he had been looking for me, but I was out of country. He told me what was going on, and I asked him how I should pray. He said, "Pray that I glorify God in this, and pray for my wife Cheryl." I began praying those exact things once I left the ladies room after crying for five whole minutes. I was crying. Because I had never heard someone with this diagnosis not ask me to pray for their healing. I was so humbled at his request. The Holy Spirit reminded me to pray often. I did. Tom meant more to me than some people know. I was new to the SDP department and he would stop by to check on me. We teased each other about football because I'm from Chicago and he likes...that other team. He is an amazing man of God and someone I truly believe is my brother and treated me as such. I am grateful for his life. Truly grateful.

Becky Hammitt said...

Tom will be dearly missed, it was a blessing to have him here at Compassion. He was genuine and funny and just a great guy. I pray for his family and his team. May Jesus bring comfort to the loss of a dear friend.

Cathy said...

I hesitated to comment, because Tymm's words about Tommy were so pure and true - how can I add more. Then I thought of a Tommy story that shows his heart - both the gentleness and the humor.

Tom had squirrels in his yard and they were damaging his tree. Being a tender-heart, Tom wasn't going to kill them so he got traps to catch them.

As he began his squirrel relocation program, he started giving them mobster names, like Joey "the Fist" Romano. He was breaking up these racketeers and relocating them throughout the city. He would give us updates on the program's progress. Classic Tommy - he even made resolving a squirrel infestation fun.

My brain is still struggling with the fact that he won't be in his cube or in the break room . . . my heart doesn't want to believe it.

Please keep Cheryl in your prayers, because she is missing her best friend and life partner. I can't even imagine the loss she feels. God chose one of his very best to call home.