Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Brother Tom

Yesterday morning I headed south on I-5 just about the time the sun came up. Mountains laden in snow drew my eyes again and again as the sun, filtered by billowy clouds, crept higher and higher into the sky. From the HOV lane I looked down on the Snohomish River valley, green patches through the winter trees, the meandering river, the foothills.

My brother Tom took the River Road each evening to his job at the cannery in Snohomish the summer of 1967. He was earning money for tuition at Everett Community College. On August 9 we celebrated his 18th birthday, which had been the day before, and waved him off to work. Along the River Road he was in a one-car accident, and instantly he passed into Heaven.

Our parents' firstborn, Tom was a remarkable guy. He was happy, easygoing, friendly, attractive, talented. How many times, I wonder, did my girlfriends say, "Hi Ginger. How's Tom?"

Everybody loved him, except maybe the grumpy people at the end of his paper route who couldn't understand why he was always late with their papers. I can tell you why. He would stop and chat with the lonely ones at the beginning of the route, or help a kid who'd fallen off his bike, or try to get a cat out of a tree.

He played Curly in our school's production of Oklahoma and for several months he was Curly, wearing a Western shirt and cowboy hat to go to the store for Mom, talking with an Okie accent. During the performance, the audience thought they were watching a reality show. And when Curly (Tom) proposed to Laurie (Sue Forrest), he stepped to the edge of the stage and, with a dazzling smile, called out to the audience, "Hey, all you out there that can hear my voice, I just asked Laurie Williams to marry me!" The crowed stood to their feet and burst into applause, right in the middle of the show!

He was just that kind of guy.

Tom's faith was as natural to him as breathing. He loved Jesus, and I can't think of any time that he lost sight of that. But something happened to him at a youth conference in Indiana earlier in the sumer of 1967 that took him even deeper. We knew by his life that he'd made some significant new commitment to the Lord, but he was gone before we got to hear what it was.

Over six hundred people came to his funeral. We celebrated his life, mourned his passing, and heard of the grace of God that surrounds and sustains those whose hope is in Him. My parents, in the midst of their grief, thanked God for lending them Tom for 18 years, assured that they would see him again in Heaven.

I've got to tell you, I'm looking forward to that too!

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