Eulogy for Thomas

                Eulogy for Thomas

Early December, 2017 I met Thomas in front of Bethany Baptist Church on Bluff Street in Knoxville. It was about 30 degrees. He was wearing a white undershirt, a thin windbreaker, a nice pair of khaki pants, and a black pair of boots that were too big for him. His nose was as red as a beet and all scratched up. Later he told me the shoes had made him fall and showed me the large sore on his lower right leg caused by the boot top rubbing against his leg as he walked.

Tom told me he’d been released the night before from UT Hospital and had walked in the cold all night. He had a Stage 4 cancerous tumor in his right lung the size of a softball. He first asked for money to buy a meal, but reduced it to a cup of coffee when I declined to give him anything. I was skeptical at first. I’ve had a fair amount of experience working with the homeless and assumed he wanted the money to buy drugs or alcohol.

As I turned away from him and began climbing the steps leading to the church, the Holy Spirit that lives within all Christ followers told me to invite him inside as a test of his credibility. To my surprise he came inside. He showed me his discharge papers from the hospital and a worn copy of the latest edition of Open Windows, a Christian daily devotional. Later I found out that he also carried in his pocket all of the letters that his cousin Judy had written to him while he lived in shelters, jails, or prisons. She was an important connection to his family.

After church I took him to the Gondolier restaurant.  During the meal he told me he was having surgery to remove the cancer on Friday. I was in a quandary about where to take him to stay before the surgery. Later in the week I learned that he was supposed to see his doctor on Friday to schedule a time for the surgery. Unable to think of anyone who would take care of him for a few days, I decided to take care of him myself. I had developed a sense of trust during our meal. 

After the meal I purchased his pain medicine for him. CVS turned him down because he had no form of identification. WalMart sold it to him based on my personal forms of identification. While we were there, I purchased warm clothing for him. He was so humble and appreciative. I would pick out something nice, but he would always insist on getting something cheaper. 

I’d made a big deal to the server about taking all available food home in our to-go boxes--everything except the silverware. That night I found I had inadvertently brought home a spoon, not paying attention when I poured the spaghetti into a box. When I found it, I called the restaurant to apologize, and to Tom’s surprise I took it back the next night. From that point on he called me the “Spoon Bandit.”

I’m a Christ Follower. I try to follow in His footsteps by obeying the principles Jesus outlined in the Bible. I was trying to obey the command to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s a hard one for me and for most other people I know. I have some forgiveness issues dating back as long as I can remember. I made Thomas sit with me at my dining room table while I reflected upon seemingly every time I’d been wronged since birth! After 2 days of non-stop talking, Tom said “I’ve been around a lot of talkative people. People doing the purest form of crystal meth talk a lot when they get high. But I have never met ANYBODY who can talk as much as you do!” 

When I told him my son had given me a pacifier to suggest I shouldn’t talk so much, Tom had an excellent idea for a response. I should buy a small tape recorder and fill it full--maybe 6 hours or so of non-stop talking. Next time I saw him I could plop the recorder on the table, put the pacifier in my mouth, and push play!

In the future I plan to be a motivational speaker in support of the mentally ill, those suffering with addictions, and the homeless. I plan to use these anecdotes to add humor to my speeches. Tom was intelligent and very witty. He will be remembered and immortalized for years to come.

After that week I turned his calls for help down because I felt they would put me in potentially dangerous situations. But in the biblical book of Romans, the Apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus doesn’t want us to feel guilty about anything we did or didn’t do for Tom.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  [Romans 8:1-2, NIV]

You can have peace that Thomas is with Jesus now. I talked with him about Jesus a lot when he was in my home, and it was clear he had a yearning for a relationship with Him. He had attended churches in Nashville and other places he’d lived. But we know that yearning and good works will not assure you an eternal home in heaven.

A few days before Tom passed away, Judy prayed with him to accept the free gift of salvation that is available to all of us. Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of everyone. If we accept this free gift, the Holy Spirit will come to live inside us so we will be able to have a personal relationship with God--talking with him daily, following his teachings, and living with Him forever in heaven. 

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”   [Romans 10:9, NIV]

In conclusion, I want to encourage each family member or friend here today to be comforted and confident in knowing that if you are saved, you will see Tom one day when you get to heaven. Tom has been made whole now--no more suffering or pain.  Let your good memories of times you’ve spent with Thomas carry you through this difficult season of grief.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.   [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, KJV]

August 3, 2018

Ruth Ann Manning,
Oct 12, 2018, 7:26 AM