**One of Tom's final wishes before his death was to write one more article for the Asheville Citizen-Times, and to edit a version of it for the St. James Episcopal Church newsletter. He asked that the St. James version of the article be posted here after his death. Tom died gently and peacefully at the Hospice Elizabeth House in Hendersonville, NC on January 24th, 2013. A memorial service will be held Monday, January 28th, at 3pm at St. James Episcopal Church in Hendersonville.**
This is my last article for the St. James Epistle. I developed pneumonia in early January and I did not recover fully. By the time you read this, I may be dead. I realize that is blunt, but I want to be clear. Here are a few thoughts before I go.
I would like to thank Amy Williford, the editor of the St. James Epistle, for reminding me each month when my article was due and being gracious about it when it was late. Thank you to all of my St. James family. You have given me the love of God these last six years that I have been ill. You have been Jesus to me and I have been Jesus to you. You fed me when I was hungry, comforted me when I was lonely, gave me shelter when I was lost, and befriended me when I was dying. You have sacrificed yourselves in a hundred little ways and brought healing. You have been magnificent.
I decided not to get a tracheostomy and ventilator because I would had to move away. A feeding tube crisis in December convinced me I needed to stay near friends who could help me. I had made bold statements about living as long as God could use or teach me. They were modified by my fear of dying alone.
Why didn't God heal me? I prayed fervently and frequently for my healing, as did many others, but healing did not come. Perhaps God saved me from the Alzheimer's disease that started to take away my mother's mind when she was my age. Perhaps God taught me to find hope in hard times. Perhaps God could use me best as a man who is dying rather than living.
I am not afraid of dying and death. I am not afraid of dying because I am in hospice care. The caring and professional staff will make sure I die in comfort and dignity. I am not afraid of death because I am in the care of God who has promised my resurrection to eternal life.
I feel sad about leaving my daughters and their futures behind. They will be sad I will not be there for their weddings, children and love. I hope they will take comfort in the words of C.S. Lewis, "there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."
My daughters, Emma and Catherine, were tucking me in bed here at hospice and Catherine was concerned about the position of my head on the pillow. She asked, "is your head in a good place?" As soon as she said it we all laughed at the double meaning. Yes, Emma and Catherine and everyone, my head is in a good place. Thanks be to God. Amen.