This morning I wrote a letter to my family and relatives about my father, Marion Ray Thomas. Today is the ten year anniversary of his home-going, so I wanted to honor him by calling attention to his life. The following is the letter except for the opening. I also want to honor him among my friends, which you are! I asked my family members if they can remember what they were doing at the time they heard the news. You can follow it from here:
I was standing in the living room of our Surrey Road house [Troy, Ohio], preparing to leave on a trip with Paul and Charissa to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the airshow. (Amanda was in Madrid, Spain, I believe.) Paul, who had been loading the car, walked in the front door holding a phone. Aunt Miriam had just called with the news. When he spoke to me those words, “Dad is gone,” I knew in my spirit that it was true and it was good.
Sigh. Dad had just been diagnosed with lung cancer, had spent some time in the hospital, a terrible experience for him, and had returned home, I believe, on a Thursday. Friday, hospice came in to show Mom how to care for Dad and what they would do to help during this period. The doctors gave Dad about six months to live. Dad, who had anticipated heaven for so many years, who wanted no intervention to extend his life, did not have his heart set on living six months. He did not fight death. Nearing his 86th birthday (October 5), he left his mortal body Monday morning on July 26, 2004 at 6:54 a.m.
Mom, Yvonne, as we all know, was not prepared to lose him yet, for she was just gearing up to serve him in a new and more intense capacity as his care giver. She loved by serving. She had lived nearly 54 years with this man, caring for him and fussing over his every need — including needs he really didn’t have but that were important to her. Mom adjusted awkwardly to her loss, prayerfully fussing over her family the next four years and serving in her way as she was able. She never really adjusted. Then, she quietly greeted her heavenly home-calling in the Quick’s sunroom [my sister’s home in Indiana] on Thanksgiving week end, Sunday morning, November 30, 2008.
Irises. Dad loved irises. People came from all over to buy his irises of many colors and varieties. He loved all sorts of flowers, fruits, vegetables, plants, and trees. He learned to love gardening from his grandmother. Pouring happily over seed catalogs, he’d plan each season of gardening and “truck gardening.” Hoeing, planting, watering, weeding, he’d raise an amazing amount of produce. Canning and freezing food, Mom and Dad delighted in sharing their true labor of love (the process of which exhausted and taxed Mom) with neighbors and friends and with all of us all year long! Sharing rewarded them.
Violet and purple irises have become for me a symbol of my parents’ creative and compassionate hearts. Dad loved God’s creation – color, shape, patterns, textures, arrangements – life! Mom loved arranging things beautifully. The color, violet, was a favorite of hers evident in her gentle addition of a purple, glass vase filled with violet silk flowers and her violet necklace she often wore with a purple or pink outfit. In our pastel bedroom, we have a painting and a wall hanging of violet irises, along with that violet vase and the necklace, to remind us of both Mom and Dad. For Dad’s funeral, we chose a picture of violet irises for on the cover of the little memorial bulletin about Dad.
Gardening. Gospeling. Giving. These were gifts Dad cultivated. He enriched our lives with a godly heritage. I haven’t written of his ministry, of his child-like faith and joyful love of Jesus, his eagerness to share the gospel with anyone passing by, his love of people for he knew no strangers. . . . Ah, we cannot forget his poetry. To close this memory lane, here are some lines from his poem, “Heavenbound.”
My soul is now happy, and soon I’ll be free.
I’m on the great journey to what’s better for me!
I soon will exchange at the last drink of breath,
What the Christian calls sleep, while the world calls it death.
I soon will see Jesus, oh glory to God!
The body some will cover beneath the old sod.
But I’m going home to the Land Full of Rest!
For Christ has redeemed me, and I am so blessed!”
There are many verses to this poem, but this last line you will find on his tombstone, and let me include two more sets of two lines to inspire us:
I see it, I see it, just over the hill –
That wonderful place my hopes will fulfill!
I’ve been walking with Jesus for many a year,
And now I see Heaven. It’s getting more clear!
And so, we follow in these steps as Dad followed in Christ’s. May we too see with the eyes of faith and the exuberance of hope, as Dad, Marion Ray Thomas, modeled for us.
Gratefully and lovingly,
Karen-Sis-Mom-Cousin-Aunt — Let me add – Friend
What a beautiful tribute to your Dad, Karen. Although I never had the opportunity to know him, I feel that I did, because everything you tell me about him, I see in you. You show me the things that delighted him because they delight you! Mostly, he created within you the desire to know, understand more fully, and delight in the Word of God. And now, like him, you share that with passion and love .
It’s contagious and ever so comforting. Your Dad is still living through you.
Thank you for being such a good student of his. His legacy continues.