Monday was the funeral for my good friend Tom Rhodebaugh. Tom has been apart of our family since I was a baby.
He grew up in Philadelphia and in a family that did not know the Lord. So Tom experienced lots of hard things growing up and was living his life in rebellion to the Lord. His sister had found Christ and she started tell him about the Lord. He finally gave his life to the Lord when he was in his middle 30's. He got connected with a pastor out there who then moved to McPherson, KS. Tom decided to visit this pastor and his family, and when Tom got to McPherson, he liked it so much that he went back to Philly and packed up and returned to MAC in the summer of 1977.
Tom was single and never got married. Therefore several families allowed Tom to be a part of their family. Mine was one of those. My dad and Tom because best friends. They played hours of golf together and went to many basketball and football games together.
Tom often took my brother and I out to eat and taught us how to bowl. He was a remarkable bowler, bowling several 300 games.
In high school, I worked for Tom for 2-3 summers mowing lawns with my good friend Erik Vogel. We have so many wonderful and funny stories from those summers. Tom was always very opinionated so we could get into great discussions.
Tom's commitment to Christ was always steady and faithful. He had been radically saved by Christ and he was so bold telling others about his faith.
Over the last 10 years, Tom was faithful in supporting Angie and I. Whenever I would preach in Mac, he was always sitting in the front row giving me an Amen and smiling.
When I would come home to visit my parents, we'd always see his truck and lawn mower and he stop and say hi and we'd catch up.
This past November, he went in for a heart procedure and suffered complications from that and never fully recovered. He spent time in and out of the hospital through December and then entered Wesley December 26 to never leave.
I had several good visits with him but the most powerful was 2 weeks or so before he died. At some point he realized that he might not be getting better, so I went to say goodbye to my friend. He was so tender and just rubbed my hand. We looked deep into each other's eyes and shed many tears. I was able to tell him how much he meant to me and how grateful I was for his friendship. I also told him to say hi to my brother when he got to heaven. I don't know how all of that works, but I want to believe he communicated that to Phil.
As I left, he just kept waving to me. What a powerful moment that I will always remember. How often do we get to tell a good friend what they mean to us and be able to say goodbye.
Tom passed away January 28th at around 10:00 PM. It's such an amazing reality to think how in a twinkling of an eye we are in this life and instantly in the presence of Christ.
In the past 2 1/2 years, I've had three people close to me die. Each time, I am reminded and challenged to live fully for Christ. I realize what this life is truly about, and my resolve to follow Christ deepens.
I pray my life will be like Tom's. I want to live to my last breath, sharing the love of Christ with others.
Goodbye, old friend. Thanks for the influence on my life and for the cherished memories. Someday we will see each other again and catch up with Phil on old times.