This is my eulogy to my son which was read at the funeral service by my good friend Phil Smith. It was held on Wednesday, September 17, 1997 at Lyerly Funeral Home. Tommy's remains are buried at Brookhill Memorial Gardens, Rockwell NC Garden 1 Section 1 Lot 58
My Dearest Tom:
Everyone is devastated by this tragic loss and it's going to take a long time to overcome. I fear especially for Billy and Melody who looked upon you as their big brother. They are especially vulnerable because of that. We all loved you very much. I think back wondering about what if I had been a better parent. Why did it take so long for me to learn to understand your problem? What if our generation hadn't embraced drugs? What if your mother and I hadn't of gotten divorced? What if we had reconciled? What if I had never bailed you out when you got in trouble and you would have sat in jail pondering your fate? Would that had been the shock to you that you needed. What if we had more time together where we really got to know each other. You know we never really shared a lot of private conversations though I find great comfort in the ones we did have. So many forks in the road to choose from-another choice might have made the difference. I guess we will never know now..but I will labor to remove more roadblocks so that others may find a better choice than the ones you had.
I've been trying to learn Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven". The song starts with "will you know my name if I see you in heaven". He wrote that as an eulogy when he lost his son at a very early age. I know you'll be up there in heaven and I'll be doing things different so that perhaps I can win a spot there myself. I've got a darn good reason now cause I know this ache in my heart will be with me forever and the only way it will subside is when I see you again.
From your writing I saw in your Hope Valley notebook, I was pleased to see you working on your spiritual side. I guess one of things I sometimes forget in growing up when I did is that it was far more easy to walk the straight and narrow back then. We had a lot more positive reinforcement. Everybody in the neighborhood looked out for everyone else's kids and there wouldn't be anyway a kid could do wrong without there father soon knowing it. Drugs were non-existant and if you smoked a cigarette you could count on your father making you eating it if he found you out. Now it's so much different. Instead of Andy Griffith, there is Beavis and Butthead. Kind words and deeds of action might bring lawsuits. The drive for money, power and success seems like it has much more importance placed on it. This is a tragedy that is doing great damage to this country and I know these mixed signals have confused you and helped lead you astray.
So where do we go from here my beloved son? You've left quite an emotional mess here for us to deal with. But once we recover, what should we do to memorialize your brief but beautiful existence on this earth of ours? Whose banner should be picked up and embraced to fight the evils and apathy that led to your downfall? I promise you I will be a valiant warrior on whatever battlefield that lies ahead. It is too late to save you my son but perhaps others can be saved just by learning of this terrible tragedy. You touched so many hearts..as you must finally be realizing. God I wish you could have held on long enough. I know you would eventually understand.
God has granted your wish for eternal peace and tranquility. When it's my turn to join you.. Be waiting at the gate for me. I don't want to waste any time looking for you as I am sure I'll be very anxious to embrace you. So we'll see you my beloved son.. soon I hope. God bless you and I miss you very much!
I Love you son
PS: make sure there are new
strings on the guitar when I get there. There's lots of tunes we'll have
time to learn. Say hello to my dad for me too. You'll really like him.
He's a heck of a guy.
Other letters leading up to
17th birthday letter
His first arrest 1995 for possession of drug paraphernalia. There was a coke can in the back of the car he was riding in that was used to smoke pot. When the officer asked who it belongs to he claimed credit for it. supposedly because he didn't want the girl driver getting in trouble. This cost him his National honor society membership among other things. Parental advice!! When your kid is in trouble.. don't bail him out!! Some have got to learn from their mistakes. Tell them early too(like 14) & remind often "you get in trouble with the law..I'm not bailing you out!"
my foolish letter to the District Attorney 3_97 (urged for mercy..how shortsighted that was! tommy had just started with heroin. Two weeks in jail would have potentially shown him the failure of his ways and possibly kept him from getting addicted.
To tommy_and billy-stealing_money from me for drugs
tommy_return_from_Amethyst de-tox, Charlotte NC 7_6
tom_at mercy Hospital detox_7_26_97
Dad's letter7-21-97 b4 he went to Hope Valley
Hope Valley- I encouraged Tommy 8-18-97, plan after rehab
from Tommy while at Hope Valley to his sister Karina
Tommy returned home 8_27_97
Articles about Tommy's death 9/17/00
Three years later. 9/20/2000. Extensive article in Salisbury Post about drugs. I was interviewed. Here's original link. in the Salisbury Post.
Lastly, our lives are a lot like a giant orchestra. We can't hope to play every part..but there is a part that we can play. Tragedies like the loss of a loved one is a horrible wake-up call that no one wants. But it does force you to re-examine your core. What you do with that discovery is the key however and unfortunately many of us lack the courage to do what we know we should do. Still, if you have read this far, do not give up. Time does heal wounds. God does move in mysterious ways. Paths that seemed closed or forbidden open widely with new allure. There is life..much life and it is good so partake while we can. Oh..and here's a neat site whose popular starfish story illustrates the overwhelming odds a few of us face in trying to help others. Enjoy it and hopefully be inspired by it.
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