Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Final Goodbye

Coach Thomas praying with his team before the West Marshall game 2008 - the first game after an EF-5 tornado destroyed much of Parkersburg a year ago, including the high school and Coach's home.

Today our community said goodbye to Coach Thomas. Not just our community - friends, former students, and former athletes from all over the country. College coaches. Local farmers. A US Senator and our Governor. The tiny town of Parkersburg, Iowa was transformed into a grieving sea of people from all walks of life.

Ron Burgundy, Rick Coleman, and I stood in line for 3 1/2 hours last night to pay our respects to the family. The visitation was supposed to be from 3:30 to 8. We went at 7:00 and the line snaked through the tiny town of P'burg. Around 8:15 a friend of the family wandered to the end of the line and said "The family will stay until you have all been through. They want to speak to each of you." We got home at 11:45 pm.

The Thomas family literally held up every one of those mourners as they went through the line. Only God could give them that strength.

We're talking thousands of people here, folks. People from every walk of life. People from every demographic. People of every race, creed, and color. Those are the people Ed touched. Most of them were not football players.

While we waited in line, we saw old friends and shared funny stories. It was impressive to see the players who played for Coach and are now in the NFL come back to honor him as pall bearers. The chatter became more somber as we neared the church, and the sight as we entered was breathtaking. Flowers, plants, photographs, and memorabilia everywhere. Coach's life flashing in front of our eyes.

As we stood by the casket, the largest of two strong, burly, kick-boxing men I was with was reduced to tears. Sobbing, shoulder-shaking tears. I always carry Kleenex, and Rick didn't have his man-bag.

Ed's wife hugged my two companions who had been a part of Ed's life like she would never let them go. Like she couldn't let them go. Their lives had been intertwined for many years. The church is quite small, and only family and close friends were given invitations to sit in the church for the funeral. The family asked
Ron and Rick to be among them. The overflow would be in the community center and available via video feed.

Not wanting to take seats away from family, these two humble men hemmed and hawed, but the family insisted.

As we walked the 6 blocks back to the car, Ronnie said to me "I don't think I've ever been so honored by anything in my life." That's saying a lot. After all, this guy has a key to the city and had a street named after him, among other things. All of those things paled in comparison.

Because this honor was all about relationships. And love. And God.

And a relationship with a loving God.

They had that in common more than anything.

At the service today, Ed's eldest son said "
You can be sad the rest of the day, but come tomorrow, once you wake up, it’s time to get going ... There’s a lot of work to be done in this town.” That's what his dad would have wanted him to say.

You can read more stores and memories about Coach here.

I still don't understand, but after listening to Pete Wilson's final "Q" series tonight, I was l left refreshed by a couple of Pete's comments:

"There are simply some questions that don't have answers."

"Sometimes I think that the most powerful learning that we have in our lives doesn't come from the answers; it comes from the pursuit of the question."

"It's possible I may not get answers to some of my questions this side of heaven."

Ron put together his final tribute to Coach Thomas tonight. You owe it to yourself to watch.

let's get going. Coach would want us to.

Tea tonight: green with acai


gitz said...

Thanks for posting this, Candy. I thought of everyone so much today... my heart was so heavy for all of you.

sherri said...

What a beautiful, well deserved tribute to this man. And Ron Burgandy is a man of honor, which is why this honor came to him.

Annie K said...

Wow, that was awesome Candy. Imagine if we all worked harder at making an impact like Coach Thomas.

I thank God for people like him who truly make a difference in the lives of our kids.

Helen said...

Awesome post, dedicated to an awesome man, by an awesome woman. Very moving.

Wendy said...

That was a lovely tribute. How is RB doing now? And how are you?

Billy Coffey said...

Amazing, Candy. Just...amazing.

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