Thanking Thomas B.

“Now remember this Tony, after you say whatever you need to say, tell em, ‘Do whatever you want with this, you will anyway.”‘                              

                                                                             Thomas B. Saunders

Thomas B. Saunders

Thirty years ago in the small village of Merrickville, Ontario our children took up being friends with the Saunders’ kids. At that time Tommy and his first wife, Linda had three children exactly the same ages as ours. It was a good fit, so though we never formally met we were both known to each through our kids.

To be honest, Tommy had a bit of a reputation. He was fearless (the better description might have been, “wild”), known for living on the edge and I would not be betraying any trust, as he would be first to tell you, that he was reckless – reckless at driving, a womanizer,  a rough neck, gambler and, at times, a weekend druggie and drunk.

We were in the middle of a Pentecost Revival equivalent to that in the Book of Acts. Our little church which began with about nine adults had begun to explode and sometimes we would baptize more than twenty people at the beach on the Rideau River in Merrickville. Some of Tommy’s friends had become Christians, left the party life and this left him bewildered, curious and confused.

I never really met Tommy until one Sunday afternoon when at the beach  baptizing I got a glimpse of him. He didn’t seem so bad to me as everyone said. In fact, Tommy was respectful as he watched us immerse some of the towns people. Tommy was no mocker of God.

Through a variety of circumstances, Tommy also committed his life to Christ and became an outspoken witness for the Gospel. As the owner of Montague Body Shop, hardly a person who came through the door did not hear his story and/or were faced with the Scripture and the claims of the Gospel. Sure some people didn’t like it and Tommy developed another reputation. He became known for standing up for Jesus, being immoveable and unstoppable. In some ways, his forthright style was abrasive as is mine (or so I am told). He liked to call the two of us “dog and shooter.” He claimed to be the dog and referred to me as the shooter. There is one thing for sure, like those of the first century church no criticism or threat could silence him. I am proud to have played some small part in his coming to Christ. Both heaven and earth have been immeasurably blessed by his uncompromising convictions.

Friday morning, I dropped by to see him at his home just on the outskirts of Smith’s Falls, Ontario. At the moment Tom can barely get around and upon arrival informed me that he was three days on the couch and could not so much as make his way across the parking lot. Tom has cancer. It’s serious – dead serious and if a miracle doesn’t happen and soon then as he says, “It will be a death sentence.” Yet, when I sat across from him at his kitchen table, his Bible open and warm from the reading, he continued to speak the Word of God as though nothing has changed. The New Testament describes the likes of Thomas Saunders, “And as the Scripture hath said, He that believes on me as the Scripture has said, out of his (or her) inner most being shall flow rivers of living water.” I came away from him feeling drenched.

I didn’t really go all the way to Smith’s Falls to pray for Tommy though I expected I would and did. I believe in laying hands on the sick and praying for people and, in so doing, have seen my fair share of critical, even death-bed situations turned around to the glory of God. My real purpose in going to see him was to look into his face – a face hardly recognized as his former self – and simply express my gratitude.

Some of the others from thirty or more years ago have packed it in. Some of our closest friends have decided to live adulterously, to abandon the people of God and to even deny the Lord that bought them. Not Thomas B.. Many times he would have had as good or even better reasons than others to turn tail and go AWOL. It is folks like Thomas B. that have made the difference in my life by reminding me that I am not alone. There are others that have meant business from the “get go.”

With tears in our eyes we embraced one another and perhaps for the last time on this side but we are not sorry. I imagine a fearful day of  terror for others when they realize they have sold their God-given birthright for a puny bowl of slim soup as did Esau and the Bible tells us that he “looked for a place of repentance, but could find none.” He was desperately sorry but it was TOO LATE. This, I am afraid, will be the case for others when the realize they have squandered their lives for nothing.

The old southern Gospel song has this line, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”  For those who have turned their backs on Christ, in time they will all go the same way – the way of all flesh. One day, they will be clinging to their last breath and what then, nothing but hopelessness, anguish and regret.

“Do whatever you want with this, you will anyway.”

As Tommy says, it’s a fact, in the end, everyone does exactly what they want to do anyway.

5 comments on “Thanking Thomas B.

  1. Amy Haley says:

    I became more deeply acquainted with Asaph’s prayer in Psalm 73 just the other day in our SS class. It is a psalm that begins with the theme of the prospering of the wicked, leaving the faithful people wondering why they bother to be good and how the wealth of the wicked looks so inviting that faithful people might trade places with them. Asaph seemed to be making a strong case for abandoning the faith… “Surely in vain have i kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.” (v 13-14). However, just when you think he has given up on God, he seems to interject a thought that occurs to him in his meditation. He declares in vs 15, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed your children.” When I think of the spiritual Fathers and Mothers that God provided in my journey — a list that would include Thomas B — I am so grateful that they didn’t abandon the faith for something temporary. That they probably considered, as Asaph did, the betrayal that would represent to the next generation. When Asaph calculated the cost, it served to change his perspective and was instrumental in redirecting him away from longing to trade places with the godless… And in the end, he reiterates the absolute reality — what seems now like wealth is waste and what seemed worthless now lasts forever.
    Thanks, Thomas B. Your wealth will last forever.

  2. Fred Hogg says:

    This is the first time that I have ever written a comment on the web , so it has even caught up to me,but I felt the need to thank Thomas.B for the great wittness he has been to me in my life.Tony really captured so well what Tommy is all about.A little side note.after I read what Tony had written,I scrolled down and read another article Tony had written about seeing Chuck again and recalled how during church services he took the brunt of all the doctor jokes from the pulpit.but take heart Chuck , for this is the same pastor who from the pulpit once told the congregation that I was a man with no visable skills.I have always taken great comfort in that because I am in an agricultural business and that comment came from a man who was one of the worst farmers in the history of farming.Take that Tony(ha).
    Anyways, Getting back to Tommy,We have not seen each other in a long time but have sort of kept in touch with each other through a mutual friend ,Bert who works for me.Bert is involved with racing pidgeons and one day when we were talking about this sport I found out that Tommy was in the same pidgeon racing club as Bert.Go figure,Tommy’s gone from Dart Swingers(a car)to pidgeon racing.Well I guess he always was flying.But at his first meeting at the club, apparently he informed the club that there would be no swearing or taking the LORDS name in vain or he would not attend the meetings.Oh isn’t that the Tommy we all know and love,a witness where ever he goes.
    So it has meant a lot to me to exchange hellos with Tommy through a mutual friend over the last couple of years and to remember what a great testimony he has to share and shared with so many people.

    • tonyhedrick says:

      If this is your first one, I suggest that you write a lot more of them. Well said, except for the part about me wounding people’s feelings from the pulpit and, though only partially truthful, saying I was, “one of the worst farmers in the history.” That is simply not true! I am THE WORST farmer in history. How dare you say that I was ONE of the worst farmers in history?

  3. Clifford. C. Parmeter says:

    I met Tommy once only and I can tell you he is no phoney, tommy loves the lord and i could tell you he is a good man with the love of life in his heart I will pray for you Tommy………. the good lord loves you………….

    • tonyhedrick says:

      Thanks for your comment Clifford. I doubt if you need this confirmation but I have met Tommy a thousand times and he is no phoney. It’s nice to know that whether once or countless times, in the dark or in the light, you have the same person… whether we like it or not. Tommy may be accused of many things but never will he be accused of being inconsistent.

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