The transcript of my eulogy on the occasion of my grandpa, Chuck Thomey’s death.
My friends, ours is a God who reveals himself in the face of a man, Jesus Christ, and who helps us understand who he is through stories in Scripture. I stand here today as a witness to the life of Charles Thomey and I seek to share with you the ways that God has revealed himself in this precious life, and the ways God continues to reveal himself through the life and work of this man. Indeed, aren’t we all both testaments and fruits of the love that God taught us through Chuck?
Over my 30 years, Grandpa showed me how to do a lot of things. Chuck taught me how to make people laugh, he showed me how to work hard, and how to put others first. He helped me learn to waterski and to drive a stick-shift, he fostered my love of dogs and gave me an example of how to love my family well, with an unconditional and unwavering devotion. Last week, he taught me perhaps the most important thing I’ll ever learn from him: he showed me how to die.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces a great bounty.” (John 12:24)
Last Saturday, his some of granddaughters had already started to take over grandpa’s regular shopping trip for the Food Bank at Aldi’s. They were collecting cans and boxes for the school food drive, and their mother asked Grandma about the particulars of Chuck’s habit, wishing to share the tradition with his progeny. His blood and his spirit continues through those who he’s shaped, though his body has already gone back to the earth as dust.
As he lost his independence and, as Isaiah said, his “knees became feeble,” Grandpa’s sense of humor didn’t suffer. When the medical transport team was wheeling him down the hallway of his condo complex just a week ago Friday, he assured a passing neighbor, “This is just a dress rehearsal.”
Even last Sunday, the eve of his death, Chuck was laughing. When the nurse would come in and give him medication, he winked at me as he accepted the syringe. As he drifted off to nap, he’d chuckle—at times he’d laugh in his sleep. He even started singing as I sat with him early on that frigid, sunny morning. Making conversation, he asked me when I had flown in and he asked if I was happy; hardly 24 hours out from death, he was still looking first to others’ comfort and happiness.
Chuck said to me, “I’m okay”—always reassuring—and he continued, “I have to go now, you understand?” I told him I did, and I counted each one of his breaths, relishing each moment I sat and witnessed the dying of this strong, gentle, faithful man.
Toward afternoon, my aunt and I sat flanking him; telling him that we were there and how lucky he was to be surrounded by beautiful ladies. He said, “I need to walk home.” Through tears we told him that we were here to help him walk home, and when he started to shift his legs, that he didn’t need his legs to get back home.
The last thing he said to me, on Sunday afternoon, was, “I’m ready. What do I do?” Charles was always ready for action, even in his very last journey. My mom said I was lucky to have known a person so eager to help with whatever needed to be done, to have seen the way that a life could look if it was truly spent in service to others.
Chuck’s life and death is captured in the last words said by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading, “Father, glorify Your name.” We have seen clearly self-giving love, joy, and wisdom of God in the face of Charles Thomey.
Jesus, come quickly, that we may not live long without the joy and comfort of Your Spirit, as known through Chuck, and all your saints, Amen.