The following is why I should never be asked to give a speech or do a eulogy...
“Thank you, Reverend, for that kind introduction. Hello, everyone. Thank you for coming out on this sad, somber day. Callie asked if I would say a few words and pay tribute to the memory of Thomas. For my oldest friend? Of course. If I was in there and he was out here, he’d do the same for me. Because that’s the kind of stand-up guy Tom was.
I think it’s fair to say that all of us were touched by his presence in our lives in one way or another. He was Callie’s dear husband. Father to Kaitlyn and Tommy. Brother to Susan, Jessica, and Richard. Friend to us all. He always had time for the concerns of others. There was no one in the world who could speak ill of Thomas Gutherie. Except maybe that miserable bastard Larry Winslow, but then everyone in town hates Larry. Oh, don’t look at me like that, Larry, even the minister dislikes you, and I’ll just put this out there right now: it’s a shame you’re not the one in the coffin.
Where was I? Oh yes. Tom Gutherie was a friend to us all. Except for Larry. He was a respected doctor. A voice of wisdom. A man with a good sense of humour. A man with a zest for life and a love for his family. A pillar of the community.
When we think of the way Tom died, we might wonder about the justice of it all.
We might ask ourselves, why him? Why not someone who deserved it? Why not Larry?
I know. It’s hard for us all to come to grips with. But we have to. We have to face what happened. It’s the only way to begin healing.
From what the state police have said, it was one of those things where a bunch of little things all happening together led to that one moment. Along with a few big things.
Tom went driving out to the coast that day. The kids were down with the flu. Callie encouraged him to go. As we all know, Tom loved to hike, loved to do some bird spotting… even in infernally thick Pacific Northwest fog like it was that day.
So he was out on the road. Driving, probably whistling to himself. We know he stopped for coffee. Now at this point I have to admit that Tom had a bad habit of drinking his coffee while driving. And talking on his cell phone. Hands free or not, that was still a distraction. And maybe that was a factor. Maybe spilling a bit of hot coffee on his shirt distracted him at just the worst possible moment. Maybe not. Maybe what happened was bound to happen, and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it all. Aside from maybe staying home that day, or drinking his coffee in the coffee shop and ending up on the road five minutes later.
What’s done is done. We can’t talk about what if. We can only talk about what happened.
The state police have told us that he was talking with Richard about a Mariners game in those final seconds. Richard heard Tom grumble about spilling coffee on his shirt.
That was the last set of words Tom ever uttered.
From what the state police have managed to reconstruct from the scene, it seems Tom was distracted for just a moment. Took his eyes off the road, veered into oncoming traffic. He looked up just in time to swerve out of the way of an oncoming bus. Richard heard him yell out something incoherent over the phone.
That bus, incidentally, was full of nuns and adorable puppies coming back from a weekend at Nunapalooza. Word is they’re all fine, just a little shaken up is all. In retrospect they were lucky.
Tom? Not so much.
Sure, he managed to swerve out of the way of that bus, back into his lane.
But he had already lost control.
And other things were happening right at that moment in time that he couldn’t have controlled anyway.
The Geological Survey later determined that the quake was a moderate one centered near Taholah. Right on the coast. Where Tom happened to be driving. Not a lot of damage. Just some rockfall along the highway. Including in Tom’s path.
It went off just at the same time as Tom was having that near miss with the holy rollers.
Three hundred feet away from the near miss, there was a rock slide. Debris came down on the road. Imagine that in the fog.
So there we had Tom. Narrowly escaping death in one moment. And then coming through the fog and seeing a wall of rocks just ahead of him.
He didn’t have a chance.
Especially with what was converging on him in that very same instant.
NASA was tracking a small meteor that looked to be on a collision course with the planet. This happens a lot, and usually it’s not a big deal. We’re not talking extinction level event here, just a moderate sized meteor. Only nobody thought to inform the public. That meteor entered the atmosphere at a low angle somewhere over the Pacific. By some trick of fate, its trajectory was taking it right to where all those rocks had settled. At God knows how many miles an hour. I’m sure there’s someone at NASA who calculated this, but it’s not like they’ll make the numbers public.
So there was Tom.
There was the rock slide.
And there was the incoming meteor.
I like to think that the last thing going through Tom’s mind was to wish it was Larry Winslow ending up meeting this bad end. Oh, don’t glare at me, Larry, everyone here agrees with me.
The Sisters Of The Blessed Perpetuity reported a flash of light and a loud bang. Their driver had stopped the bus. A near miss on the road accompanied by an earthquake was enough of a reason to pause. They looked back, saw the glow of a fire through the fog. They called for help.
But Tom was beyond help.
At least it was quick.
I mean, your car colliding with a rock slide during an earthquake at the same time as a meteor hitting said rock slide and blowing up, that’s going to end you pretty fast. Moment of pain maybe, but it’s over pretty quick. If you’ve got to die, at least going fast is merciful. We should all hope to go quickly when it’s our time.
Unlike Larry, who deserves a nice case of the flesh eating disease.
Well, we are left to mourn Tom. The sad fact is that most of him was pretty much cremated in the explosion. So what’s in that coffin is Tom’s ashes… mixed with elements of a destroyed Dodge Caravan.
Mourn him we must. But we should also live up to his example. That of a generous, well loved, friendly man who was respected and admired by those who knew him.
Except for Larry, who someday will earn the kind of funeral in which we only show up to make sure the drunken bastard is actually dead.
Goodbye, Tom. We’ll never forget you. It shouldn’t have been you that day.
It should have been Larry Winslow.
Yes, you heard me, Larry.
I went there.
If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to step outside with me and throw the first punch.
Drop dead, you miserable drunk.”