Remembering Tom Howard and a Life Well-Lived

About four or five years ago I was invited into a group called Holy Smokes.  It sounds great, doesn’t it?  And it was and has been.  About 12 guys who do life together, we meet every week unless we are out of town; and we enjoy some fine cigars and read the Bible together.  We’ve been doing it week-in and week-out, year after year.  These guys have become a part of my support system.  So you can imagine how I felt last week when one of my BOB (Band of Brothers) died suddenly of a heart attack.

His name is Tom Howard.  Tom is a composer, arranger, writer, conductor, jack-of-all-trades here in the Nashville music scene.  A quiet, simple, understated guy like a lot of creatives are; sensitive, thoughtful, insightful, and always gentle.  And, I might add, way too hard on himself.  Know anybody like that?

When Tom passed away he was on a walk with his wife and friends last week at the age of 59.  It’s hard to believe he is gone and he won’t be there every Wednesday morning with a smiling face, with a gentle word, and his kind handshake.

The one thing I know about Tom is, he always sold himself short.  I find that a lot of really good people do that.  They don’t have an overestimation of themselves.  Often times they are way too hard on themselves.  Tom was one of those guys.  One of the reasons I know that is what happened yesterday at his funeral.

Tom was memorialized yesterday, on a Wednesday, in the afternoon, 2:00, at his church.  And the place was packed.  People were standing in the back and around the sides; hundreds and hundreds – I don’t know what the final count would be – but I would say close to a thousand people were there, if not more.  But here is my point.  Any man who can draw that kind of crowd on a Wednesday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee is a man who’s impacted a lot of lives.

And it wasn’t just anyone, but it was the Who’s Who of the music business in this city: both Country and Christian, both believer and, might I add, skeptic.  It was a fit tribute to a life well-lived.  Here is my question to you: If you were to die suddenly today of a heart attack and we were to bury you on a Wednesday afternoon, would anyone show up?  Would we miss you?  Would there be people who tell stories about your humor, your gentleness, your grace, your intelligence, your willingness to sacrifice for others, your selflessness? Or would people find out about your death through an email and think, “Oh well.”

I’ve made this determination while I’m living, again, thanks to Tom Howard.  I’m going to spend my life making it as much as I possibly can, about others: loving them, serving them, building them up, being there for them, being selfless, putting my wife and children before my own pleasure, putting my friends before my own agenda so that when my days are over someone would be willing to inconvenience themselves on a Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 to come and say “good-bye.”

It’s not too late to live a memorable life.

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