On Saturday, Aug 10, we said our final goodbyes to Tom “Gibby” Gibson, my Kim’s father. The memorial service was held at Tom and Kathy’s (Kim’s mother) church, the Episcopal Church-Holy Spirit (ECOHS). It was a beautiful service, and we are deeply thankful to Father Oglesby, Reverand Underwood and the other leaders, assistants, and congregants that celebrated the life of Gibby while reminding us of the hope that we have in Christ. Kim’s brother, Chris, gave an appropriately warm, funny, and heartfelt eulogy that would have made Gibby proud.
There are many things I can write about Tom and particularly what he has meant to me as we both battled cancer. But in the process of the Gibson family preparing for the service, Chris solicited remarks from Kim and their sister, Tracy. I only had the opportunity to read what Kim wrote, but it was so touching that I wanted to share it.
So here are Kim’s memories about her Dad:
Our greatest memories of Gibby are of course all the beach trips we have taken throughout the years. Caroline remembers Gibby being willing to take the girls to the father/daugther dance at their school when Brent was going through chemotherapy. All three of the girls are thankful for and will remember the trip that Gaga and Gibby took them on for the 12th birthdays. Owen remembers Gibby taking him to the driving range and out on the golf course. I think most of the memories and the gifts that he gave to us weren’t monetary in nature. They were gifts of experiences and time spent with him. That is a gift that is invaluable and will never tarnish or fade.
What we will miss most about Gibby is just being with him. We will all miss his visits. We will miss playing games with him (Scattegories, Boggle, Hollywood Poker, Bingo to name a few), doing jigsaw puzzles with him, and trying to solve his lateral thinking puzzles. We will miss his sayings like “Hey Gang!” or “I need some huggles!” or “Oh goody!” or even when he answers the phone by saying “Yello!” We will miss watching sports events on TV with him especially the golf tournaments. When he would visit, they would always be playing in the background. We will miss his encouragement and just his genuine way of being interested in what is going on in our lives. We will miss just giving him a call to say hello and seeing what he is up to and telling him about what is going on in with us.
Gibby has many great characteristics. I think the greatest characteristic that has meant so much to me and my family is just his being present. He not only wanted to physically be there for me and for my family but he wanted to be there emotionally too. When you spent time with him, he was not distracted doing other things. He gave his full attention to you. You could talk to him about anything and he would listen and give advice when asked.
Gibby was also genuine. I think he was definitely WYSIWYG (wizzy wig). What You See Is What You Get. He never put on airs and never made you feel as if you had to be something that you are not. He was just a comfortable person to be around. He genuinely cared about people. He cared not only about my family, but he cared about my friends and what was going on in their lives, too.
Gibby was a positive influence. Even during his battle with cancer, he rarely complained. He just kept on truckin’ (I think I remember when I was little that he had a tshirt with that saying on it?). He preached being well balanced and to live within your means. He not only preached it, but he lived it. He was an inspiration for Brent and his battle with cancer and still is.
Gibby was humble. I think this is most evident in his career. He was a very good salesperson (so I hear from others, not from himself) but he didn’t compromise being a family man by gaining status or a title in his career. He just did what he loved to do while putting has family first. I think, especially in the midst of his battle with cancer, he also learned to humble himself before God. He trusted that God had a plan for him and had peace with whatever that plan was. He was not afraid to die. We are thankful that He allowed Gibby to live 9 years with his disease and still maintain a quality of life where he could spend time with us. God was just ready to have him come home. We all can’t wait to see him in heaven!
During the reception following the memorial service, Chris played a photo montage of Tom’s life. I’m glad that the immediate family was able to watch this video prior to the service, because it is certainly a tear-jerker. What stood out most to me was the simplicity of each photo, some little moment of life captured that demonstrates Tom’s comforting, facilitating presence. One of my favorites is one of Tom and Kathy and all of the grandchildren sitting on a wooden platform by the water somewhere during one of the many vacations we’ve shared together. I know it is hot and humid, clothes are hanging on bodies as from a Dali painting. The kids hold ice cream cones and smile obediently, and the photo must come quickly before their treats melt down their hands. There sit Tom and Kathy among them, so comfortable, relaxed and happy, so obviously treasuring the time with their grand-kids.
Other favorites are the goofy pictures of the man, and even potentially embarrassing ones, such as him, and perhaps his own father alongside, sleeping obliviously in his chair. Those around him were having a laugh at his expense, and he would laugh, too, upon seeing the picture and never ask anyone to delete a photo that might not have been very flattering. I swear the man had no pride to swallow.
What struck me most is that, for one, there were so many photos from which to choose for the collection, a testament to his presence. But also the fact that they ranged essentially up to the time of his death. The moments he treasured most were those with his family. He sought time with family all the way to the end. And in the end there were thus no regrets for time lost, because there really wasn’t any. We have “good grief” knowing that he lived life to the fullest and included us and so many others along the way. And there are photos to prove it.
Yes, happy tears continue to come. We know death is inevitable, but we see that fulfillment is intentional. I’m reminded that I must grab my shy, cool, or unwilling kids, my family and friends and smile for the camera. Even those awkward, forced-fun situations for which my friends and I used to joke, “making memories!” And, as Gibby before me, when my time comes, to somehow capture goodbye, because it will confirm that it had been love that had made each and every moment. Take all the photos, string them together, and tell a love story. As Kim put it, each experience is “a gift that is invaluable and will never tarnish or fade.”