"Till Death Us Do
"Precious in the sight of
the Lord is the death of His saints."
The evening was uneventful that Tom and Linda had made the decision that
Tom was not going to work at the bodega (little store) as part of
his language study and that Linda was going to take his place. Tom was
so exhausted from lifting 100 lb bags for the last two days that they
retired to bed early. That night, about four in the morning, Linda
awoke to the sound of a "death rattle" coming from her husband.
"Tom." "Tom! What is the matter?" Tom did not respond to her. She quickly ran
for a neighbor, and together, they got Tom into a car and drove him to
the local hospital. Timmy stayed with a neighbor. Frantically, Linda
prayed for Tom. She did not know what was happening and she pleaded
with her Heavenly Father to allow her husband to live. She was allowed
to be in the emergency room during the entire time and she could see how
very sick Tom was. He did not recognize her and he kept thrashing
around and had to be restrained. It was then that Linda prayed, "Lord,
not my will, but Thine be done." He had been taken to another room, but
it was right at the moment of that prayer that Tom went Home to be with
His Heavenly Father. Later that day, an autopsy revealed that he had
died of an aortic aneurysm and that his ruptured heart had been pumping
blood into his chest cavity. There was nothing that his doctors could
have done for him.
Later that morning, Linda called her parents from the telephone office.
She was in a quandary as to what to do with Tom's body; whether to bury
him there in Venezuela or bring him home to Chicago. Someone never seen
before by Linda came into the telephone office and began a conversation
with her. He said how sorry he was for what had happened, and that he
was a missionary in another country, just visiting in Venezuela. He
asked Linda if he could help her in any way. Linda shared with him that
she did not know what to do about Tom's burial. He asked her what she
would do if money were no problem. Without hesitation, Linda told him
that she would bring Tom's body back to America. He told her to take
Tom's body back, and that God would supply for her needs. She now knew
the answer to her question. That was the only time she ever saw that
man. She was not even sure of his name or his mission. It was as if an
"angel" had helped her to make the decision, and she thanked her
Heavenly Father for this answer to her prayer.
The next day, Linda and Timmy, who was just 23 months old, boarded a
plane bound for America. Timmy kept calling out for his Daddy, as the
plane taxied down the runway and soon was heading for America. Tom's
body was flown back to Chicago for burial about a week later.
After arriving back in Chicago, Linda began to make funeral arrangements
for Tom. Tom's funeral was held at The North Side Gospel Center, the
church where she had grown up. Tom's uncle, Dr. Dave Breese, officiated
at his service, which was held on a Saturday. Hundreds of Tom and
Linda's family members and friends came to the service. Many tears were
shed; as songs of joy and hope were sung and as each person attending
his service was reminded of the blessed assurance Christians have,
knowing that Tom was now with his Heavenly Father. Only God knows how
many lives Tom touched during his not quite 29 short years on this
After Tom's funeral, Linda was often heard to say how thankful she was
that they had obeyed the command of their Savior to "Go... and teach
all nations... (Matthew 28:19,20). All of their missionary
training, all of their preparations for the mission field, the heart
wrenching moment when they had boarded the airplane for Venezuela,
leaving their families and friends behind and then those few short
months in language study; it was worth it all to have obeyed the Lord.
"Only one life, ‘twill
soon be past.
Only what's done for
Christ will last."
Tom's casket was slowly lowered into the ground in May 1979, a new
direction and challenge awaited Linda and her little boy, Timmy.