Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mr. Tom

(photos from Clay Jennings)

Last night I cried so hard that I got physically sick. The crying led to one of the worst headaches ever, which led to nausea, which left me feeling very ill.

It was the funeral of William Thomas Jennings Sr.
Also known as Mr. Tom and Tom-Tom.

He was one of the kindest, most charitable, humble, selfless, loving, caring, giving, happy people that I have ever known.
I consider it a privilege to have known him and even more of a privilege to call him a dear friend.

When we moved to Milledgeville in Nov. 2003, the Jennings took us in under their wing and made us feel like a part of their family. Tom and Betsy had such a warm feeling in their home that you never wanted to leave. You could feel the love just by being in their home.
I can remember thinking to myself, "I want to be like that. I want our home to be a place that people feel loved and comfortable. I want our kids to bring their friends to our home and feel like it is the best place that they could be." I strive to be more like this family.

Tom and Betsy went together like milk and cookies. You can't imagine one of them without the other. They just fit. They complimented each other and made a perfect whole. Mr. Tom sure did love to drink milk.

We went to their house every Sunday night for pancakes and sausage. My kids (Matt included) loved Mr. Tom's sausage.

He just had a way about him. He loved everyone. He cared about everyone. He made me feel like I was a special person. He made everyone feel special.

He never criticized others. He never said a bad thing about anyone. and I mean nobody. If we started talking about somebody, Tom would always say, in his gentle way-"They're doing the best they can with what they've got". I have adopted that as a personal motto.

Being around Tom made you want to be a better person, a happier person. He would come at the drop of the hat if you needed anything. He just got people. He loved life and it showed.

The words used to describe Tom and his family are all the same. Everyone who knew Tom felt his love. He had an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He helped others understand the gospel and the way that he lived his life showed more than anything that he loved his Savior and he understood what life was really about.

That is what makes it so hard to imagine an earthy life without him here.
It makes me cry to think that I will never see his smile again in this life. I will never see him sitting at the head of his table with that grin on his face, getting ready to tell us a story.
It makes me sad to think of his beautiful wife and children and grandchildren going through this life without him physically here. I know he is still with us in spirit, but the physical separation is the part that really hurts.

Last night hearing his boys talk about their dad- it literally broke my heart. I felt like I had a dead weight in my chest that was just bringing me down to despair.
Oh, the sadness.

"Very rarely does one come across an individual such as your father where a smiling face was ever prevalent and a welcoming hand was always offered. I shall never forget the words of wisdom that he shared nor the spiritual enlightenment gained from his steadfast example. Indeed he was an example to us all and one of the finest men I have ever personally known. It is these times when it is most comforting to know that families truly are forever." -Slate Burke

"You know it's really easy to be good to a family that has been so good to so many people. FHE, pancake dinners, sitting around eating cakes and pies. Being with your family to watch General Conference and just plain enjoying each others company. It's hard not to show an outpouring of LOVE for a family that shows there Love for others in this manner. I pray that you all keep this legacy going. I will say for all of us who enjoy this kind of love. Thank you all. God Bless your family."- Nathaniel Balkcom

"Tom Jennings was a spiritual Giant. He called me last year when Bro. Webb passed away and gave me the details and kept saying, "We're sure gonna miss him" Well the same will be said about Brother Tom Jennings. The Jennings had us over for Christmas Dinner after I had only been a missionary for 1 week and I was very homesick. They took me under their wing and made me feel like family! Tom was willing to do anything for the Gospel. I always loved seeing him when he would travel to Macon when I was serving there. His presence in the Macon ward lifted all.
The sting of death is swallowed up in Christ (Mosiah ch.16:8) The Grave has no victory!"-Brady Haider

"You are one of the most blessed persons on this earth along with others who have the gift of eternal families. Tom left a wonderful and strong spirit behind which will dwell with your family and the many friends who loved and cherished him as I did. Its time for him to do some missionary work with David Webb now(SMILE). To you strong boys and to his wonderful wife Betsy, stay strong and press forward just as Tom did. He fought until the end and kept Christ in his heart at all times. "- La Quadia Webb

"There definitely is comfort knowing that "Tom", as my kids so personally call him, is one of the best guys I've ever known. He is a wonderful example to everyone around him. He is someone who everyone loves being around, that's why things are sad because your whole family is amazing and so much fun to be around. It is great to know that we know where he is going and that we can see him again. I love you, man, and your family. Ya'll definitely are like extended family, I'm very grateful for that and the love that ya'll have shown to my family. What a wonderful man!" - My Matt Murray

"Tom Jennings lived a life of service towards others. He is my Father, and i'm grateful for everyday i knew him, and for the wonderful legacy he left behind. He will forever be loved by everyone who knew him. Families are forever, only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ"- Clay Jennings


Diana Croshaw said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Mary Ann. Thanks for sharing with us the kind of man he was.

Kim said...

I am so sorry you lost a friend and someone who sounds like he was an angel here on earth. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and his family.

Audrey said...

So sorry to hear about his passing. What a truly inspirational and loving person. We'll keep all his loved ones in our prayers.

Angela said...

I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing person.

Gabrielle said...

I am so sorry you are missing Mr. Tom. Loves!

Becky said...

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the few times that we had the privilege of being with Tom and Betsy. The first was for Jonah's birthday party at their home. We felt so welcome.Another time was when I met you to pick up the children so that you could go to the temple. Again, when Betsy fed the children and me after Savannah was born. She then BROUGHT food to the house,too. I can see Tom's face as she had his dinner prepared when he came home from work. We witnessed the love they had for each other.Their home will always be a refuge from the storm. Their love and kindness will go on through Betsy and the boys.
I love you,Mare, and I hurt when you hurt. I need Betsy's address.

The Flynn's said...

I'm very sorry for your loss! He sounded like an amazing person that loved your family. I'm so sorry!

Jaime said...

I also knew the Jennings, they invited me over for a couple of dinners when I was a lonely Georgia College student. I remember how kind they were too! God bless them now to get through this hard time of losing such a special person.