One of the hardest parts of growing older is losing family and friends along life’s highway. I lost my dear son, Thomas B. Vaughn Jr., better known as Tommy, on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. He was 55 years old.
Tommy’s life began on a precarious note. He was born prematurely in the Sewart Air Force Base Hospital in Smyrna, TN. As I recall, he weighed barely 2 pounds at birth, then lost some of that, prompting doctors to have him transferred to Vanderbilt University Hospital.
Tommy spent more than six weeks in Vanderbilt University Hospital. He was released Dec. 23, 1962. I know that, not because I was there. Instead, I was on patrol in East Berlin during and after his birth. I’ve always regretted not being there for Tommy, nor for Nancy.
Incredibly, I know the precise date Tommy left the hospital, because I found the tattered release and payment receipt, tucked away in his weathered wallet. Some say a Daddy can’t be a friend to his children. I strongly disagree with that assertion.
I’ve been a friend to Tommy since the day he was born, and I will be his friend from here to eternity. As George Strait sang so well, “Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then/ It’s a love without end, amen.”
Like the story in “Love Without End, Amen,” Tommy and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye on matters, large and small. However, we were always heart-to-heart through thick and thin.
So many precious memories come flooding back, of Tommy, my younger son, Larry, Nancy and me, living the nomadic lives of an Army family. Our happiest times were in Hawaii. Along the way, Tommy and I became avid racquetball players and Scrabble competitors. Larry often joined us for hardy hikes, from the C&O Canal to the mountains of Hawaii and beyond.
We paid our loving respects to Tommy at his memorial service, Saturday, Jan 6, 2018 at High Funeral Home. Our minister, Bro. Tim Lewis, read Tommy’s obituary and led us in prayer.
My lifelong friend, song co-writer and publisher, Bro. Jack White gave an elegant, eloquent eulogy to Tommy, sprinkled with memories of him. His theme was “You Don’t Know Tommy,” adapted from the iconic Cindy Walker song “You Don’t Know Me.” My good friend, David Grissom read the 23rd Psalm, and we closed with “When I Get Where I’m Going,” sung by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton.
The chapel was packed with family and friends, old and new, from near and far. I felt their loving presence like a blanket for my soul. I continue to find comfort, inspiration and love from three sources: my faith, my family (including my church family,) and my friends.
Aloha, for now, Tommy. May we meet again in “The Sweet By and By.”
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at email@example.com.