Tears already filling up my eyes, just typing those two letters.There aren’t words that contain the grief we all feel in your absence. As a son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend...in any relationship you held on this earth, you are missed in a way that can’t be expressed.
I’ve wanted to write this for nearly a year now. I’ve hesitated and procrastinated because I don’t know what to say. I just know I need to do this. Writing is how I process.
You called me BB when you were little. I thought it was pretty special. Being 8 years older than you, I spent a lot of time babysitting you and your brother. I used to love to make you laugh. That was very easy to do.
You made me laugh a million times more, especially as you got older. I always looked forward to spending time with you. I knew it would involve a good dose of laughter. You always challenged and encouraged me to laugh at situations that could be stressful, unexpected, or just plain stupid. You had genuine laughter at times that I normally would not.
You had the perfect balance of humor and adventure. You looked at life through a fearless lens and it made my careful self very jealous. Outdoors among trees, mud, water, and wildlife was your element. That’s what made you come alive. Nature was all you needed...accompanied by some sort of engine of course. Truck, dirt bike, 4wheeler, gokart, jet ski. All the things I hesitate to get near. (I did DRIVE a 4wheeler through the woods to your graveside on your birthday...I hope you noticed because I did not find it enjoyable. I did it for you.)
When you went to college, I worried. College and the freedom that comes can really create a battle in your heart for who your true love is. The world or Jesus. It’s easy to choose the world. It’s incredibly difficult to stay on the narrow path. It’s normal for me to worry about these things, I did the same when Ben went off to college. I just want the people that are closest to me to love Jesus and I know that there’s so much in life that can dull our passion for Him and cause us to forget His goodness and faithfulness to His people. I didn’t want you to forget.
I knew you had your ups and downs in college. We all do. Yours seemed harder though. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but something inside of me hurt for you.
I remember your brother giving his commencement speech as SGA President of Briarwood Christian School in May 2014. We all sat in that huge sanctuary, you, Ben, Brent, mom, and me all on the same row. We cut up for most of the time we sat in those wooden pew benches. I remember you had a cast on your wrist. I asked you about it and, gosh, there was just something about the look in your eyes when you answered me that I couldn’t shake. In that moment I knew that something about you wasn’t okay. You were hurting.
I talked to Ben, knowing that he’s been around you more than I have in the past 10 years. Being eight years older than you, married with kids, and in a different city, I lost touch with you. I hate that. I did then, and I really do now. Sure, I saw you at all the major holidays, beach trips, and all the random days in between, but that was not enough to really know you in your young adult years. I realized after talking to Ben that there was so much I didn’t know. And I didn’t need to know, I just needed you to know how much you were loved. I hoped for an opportunity to speak to you face to face, just to tell you I loved you and that I was fighting for you in prayer.
That same summer at the beach (our last with you), I told God that if he would just give me an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with you that I would take it in a heartbeat. I’m ever so grateful that He gave me just that. We were eating at Tacky Jack’s in Fort Morgan and while everyone was paying for their dinner, you went out on the pier to see the fishing boats that were coming in. God made it so clear that this was that opportunity I asked Him to give me. I walked out beside you, where you were standing alone watching the ships come in, and I asked how you were. You must have known my question was not the typical “how are you” because your answer wasn’t a quick “I’m good”. Instead, it was a hesitant “I’m okay.” I didn’t have to say a word, you knew exactly what I was getting at because you said in the most humblest and grateful ways, “Thanks for noticing.” The conversation didn’t last even five minutes but I had the chance to tell you what my heart needed to say. I felt your burdens. I was hurting for you. I loved you. I hoped for life to become normal again.
That beach trip was the last time I saw you. Imagine if I had not taken the opportunity to stand beside you on the pier that evening. I’d be so full of regrets now. Thanks be to God for His Spirit that nudges us at just the right time.
I don’t think anyone knows how often God and I talked about you. I have your name written in my prayer journal countless times. To be honest, after that summer I didn’t know if I should pray for salvation or healing, so I just fervently prayed for both. I poured out my heart before God for you. TH, I just wanted Jesus to reach down and rescue you. So I begged Him for that over and over again.
And, boy, did He reach down and rescue you, just not the way I was expecting. On December 3, 2014 he brought you home. I imagine He said to you in a tender and loving tone that you fully understood, “Thomas Holt, it’s time. Let’s go home, son.” You heard his familiar voice and found comfort and relief in letting go. Your burdens lifted, your life made new, your sin gone forevermore. In an instant you were ushered into eternity with your Savior.
I’ll never ever forget the phone call. It was around 8 pm on December 3. Brent had just walked out the door to drive to Birmingham for work. The kids were settled in bed. I was walking downstairs to watch TV before going to bed myself. My phone rang before I got to the bottom of the stairs. It was my mom. She asked me if Brent was home. No. She asked me if I was sitting down. No. Something was strange about her voice. I honestly thought she was calling to say she’d found out something exciting about our upcoming Disney trip. To hear “Thomas Holt has died” was a huge shock. I didn’t sit down. I fell down on my knees and starting crying out, trying to figure out what in the world I had just heard and how to process it. My parents were driving to Mentone to tell Mom and Pop. Your parents were driving to Starkville to tell Cleveland. Ben was home by himself. Mom said I needed to call Brent and tell him to turn around. I told her I’d be ok. I spent the rest of the evening on the phone with Brent, Ben, and Granny Rosie and I was never able to fall asleep.
For a split second I was consumed with great fear and a sick, sick feeling in my gut over your eternal destination. But I can not explain in words the peace that rushed over me as soon as that thought entered my mind. It was a powerful peace that drove out the darkness. I knew that it was Jesus assuring me that you were with Him and that I would see you again. Knowing that God is the father of peace, that true peace can come from no one but him, and having peace about your soul...I knew that God wouldn’t fool me into the reassuring peace I had. That would make him a liar. I knew we could all move forward and process this with peace from God in our hearts, despite how hard this was to swallow.
I certainly didn’t imagine in May 2014 we’d hear your brother give a commencement speech, and 7 months later we’d all be back at Briarwood as your brother stood in the same place to give your eulogy. Where I was once asking about your injured hand, 7 months later I was grasping that lifeless hand and studying your face for the very last time on this earth.
There was so much to celebrate in the 21 years you were with us on earth. So much adventure. So much laughter. So much joy. So much love. And with all those celebrationworthy memories, comes much sorrow.
When I think of you, these words come to mind:
Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. Jesus, in John 13
You loved others well, TH. No one that knew you can disagree with that. You’re missed in an infinite amount of ways. Ways that surprise us all. We can carry on about our day and suddenly have that hollow gut feeling because something small and unexpected has reminded us of you.
For me, it's when I hear Christmas music, especially “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” because you won’t be home for Christmas; it’s when I saw Lily ride the pony at Winterfest because she did the same last year and that was my last good memory before the news of your death; it's when I look at Scott and remember that you were once a little boy in love with cars, trucks, and trains; it’s when I see a Mississippi State sticker on a car; it’s when we cut down a tree in our front yard and it almost hit our house, I swear I heard you laughing; it’s when I see any truck or 4wheeler; it’s when I hear “Talledega” by Eric Church or “Over You” by Miranda Lambert or “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice or “Drink a Beer” by Luke Bryan; it's the beach; it’s all the small things that make me face reality again. You really aren’t here anymore. I stare at pictures of you because there's something about looking at a moment in your life that makes me feel like you're still here.
I’m so thankful that we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus and he secured our eternity on the cross. You are living forever in perfect fellowship with your Maker, the way it was always supposed to be. We will meet again and it will be cause for great rejoicing.