Sunday, August 12, 2007

In Memory of Dennis Thompson

Quite unexpectedly this past Thursday, a friend of mine passed away. He was 49. There was a memorial service held yesterday morning at the church where Dennis and his family attend. It is where I met Dennis over 20 years ago. I was not surprised that the auditorium, which I believe holds 600, was packed to overflowing. Dennis had touched so many lives.

Upon entering the service the music being played was a recording of Dennis singing. I learned later that he had made the CD of Christian hymns for his mother and had actually laid tracks for each musical part, singing them himself. Yes, he was very talented in that way. He wrote music, sang as part of various musical groups, arranged music and led our congregation's worship singing. He had a true gift.

Singing was just one of Dennis' many talents. He became a pilot before he was old enough to get his driver's license. He held a 4.0 GPA while earning a degree in Quantum Physics. He played several musical instruments. He was a professional computer programmer. He knew Greek and often researched scriptures for the Bible classes he taught. He was a consummate teacher. As someone shared at the service yesterday, he could explain the most complex problem to children and adults in a way that they would both understand. He had a scientific mind and a spiritual heart.

Dennis had a killer sense of humor and a dry wit I truly appreciated. He could be rather soft spoken but if you were within earshot, you could catch subtle nuggets that might otherwise go unnoticed. The last time I was around Dennis in a social setting was when he and his wife, Annette, included me in their "poker parties." We had run into each other at a local Texas Hold 'Em tournament and once they knew I shared the same interest they graciously invited me to join the fun at their house. Even though there was never any money involved, sitting at the table with Dennis was intimidating. I always preferred to watch him rather than go up against him and the only reason I ever beat him on a hand was because I was a novice and my logic was hard to figure. "You raised with just that? Well, well."

Dennis sang lead in a quartet and I loved to hear their barbershop arrangements. I wished I had made the effort to go to their last public performance.

Dennis taught deep, complicated topics at church. I wished I had chosen his classes more often.

Dennis was firm in his beliefs and understanding of how science fits into the Bible and creation. I wished I had discussed that with him more. I am sure I could have learned so much from his vast study.

Dennis helped mentor many people in their musical endeavors. I am sorry I did not have the talent to participate in any of those.

Dennis was a loving and faithful husband to Annette for 29 years. I am happy for her, mixed with a twinge of jealousy that I never experienced the same.

I remember the church talent shows, the couple's retreats, LTC, and youth activities where our paths crossed. I remember his bouts with serious medical conditions through the years but I never heard him complain. I remember teaching his daughter, Amy, and the Father-Daughter Day Olympics we had and how Amy stuffed his mouth with marshmallows and they raced around on tricycles and carried eggs on spoons. He was a serious participant and a good sport.

I recall the Fall Festivals where his entire family went all out in their costumes. They were a close-knit family and you could tell they enjoyed each other's company. From the slides I saw in the service yesterday I realized just how far that sense of humor went! How many fathers do you know will join their son in a public display of "hero worship" (Superman) just for the laughs? Yes, he was making memories and his children are enriched for his efforts.

As I heard Dennis' close friends and relatives share their thoughts with us yesterday I was struck with what a full and varied life he had led. And, in spite of his full time work and serious passtimes, he had obviously stayed in touch with friends and spent time involved with others. While his life was far too short, Dennis left a legacy that inspired me. I made a resolution to myself that, while I do not possess near the talents or intelligence of Dennis, I need to look beyond myself and live a more fulfilling life. And I will.

I am grateful to Dennis for what he gave, what he shared and what I learned from being his friend.

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