If I Had My Life to Live Over Again – A Reflection on the Life of Tom Fowler
I received an email two days ago that started, “I need to pass on that Tom passed away on Monday night in Columbus, Ohio.” I was shocked to hear this news, for Tom was only 46 years old. His obituary starts out, “Thomas Allen Fowler, age 46 of Harrison Township, died suddenly in his sleep Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at his residence in Columbus, Ohio.”
I met Tom close to 20 years ago. An early memory I have of Tom is of us hanging out at my place reading some Charles Spurgeon (known as the Prince of Preachers) together. Tom had an appetite for God’s and His word. He loved studying and sharing the scriptures with people. Tom was a disciple of Jesus and he had a passion for introducing people to Christ and making disciples of Jesus.
As I have been reflecting on his early death, and his life, I am reminded of this survey that I share often. It was a survey given to a group of people 90 years or older. They were asked an open ended question. If you had your life to live over again, what would you do differently? They could answer this question anyway they wanted. The three most common responses to this survey was.
If I had my life to live over again, I would…
* Risk more
* Reflect more
* Live for things that would go on after I die
Tom lived for things that are continuing even after his death, because he made disciples. Tom never lived his life in the lime light. He was a servant-hearted, others-centered person who came alongside people, often one-on-one, and encouraged them in the Lord. That is what he devoted his life to, making disciples of Jesus. In this way he followed the pattern of Jesus, who focused most of his ministry life building into 12 people. This is why Tom continues to live on, even though he has gone home to be with the Lord. There are numerous testimonies of his impact found on the comments of his facebook page. Here are just a couple:
“I can’t find the words, Tom was one of the first people to share the gospel with me. That alone makes Tom such a wonderful person.” – Phillip Hill
“Tom, I will really miss you. You taught me a lot.” – Sarah Bruce
“Tom, you will be missed greatly. Your gentle sweet spirit, your hearty laugh and hugs, your belief that God is working in places that others did not see, your consistency in follow Jesus – even in times of adversity, and your unwavering belief in your friends – these all were an inspiration to those who knew you.” – Greg Larson
“You are missed, Tom. I will always remember your genuine concern for my injured shoulder and your instantaneous requests to pray for its healing. Your love for people and your faith inspire me.” – Lauren Carr Thompson
“Tom played a big part in me going to Ukraine [as a missionary] which in turn completely changed my life!” – Eric Thomas
“Tom was an honest friend and an encouraging brother in the Lord, he could always cut to the heart of what was happening” – Barret Thomas
“Tom was a great servant. Always willing to serve behind the scenes. He was ready to encourage in ways only Tom could. He will be missed!” – Shalom Sanchez
“I’ll miss you Tom. You encouraged me and so many others to live wholeheartedly for the Lord. I imagine you with a big smile resting in the arms of your Father.” – Darryl Phillips
There are so many more comments being posted about Tom Fowler, for many of us have fond memories of him. Tom served on our staff team here at Kairos LA for a couple of years, and he was always a personal encouragement to me. In ministry one always endures many forms of emotional scars, like the pain of people stabbing you in the back through gossip or slander. It is part of the territory. But Tom always had my back. I appreciate that about him. It is something every pastor appreciates. If there was another huge passion in his life, it was his longing for Christ’s return. While he was sometimes a bit off when it came to reading “the signs of the times”, his longing for Christ to return to make this world right was as strong as I have seen in anyone. Maybe that is why the Lord took him early, for Tom longed to see his Savior face to face. And as the Apostle Paul says, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).
May we imitate Tom’s faith and live for things that will go on after we die, for we only have one life to live, and we never know when the Lord will return, or when He will take us. We don’t have the opportunity to live our lives over again, so live without regrets!
I’ll miss you Tom, but as you always said, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:214) It is so true, our life here will go faster than most of us will realize, and it is only what is done for Christ that will last. Tom, we have all eternity to spend together, and as I consider your life, it makes me want to run the race even harder. Thanks for your inspiration.
For those living in the LA area, we (Kairos LA) will be having a memorial service for Tom this coming Sunday, June 12th at 4 p.m. at the Fountain Room in Hollywood, CA in remembrance and celebration of Tom’s life.
For those living in Ohio and Michigan area, the memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. (visiting to begin at noon), Saturday, June 25th, 2011 at Will and Schwarzkoff Funeral Home, 233 Northbound Gratiot, Mont Clemens, MI 48043