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Remembering Tom Thresher

Today was a sad day. My wife and I just returned from the memorial service of Tom Thresher. If you are surprised you should be. One moment he was a vital 66 year old man and four weeks later he died from acute pancreatic cancer. He never saw it coming until the last couple of weeks. In fact we were supposed to have lunch on the day he died. I left a call on his cell phone checking to see if we were still on just before opening my an email and finding a notice announcing he sudden death earlier that morning. The last I had heard, he was going to try some experimental chemo and he expected months if not longer.
Apparently one try of the chemo and he called his wife and adult kids together and said he was done. He checked into hospice the next day and passed away two days later with his entire family surrounding him. It was by all standards a perfect death. This does not take away from my sense of loss however.
Tom was an exceptional teacher. He was often ahead of his time but still touched a lot of people. With a BA in Economics from UCLA, a PhD in Education from Stanford, and later a D.Min degree from my alma mater, Pacific School of Religion, it is hard to categorize Tom’s life. He traveled in the seventies, had a brief business career in the eighties and in the nineties became a craftsman. He created some amazing clocks out of wood and stone and extraordinary kaleidoscopes that were displayed all over the country. But clearly he was most happy when he was helping others with personal transformation. He was deeply into Integral Theory and was friends with people like Ken Wilbur and Steve McIntosh. But even that was not enough for Tom.
Tom started his ministry in a small church in Northern California and in 2003 was called to the Suquamish United Church of Christ. Four years later when I heard about the progressive pastor, I contacted him. We made plans to get together and the rest is history. Tom and I spent many lunches over the nine year period talking first about how to save the church. That evolved into the question, “what are we trying to save it for?” Then we moved to “how do we gather people together who want to transform without all of the structures and challenges that face the churches today?”
The net result of those conversations ended in his second book, Crazy Wisdom for which I agreed to write the forward. In many ways it is a summation of where Tom was in his life and the way he saw the future. Few of us are that lucky.
Tom’s life was celebrated at the Suquamish Tribe’s beautiful facility, House of Awakened Culture. Tom had worked with the tribe on several occasions and the tribal leaders made the gorgeous facilities with giant doors that opened to the South Sound available to Tom’s family for the service. They even provided a Salmon meal including homemade cookies for the guests. It was an eclectic gathering of people that truly reflected Tom’s life. Even the disorganization seemed to fit his personality – at least as I knew him.
Most of all, Tom knew how to be a good friend. It will take me a long time, I am certain, before I stop picking up the phone to call my friend and say “How about lunch?”

Topics: Memorial. Resource Types: Articles and Read.

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