posted on Monday, June 24, 2019
Over the last 10 years, the loss of Ed has affected each of us in different ways. Sometimes the easiest way to put your feelings into words is to write it down, so both Todd and Aaron wrote their thoughts in a letter to their father.
I’m not even sure where to begin! I can’t believe that it has been 10 years since you’ve been gone. It still feels like yesterday! Not a day goes by where I don’t think of you or miss you or just want to chat with you. I still remember the details of that day! I had just sat down for breakfast at our resort in Jamaica, and Candice came running down to me. At first, when she told me, I didn’t understand that it was you who had been shot. I thought she was talking about someone else in town– I wasn’t expecting it to be you.
I will say this– I was thankful the Lord had put me far away from Parkersburg that day so that I could have the whole day to process everything. I needed all 16 hours of travel time to really understand what had happened. Through praying and tears with Candice, I knew that you were in heaven, and you had heard those wonderful words: “Well done good and faithful servant.” I was hurting, but I knew you were right where you had lived and worked your whole life to get to. When we finally pulled up to the driveway at home after that long day of travel, I completely lost it. This was really the first time that it truly hit me that you were no longer going to be there. I remember just hugging Mom and sobbing. I was so thankful that she was as strong as ever! She was so strong over those next days, and I knew that she had drawn her strength through Jesus! We all knew that you were peacefully in heaven and that it was only us on earth who was suffering- not you. What gets me through is the reminder that we will be reunited in heaven someday!
After your death, your story was heard by millions. A book, yes a book, has been written about your life. ESPN flew our family (and the biggest entourage you could think of) out to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on your behalf. The fact that ESPN took 15 minutes to tell your story is unthinkable. After that, the Saints invited us down for the home opener of the NFL season- all because of the impact you made on them!
A lot has changed in the past 10 years. I remember people telling me that it would get back to normal, but that’s not true. It is just a new normal without you here. No day is the same, but each has its own highs and lows. You have two new grandkids – Joe, and finally a grand-daughter, Avery. They ask a ton of questions about you! The biggest struggle that I have is the fact that they never had a chance to meet you. Joe has your passion for sports, and I’m pretty sure that Avery would have gotten whatever she wanted from you. You would be so proud of them! You would also be proud of the AP community and how far the community has come since the tornado and your death. The town has been rebuilt, the town has grown, and you would be as proud as ever to call it your home.
We created the Ed Thomas Family Foundation in your name which represents what was important to you. The foundation has been reaching youth across Iowa and beyond to help them become better leaders. Through your legacy, we hope to help young men and women become great people of character!
I never got a chance to tell you goodbye, but I stand strong in my faith knowing that we will be reunited again. You are in the exact place that you spent 58 years of your life preparing for. There is not a day that goes by I don’t think of you and that I don’t miss you! Every day I strive to still make you proud of me and to not disappoint you. I love you and I miss you every day!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years. In some ways, it seems like just yesterday, and in other ways, it feels like I haven't seen you in even longer! While June 24th was more than I could have ever imagined, somehow through the example and strength of you and Mom, we were able to dust ourselves off, get up and move forward! I had no idea that a simple press conference, trying to be the people you would want us to be, would lead to the opportunities that it has for our family through this terrible tragedy! From the ESPY's to now being able to travel the nation to speak and share your story. There is no question that knowing your faith and where you are now has made it easier to move forward. I know you are exactly where you always wanted to be- in heaven!
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss you or think of you and wish we could just talk on the phone again. I thank you for the man and the dad you were. I learned so much from you and try to be the man you showed me to be just by living your life that way. It is crazy being back at A-P and in the new high school. I can tell you we still take pride in everything we do. We know we are from somewhere special, and we never forget where we came from. I love working at A-P and watching the boys have some of the same experiences I had as a child. It’s funny because I get a lot of, “You remind me of your dad,” comments. To me, I can't think of a better compliment!
I will say, it’s hard not having you here to watch the grandkids! I must admit, I was a little teary-eyed last year when Owen played some varsity quarterback on Ed Thomas Field. I so wish you could have been there to see that! It’s great coaching the boys, and all three of them have now played flag under the lights. They love to compete in everything they do! Todd's kids are doing great as well. Joe loves football, and well, Avery would have had you wrapped around her finger as the last one and the only girl!
I learned more from you than I could ever write down on paper or tell you in words! I thank you for being the dad you were. I thank you for the Christian example you were. Without that, I don't know how anyone would deal with a tragedy like your death and our family's loss. You would be amazed at the number of people you touched and impacted. The stories I hear when I am on the road speaking, or when former students, staff members or community members tell me, are all so amazing. We are trying to continue that impact with the Ed Thomas Family Foundation. The foundation is impacting young people and teaching the principles which you so strongly believed in!
Know we love you and miss you! We can't wait to see you again and I’m very grateful for the dad and the man you were, and someone who truly served the Lord. I also take comfort in knowing you heard, “Well done my good and faithful servant!”