The Last Day With My Brother

Ed Thomas Coaching

posted on Monday, July 01, 2019

June 23, 2009

A lot of people associated with A-P Schools and Iowa high school football remember where they were on June 24, 2009, when they heard the news that Ed Thomas had been shot and killed. I, too, remember vividly that morning when Ed's oldest son, Aaron, called me and told me that Ed had been shot several times in the head and it didn't look like he would make it.

However, I will always cherish the memories I have of June 23, 2009– the day before Ed's tragic death. I was very fortunate to spend the day before he was killed working with him at an offensive line camp at Dallas Center-Grimes.

It was a stormy morning. It rained the whole way down as I drove to Grimes. I had almost called and told Ed the night before that I had too much work to do at school and couldn't make it. I am so glad I didn't. I believe things happen for a reason. 

Ed had the ability to walk into one of these camps where he didn't know the kids and they didn't know him, and within just a few minutes, he had those players hanging on his every word. He was very organized and knowledgeable, but those kids could feel that he truly cared about them. The athletes understood that he was investing in them to help them become better football players and better people. During breaks and at the end of camp, Ed always talked to them about being a better son, brother, student, teammate and person. It was always more than a game.

That day was very hot and humid. During one of our breaks, I was hunched over sitting in the shade feeling very tired and out of shape. He was standing up, full of energy and ready to get back to the drills. As I sat there exhausted (18 years younger than him), he asked if I thought he was getting too old to do this. He asked if he was still having an impact on kids. I told him he absolutely was still impacting kids. He told me that I would have to be the one to tell him when he was too old to still make an impact because he didn't think anyone else would tell him.

Then, in the next very next breath, he said if he could coach 15 more years then he could coach his three grandsons. Ed was about to turn 59 and at that time, he only had the three grandchildren– Aaron and Ellie’s boys.

At the end of the day, he gave me a one-armed half hug and told me that he loved me, and I told him that I loved him too. That was a little out of character for him. We knew we loved each other, but he didn't verbalize it to us siblings a whole lot.

I will always cherish that day and those final 6-7 hours with him. My last visual memories of Ed are of him coaching football, but more importantly, coaching kids and positively impacting their lives. I'm so grateful for that last day. Again, I believe everything happens for a reason. 

Perhaps the greatest gift Ed gave me, and I didn't realize until the second call from Aaron on June 24, 2009, was when he told me Ed didn't make it. At that moment, the good Lord gave me a peace only God can provide. Ed lived each day of his life serving God and following his earthly calling. I had no doubt at that moment, on June 24, 2009,  exactly where Ed's soul was. I knew he was in Heaven with the Lord.  

As I reflect on the past ten years and see all the good that has come out of one our family's darkest days, I can say that God had a purpose for Ed's life and also his death. We would have much preferred Ed to grow old and pass away from natural causes in his 80's or 90's, but that wasn't God's plan. If we trust Him and follow Him, God can use the worst possible tragedies for His glory. 

Philippians 4:7

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Thank you,
Greg Thomas- younger brother to Ed Thomas