I am grieving the loss of my friend Deacon Tom Gaudrault who died unexpectedly on Sunday morning December 31, 2017. I want to expresses my sorrow over this shocking event by expanding on the words and phrases of that initial sentence.
The word unexpectedly is appropriate, for Tom was only 58 years old when he died. For all we knew, he could have lived another thirty years. Yet, his life was cut short by a massive heart attack in his home. After his death we learned that Tom suffered from an autoimmune disorder that apparently triggered his cardiac arrest.
Tom’s motto “Spread the love!” meant spreading the love of Christ wherever he went: at work, at church, and especially in the community. As he modestly conveyed during one of his homilies, even waiting in line for a cup of coffee at a convenience store gave him the opportunity to express the love of Christ. Thus, hundreds of people waited in line, some ninety minutes or more, to honor Tom at his wake on January 5. Our bond developed over the past two and a half years mostly through short conversations before or after weekend Masses.
I’ve been told that Tom’s relationship with our Lord was awakened at a Cursillo weekend in the early ‘90s. That event apparently also ignited his passion for serving people in Christ’s name. I had heard of Cursillo, but I wasn’t aware of its full impact until Tom invited me to experience Cursillo during Columbus Day weekend in 2015. I would describe that excursion as a boot camp for Christians who want to recover from the effects of our sin-filled society. Tom’s affable, fun-loving and contagious personality was fully on display as he served as the spiritual director for our group that weekend.
Tom’s training and service as a deacon in the Catholic Church shaped him and continually prompted him to let the light of Christ shine through his attitudes and actions. It’s no exaggeration to say that Tom fulfilled the instructions given to church leaders in 1 Peter 5:1-3:
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (NIV).
People in our parish often referred to Tom as the glue that held the parish together. That’s because he listened, reached out, and sometimes smoothed ruffled feathers. He expressed to one person that he felt a special calling to come alongside priests to be an encouragement to them. On two occasions since I have been part of the parish, Tom filled the leadership gap for several months when we were without a permanent priest.
As a Eucharistic Minister, I saw Tom relate lovingly to children, especially the altar servers at the 10:30 Sunday morning Mass. Indeed, he welcomed the young ones who wanted to came to Jesus (Matthew 19:14). He was captivated by their Pick me! Pick me! enthusiasm. Tom was more concerned to include children than to make sure that every part of the Mass flowed flawlessly. I am reminded of that every time I hear the ragged ringing of the sanctus bells.
So, what is our consolation as we mourn the loss of Deacon Tom, especially as we consider that his life and ministry were curtailed? We are comforted when we realize that the timing of Tom’s death was no surprise to our Lᴏʀᴅ whose purposes are beyond comprehension. We are comforted as we contemplate the truth expressed by the poet, “Precious in the sight of the Lᴏʀᴅ is the death of his faithful servants” (Psalm 116:15). And we are comforted in the hope that when the Chief Shepherd appears, Tom will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4).
May the perpetual light of Christ shine upon you, Deacon Tom!
© Stan Bohall
January 16, 2018