Awaiting the Best Hello

On January 19, 2023 I received an unexpected call from my brother, Andy. When I saw his face on my phone’s screen, I was pleasantly surprised as he’s prone to text, not call. However, the pleasantness was fleeting as on the other side of my “Hey, Andy” was a panicked Andy. He was breathless and trying to force the words out, words he understandably was trying to deny their truth. His next words stunned me with their forthrightness:  “Boo, Daddy is dead. Your daddy is dead. Our daddy is dead!” For the sake of privacy, I will bypass the particulars of the conversation that followed. In the natural, I was stunned, trying to wrap my head around this unfortunate reality. Was it real? Could this really be happening? The thoughts were racing through my mind as I quickly put things into motion, allowing me to share the tragic news with my husband first and then our beautiful daughters before I loaded a thrown-together suitcase and my cluttered mind into my car and raced from Tulsa to Yukon, just outside of Oklahoma City.

That two-hour drive was laced with tear-filled phone calls with friends and family members, as well as intense conversations with my heavenly Father about what had happened to my earthly Father.  I put my Airpods to work, pumping worship music into my ears and spirit as the tears continued to coarse down my face. Not knowing what I would confront upon arrival to my parents’ home, I had to prepare for the worst.

Not knowing what I would confront upon arrival to my parents’ home, I had to prepare for the worst.

At one point in the road trip, I found myself thanking God for the peace that I had only heard about, that immeasurable, mind-blowing peace that was steadying my heart in one of its most tragic moments. And then I realized how grateful I was that praise was overflowing from my heart at a moment when I had every right to be angry.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often wondered what I would do, or how I would react, when faced with a truly traumatic experience. While I have experienced sadness or infuriating situations, battled seasons of anxiety, and felt the pang of loss in smaller doses, I gratefully have little frame of reference for the depth of loss that so many have tucked away in their trunk of life’s dealings. It’s often been said that the true you emerges when pressed. But how can you know what will emerge, until you’re pressed?

The hours turned into days, leaving each of my family members and our friends across the nation, even around the world, with the growing awareness that what we were living in was indeed our new reality. Daddy had left hundreds of times in my lifetime, always headed out to preach, encourage, mentor, and raise unexaggerated millions of dollars for the Cause of Christ. I was accustomed to saying ‘goodbye’, but a ‘hello’ would follow sooner rather than later. But this time, well, ‘goodbye’ meant ‘goodbye’, with a ‘hello’ shoving further and further into eternity.

Walking into Daddy’s office and living space that evening, I began to pan every nook and cranny, drinking in everything as though it might all evaporate in moments, as well. On the coffee table where he had been working only hours earlier that day were remnants of his final moments on this planet. A few snack-size Snickers were strewn on the table (nobody took longer to consume a simple pack of bite-size Snickers than Tom Greene), an ink pen, stacks of planning documents for his 2023 missions fundraising events, and, of course, a stack of expense receipts. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just the simple makeup of this simple man who lived expressly for the mission of missions.

When it’s your time to go, you leave this Earth as you left it.

What I’ve discovered over the past 12 months is that I’ve thought about Daddy just about every single day and I have become all the more curious about my own future Home in glory, of which he is already a resident. What’s Daddy doing today? Who has he spoken with since he crossed over? What were his final moments on this planet like? I have far more questions than answers. But one question that was answered the very moment Tom Greene’s heart stopped beating on earth and his spirit instantaneously transferred his presence to the heavenlies: When it’s your time to go, you leave this Earth as you left it. What does that mean?

There were countless clues that left us scratching our heads, later pondering the final days and weeks we shared with Daddy on this earth. At one point, I turned to my mother and said, “Momma, he didn’t know that he knew”. So many conversations were shared that were quite unusual. The 50th anniversary trip that should have been taken over the summer of 2023 was instead taken in December of 2022, just weeks before his exit from earth. I received an unprecedented, unprompted text from Daddy exactly one week before his departure for heaven, just reminding me of how much he loved me and how proud he was to be my father. Still yet, Tom Greene was not aware at lunch time on January 19, 2023 that he would pass from this life that afternoon. In fact, we have every reason to believe that he was working much of that day on his personal passion: preparing for another great year of ministry. But when it was time to go, whatever was going on in his life came to a screeching halt, with no time to sweep anything he’d otherwise be ashamed of under the rug. When it was over, there was no time to repair anything, clean anything up, or undo issues.

I’m proud to say to you today that there was simply nothing to be discovered about Tom Greene that we didn’t already know about him. No immorality, nothing shameful, not one indiscretion to disguise. He was indeed the man he professed to be, and then some. And I’ve never been more proud to be called Tom Greene’s daughter.

If there’s anything I would encourage you to consider from this tribute, it would be this (because I’ve learned from the best, there should always be a challenge issued in conclusion):

  1. Don’t wait until you can visualize the end to do what you should have done from the beginning. Open up your heart before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal anything that is displeasing to Him. Life is far too short to live with regrets. And when it’s over, it’s over. You must be ready to meet the Lord.
  2. Say the hard things, the good things, and everything in between to those you love most often. Naturally, we would have relished in the long-awaited days where there was more time to say more. But what if we hadn’t said the important things at all? Today I grieve what I never got to have, but also celebrate all that we did share together. And no amount of grief can overshadow the great times.
  3. The mission is important, but sometimes the mission is your family. Ministering to your own family still counts for Kingdom work, the most important Kingdom work of all.

People used to always ask, ‘Where’s your daddy at today?” Often I wouldn’t even knew he had gone to a third-world country until he was back in the US. When we texted or called, that was always the question. “Where are you headed today?” He was always headed somewhere. But on January 19, 2023, he left again, and I didn’t know until he was completely in another world. But this time, I knew immediately where he went. In fact, it didn’t even cross my mind to ask where. I knew right where he was, and where he will be, until I see him again. And then? There’ll be no more goodbyes; only the best Hello ever.

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