On August 22, 2013 my father, Thomas Laird died in his home in New Britain, Pennsylvania. My sister Suzy, his brother Rich and I were all by his side when he passed. On September 7th we held a memorial service for him at Doylestown Presbyterian Church, his church for forty-five years. His service was a real celebration of his life. He had insisted that we should play Dixieland Jazz music, as he was a fan, and he wanted everyone to rejoice that he was with now with his Lord in heaven. Dr. Jerry Rife’s Rhythm King’s, who perform hymns and spirituals in the Dixieland style, played during the 30 minutes prior to the start of the service, and set a joyful tone in what is usually a stoic situation. People actually clapped as they finished each number. During the service we sang some of his favorite hymns, as he always really enjoyed that part of his faith. Suzy, brother Rich, a friend from church-Mary Schull, and I all spoke about his life. Common themes were his love of scripture, his many, many friendships and his warm, welcoming, and fun loving personality. Jerry and his band played a rousing and upbeat version of “How Great Thou Art,” full of soaring solos and a huge finish. After a final hymn, the band led the crowd out of the sanctuary, playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and we marched down the street to the church’s fellowship hall for a reception. This is how dad had always said he wanted his service to end-marching to “Saints.” Afterwards we had so many people comment on the service, saying that they really enjoyed the celebratory feel and the upbeat music. It was a perfect tribute and a sad, but wonderful day.
The following are the words I spoke in remembrance of my father:
First of all, I would like to send my very heart-felt thanks for all the love, support and caring that has been expressed and shown to myself, Suzy and our family during the last few weeks. The amount and depth of the kind words, thoughtful remembrances and expressions of love has been almost overwhelming.
I have been left almost speechless by the reaction to my father’s passing. I have received cards from and spoken with people I did not know and had never met before, as well as old friends, who have repeated the same sentiments over and over again- “Tom was like family to us.” Read More