Tommy died in a hotel room a couple of weeks ago.
This morning we held a memorial service for Tommy, and we invited people from the streets, the university and the church. Some 75 souls came to lay Tommy to rest, and they shared many words and many memories. Some people dressed well, others not. Some were sober, some were not. All were full of grace and expressed their respect for each other and for Tommy.
We heard how Tommy helped university students hand out ice cream to children. "He took so much joy in being able to give something to others," came one memory. "I remember Tommy with a big smile and ice cream streaming down his face."
Jeffrey, who lives on the street, told us, "The best thing about the man was his smile, his laugh. That smile is right here with us."
Eric Kelley, who took the photo of Tommy on this page, told us how Tommy opened a world to him on the streets of Charlottesville, and how he made many friends among the homeless thanks to Tommy.
And Adrian, who sometimes sleeps on our steps, told us "Tommy taught me generosity and hope in the face of adversity. Drunk or sober I felt his love."
We said prayers, we heard Scripture, we sang Amazing Grace. Tommy is smiling upon us, I am certain, and he is in a place where he no longer feels hurt or pain.
And I am honored that my first memorial service at St. Paul's was for Tommy Parker (1947-2008) who slept on our church steps and greeted us with his smile.