I sat down this weekend to watch The Way, an inspiring story about family, friends and the challenges we face while navigating life, relationships, and the world around us. I’d promised my friend and business partner Tom McGuire that I would watch it so that upon his return from hiking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) we could talk about his experience and I could better appreciate the journey that he was embarking on.
Tom died suddenly last Tuesday in France, soon after he had set out on the first day of what was to be a month long, 500-mile pilgrimage. Those who knew and loved Tom will find some peace in knowing that, while much too soon, Tom died in his beloved France and his final days found him on a physical and spiritual journey that had captured his attention for years.
Tom’s life reflects the central theme of the movie: that the life you live – the experiences you seek, the relationships you build, the knowledge you acquire, the spirituality you explore, and the journey of faith you walk - is more important than the ways others try to define us, or how we too often define ourselves using material and societal measures.
For folks who know both of us, you know that Tom and I were very different in so many ways. Yet from our very first encounter, we just clicked. Over the years our paths intersected personally and professionally as we pursued what has been each of our life’s work in nonprofit service and philanthropy. Every encounter with Tom deepened my respect for, and fondness of him. Over time, we enjoyed a relationship that grew beyond that of foundation grant-maker and fundraiser, to friend and family.
Perhaps it was our similar roots that set the course for our friendship and work together. We both were named after our fathers, physicians whose lives of healing and service to community had such profound impact on their children’s lives. And while Tom’s doctorate was in Philosophy and Music rather than medicine, I think his own personal creed is captured in the closing lines of the physician’s Hippocratic Oath:
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm. If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
Whatever the reason that brought us together, I will forever be blessed by my good fortune of having Tom McGuire in my life. To know Tom was to trust and admire him. He loved to learn. He loved to teach. He shared his time, talents and treasures with others without hesitation. In every encounter, he looked for ways to ease pain or burden and to lift spirits. He wanted to understand, and he wanted to help. This firm that bears his name was built on his steadfastness to these beliefs.
As Tom moved towards retirement, he loved having more time to spend with Barbara, with Martha and John and his beautiful granddaughters. All the while, he remained our team’s biggest fan and the greatest cheerleader for Armstrong McGuire. We all cherished times when we could coax him back to work on a project or to join our team for some celebration. Soon after retiring he told me that I should not hesitate to remove his name from the firm’s brand if I felt it no longer carried importance in our work. Typical, humble Tom McGuire. And yet for once in our fourteen years of working together, I had to take exception to his suggestion and categorically dismiss his request. For the exact opposite is true. The example of his life is the essence of what we are as a firm, and what we will always strive to live up to.
Rest well my friend.