January 29th, 2015

Good and decent. More than enough.

As published in The Daily News, January 30, 2015, and in The Memphis News, January 31-February 5, 2015



The line started at one end of the big room and wound its way out into the hall.

The widow and the son and the family received the soft words about the hard loss, the sympathy, the hugs and the tears, the emotional exchanges of finality, the shared experience of a life lived and now over. A visitation, yes, but it seemed more than that quiet, somber label would suggest.

There was sorrow, yes, but there was laughter. There were stories in the room, in the line, in memory. This was a tribute.

The line continued down the length of the hall and out the side door to the church.

They weren’t there because this was someone famous or important in the way society has come to define those words. These weren’t his employees or his clients or his lawyers or accountants. No one was there because of business or politics or form. No one was there to see or be seen.

This wasn’t a tribute to fame and fortune. This was a tribute to good and decent.

The line continued down the walkway between the church and the parking lot, past the columbarium where his ashes would be placed.

My friend Tom Claybrook died last week, suddenly ending a long battle. While we weren’t close, we were comfortable in the way old friends are comfortable in each other’s company, expecting a story, ready with one in return. Went to church together, kids played baseball together, gathered together here and there over decades. Every time, in all that time, I have never spent an unpleasant moment around Tom and Beth Claybrook. I know the same can’t be said about me, or could be said about so very few that so many would come to say goodbye. This was simply a tribute to them both and a measure of how we should all hope to be simply measured.

The line continued past the old oak tree out to the sidewalk and in front of the church.

At the funeral, the Rev. Richard Lawson, rector of Grace-St. Luke’s, wove stories about Tom into the homily. About approaching Tom behind the counter to get breakfast when his team was cooking and knowing full well, as did everyone waiting knew, that breakfast wouldn’t be coming until a story was told. About an afternoon by a pool and Tom’s unsolicited but nevertheless detailed and earnest advice about vasectomies. The fact that the family and the entire congregation laughed out loud was not just proof that the subject was appropriate, not just testimony to Richard’s delivery, it was so Tom it was as if he were there laughing with us.

He was.

I will one day be in that same columbarium and I will be in good company. I would only ask one thing of Tom when I arrive – don’t make some crack about the difference between the length of  your line and mine.

I’m a Memphian, and I’ll see you, my friend, in due time.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway

 If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.

The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.



Walter Roberts: Thank you, Dan. This is very well put and a fitting tribute to a very good and decent man.

Robert (BobbyJim) Hijar: Tom was my neighbour for 14 years. We were never close friends (me being a Westerner may have had something to do with it) and yet we communicated easily. I miss him, Tom being my favest neighbour ever, yes, ever. See you in hevinn, mate.

Martha Sampson : this is so cool. Just like Tom Claybrook ....Cool. I went to grammar school and high school with him. He was Tommy back then. He played in the band. I haven't seen him since our 20th class reunion. He was a late bloomer! I've thought about him a lot lately. And he has been in my prayers. But he never knew. Bless his sweet heart!

Jim Beaty: Amen

Barry Dunagan: Wow! I wished I had known my cousin Tommy better!! He never missed calling his Aunt Margarett, my grandmother, on her birthday, it was something she always talked about and looked forward to. They are together now as grandmother passed away at 99 this past March.

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