I found out that Hamilton is based on Steinbeck's own grandfather. That makes sense to me. When Tom Burchfield passed away this week, I told friends that Tom was just like Samuel Hamilton. He was a man that always did right. He was deeply principled. He was the embodiment of a good man. That's what people would call him, a good man.
The first time I met him, he gave me a handshake. Since then I've only gotten hugs from him. He was warm and gracious, but in the manliest and noblest way you can imagine. When we first found out he got sick, he faced it in the the manliest and noblest way you can imagine. And the thing about it is, you wouldn't expect him to react any other way.
The fundamental belief of the Christian faith is that we are all severely messed up. It's only Jesus that makes us right. I've never met a man who was more aware of that truth than Anna's grandaddy. All he ever wanted was for people to know that we are all severely messed up, and only Jesus could make us right. When we talk to families at The Orchard, we often say that 100 years from now the only thing that is going to matter is a person's relationship with Christ. That's really the only legacy we leave with us. It's the only one we carry with us after we're gone. Well, 100 years from now there are going to be plenty of people who know Jesus, and they'll know it because 100 years before them, Tom Burchfield was on the earth. Family members and friends and friends of friends who all will draw close to the God who loves us because that's the thing that Tom cared about more than anything.
When Samuel Hamilton dies, it's sad. And the reason it's sad is because you selfishly want him to keep re-entering the story. It makes the story better for you. That's how we feel with Tom. We are sad because he makes our story better. But in his mind, his story is just a part of the greatest story ever told, and he is celebrating that right now, even as we mourn. He is at a pretty nice party.
Party on, Tom.