Vai's View: Vai's View: Farewell to Tom Mazza, a friend who told it like it was

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2012 2:44 p.m. MDT

Once, he called me from Paris. "I'm in the car with Elders McDonald and Smith from Castle Dale and Hurricane, Utah, near the Louvre. Two hayseeds. One's fluent but the other doesn't speak a lick of French. Told 'em I'm not interested in Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon, but I'd buy 'em lunch."

Before I left for London, I was visiting Maz regularly. Naturally, he was scared. I asked if I could bring two "white shirts" and give him a "Mormon blessing" before I left for Europe. He was deteriorating so quickly I wasn't certain he'd be alive when I returned.

Elders Gough of St. George and Uibel of Alpine from the Philadelphia Mission accompanied me.

ALS had robbed his voice, and because it was painful to swallow, he hadn't eaten solid food in more than a week. Worse, his body was rejecting intravenous feeding so all his nutrition came from milk shakes and smoothies because it cooled his throat. It was now just a matter of time.

Maz could only communicate by writing on a yellow legal pad.

"What will happen to me when I die?" he wrote.

I could have answered but I nodded to the elders to teach my dying friend. As they started to, Maz held his hand up and motioned for his family to gather. His brother Mark and sister Marian came into the room, his only siblings (their parents passed on a few years ago within months of one another).

When they finished teaching the plan of salvation, I supplemented their lesson with my testimony of the truths the elders taught. I asked if we could administer to him. Maz smiled and pointed to Elder Uibel and me, so we performed the ordinance.

What a sweet experience.

We took pictures. Maz wrote on his pad asking that I regale the elders with some of his favorite stories. I could recite them and had even been a part

of many of them, but not with the same flair and panache that he could weave when telling a yarn. He kept you spellbound. Still, I did my best and we laughed till it ached.

I hugged Maz and kissed his cheeks and forehead, for what would be the last time. My tears spilled onto his cheeks, which were already moist with his own.

As we left, I think we both sensed we wouldn't see each other again in mortality.

I will attend Maz's funeral next week and will speak on his behalf as was his wish. I'll tell a few fun stories and teach the plan of happiness to comfort his family.

I believe Tom Mazza's kindness to "white shirts" from Camden, N.J., to North Philly and Paris will be rewarded, perhaps with the ability to recognize them when he arrives at the other side of the veil. Surely, they will finish the lesson Elders Uible and Gough started in his Center City Philadelphia penthouse suite.

Farewell, my friend.

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