I have been writing this column for more than two decades. In that time, we have been through Katrina, Rita, Gustav and other hurricanes; a major flood; a pandemic and more.
On a personal level, I lost both my parents.
On March 17 came the loss that crushes me: my “baby” brother Thomas Pitchford, 52, died from cancer. He lived in Wales.
Thomas, a librarian, was among the elite of researchers.
For example, his research led him to discover an unintentional internet hoax: a poem widely attributed to William Blake, often included on school reading lists, is actually by an American poet and was published in an anthology with Blake’s name in the title. The find led to the BBC doing an interview with him about it, bbc.com/news/education-22971225.
Thomas started his librarian job as a student at Louisiana College. He eventually worked in the Rapides Parish Library. He and his wife, Heather Tisdale, moved to the United Kingdom. He taught in Ramsgate, England, for a term and then took a post running the library at Hitchin (England) Boys School for about nine years before moving to Wales.
Whatever you needed to know, Thomas could find out. He did research for me when I needed help, often finding that last piece of information that would make everything come together.
His efforts blessed my Facets of Faith column through the years. Longtime readers may remember his name appearing from time to time.
In 1998, I realized it was the 100th birthday of Christian writer C.S. Lewis, and asked my brother if we wanted to write about it in a series of four columns. He sent so much information, I had to cut about half of it. He also provided related photos from his travels in England.
On July 5, 2014, I wrote about the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre, which is part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Thomas was librarian and archivist there until his death.
In 2018, he received a mention for his Twitter Advent calendar featuring Christmas music outside the mainstream.
Those are just a few times he was mentioned. He often contributed much more to my column.
Also, between my father — former Advocate editor Roy Pitchford — and me passing on stories, Thomas popped up in Smiley Anders column from time to time.
In February, realizing his pain was more than poor posture from working at home in a pandemic, Thomas contacted a doctor.
After spending weeks — and his birthday — alone in a hospital, he was sent home with a cancer diagnosis. He already had survived cancer once in his 20s when he recovered from Hodgkin’s disease.
Three days later, he was told his case was terminal, and he had only months left. He didn't. Thomas lost the ability to communicate within a week, and the world lost him a week after that.
Because of the pandemic, I didn’t get the chance to make it to England.
The world has lost his talents and kindness. I have lost my brother, who I will miss dearly.