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June 24, 2011 / paperkids

Remembering Tim

June 22, 2011

Mom always said that the day of death is better than the day of birth.

I guess I have a hard time understanding this. She told me it was a verse in the Bible and she would be the one to know – she’s read it a few times cover to cover. My mother would also know about death. So when she makes a comment like this, how could I possibly argue?

Today we all sat on the porch, letting this day wash over us.  It’s been building all week, like a wave that rises and sprawls upon the shore.  Twenty years ago today we lost Tim at the young age of thirteen. My parents lost a son, I lost my only brother, and the world lost one of the most outgoing, happy and beautiful people I’ve ever known.  That day it felt like our book of life had slammed shut and took with it the world as we knew it.  Nothing would be the same. But the pain of the moments of those days was such that who could think past getting through every day without him?  My days were flooded with grief.

But mom and dad…

It wasn’t until I first held Emma in my arms that I realized the level of that loss. The love like no other; the love for your child. I still don’t know how their hearts went on beating. 

Tim was everything that I wasn’t. I was sort of shy –I know, hard to believe now – and he was always surrounded by friends, always coming and going.  And the girls adored him.   He was daring!  Always trying things that I was way too afraid to try.  He was also incredibly athletic, which I was painfully not! He played sports and was good at all of them. I would’ve rather drawn pictures during recess. The most activity I would get would be getting hit in the face with the kickball time and time again.

June 22, 1991 began like all days do. In fact, that morning and the weeks leading up, were better than normal.  He and I had been fighting quite a bit like all kids that age, but this day he stopped by my door and we talked a little and smiled at one another. 

There are many details about that day that will remain, while others are a fog.

I remember standing on the side of the rural highway which led into town, looking into the ditch. I was too afraid to see the wreckage – the dirt bike they were on, the car, the ambulance – any of it. I remember the fear of getting to the local hospital only to discover that he had to be flown to a better equipped children’s hospital.  I remember the phone call we got at home while packing up his clothes, trying to figure out what to bring.   It was the chaplain at the hospital urging us to get there quickly.  My stomach churned on the two-hour car ride to the hospital, where I aimlessly picked up my Lord of the Flies novel and tried to read it to no avail. I had two scenarios playing over and over in my head. I envisioned Tim in a wheelchair, big balloons tied to it, bobbing around his large smile. I saw him lie there in a casket and knew that this just couldn’t be..could it?  There was a moment where I glanced at mom.  I’ll never forget her look.  She was praying.

I remember the uneasy feeling of being whisked through hospital corridors, the nurses hands planted firmly on my shoulders leading us somewhere that I felt sure we didn’t want to go. But we were desperate.  Where was Tim?  We wanted him so badly.  I remember mom, dad and I waiting for what seemed like forever in a small room.  When the doctor came in, he uncovered a lengthy list of injuries.  I don’t think we breathed in that moment.  Mom was the first to speak.  Are you trying to tell us that our son is dead?  When the doctor replied yes, I’m sorry, we all fell apart like sand sculptures crumbling – bits of us scattering in the wind.  Each standing alone, yet not quite alone.  He was surely with us.  I remember seeing Tim’s lifeless body in the hospital and I was too afraid to touch him.  Mom laid her hand on him and prayers filled the room and my soul. 

That night we drove away from the hospital without him.  We ate out and got a hotel room for the night.  It seems surreal now as it did then.  What were we feeling?  Shock, I imagine.

We didn’t want to go home, but we had to.  What else was there to do?  The house was soon flooded with food, flowers, words, and the distinct sound of children crying as my brother’s friends filled his room.  As for us, we felt alone in a house full of people. 

When it came time for the viewing, I couldn’t stop touching Tim’s body.  I was so afraid to walk away.  I wanted to crawl inside that casket and lay with him.  When would I see him again?  We each grieved alone, yet I felt His presence so close.  It was always with me. 

I remember for months after expecting Tim to walk in the front door or to hear his laughter.  His room was so empty.  I wanted to tell him things.

And then there were the images of other things that I heard, but never saw, that have branded themselves in my heart …. The vision of dad riding in the ambulance with him …. The letter we received that someone had been able to use my brother’s eyes – the only organ we were able to donate.  It made me want to laugh and cry … The vision of his best friend, who barely survived the crash, waking in the hospital and the pain he must’ve endured when hearing the news … Our neighbor who went out and washed the blood off the highway so we wouldn’t see it on our way into town. … The story my mom told me – of how in her darkest hour she pleaded with God to fill up the hole that was in her heart.  My dad had gone to the cemetery to pray for her.  She said God spoke to her saying

Fill it up with Me, Lynn.  I and my Father are one, and Tim is with me.

Fill it up with Me.  These are words I’ll never forget.  They humbled me to my core.

I remember my brother’s laugh.  I remember jumping off the barn roof, out of trees into the creek, dancing on our toy box singing to dad’s old 45s, cuddling in blankets on the couch on a cold winter morning, kissing him in front of his friends to his embarrassment, fighting and making up, jumping on his back, wanting to be him, making him carry my school books on our walk from the bus stop, being jealous of his fearlessness and happiness, seeing mom rub his back and see him kiss her mouth long past the age where most boys would … I remember his hands and legs, so much like that of my own son …  Yes, I’m really going there aren’t I?  I’m ripping that scab off and letting the blood flow. It fills that wound even as my tears wash it away.  It feels good to feel the pain.  It feels good to remember, like taking a deep breath.

“What do you think that means, mom?  The day of death is better than the day of birth.”

My mom has always admitted that this day means more to her than his birth.  She sat on the porch looking peaceful.  So many times I’ve thought, how could she be?  But I know how.  “I guess I always think of birth as such a gift.  Life is such a precious gift, Sabra.”

“But what about death?”  I knew my eyes were welling up.

Mom smiled at me, a heart full of pure God-given love.  “Death is going home.”

So many times I try to imagine what he would look like now.  When I think of him, I see his smile.  I feel my mom and dad’s love for us both.  I feel God’s love for us all.

What a gift you were to me!  One day, my brother, we will meet again.

This is one of the many poems I wrote about Tim many years ago…


Leave a Comment
  1. grandma 2 / Jun 30 2011 7:34 am

    This is eloquently described, indelible.
    He still loves you all, do you feel it?

    Oscar Wilde once wrote: “In sorrow there is holy ground.” (de Profundis).

    love to you.

  2. Tabitha Hiner / Jul 1 2011 3:38 am

    This is beautiful! Your mom is right. We have to think of how happy our lost loved ones are now. As I was reading this, tears came to my eyes as I thought back to the day I found out about boy friend, Dustin’s death. They are still with us in heart and always will be. We have to hang on to the memorys and think back to all the laughs we had with them. I think death is the hardest things possible for someone to go through. Always remember him and all the wonderful times you had with him. ❤

  3. Kam / Jul 2 2011 11:58 pm

    I just bursted to tears reading about your brother, Tim. I also lost my older brother, Scott, when he was 19. That day was horrible. Brings peace to know that his death represents him “going home”. Oh, how I miss him. Thank you.

  4. Beth / Dec 6 2011 3:50 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this — and especially for sharing the faith of your mother and yourself. My husband and I just lost our first child unexpectedly at 31 weeks of pregnancy, and we are learning just what our faith means, just how big our God. It is powerful.

    • paperkids / Dec 6 2011 5:34 am

      Oh Beth, my heart just aches for your loss. I cannot even imagine the pain you are experiencing. You will be in my prayers. Thank you so much for sharing with me. May God bless you and your husband.

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