It’s been a year already since we said goodbye to my brother-in-law, Tim. This is a remembrance I wrote for the blog at that time. In the past twelve months we’ve learned how many more lives he touched, as friends, family and others have shared their experiences and recalled the part he played in their lives.
* * * * * *
My earliest recollection of Tim is of a tall, gangly teenager standing just inside the back door of his house, asking his dad, who was working in the basement, a question. The back entranceway opened into the kitchen, where I was standing. It was 1971 or ’72; it was winter; dark and cold outside. Tim was wearing a red and black plaid coat. His hair was blonde and kind of wavy. He wore black horned rim glasses, very common in the early ‘70s.
I know that wasn’t the first time I saw Tim but it’s the snapshot that pops into my memory now. Three years younger than Connie, he was engaging and outgoing. He and I were just far enough apart in age that we didn’t hang out outside of church youth group or when I was at their house. Connie and I had been dating for a few months and her family kind of adopted me – or I adopted them – I’m not sure which. I just remember their home being warm and friendly; a non-stop merry-go-round of love, family, activity, friends, laughter and faith.
Connie and I went to the same high school and we dated off and on for several years but ended up moving in different directions in our lives. Her brothers and sisters did the same; marriages, families, careers. But I always had a spot in my heart for them because that period of my life was critical to my growth as a person and a believer.
In 2001 Connie and I crossed paths for the first time since college. I was working in television in Des Moines and she worked at Paychex in Rochester. One night I was on the Classmates.com website to find information about my upcoming class reunion. I started to look up old friends and then the thought dawned on me, ‘I haven’t heard anything about Connie in years. I wonder if she’s registered on here.’
She was. I sent a ‘blind’ email. The next morning she replied. Turned out we both had been married, had kids and gone through divorce. Neither of us had any intention to remarry.
However, to make a long story short, eighteen months later, in September, 2002, we were married at her parent’s house in Fairport with a small group of family attending. It was the first time I’d seen Tim in probably twenty-five years. He had grown even taller and more muscular. His blonde hair was shorter and gray. He looked tan and in great health.
He and I had always kidded each other with little snide comments. I remembered one of mine as we were talking. I said, “There is one thing I’m very disappointed by, though.” “What’s that?” he asked. “In all these years you haven’t gotten any better looking!” That became a standing joke between us.
In the years that followed Tim and I spent many hours talking about life and family,business and faith. Like all of us, he’d had his share of ups and downs but life was good now. I felt blessed to know him. A couple of years later his daughter Rachel got married. Connie and I were still in Iowa then but we came back for the wedding. In fact, I played for it (working my trademark easy-listening version of ‘Three Blind Mice’ into one of the preludes.) Now, a decade later, Rachel and her husband Scott have two amazing girls, Emma and Ashley. They have been the joy of Tim’s life.
Tim had followed his dad in the family business doing commercial and residential electrical contracting and took it over when his dad semi-retired. He had a successful career for over thirty years. In the process he worked with many materials that were known then or later became known as harmful. One of those materials was asbestos.
About eighteen months ago Tim was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The many years of working with dangerous materials had finally caught up with him. Mesothelioma is the type of cancer that can lay seemingly dormant for decades then show itself. Although chemotherapy and surgery can extend life there is no cure. It is inevitably terminal.
Tim and his family faced the diagnosis bravely. He did everything he could as did the specialists he saw in Boston and Rochester. He spent a lot of time with family and his granddaughters especially. Those were special moments. It was also helpful that Rachel is a trained physician’sassistant so she was able to help with his care, closely monitoring every decision and each step of the process.
She and much of the family were by his bedside when he passed away peacefully Tuesday afternoon at about 2:50. Rachel was holding his left hand and Connie his right as he took his last breath and stepped into eternity. On the human plane there is great sadness. Our feeling of loss is real and it’s very painful. But on a spiritual level we have the promise of heaven, a hope that passes all understanding. True, our weeping may last for the night. But joy - JOY - really does come in the morning.
I love you,brother. I’m going to miss you. But congratulations – you finally got a lot better looking. And this time, I mean it.
Timothy Edwin Brown
May 2, 1956 – March 26, 2013