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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Remembering Tim

Death has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. The sucker punch leaves you feeling like you can't breathe.

That's how it was that second week in August. I jumped out of the shower to prepare for  a good day ahead. I noticed the message light flashing on my Blackbery and saw I had missed a call from the state director. It was too early, we weren't supposed to meet for hours. I hurried. Blew dry my hair and got dressed. I picked up the phone again to return the call, then I saw the email.

The phone fell from my hands and I couldn't speak. Sucker punch. My husband looked at me. "What's going on?"  I shook my head. "I don't know. There's a mistake. Tim died." Uncomprehending and comprehending at the same time, he picked up my phone and read the email. "What? How? But, he was on vacation."

Real sneaky, death. Tim died while he was on vacation.

Over the past few weeks, we've had time to absorb and adjust to life without Tim. Grief comes in waves. The tsunami has quieted to smaller steady waves, but it's still there. We're kinder to one another. We try harder because our work matters to us and it mattered to Tim.

We find comfort in the fact that Tim was on vacation. He was in the Florida panhandle on his favorite beach with his family. If you had asked him how he wanted to spend his last day, I truly believe that's exactly where he would have wanted to be.

Tim's death has left a big hole in our work family. He had a big personality. The graying longish hair that we often teased him about, his quick smile and Boston accent mixed with the occasional Texas twang and his misguided penchant for Coors Light and the Boston Red Sox have been fodder for stories and memories retold over the past few weeks.

The grief we feel cannot be measured to that of his family. But we all still have a lot of healing. I still walk into work sometimes, particularly when I'm in Austin, and expect to see his face. I have found myself picking up the phone to call Tim more than once. I miss Tim.

As bosses go, he was pretty good.He trusted that you knew your job and let you do it, with just enough guidance. Because of this, he was sometimes exasperating. In the end, you tried harder to succeed for the both of you. As friends go, he was better. No matter his problems, he always had time to listen, offer advice or poke fun so that you laughed more and cried less.  And, as I've learned the past few weeks, in many other ways -- father, son, brother, go-to guy, mentor -- he was and is irreplaceable.

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