My Brother Tim

May is the month of warm breezes, blue skies, and fragrant lilacs. It is also the month Timmy was born. My big brother was seven and I was four when Tim burst into our lives, a blond bouncing wonder of a boy. Seventeen months later our baby sister appeared and our small house was filled. Just as my older brother and I were inseparable, so too were Tim and our baby sister.

From the beginning, Tim exuded a teasing, electric energy. It was readily apparent in how he laughed and in how he played. His laughs were wholehearted belly laughs. He loved grown-up things, donning dad’s work helmet and boots, racing his fire engine, riding his tricycle. For him, life was an exhilarating adventure filled with ever new possibilities. He never walked when he could run, as if he knew he had to reach and gather every ounce of enjoyment from each day.

Baby Tim

Family stories are almost legend…how he once climbed out on the porch roof when he was three…how he raced his tricycle into and up a sloping tree.  If he liked something, he wanted to touch and play with it whether it was playful puppies or swimming goldfish.

The morning of July 2nd was hot and promised to get hotter.  We had no air conditioning so doors and windows were open, in hopes of a catching an errant breeze.  Mom was working in the kitchen.  My older brother was eating a bowl of cereal when he happened to glance outside. Mom later told us that his face drained of color.  “The car,” he said.  It was rolling down the hill. They raced outside to see our twenty-one month old sister standing alone in the car’s front seat.

Paula and Tim

The driver’s door was open.  Timmy lay on the street.  He’d fallen, or jumped…no one knows exactly.  The car rolled over him.  Mom found him and lifted his crushed body.  A passing motorist raced them to the hospital. Our four-year old brother Tim died on the operating table.

Death changes life.  The death of a child changes life forever.

All people experience grief. It is part of being human, part of the price we pay for being sentient, for having a soul.

But we also live through true joy, such as my nephew Tim, my sister’s son, experienced three days ago when his son was born.  A new generation.  As he held his newborn son, I have to think that his Uncle Tim was looking down on both his namesake and on his newborn grand-nephew with a huge grin.

As writers we need to draw on life’s grief and on life’s joy and feed these raw emotions to our characters.  We need to make them a part of their lives.  It is how our fictional characters become real.  In this way, our stories become a gift we can pass to others.  

29 thoughts on “My Brother Tim

  1. This is very touching, Deb. I’m so sorry you lost your brother and at so young an age. But fortunately his memory and name live on!

  2. Thank you, Roni. It’s something we’ve always lived with in our family. Never appreciated how hard it must have been on my parents until I became a mother myself.

    Hope you are enjoying this sensational weather as much as I am. Windows are open to the cool breeze and fragrant blooms. Pollen, too, but we won’t think about that. 😉

  3. Wow,

    Such a sad story, yet uplifting in the sense you show how the family remembers Tim even today.

    I see that once again our lives have similar paths in that both our families welcomed a new family member this past week.

    Great post!

    • Thanks, MJ. Growing up, we visited the cemetery each May and July, planted flowers and remembered. Now, Mom and my step-dad are on either side of him. A pretty spot on a hill overlooking the city.

      We do have so many similarities. Congratulations on your new family member!

  4. What a beautiful tribute to your brother, Tim. I am certain he is smiling on you and possibly sending sunshing your way. I lost my daughter nine years ago to cancer and we held her memorial on her 32nd birthday. I do use my emotions and the deep feelings of saddness in my stories. I cry when I write them and know readers cry when they read them, but she was part of our life and I refuse to not celebrate her life as well.

    You have a new baby to love. I’d say he is a very lucky little boy. Enjoy!

    • I’m so sorry about the loss of your daughter. There must be no deeper feeling of sorrow than a parent’s loss of a child. Pouring that grief into writing is a good way to help one through it, I think.

      Tim, sending us sunshine…what a nice thought. So is the thought of our newest family member! Thank you for your words.

  5. Beautiful, wonderful, story of real life. Deb, you have such a wonderful way with words. I had two brothers that died at a very young age, and as you know, back then, it was hushed up. Thank you for sharing your story so eloquently.

    • Karen, so nice to hear from you. I didn’t know about your brothers. You are right….it never used to be talked about much.

      A short while after Tim’s death, my parents contacted another family who had tragically lost their own four-year-old son around the same time. They’d read about it in the obituaries. And although they were total strangers, our whole family even went to visit them. At the time, my eight-year-old mind didn’t understand why they would want to do that. But there were no “grief support groups” back then. And who better to understand than others who had also lost their loved one?

      I’ll be back for a visit around Memorial Day. Hope to see you then!

  6. Deb, what a lovely way to remember your brother – by writing about him right here for all of us to read about, as well as using your emotions about his death in the books you write. That truly is a positive way of keeping his spirit alive.

  7. What a sad and very tragic story, but what a testament to your undying love for your brother. I was particularly moved at how you ended the piece on a note of hope and peace by expressing how Tim’s presence was a gift in your life (and in the lives of others) that continues to enrich your sensitivity – esp on the page. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing!!

    • I’ve come to believe there is always hope, Kathleen. I think that is one of the ongoing messages of romance writers and our H-E-A endings. I’m glad I reached you. 🙂

  8. Deb,

    This is a testament for not only your brother, but your family as well. Death changes a family. It changes mom and dad, because they loss a piece of themselves. It changes children because depending on thier age its hard to process. The family isn’t the same afterward.

    Things change. A family that survives, shows how much love, courage and adapts. Life eventually goes on. We never forget, we always remember and sometimes we smile when we think about our loved one was more than they day they died.

    Speaking to others who suffered a similar loss to a way to heal, and help us move on. I’m sure you can tell, I’ve lost a child too. His name was Eric and he died on March 13, 1996. He was 16 years old.

    I remember for me the hardest part was getting over how he died. You see, he committed suicide. I was lucky because I found a group called Compassionate Friends, who help me remember his life before that day.

    I enjoyed reading about your brother!

    Kim G.

    • Oh, Kim. My heart grieves for your loss. I’m so glad you found Compassionate Friends. I believe there are always people who can help us find the way back and am glad they were there for you. Blessings on Eric and your memories of his life.

      Thank you so much for your words, for myself and for others who might read this.

  9. Deb, I’m so sorry about your brother. I know it happened long ago, but obviously you remember the day as if it were yesterday.

    When I saw the date July 2nd, my own heart twinged a little. My brother Danny died 7 years ago, and his birthday had been July 2nd.

    Looking forward to seeing you in Milwaukee!!

    • It is strange how dates and circumstances repeat themselves among friends. I’m so sorry about your brother, Donna. Memory and love help us through.

      The days are flying quickly. Only a month to go for WisRWA! See you then.

    • That’s what us old folk are for, Ty. To pass on memories to the next generation! 🙂 Looking forward to seeing you Memorial Weekend. I’d like to make a trip up to OakHill with you and your Mom.

    • We all have stories like this to tell; important to share them in our work. I am glad I reached you, Kathye. Thanks so much for your kind words. (Love the word powerful.) 🙂

  10. Deb
    This is so beautiful! Thank you for writing this and sharing the memory of our brother. Those memories are precious to me. I did not know about our family visiting the other family who had lost a child!
    Looking forward to your visit and lots of wonderful conversation! Love you
    Paula

    • I’m glad you liked it and so happy to know you are enjoying your visit with your Tim and family. Hug the newest family member for me! Love!

  11. Deb,
    I read your post the day you published it and it has been laying on my heart all week. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for your mother to pick Timmy up in her arms that morning. My heartaches every time I picture the scene. I am sure she never recovered from that tragedy as surely in some sense neither did you, or your brother or your sister! Each of you carries a scar in your heart for Tim, but with that the scars his memory forever lives on in each of you. Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching memory.

    • Rose,

      Thank you so much for your sympathy and kind words. We all carry scars from tragic events but I believe that goodness can come from them, too.

      Tim’s memory lives on in us, as you say, and also in others. In the years after Timmy’s passing, Mom gave birth to three more sons. Each seems to know him through our stories and pictures. He was a remarkable little boy, a hellion at times, but we loved him, and honor his memory.

      It’s important for writers to open up to raw emotion. I’m sure you’ve heard that “Writing is easy. You just sit at a typewriter and open a vein.” How true.

  12. Pingback: Dear Mom « Stringing Beads

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