Through life, many of us have said goodbye to our parents or other senior loved ones. While it is expected, their death can bring profound grief. However, to my thinking, it is earth-shattering when you lose a sibling. Because how do you say goodbye to a sibling? This kid with whom you ran and played and got into trouble? This precious sibling, the friend of your youth?
More than I want to share with you, I need to tell you about our brother, Tim. Tim was born on January 28, 1960. He died on January 16, 2019, just 12 days shy of his 59th birthday. He was the son of Bob and Muriel Bryant, a beautiful little blonde haired, brown-eyed boy. My sister Judy and I thought of him as our living baby doll, and we doted on him. Between those two dates listed on his urn, Tim lived a full, crazy, wild, sad, turbulent, and victorious roller-coaster life. I say without reservation that the greatest grief I’ve experienced thus far in my life was watching him die.
For we siblings, life wasn’t always easy in the home of our youth, and the challenges affected all of us in different ways. Tim struggled, maybe more than the rest of us. As he grew into young adulthood, he distanced himself from his family, because memories were not the happy, fluffy kind, and he just didn’t know how to deal with them. For many years, we seldom heard from or saw Tim. That all changed in 2015, and Tim came home, much to our delight.
From his youth, Tim loved sports. He played football and baseball through most of his school years and excelled at both. When he wasn’t playing sports, he watched them on TV. More recently, his favorites were the Carolina Panthers and UNC. When he visited in our homes, Tim spent many hours in front of the TV watching sports and talking about the game with anyone interested in listening.
Tim loved to play jokes. I’m sure we all have stories to tell, but one our aunt Beverly told us was that he loved to torment her when she was dating by sneaking under the living room couch where she and her date were sitting. Eventually he would give himself away by snickering at them. Once, she and her date were almost to their date location when she heard giggling from the back floorboard. Tim had snuck into the car, forcing them to turn around and drive him back to the house. He was a little rascal.
As an adult, Tim supported himself with his carpentry, roofing, and welding abilities. Anywhere he lived, he was able to find work because of these skills. And he was a perfectionist. His work was always done well, making him proud to show folks what he had accomplished.
Tim was a survivor. He seemed to get over all the hurdles that came before him, and many of those were very tough. He was not selfish at all, and he never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him. He was more concerned over his siblings than his own welfare. Shortly before we learned that Tim’s cancer had returned, the #TwistedSiblings went to the beach for the weekend. Tim and our brother Bruce went fishing one morning and spent most of their day remembering their youth and the fun they had as kids. Bruce told us he will always cherish that day they spent together. Like Bruce, we will all cherish good memories of times with our brother and share them with our children and other family members.
Tim was always willing to help when he came to stay in our homes. And we’re talking any kind of project. At mine and Dave’s house, he patched ceilings, painted walls, installed lighting, laid linoleum, and other tasks he found. He couldn’t be still! He did the same when he was at any of the siblings’ houses. While living with our Aunt Beverly, he restored two of their bathrooms and planted roses and peach trees in their yard. He also planted flowers at Judy’s house, going so far as to use a measuring tape to be certain each plant was the exact distance apart! Perfection. After planting flowers with Judy one day, he turned to her and said, “Just wait until spring when all these bloom.” He didn’t live to see them, but Judy faithfully sends us photos of the beautiful flowered areas he created.
At our sister Veniva’s house, he loved to swim and lounge by the pool. Once, when Veniva and her husband went out of town for a week, Tim stayed at their house to supervise their teen-aged son, with whom he formed a special bond. Caleb wanted to go to a party and invited Tim to go with him. Tim said okay, but cautioned they could not stay for too long. Tim was having so much fun that evening (because he loved to laugh and enjoy life), that Caleb had to remind Tim more than once that it was past midnight and time to go home!
Tim was a patriot. While he didn’t serve in the military, he loved our country. He also loved people and had a warm and friendly personality. He could and would talk with anyone, always looking for their best. Judy told us that she was deeply touched as she watched his compassion and kindness when he was receiving chemotherapy at the Levine Cancer Institute. He quickly made friends with the other chemo patients and would take time every visit to stop and listen to what they had to say, to reassure them and comfort them with a gentle touch.
He loved tender, real life movies and happy endings and wasn’t ashamed to cry watching them. In his final weeks on earth, he and Judy watched many of his favorites. He especially identified with the angry young man in the movie “I Can Only Imagine.” Ultimately, though, he came to identify with the salvation transformation of the father who became a man that wholly loved God, his family, and readied himself to meet his Savior face to face.
Tim was great at anything family. He was the most thoughtful gift-giver I’ve ever known. He didn’t just go to the store and find a little something you “might” like. No, Tim shopped with our name and our preferences in mind. The gifts he gave me over the years told me that he really thought about me when selecting a gift. Cards were his specialty. The cards he gifted us with were not generic in nature. They spoke words from his heart that his mouth had difficulty uttering, and I know it took time to look through all the cards on the rack to find that ONE that he knew was THE one. They were meaningful, full of love, and sincere. I have a couple of the cards he gave me that I will keep forever.
Now, here is the most important thing for you to know about Tim: God radically transformed his life, and he was a new man upon returning to North Carolina in 2015. At a revival meeting in Florida, Tim asked Jesus to be his Savior. He tells us that the Holy Spirit led him to testify on the night that he was saved, and the church was full. Anyone who knew Tim knew that was a big step for him. From that point, Tim did his best to live a life pleasing to God and to make new memories with his family and to be remembered well during the few years he was back in our family fold.
Tim was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive lung cancer in mid-2017. After chemo and radiation, Tim was declared in remission in September 2018. Because it was so aggressive, and because doctors warned that this cancer had a bad habit of returning and showing up in other areas of the body, we celebrated this victory, knowing it could be short-lived. Sure enough, Tim learned in October 2018 that his lung cancer had metastasized to his brain and could not be treated. Immediately, he made his list of wishes for the short time he had left. The first thing on his bucket list was to spend time with his family. His greatest joy was to be with his siblings. Tim wanted to show his love and support for us and to make sure we were all going to be okay.
From the hospital that October, Judy brought Tim into her home for the remainder of his life. During that time, she made every single day as special for him as was humanly possible, and she shared the fun with daily pictures and antics of Tim. Several times she texted me that once again she had lost Tim in the Wal-Mart. One of those times she found him, and then they spent the next ten minutes locating his coffee cup that he had set down while examining something on one of the shelves. Tim drank coffee like water, and he did not go anywhere that his coffee mug was not with him. One time, Judy also had to locate Tim’s walker at the Wal-Mart, after he walked away from it! He kept her busy.
To our Aunt Beverly and to our sister Judy, I say thank you. Thank you for loving Tim and taking care of him in your homes. He could be a handful at times, and his quick temper was often met with your quick tempers—you know I speak truth—but just as quickly as it flared, it was over, and life was calm again. You both kept up with his many doctor visits and got him where he needed to be. You gave him stability, a place to rest his head, a great sense of family. Thank you. To Bruce, you made several trips with him to relocate his belongings; you spent time on the phone with him when he needed to talk; you helped him with work projects. What a great brother you are. Thank you. To little sis, Veniva, you took him into your home several times, allowing him to just hang out with your family (and experience your delicious cooking!). He loved that. Thank you. He spent hours talking sports with our guys, laughing and enjoying the camaraderie, making good memories. Thank you.
Many years ago, during Tim’s turbulent years, he came to spend some time with my family. Our kids were still young, involved in sporting events, and we took Tim with us everywhere we went. He jumped up and down and yelled for our teams; he encouraged our kids; he totally immersed himself in the family. After having spent a couple of weeks in our home, just before his wandering soul again took over and he headed out for locations unknown, Tim thanked me for allowing him to spend time with us and see what a “real family” looked like. It was something he was missing at that time of his life, but thank God it was something he eventually came home to, finding soul-peace at last.
Yes, Tim came home and completed the circle of siblings, and in so doing, helped us create memories that we will forever cherish. We are thankful God brought Tim to Himself first, and then back to us. Thank You, Father.
In the book of John 14:1-3, Jesus tells his disciples: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
I believe that on January 16, 2019, at 12:27 a.m., Jesus leaned down whispered in Tim’s ear, “I’ve got your house finished. Come and see.”
L.R. Knost wrote: “Life is amazing, and then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
Tim lived all of that. Rest in peace, dear boy. We love you.
Daryl, Claudette, Judy, Veniva, Bruce, and Aunt Beverly
Sibling photo, early December 2018. Judy, Veniva, Claudette, Daryl, TIM, Bruce
Beach trip, October 2018: TIM, Beverly, Claudette, Veniva, Judy, Bruce