Thursday, September 03, 2009

About a Boy

The young man squirmed in his folding chair--slouching, turning, sitting up straight, until he finally turned the chair around and straddled it, his tattooed arms folded on top of the back rest. His leg bounced up and down fervently, moving so quickly that his entire body seemed to be vibrating. His dirty-blondish hair was covered in a baseball cap with a rim that at first faced forward, then sideways--first to the left and then to the right--until it found its final resting place facing down his back. As I observed his somewhat uncomfortable behavior, I wondered if his demeanor was just as awkward. It was my first night at a church meeting intended for people with “broken” lives due to addictions, disorders, family issues, and any other of a hundred reasons we as people fall apart. I was attending at the request of my husband, who had been going to these meetings for just over a year to deal with some of his own demons.

I listened intently as various members of the group shared their experiences; some painful, others triumphant. And then the young man spoke up. I can not remember exactly what he revealed that night; I only remember that the young man who I first judged as being a hyper, vague, “tough guy” was nothing more than a kind, vulnerable, struggling boy whose main concern seemed to be not hurting his parents any more than he felt that he already had in his life. My heart broke for him and his struggles. My husband introduced us after the meeting. His name was Tim.

Over the course of the next few months, Tim would attend our weekly meetings with his parents—two lovely people whose devotion to their beloved son’s healing was nothing short of remarkable. Although Tim seemed to be in a state of uneasiness throughout each meeting, he would become amiable and funny once it came to a close. His charm and humor were endearing, and when my daughter, Kayla, started to attend the meetings with us, I knew that Tim would be appealing to her as well.

Kayla and Tim hit it off almost immediately. After one of the meetings about two months ago, Tim ran up to me with the enthusiasm of a five year old, his blue eyes lit up like a child on Christmas morning: “Can me and Kayla go bowling??” he asked. They both giggled like kindergartners, a far cry from the 23 year old boy and 19 year old girl that they were. “Of course!” I told him. “And how nice of you to ask my permission!” I said, almost sarcastically. Tim said thank you, my daughter said good-bye, and off they went.

At home a little while later, my husband and I heard a gleeful ruckus coming in the front door. Tim and Kayla bounded in, laughing about a joke only they were in on, and looking for something to eat. My husband was very comfortable around Tim, and didn’t care to change his stunning outfit of sweat shorts, black socks, flip-flops, and a very hairy chest. Upon viewing this lovely sight, Tim snorted, “HEY, SEXY!!!”, and we all broke out in a fit of laughter. Before long, Tim and my husband were having a “moonwalking” contest in the kitchen. Gas was passed and being blamed on the dog. In all of this craziness, I thought to myself, “I have never seen Tim in this light-hearted before. What a far cry from the person I thought he was the first time we met. He’s truly one of a kind.” The kids decided to watch a movie, and my husband and I turned in. I felt happy and at peace that my daughter found such a wonderful friend. I felt hopeful for Tim and encouraged by his journey to find God’s true peace in his life.

Sadly, Tim passed away in his sleep last weekend. As a person of faith, I struggle with the question of “why” and the feeling of “it’s not fair”, and every other thought that goes through one’s head when a young person dies. It just seems so very wrong. The only comfort I can find now is the knowledge that he was truly seeking God every week at church and at the meetings; he was letting go of the demons that took control of him for so long. He was in a place of preparedness to meet our dear Lord…I’m not sure if he was in that place a year ago, or if he would be in that place a year from now. But for today, in the here and now, he was.

Tim lived life on the edge. He was extreme in everything he did: some things were fun, such as surfing and snowboarding; other things could almost border on destructive. But the one thing he did to excess—the ultimate extreme—was love his family. And my soul aches for them today, as the object of their love can no longer be physically seen and touched, but only felt inside of their broken hearts.

As I looked at the grave site—the grey metal coffin, covered in surfer and skater stickers from top to bottom, the rainbow of flowers strewn all around it, and the sun gleaming on it so brightly that it hurt my eyes—I had a vision. I saw Tim looking down at all of us with a huge smile on his face, saying, “That is the most AWESOME coffin!!”

…And he was the most awesome person.

God bless you, Tim. You will be sorely missed.