Looking at my uncle Tim, you may have judged him at first and labeled him the “scary biker.”
He was over 6 feet tall with a size 13 shoe and hands that could cover the entire front of my head. He had a beard, long brown hair and the ability to envelope you in a hug. To those who knew him he was a big teddy bear. For as long as I knew him he was soft-spoken and sort of shy when he first met someone new, but it took very little time before he started to treat you like family.
My favorite trait of his besides his sense of humor and his respect towards women was that he never had anything bad to say about someone, even if he didn’t like them.
He gave back to his community, and was part of the AmVet riders, an organization for veterans and their immediate families. Every year he would participate in Christmas in August, an event where we would raise money to buy toys for children who were sick in the hospital. This was one of Tim’s favorite events.
Tim could clean out a fridge if he wanted to. He wouldn’t just go for seconds during a meal, he would go for thirds and fourths. I remember when Auntie would make spaghetti and she would literally have to cook two boxes.
He and my aunt shared the same favorite holiday — Halloween. They went all out by decorating the house in Halloween decorations, dressing up and going trick or treating with us.
Tim was an avid motorcycle rider, who loved working on his motorcycle and truck. He had his garage filled with tools, and a workshop in the basement. I’m convinced he invested his money in his motorcycle and his Chevy truck more than anything else. My aunt still has his work areas the same exact way as he left them.
He called me his “Brat.” He treated my aunt like gold. Their story is my favorite one — they met when my mother was a few months pregnant with me and didn’t get married until I was in middle school.
Some of my best childhood memories were made with him. I didn’t get too much time with him though because at 38 years old, his life was cut short.
As some of you may know, I used to ride motorcycles. I loved it and it was by far my favorite way to de-stress. Tim was the only person I ever road with. He gave me my first motorcycle ride when I turned 16 years old. I’ll never forget the sound of Tim’s motorcycle as it approached my house.
I thought I wouldn’t have to experience the pain of losing someone so close to me, at least not for a long time.
July 30th, 2013 was the day that forever changed my life. I was not prepared whatsoever.
Talking about it to this day can sometimes hits me. I still get the lump in my throat, and the flashbacks. I remember feeling very odd and the day Tim’s accident happened. Early in the afternoon, I heard sirens and I automatically got a splitting headache and my heart began to race.
I thought, “It’s nothing. I’m overreacting” But that feeling kept coming off and on. I never understood until recently that I am what you would call an empath. At a young age, I could sense and feel other’s emotions and pain. I know it may sound strange to many people and I don’t claim it to be a psychic ability, but I accept it now; it’s a unique gift and also a pain.
I remember those two days like it was yesterday. I was in the kitchen at my mom’s when she got the text message from my father, it said that he was going to pick up my brother Josh and me later on that night. “I’m with Chip, we have to take care of business.” That is my second uncle, my father’s brother.
At the time he didn’t see Uncle Chip too often, so this was my first hint that something was up. When dad finally picked us up around 9:00 or so, the air felt heavy. There was a strange silence and my father had this look on his face, like he was lost. I knew in my gut something was wrong but he wouldn’t say anything.
“Is everything okay, daddy?” I asked him.
He didn’t say anything for a moment.
“Everything is fine…” He finally answered. But I sensed he was in pain.
“Are you sure?” I said.
“Yes I’m sure,” he said kind of snippy.
“Okay…” I said. And I left it at that.
That night I couldn’t go to sleep. It was strange. I’m used to having sleep problems, but this was different. I felt sick and I didn’t know why.
The next morning, dad woke me up around 8 by telling me that I needed to go downstairs. At first I was extremely irritated because of the hour, but once I finally got downstairs and saw my mother sitting on the couch, I knew this was different. Right then and there I knew something was terribly wrong. Mom never stepped foot in the house since the divorce.
Dad pulled out the ottoman towards the TV, which he shut off. He took a deep breath at first, and told us he needed to tell us something.
“Tim was in a bad accident last night… He was hurt very badly… He died.”
I can still hear those words, even now.
At first I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t feel emotion. It didn’t seem real… I kept saying no. It was just a twisted nightmare.
Then I realized it was a sick reality…My heart just shattered.
My body felt weak and I wailed. I could barely breathe. I thought a breakup I experienced just a year previous was the worst day of my life. I learned that day that I was so naive and so wrong.
My first question was, “Where’s my aunt? Where is she?” She was at the hospital. She was suffering from what is known as Broken Heart Syndrome (Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.) She was close to having a heart attack that night.
July 31st was supposed to be a day of celebration — it was my dad’s birthday. Nope, not that year. It’s now a day I will forever associate with death. My uncle dead, at 38… Due to a motorcycle accident.
A few minutes later, I called my boyfriend at the time and told him about my uncle. Afterwards I held my cat and cried in her fur. To make matters worse, WINY, our local news station, covered my uncle’s death on their website. Of course there were helmet activists who chose a moment of grief for me and my family to try and make a point.
Just so you are aware, a helmet is only a brain bucket, as I like to call it. When you wear a helmet, you have a 50-50 chance of survival if you crash. You can have a DOT-approved helmet, the best helmet around, but it does very little in protecting your neck. Tim had a 2% chance of living the day he got in the accident. If he lived, he would have basically been a vegetable. Paralyzed, unable to eat, walk, talk, or take care of himself.
As time has gone on, as much as I never wanted him to go, in a way I almost felt a sense of relief that he didn’t have to know his suffering.
Those first two weeks were the roughest. I didn’t show up to work the day I heard the news. I would have really bad dreams of him flying off his motorcycle because of that stupid deer. I would see him in my own brain’s depiction of what happened that afternoon and it was gruesome. I was sickened by my own thoughts. I was depressed, suicidal. I would sneak alcohol. I lost a significant amount of weight. I would randomly break out in hives from the stress. I would throw up from crying, and couldn’t sleep. Work was hell for me.
If someone gave their condolences to me, I would say thank you, but inside I was crying, screaming, begging for Tim to come back.
Getting out of bed in the morning was absolute hell.
I had to go to my regular appointment with my psychiatrist, which I didn’t want to do because I knew what was about to come: a medication increase. But maybe at the time it was needed. When I told her about the accident, she actually started crying and came over to hug me. I didn’t expect that at all. Maybe it was the fact that she saw how much pain I was in, or the fact that she adores my aunt. Maybe it was a combination of both, but I realized in that moment that she cared and sort of set aside her working personality for me.
As I expected, I was diagnosed with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and had to have my antidepressant increased. The increase didn’t do too much for me except help me sleep. My panic attacks still happened.
The wake was rough. He was in the casket (which was closed thank god), surrounded by those who loved him and beautiful flowers. My work was kind enough to send in a bouquet of flowers. It was a small but kind gesture. I knew they cared. The support was incredible. People came from all over. Police officers and paramedics who were at the scene of the accident came to visit. If I was out, they would ask how I was holding up.
Someone even paid for my aunt to receive 99 Restaurant to go for a whole week so she wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. The motorcycle group Tim was a part of, Am Vet Riders, helped so much. I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for everyone who has been there all the way.
There’s one person that wasn’t really recognized as much, so it is important for me to mention him as well. I want to thank the gentleman who witnessed the accident and called 911. He stayed with Tim until Emergency Services arrived. I can’t thank him enough because I don’t know what would have happened had someone not seen the accident occur or hadn’t thought to call.
In October, we had his funeral. So many people came. I wore my hair in a braid like he always did, and my Harley-Davidson apparel. We all met up at Cozy Corner because the riders came together to all ride their motorcycles to the burial site as a tribute. Our first step was the site of the accident where his brother had left a beautiful cross and we added flowers around it. Getting to this moment was extremely hard for me — I came close to passing out because of how overwhelming it was.
When we got to the burial site, a playlist was playing songs by artists we knew Tim liked: Bon Jovi, Jason Aldean, etc. The one song that really stuck out for me was “See You When I See You” by Jason Aldean, even to this day I still play it when I visit his gravesite.
It’s my way of trying to stay positive, even though I still do cry.
A year ago, I got my very first tattoo and it was in memory of Tim. It’s on my back and I chose this spot as a reminder that he always had (and still has) my back.
I still feel the sting of his passing. I haven’t gotten on a motorcycle since that day and I don’t think I ever will.
As sad as this whole situation is, I will admit that something beautiful did come from it — my family got closer. Family members who I’d barely known until then — my cousins; Pam, Tim’s sister; Shane; Autumn; and Kyla — are now a part of my life. Through the grief, we leaned on each other and I couldn’t have asked for better support.
Every year I post the same two videos, “See You When I See You” and “Drink A Beer” by Luke Bryan.
Luke’s song really sends a powerful message:
“Funny how the good ones go,
Too soon but the Good Lord knows,
The reasons why I guess.
Sometimes the bigger plan,
Is kind of hard to understand.”
Sometimes we really can’t make sense of death. I know I will never be able to make sense of his. While I’ve never really believed in God, I do believe in fate and I am now open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is a higher power. Maybe there is a special place where we all go to wait for our loved ones. Maybe we do meet again someday.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe his death was a lesson. For me, that lesson was that I AM strong. If this God absolutely had to do this to our family, he sure as hell showed me that I can get through anything.
In October of 2014, I met a Tim of my own. My other half, Nicholas. We made it official November 1st, a week after our first date. He has the same exact personality as Tim and I couldn’t be happier. I always wanted a relationship like the one Auntie and Tim had and I’ve finally found it.
Nicholas has helped me through so much and we’ve managed to stay strong through it all. He is an amazing person, with a beautiful heart and soul.
Fast forward to 2015. I am sober, and I haven’t relapsed mentally. With family support and frequent counseling, I have learned to cope. I don’t think of Tim and his accident as much as I used to. I’m now able to look back on happy memories and sift through pictures and laugh, even if through the tears.
I know Tim is still with me in spirit and even if he won’t be able to see me graduate college or get married, I find comfort in knowing he’s around.
I am still majoring in criminal justice, but if I don’t end up pursuing that career path, I have been thinking about becoming a grief and trauma counselor. I feel like I could really make a difference in someone’s life and help them through their pain.
As I said earlier, you have support whether you think so or not. I learned through this all that so many people are here to help. Death happens to the best of people. Unfortunately it is a part of life, and sometimes life can truly suck.
NEVER let anyone tell you to “get over it, it’s life.”
You heal at YOUR OWN pace, not someone else’s. And if you don’t fully heal, it’s perfectly okay.
Remember though, you have so much to live for. Think of the positives in your life. And if you need a little direction…lean on someone, whether it be a professional, or a close friend.
I believe that someday, we will all see each other again. Until then, I’m trying to live life to the fullest.
As Tim said in the last text he ever sent me, three days before his passing:
“Hey bratty girl, LIFE is SHORT. Live it up.”
How ironic and true that statement really is.