59. An unassuming number; Not anything that represents much more than the accumulated value of smaller increments. It’s the number of times the minute and second hands on a clock are aligned within an hour. It’s how many earth days there are to one on Mercury. It’s the colloquial name given to the Queensboro Bridge in New York City that Simon & Garfunkel famously sang of in the ’60s, offering their advice to “slow down, you move too fast.”
It’s how many days have passed since my baby brother Tim unexpectedly died – the youngest of eight siblings, and the first of us to leave the world at just 39 years old. It was just yesterday and it was forever ago. It is as fresh a wound as it is an old scar. And it is as senseless as it is meaningful.
Death affects each of us differently, and by that admission, we all just roll with it best we can. And as with anything else, whatever stage we are at in our life and all things affecting us at that particular time will play a role in how we process things. I’m no different, working through the many emotions pinned tightly to the death of a loved one, running through loss and all things attached – regret, guilt, anger- and on the other side, love, joy, and laughter.
For my part, something surprising percolated to the surface within the first month of Tim’s death – something unexpected. Something so powerful that it has come to supersede the pain, dislodging the grappling hooks that pierced and clawed at my bruised heart the previous weeks.
And that something was, very surprisingly, inspiration. Inspiration for living, for taking risks, for getting my long time to-do list done. Inspiration to make shit happen, to stop waiting for life to come to me, for my dreams to become realities, for my pains to subside into nothing. Inspiration to do what I want and what I love and what I find that feeds those long abandoned pieces of me I have shoved away deep in the back of the darkest corners of my brain, waiting on a fictional event – the ever elusive day of “some”. Tim has taught me there are no guarantees for a tomorrow so get the fuck on it, already.
Like the year following Mom’s death, there are still many “firsts” without Tim- every day a new one to experience knowing that he isn’t just a quick phone call away, or a short visit to downtown Portland. He will not be at our Thanksgiving, doing his best in his disability to keep up with a huge family, each of us talking over the other as he struggles to hear or read lips. He will not be at our family Christmas party, with his loud laughter and boisterous ways, eager to connect with every individual present. He will not send out friendly texts to all of his family, to remind us of birthdays or anniversaries upcoming.
But he will live on in many ways, not the least of which as the newly inked tribute on my inner arm. He has inspired me – he continues to inspire me. I miss him desperately, and, at the same time, am so thankful for the massive kick in the ass that kid has delivered to me in the last months, and the unconditional love he shared in the years he walked this rock.
So from Tim I want to remind y’all to kick down the cobblestone, People. Ain’t none of us getting out of here alive, and who knows about tomorrow- there very well could be a zombie apocalypse. So, get the fuck ON IT. Be. Do. Have. Go. Travel, eat, run, laugh, cry. Go go go go GO. Thanks, Timbo, for the reminder that life is so very short. I hear you, Baby Brother. And all is groovy.