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We grew up together. Friends in high school, in the Army, as active and committed Baha’is, we had summer jobs together in college, learned to mountain climb together, talked constantly, supported each other in our explorations of life and love and luck. Tim taught me how to play racquetball, which sounds trivial, but which led me to a lifetime of sweaty joyful play, something my own family discouraged, or at least didn’t know how to do.
You would have loved Tim. Everyone did. He had an easy, casual charm and a quick wit and a big heart, wide enough to accept and welcome everyone. Tim told jokes that made me laugh so hard I cried. He had a crazy, irreverent sense of humor, a yearning for adventure, a constant gleam in his eye. Once we came across a treasure map, and on a wild lark decided to look for the Lost Dutchman mine in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. We didn’t find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or maybe we did. Maybe the real gold was our friendship.
About a decade ago I lost track of my friend Tim. He said he was about to move to another city, told me he would call and give me his new number, but never did. I tried to find him. No luck. I searched for him, but Tim Anderson, unfortunately, is too common a name.
Then, a few weeks ago, I read his obituary. Shocked and saddened, I called the Baha’i community in the town where his obit said he lived, got his daughter’s phone number and talked to her. I learned that Tim, my dearest and closest friend for so much of my young life, one of the people who I loved the most in this world, had suffered a series of strokes right after we last spoke. In his mid-50’s at the time, he lived another decade, but without the ability to communicate.
Because Tim and I had shared the experience of war, had both encountered death as young men, we shared many long talks about dying. The Baha’i teachings gave us hope, helping us understand what we had seen and gone through, granting Tim and I some solace. We both knew our time would come; that we advanced toward that moment every day, that we all, as Tim used to say, get one birth and one death.
Knowing that, Tim made the most of his short life. An avid scientist and inventor, he unearthed new scientific discoveries. An enthusiastic, energetic soul, he embraced his Faith and constantly practiced it so the world could reflect its vision of peace and unity. A great lover of humanity and his wife Karen, they had six children. When Karen died of breast cancer way too young, Tim tried to go on, even though he had lost the love of his life. Perhaps his brain refused to continue – I don’t know – but his enormous, kind heart kept pumping.
Like I mentioned, we talked about death a lot. While we painted a house or cleaned carpets at our college summer jobs, we’d discuss the subject for hours. Not a popular topic with our peers or at a party, we understood that most people couldn’t or just didn’t want to face their own mortality. But Tim and I, in a strange way, always looked forward to that Great Transition. We knew it promised the end of life on this physical plane, yes, but we also knew that it represented birth into the next plane of our spiritual existence.
Tim’s favorite quote from the Baha’i writings reminded him to make the most of what we’re each given here on Earth:
Soon will our handful of days, our vanishing life, be gone, and we shall pass, empty-handed, into the hollow that is dug for those who speak no more; wherefore must we bind our hearts to the manifest Beauty, and cling to the lifeline that faileth never. We must gird ourselves for service, kindle love’s flame, and burn away in its heat. We must loose our tongues till we set the wide world’s heart afire, and with bright rays of guidance blot out the armies of the night, and then, for His sake, on the field of sacrifice, fling down our lives…. And then, with flying flags, and to the beat of drums, let us pass into the realm of the All-Glorious, and join the Company on high. Well is it with the doers of great deeds. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 266.
I tried to find you for years, Tim – but now I know where you live. See you in a bit.