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In remembrance of Tim

Fallen Bauhinia

My heart sank when I got the news. On the fifth of July there was a diving accident at Race Rocks, off the southern tip of Vancouver Island on the Pacific Coast of Canada. It is one thing to read about a missing diver you never knew, but another when the article carries a photo and the name of a treasured childhood friend.

For weeks I wrestled with the idea of dedicating an entry to Tim on my blog, on whether it was more appropriate to mourn privately or write him a tribute on such a public platform. But I am far away from both London and Hong Kong – the most likely locations for a memorial service – and this is the least I could do.

Today, August 8, would have been his 28th birthday. I believe that in his 27 years and 11 months on earth, Tim lived more than most people would in a lifetime. His thirst for adventure took him long-distance cycling, diving, and on other exploits. He loved to travel as much as I do; on Facebook I marvelled at his photo albums from Hungary, Bosnia, Israel and the West Bank. Up till a few days before he went missing, Tim had been uploading pictures from his latest trip.

It feels unnatural, wrong even, to refer to him in past tense. I am not angry at his passing, and if I was, who or what would I direct my anger towards – the sea? I do not see the point in asking why his life was cut short, why such a promising young man was taken so suddenly and so soon. Such questions cannot bring him back. Though some might be turned off diving because of this tragedy, I do not believe for a moment that it was his adventurousness that killed him. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If my pain is great, I cannot imagine what his family has been going through since his disappearance last month. I cannot fathom how it must feel for his two brothers to lose a cherished sibling, and his parents to lose a precious child. But I will always be grateful that he walked on this earth and graced our lives with his presence. I will have his infectious enthusiasm and impish grin forever etched into my memory.

Tim and I, we were kindred spirits – or at least I like to think so. Our friendship began in Year 8 when he transferred to my school, and we quickly hit it off. Both of us were passionate about history and geography. We spent countless lunch breaks and after-school hours in the library, poring over books on the Roman Empire and ancient China. For a brief episode in our teenage years he was my best friend and worst enemy, an ally and competitor. But we ironed out our differences and he became a confidant for sharing my most private thoughts, desires and dreams. When he settled in London after university, distance did not weaken those bonds of friendship.

This February, on his final trip to Hong Kong, we met for lunch at a Japanese restaurant near the office; it was just the two of us for a long-awaited catch up. Over sashimi I spoke of my plans to quit my job and travel for six months to write a book on the Spice Route. The look of unrestrained joy and excitement on his face is something I will never forget. “Out of all my friends,” he told me, “you are the most inspiring.”

Tim is – was – the kind of friend who made time to listen and encourage even if he was thousands of miles away. He did not shy away from telling the truth, from showing appreciation to those he loved and cared about. His ideals of loyalty and service were apparent in his commitment as a soldier in the British military reserves, a police officer in Central London, and a Committee Reporter in the Houses of Parliament. He was always inquisitive about the world, and took a stand for the things he believed in, even if they ran counter to accepted norms. He was a person who never failed to see the humour in all kinds of situations. That is how Tim lived, and perhaps how you and I should too.

35 Comments Post a comment
  1. A very nice memorial/appreciation for your friend.

    August 8, 2015
    • Thank you for leaving me a comment – I guess this is my eulogy for him.

      August 9, 2015
  2. Sorry for your loss, James. It’s sad to lose a friend and unpleasant to face mortality in general when someone so young and close to you passes away. Nice that you can use Tim’s way of life as motivation for your own.

    August 8, 2015
    • Lex, thank you for the warm message. When we are young we almost believe we are invulnerable – sadly this is the fifth time my high school class has been confronted with a similar tragedy. Now we know to appreciate and cherish each other more.

      August 9, 2015
  3. May Tim rest in peace, From your writing I can gather that he would have been a good human. I’m sure he would be at a good place where ever he is now.

    August 9, 2015
    • Yes, I have always known Tim to have a very big heart – in his work and personal life, he would often put others above himself. Thank you for the kind words.

      August 9, 2015
  4. So sorry for your loss James. It’s always impossible to fathom why anyone dies so young. I hope you take heart in celebrating your friendship for all the years you did have.

    August 9, 2015
    • Much appreciated, Alison. We did have many years of friendship – 15 in fact – and I am so glad he was part of my formative school years. I am thankful I knew him well.

      August 9, 2015
  5. The sun probably feels like it set at noon- there are some friends I have that are gone that I still can’t believe are no longer with us. But our life on earth is a mysterious one. Go on and continue to inspire others as you did Tim, James.

    August 9, 2015
    • Chief Mad Apple, thank you so much for the heartfelt message. It really went two ways – Tim inspired me as much as I did him. For as long as I live, I hope I can view the world with wide eyes and appreciate its wonders as Tim would have done.

      August 9, 2015
  6. I never have words to say at times like these. So sorry for your loss never seems enough.

    August 9, 2015
    • No worries, Badfish – I feel much the same when it happens to people I know. The last memorial service I went to, I could only give my best hug to the bereaved mother of my friend.

      August 9, 2015
  7. Sincere condolences… never easy to lose a kindred spirit.

    August 9, 2015
    • Thank you, Carissa. It is unreal to think that I won’t be seeing him or hearing from him now – we were such close friends.

      August 13, 2015
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    August 9, 2015
  9. Deep condolences from me James. I have no idea what to say, but from your writing I believe that he’s kind of inspiring person. And you’re one of the lucky guy who know him in person. May Tim rest in peace.

    August 9, 2015
    • Bart, makasih banyak for the heartfelt message. Wherever Tim is now, I am convinced that he is in a better place.

      August 13, 2015
  10. So sorry for your loss James, may he rest in peace… we know that childhood friendship is the most beautiful memory that cannot ever replaced…

    August 10, 2015
    • You are so right, Riyanti – at least from now on I will be more appreciative about those friends I grew up with. Thank you for the kind words.

      August 13, 2015
  11. Reblogged this on laylarollingalong.

    August 11, 2015
  12. James, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your remembrance of Tim is beautiful and thoughtful.

    August 13, 2015
    • Much appreciated, Kelly. As I mentioned in the post, it was the least I could do.

      August 13, 2015
  13. Tim would be proud to read your heartfelt remembrance of him.

    August 13, 2015
    • I think he would respond with a smile and tell me that I’ve exaggerated his qualities – even if it doesn’t quite do him justice.

      August 13, 2015
  14. I’m sorry to hear about that awful death incident for your childhood friend. I lost a cousin in a drowning accident when he was 18 yrs. near San Francisco. My aunt never recovered from his death.

    I realize how difficult it is to talk about death and memories of someone you knew well, on a blog post. I lost a sister and found it easiest to dedicate a post to her. My family needs the privacy concerning her death since she also has 2 grown children.

    August 15, 2015
    • Thank you for the kind words, Jean – tragedies like these seem to hit us when we least expect them. I am also sorry to hear about the deaths in your own family. At the very least I hope that what happened brought everyone closer together.

      August 16, 2015
  15. A great tribute James, and words that show a man who loved life and pursued it greatly. His words to you I see reflected back to him in this post: ~“Out of all my friends,” he told me, “you are the most inspiring.” ~ It is clear he inspired you so much. Take care.

    August 20, 2015
    • Much appreciated, Randall – it is always so nice to read your thoughtful comments.

      August 22, 2015
  16. Helen #

    Thank you for sharing this. I met Tim at LSE and can identify with your description of him, although I lost touch with him after university. He really was a great person; definitely enthusiastic! It is such a tragedy he is no longer with us.

    September 2, 2015
    • Thanks in turn for reading and sharing your thoughts, Helen – I’m glad you also had the privilege of knowing Tim.

      September 3, 2015
  17. My condolences. Thank you for sharing.

    September 28, 2015
    • I appreciate it, Vonnie.

      October 7, 2015
  18. Condolences, you got good pictures and nice writing! There are really numerous great travel destinations around Asia, you may want to visit Philippines soon. 🙂

    Thanks and safe travels!

    November 19, 2015

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