Today I’m attending an outdoor ceremony and gathering to unveil a park bench that will bear the name Tim O’Brien on it, in his honor and memory. Tim died from a sudden heart attack on November 20, 2021. He was 50 yrs old and he was doing something he loved when he died – running. Actually, he had just crossed the finish line of the 5k he was participating in, when he suffered the fatal heart attack. I know there must be something profound or ironic or oddly cruel about someone crossing the finish line and then …. crossing the finish line …. but I’ll just leave it at that. I know my friend Tim would get the dark humor of that and not be offended. I can just hear him laughing at the absurdity of that.
I know Tim and Tim became my friend because he lost his wife, Keri, and I lost my husband Don. I know Tim because Keri and Don died, and Tim and I both went to a place called Camp Widow and met one another there. Then we discovered that we were both from the same state of Massachusetts, and over the years, we both attended multiple camps together, and he came out to support my book events when my book first came out. We also ran into each other at Fenway Park one time, and he even came out to my SSI widowed support group a few times over the years. Anyway, we became pretty good friends, and we enjoyed many chats about life, death, and everything in between.
One time at Camp Widow, Tim was looking extra smiley and shiny, almost as if he was somehow glowing from the inside out. We sat and had a drink together, and he started to tell me about Whitney Young. He had met her because her husband died also, and she was at Camp Widow. They connected, had started dating, and when I spoke with Tim that day, he said he knew that “she was the one.” He talked about what a beautiful person she was, how incredible she was, and he just could NOT STOP SMILING. He asked me a bunch of widow type questions that day, about finding love again, about how weird it is, how strange to feel happy and sad all at once. Eventually, I also became friends with Whitney, and soon realized why Tim had fallen in love with her so deeply.
Now, Whitney has been widowed twice, and here I go today off to honor Tim, give Whitney the biggest of hugs, and remember my friend. The bench that has been installed in Tim’s honor was done by Friends of the Newton Turkey Trot in Newton, MA. Friends and family will gather there, and then have a small gathering in their friends backyard.
The friends that I have met because of my loss are some of the biggest gifts I have ever experienced in this lifetime. Any friend that I have because Don Shepherd died – is a friend that I have an incredibly special connection and bond with. They lost their person too, and because of that, it feels to me like their person who died and my person who died somehow knew that we needed each other as friends, and had a hand in making that happen. I always feel close to Don when I am with my widowed friends. It is one of the many ways that his love, his life, and his death continue to affect me and make a mark on my soul.
And just as making these friends out of loss feels extra special, losing them feels extra heart-wrenching.
I miss you, Tim. I hope you can somehow feel all of the love that will certainly pour out today, just one day after your birthday, as some of the people that you love gather together in your beautiful memory.
Long live love, and long live friendships that are born out of life-shattering losses.