In Memoriam: Tim Cox (1960-2009)

I consider myself blessed to have known Tim, but as we put his service together, I discovered that I didn’t know a great deal about him. And then I realized something. Every time I would go to visit him at Atlanta Cancer Care, the conversation would begin about his condition: the latest news from the doctors, the details and difficulties of travel. But it was never long before Tim had successfully turned the conversation to be about me. And the more I’ve learned about Tim over the past few days, the more I see that I was not unique. There were times that this selflessness could frustrate his family, since others could jump ahead in the line, but as I heard them talk about it, I know that they know it as a gift that was uniquely his. A few years ago, when violent storms were bearing down on the Caribbean, Tim was getting frantic calls about boarding up houses in preparation for the torrential rains. And he went out there taking care of them all. He left his own home to the very end. And when the apartment building where Tim and his wife Sandra lived lost its roof in a storm, Tim called the landlord to get it repaired. After a day or so of waiting, Tim went up and fixed it himself. I’m sure he knew he could do a better job than anyone else of that repair. And I may be off track here, but I wonder if he also worried about troubling the landlord with something he could just take care of himself.

There are so many stories to share, and there will be time to do that today and in the days to come. But the image that jumps out at me from the many stories I’ve heard this past week was how Tim worked as a supervisor of his roofers. He not only oversaw their work; he also got up there with them, getting his hands dirty. He loved the manual labor, surely. It was something he knew how to do extremely well, by all accounts. But he also had a knack for mentoring, coaching, teaching someone how to do something by doing it with them. And on this day, when we have this moment where tears and laughter mingle, where we cry at Tim’s absence, where we smile at memories of his presence, where we are grateful that his suffering that has ended, it seems altogether fitting and appropriate to lift up this aspect of Tim’s way of being.

You see, I’m convinced that we can recognize in Tim, the mentor, a glimpse of the God, the comforter, whom we worship. It is this same God who, the Scriptures tell us, is with us no matter how far to the ends of the earth we might go. It is this same God who renews our strength, with wings of eagles, when we are weak. It is this same God whose mercy and love are so strong and enduring that nothing, not even life or death itself, can separate us from God. It is the same God, of whom Paul writes simply in Philippians, who "is near." And it is that same God who, in the person of Christ, comes alongside of us, showing us how it might be done, teaching us, encouraging us.

I got to know Tim over the past few years when he began to come to Atlanta for his treatments. From time to time, I would sit with him on a Friday morning, chat and pray with him. Every now and then, he would stay over the weekend and come to worship at OPC. I often asked his parents how he was doing, and they would bring me up to speed. But the way I really knew how things were going was through Sandra’s faithful updating of Tim’s CaringBridge website. As weird as it might sound, it was there on the web, through Sandra’s descriptions, photographs, requests for prayer, words of thanks and gratitude, through the ups and downs, I saw something truly remarkable; divine, even.

There are thirty-seven pages of entries; more than a hundred different people signing the guestbook, usually a multitude of times, on behalf of spouses and other family members. And in that cyberworld, I saw evidence of this loving, nurturing, teaching, encouraging God at work: Sandra alongside Tim through it all; family that surrounded him and walked with him; friends who accompanied him on flights and doctors’ visits; nurses and techs and doctors who treated him with compassion and respect; people signing internet guestbooks, offering encouragement, support, prayers, hopes, tears, laughter. Through you all, God was there every step of the way. And through them all, God is still with you all every step of the way.

God is with us, even, and especially, now; and God is with Tim, even, and especially, now.