Timmy and I were best friends, although he would have never admitted it. After all, I was a girl and it was well known that girls had cooties!
The Bradys were/are dear friends with whom we attended church for many years. Daddy pastored a small Baptist Church in which Lecil Brady, Timmy’s daddy, was a deacon and my daddy’s best friend. Edna Earle , his mama, was my mama’s BFF. Decades before the BFF terminology would be coined and used to describe people you had not even actually met, the REAL BFF relationship was alive, well, and authentic in women like our mamas. It was a relationship in which each encouraged and supported the other in every facet of their lives, as wives, mothers, and Christians. My sister, Susie, and I knew that if Edna Earle or Lecil called us down for something, we would be well advised to obey just as if it was our own mama and daddy. They functioned much more like aunt and uncle to us than family friends.
By the time I was born, the Bradys already had two boys; Lynn and Dennis. Dennis and my sister, Susie, were born just a few months apart. And then Timmy came along soon after my birth, followed five years later by Lisa, who became my “baby sister” as she is to this day. Ten years later, a surprise – whom Edna Earle and Lecil named Todd.
Whether at church or away from it, our families spent a lot of time together. In fact, when Susie and I were about 5 and 7, Daddy contracted encephalitis lethargica and slipped into a coma, from which he did not emerge for more than 30 days. During his prolonged hospitalization at the VA Hospital in Oklahoma City, we were left in the care of the Bradys while Mama stayed with Daddy. I have many fond and comforting memories from that extended period spent at their home during a very traumatic time in our lives.
We interacted with the Brady children much like siblings or cousins. In addition to being the same age and attending the same church, Timmy and I also shared a love for singing. When we were about four or five, our mamas finally convinced us to sing a duet in church; I Will Follow Jesus. Timmy, however, insisted that it was I will FOLLER Jesus. So we sang Foller, foller, I will foller Jesus. Anywhere, Everywhere, I will foller Him. Of course, at the time, we thought the congregation was laughing in delight. Now…. I wonder.
Timmy could always convince me to spend hours playing tractors with him in the back yard. However, it was the extremely rare occasion that I was able to persuade Timmy to play house with me. When I could convince him (or more often, his mother made him), he would run across the street and talk Melvin Owens into coming over to be the dad. No way was Timmy going to be anyone’s husband or anybody’s dad (you remember – cooties). He would always be the checkout person at the grocery store (his dad worked at Safeway), or the butcher (his dad was a butcher), or the church song leader (his dad was the song leader), or the preacher. In the annual church nativity play, I always wanted to be Mary or an angel. Timmy always wanted to be one of the kings or one of the shepherds. Timmy wasn’t someone to put himself out front. He most often served in the background.
We spent numerous hours playing together, my best friend and I. Lecil had brought a retired Safeway shopping cart home for the kids to play with, and we spent many-a-day shopping with that cart in the garage and back yard, loading up with empty cans, bottles, and boxes saved for that purpose. At other times, the cart was flipped over with opening to the ground and wheels to the sky, to provide a cage for “wild animals” (neighborhood cats beware!) But possibly the most exciting and oft used function of the cart, was providing dangerously fast and exceedingly bumpy rides to neighborhood kids and pets alike. It might have taken both of us to push the older kids, but push we did, through the back yard at breakneck speed, or on the front driveway. It was the source of many bumps, scrapes, and bruises, as well as much laughter. When Lisa was a toddler, we would put her in the cart with baby blanket and doll baby, and race her around the yard, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. It is actually miraculous that she emerged from childhood relatively unscathed. Yes, we always had fun at the Brady house.
Often, during the summertime, the Bradys would invite our small congregation to their house after Sunday evening service for a watermelon feast, ice cream social, or a “singin’.” I especially liked the ice cream socials. A folded quilt would be placed atop the old wooden ice cream freezer. The “little kids” would take turns sitting on this quilt to hold the crank down while adults and teenagers took their turn at turn, turn, tuning the crank. When we had completed our time on the quilt, we’d reach into the top of the freezer bucket and grab some salty ice as our reward before taking off across the yard to rejoin play in progress.
In fact, it was during one of these gatherings, when all of the children were playing cannonball in the front yard, that I broke my arm. What is cannonball, you ask? To play cannonball, one of the “big” kids (the cannon), laid on the ground on his back with knees to his chest, feet together and tilted a bit skyward, forming a platform for the cannonball. Once the cannonball was in place, the “cannon” would quickly extend his legs, shooting the “cannonball” into the air and across the lawn. It was great fun! Well, at least most of the time, it was great fun. But on this night, when it was my turn to be the cannonball, the cannon, obviously miscalculating the weight/air velocity ratio, shot me high into the air, propelling me a good distance across the lawn, where I landed hard on my right arm! As I cried and screamed in pain, most of the other kids really just wanted me to quit being a baby and hush so the game could continue. But not Timmy! Timmy escorted me into the house to our parents, where I was passed around the room from lap to lap with everyone bending my arm and declaring that it was “not broken or she would not be able to bend it.” However, when I continued to cry, to the hospital we went. X-rays confirmed a fracture. It turns out an arm CAN be bent even when it is broken!
In another team adventure, Timmy and I were playing outside on the swing set, taking turns bailing out. The swings were just a few yards from the kitchen window and the watchful eye of his mother. We decided (I’m certain it was Timmy’s idea) that it would be great fun to scare his mom. Slipping into the house when Edna Earle was away from the kitchen, we slipped away with a bottle of catsup hidden beneath Timmy’s shirt. Back outside, we smeared ourselves liberally with the “blood,” and suppressed our excitement as we waited until we saw Edna Earle coming towards the kitchen window where we knew she would look out on us. At just the right moment, when we saw her shadow approaching the sink, we bailed out of the swings and began rolling on the ground and wailing at the top of our lungs. She ran frantically out the back door to the pile of bloodied children writhing in obvious pain on the ground. And then, without missing a beat, she picked up the now empty catsup bottle and did her best to scold us while stifling laughter.
And then there was the ULTIMATE adventure! We decided to dig a hole in the back yard. It was a dangerous mission; one that we dare not mention to anyone. We were going to be missionaries! Having heard that China was on the other side of the world, we were convinced that if we were to dig deep enough, we could reach China and tell the people about Jesus! So we dug, and we dug, and then we dug some more. We would occasionally sit and rest for a minute, mopping the sweat from our brows before returning to the mission in earnest. As we began to encounter moisture and clay, the soil took on a different appearance. But, of COURSE everyone knew that Chinese soil would look different than American soil! The deeper we dug, the darker the soil appeared. Eventually, we began to notice a bit of red clay mixed in with the soil. With each subsequent shovelful, there was more and more red clay and we were becoming more and more concerned! Eventually, concern morphed into outright fear! The appearance of the dark soil streaked with red, brought to our minds the pictures of fire and brimstone we had seen in church. We feared that instead of reaching China for Christ, we were on the brink of opening up HELL!
Having survived our close encounter with the underworld, a couple of years later, when we were about seven-ish years old, we excitedly planned another top secret mission. We made plans to surprise Edna Earle for her upcoming birthday. We convinced our mothers to allow me to spend the night, and I snuck my mother’s round cake pans out of our house in my baby doll’s bed. That night, Timmy got up in the middle of the night and came to Lisa’s room, calling to me in whispers from the door. I retrieved the pans from beneath my baby’s covers, and we tiptoed to the kitchen where we proceeded to bake a birthday cake. We struggled through reading the directions, and did what we had seen our mothers do. (How nobody in the small house awakened, I will never understand). But as is usually the case, you do not know what you do not know. And there were two things that we did not know. We didn’t know to let the layers cool before icing. And we didn’t know what confectioner’s sugar was. So we stacked the cakes while hot, and made the icing with granulated sugar. The “icing” didn’t ever really take form, of course, and the runny liquid ran down the sides of the hot cake. The top layer, with nothing to help it adhere to the bottom one, began sliding off, which gave us an excuse to use almost an entire box of toothpicks in our attempt to keep it in place. It certainly did not look like the beautiful cake we had envisioned. And the kitchen certainly did not look as it had when we had begun. Nevertheless, Edna Earle acted as though it was the most beautiful and delicious birthday cake she had ever had.
Fond memories of a childhood filled with adventure, fun, scrapes, bruises, secret missions, sheer delight, laughter and tears. But that was long ago. We grew up and graduated from high school. I was married within a few months. Timmy, by then, was just Tim (but he’ll always be Timmy to me). “Tim” soon began spending a lot of time in Houston, where oldest brother, Lynn, lived. He eventually married Brenda, the beautiful sister of Lynn’s wife, Linda. Since that time so many years ago, I have seen Timmy and Brenda far too few times, though I have always kept in contact with lil’ sis, Lisa, as well as Edna Earle and Lecil. They always kept me up on what was going on in Timmy’s life, sharing pictures of the children as they grew, as well as the latest pictures of Timmy and Brenda. It was fun to watch their family grow.
Then, approximately ten years ago, Lecil, gravely ill with cancer, was in the hospital. Timmy came from Houston, and throughout the evening, many friends and family members visited Lecil’s hospital room. Eventually, most everyone had returned home to put children to bed except for Lisa, Timmy, and me. During Lecil’s last moments on this earth, the three of us stood at his bed, singing Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Because He Lives and more. Our voices blended and harmonized much better than they had all those years previous when Timmy and I had stood before the church bellowing Foller, foller, I will foller Jesus. Still, I imagine Lecil enjoyed both.
A few years later, I had an opportunity to visit with Timmy briefly when he came to care for his mother during the last few months that she was able to live at home. My brother/cousin, Tim, was still the same as he had been all those years before. Still smiling. Still caring and fun. A great husband to Brenda. A great father to Chris and Breann. A great brother to Lisa, Todd, and Dennis. (Lynn had passed away many years previous). He was a great son, and, I have no doubt, a great friend also. Most importantly, he was a man of integrity and character; a truly godly man. And possibly most rare, he retained his humble, kind, and selfless nature. Tim really did foller, foller, foller Jesus.
Most of the above memories reveal what kind of a child Timmy was. But before bringing this to a conclusion, I’d like to share a memory which demonstrates the kind of man Timmy became. When Tim’s daddy died, Lisa and Edna Earle asked me, along with several others, to speak at the funeral. I shared several stories of what it was like growing up “Brady”, one of which was about the Brady grandparents. I told of how it seemed that Mom, Susie and I were always there when Grandma and Grandpa Brady, or Grandma and Grandpa Meadors came to visit. You could be sure that at some point or points during their visit, all of the available children would line up in front of Grandpa Brady for a chance of being awarded a Buffalo Nickel if he was able to count the child’s ribs without causing them to laugh. Do you know how ticklish you become when you’re concentrating on not laughing?
I continued to relate how I felt SO much a part of the family that I REALLY believed that they were my grandparents too! I recounted the time that I had said something about Grandma and Grandpa and how Timmy had retorted. “They’re NOT your grandma and grandpa. They’re MY grandpa and grandma. I was shocked and it hurt my feelings to learn that they really weren’t family. The point of the story, was that the Bradys made me feel so much like family that I actually believed I was.
After the funeral, Timmy came to me with tears in his eyes and hugged me, apologizing for hurting my feelings! At first, I didn’t know what he was talking about. Of course my feelings were not still hurt; that was the reaction of a child. But Timmy couldn’t bear the thought that he had caused me pain even that far in the past. Oh, that we could all have a heart like Timmy’s!
And now, he has reached his reward. Lisa phoned on Friday with the sad news that our Timmy has died. It was a shock and an exceedingly sad day! Although Timmy had recently not been well and under a doctor’s care, his death was sudden, unexpected, devastating. He leaves not only a family struggling in pain, but a hole in the fabric of the world. I am thankful that there are many who are sad today at the loss of Timmy, because it is testimony to the great treasure he invested in the lives of many. I am also thankful that the Comforter will be with those who grieve.
Today is one of those times that I need to again remind myself that our Maker’s decisions are always righteous. I need to recall that if we believe what we say we believe, then Timmy is in our future and not in our past. For that we can be tremendously grateful.
I can imagine that Timmy is again participating in a “singin” with his daddy as well as mine. I’m certain that my brother-in-laws parents, Blanche and Roy Lowder, who were also life-long friends, are in that group as well. Perhaps my mama and my precious Leo, neither of whom had much of a singing voice on earth, are now gifted in that way too. The harmony of their voices lifted in praise, in the actual presence of the King to Whom the praise is offered, surely must be breath-taking!
As part of Tim’s legacy, I pray I will strive to be humble, loving, selfless, kind, giving, and available to those in need. I pray that I will stay with the sick, sing comforting songs at the bedside of the dying, repair the broken, and pray for the weak. I pray that I will follow Timmy’s example as I endeavor to foller, foller, foller all the way… until we once again meet On That Beautiful Shore, Timmy, in the Sweet By and By.