Strength Undying

Monday, August 21

At exactly 10.29 California time, our once in a century Eclipse was just coming back into its light. It was also the exact moment that an old friend, Tim Gerlach, peacefully took his final breath from his battle with brain cancer.

This is a tribute to a man who embraced late in life simple wisdom and a loving understanding that we all can use as a reminder.


Wednesday, August 9th

“Tim is losing his battle with cancer, and they are going to pull his meds. He has weeks, at best.”

Despite not seeing Tim in 10 years, receiving these choked words earlier this month over the phone from my equally old-buddy Matt was debilitating to me.

I knew I wanted to see Tim. I made a plan with Matt to fly in to visit him in hospice together in five days time.

Tim’s impression is indelible amongst a cast of other colorful running mate characters from the early 2000’s named Stoeker, Ure-ski, Rocha, Parker, Maurice, Wahl, Blesius, Fletcher, Miller and Gamboa. Tim was called Governor, and he was the King of the quip, our group interactions typically often on the golf course punctuated with light hearted and self/shared deprecating laughs. Two of his signatures which always had us chuckling:

  • When one would ask if he would ever remarry, he responded with his mischievous grin, “You don’t see people breaking back into prison, do ya?”
  • His other catchphrase was “You can’t get to two without one in row.” Typically delivered with a grin on the golf course after one of us got a birdie — or in my case a par— it was just in the last several days that the profundity of this statement’s life meaning landed for me. More on that later.

Monday, August 14

We had no idea his condition upon arriving this day. Meeting two of his siblings for the first time, Molly and Todd (aka Possum) prepped Matt and I that Tim was in and out of consciousness, and even when awake, had varying degrees of lucidity. Molly was such a loving kind woman, and Possum seemed to absorb life with the deftness of a counter puncher who never took blows.


We were lucky; Tim was fully with us. We sat and shared a few laughs, told old stories, talked sports, and then Tim and I had 10–15 minutes one on one. I asked Tim for a piece of life wisdom, and he surprised quickly with:

“Respect the game and it will respect you back.”

Woah.

I asked him what it meant to him. He spoke of the value of approaching the game with reverence, being early, and always always having your cleats polished — which he said showed that you care enough to be there. His game was baseball. “Good things happen when you arrive confident, respectful and prepared,” he shared with a deep knowing power. I spoke of two friends who summited Everest, both who shared of the sacred ritual of kneeling first before being granted safe mountain passage. Revering the mountain, for it is only then that it will revere you back. Surfers see sacred waves. And so on.

We then spoke of seeing “the game” not as sport in achievement, but an elemental metaphor to life.

Which triggered my seeing his “You can’t get to two without one in row” in a whole new light. I told Tim that in my life I tend to “go from A to Z, rather than A to B.” I shared that his quip will become a metaphor for me to slow down. And to respect the process. To remember to round the bases. In order. Thank you, Timmy. I will now never forget this reminder.

We went deeper. Tim openly shared with me his own self-forgiveness and acceptance regarding his son; in doing so, he commented about letting go of past stories — which reminded me of my poem about my journey of self-discovery. I shared the similarity, and he asked to hear it. After listening for the 3 minutes, Tim closed his eyes, saying it made him feel sleep — “No, not like asleep, peaceful.”

Tim casually mentioned that he had penned a poem about his own feelings while in the hospital for treatment this past February.

I was floored.

This was like someone I had never seen existed. I quietly said I would love to see it, if he wished to share. He mentioned he didn’t know where it was, to check with Molly, and dismisssed it as just notes, not finished.

As Tim drifted into a nap, Molly handed me the folded piece of paper with the draft poem written by Tim.

Tim’s scribbles were always enviable penmanship, and this was no different.

I simply helped organize, and the last sentence was finished based on what I gleaned from our conversation. Molly welcomed me to share Tim’s healing poem here.

Here is Tim’s poem, dropped into a graphic:


I was blown away by Tim’s poem, a clarity of open expression by a man who had bottled up so much for so much of his life. And now quietly unleashed. Untethered. In a simplistic way. It was raw. And for me, personally resonant, as this is reflective my own butterfly journey unfolding. And what I am witnessing of so many letting go of past narratives that no longer serve.

I never saw Tim as a spirit mentor before that moment. As I write this today, I view him a personal mirror to see myself more clearly, to step more deeply into me. Grateful for your gift Tim.

I gave Timmy what would be our final hug, he winked and said, “Later Sculty.” It has been a while since I’ve heard my nickname, and I felt a powerful flash of home — nolstalgia welling deeply inside.

“Aloha, Timmy,” and I walked out the door.


Wednesday, August 16

This fresh impression of Tim captivated many thoughts over the next 48 hours. I thought of the way he was repairing in his heart his relationship with his son, and where there is a personal desire by me to repair the same with my sister; the perspective of his sports metaphor of showing up strong, early and with cleats polished up and to ponder the power and flow of “when you respect the game, it will respect you back.”

I woke two days after seeing him again, and wrote what Tim inspired.

I texted it to Molly to share as she saw fit. She felt both Tim and his son would like.


Sunday, August 27

Delaying my departure to Burning Man, I will attend Tim’s memorial this upcoming weekend in Napa and all the usual suspects will reunion in celebration of Tim’s life. Suit folded in a big ziplock bag following the memorial, I will drive directly Sunday night to see the sunrise Monday morning in Black Rock City with the perfect co-pilot, a-bridge-to-the-other-world-kind-of-brother, Ian-Michael Hebert, to discuss it all.

We will prophetically stop in Gerlach, Nevada in the middle of this Sunday night to search for something with Tim’s surname on it to take to the Playa for the Temple burn.

I’ll bet this version of Timmy would be inspired by the freedom of Burning Man. Feeling it, and seeing he was right there all along, if not yet expressed. I will ask Molly and Possum if there is a physical tribute they wish to have me place take to burning man to release in the temple burn the last night.

The temple at Burning Man is all about non-denominational celebration of life, in letting go. And in that spirit, I see the legacy of Timothy Gerlach.


Monday, August 21

Molly texted me that Tim passed, and we marveled back and forth of the synchronicity of the Eclipse timing, and she also shared the added bite that this day is Tim’s father’s birthday.

I dictated via Siri a final text back to her which I intended, Tim was strength in dying.

Siri auto-corrected it to Strength Undying.

How profound. And how true.

The cancer may have taken him, but he died healthy, a clear portal open to his growth.

RIP, Governor.

Tim Gerlach, 1957–2017