Tim Paul was a goofball. We met in high school. I was always short and young looking, a straight A student, and I was friends with almost everyone (nerd alert). I wasn’t necessarily cool, but everyone inherently liked me. Tim was the kid that prided himself on not being liked. He enjoyed the rise he would get out of teachers and other students. His power was the huge grin he had on his face; it instantly would tick people off. He loved to be an ass. As we went through high school we soon became great friends and after a while He became part of the family.
Tim was like one of those people from the TV show Jackass. He would do crazy things and extreme sports. He would often do something stupid and injure himself for laughs. He learned to snowboard by flying down the hill behind us not knowing how to stop. He would crash so hard, get up, and keep after us. He was nuts! He also loved to fight, though he was not enormous or ripped. It was actually an asset, as he didn’t look like he was as tough as he really was. He also, didn’t pick on people weaker than him; he loved to beat up bullies. I saw him beat up more “tough guys” than anyone else I have ever known. He always was there to protect my little butt too. I didn’t go looking for fights, but sometimes big guys thought they could get the best of me. It is always beneficial to have big friends when you are a “fun size” guy like myself. He was the toughest guy I knew.
I could digress into ridiculous stories here, and maybe one day will write them all down. I think we have time for one though: Tim had to be escorted by security on and off campus his senior year of college. Apparently, he was at a fraternity party, talked to one of the alpha frat boys’ girlfriends, and ended up beating up half the fraternity in the front of the frat house. He was famous; he even made the college paper as the bad guy. They called the cops and said that this crazy kid (Tim) was attacking them. He was mainly defending himself, but Tim didn’t always have people on his side. He loved it!
We snowboarded and partied together all throughout college and our early twenties. He was part of the family and also drove my family crazy, in a loving way. He was such a goofball that many didn’t realize how successful he had become as a young man. He got his engineering degree from the University of Pittsburgh, he had a great job, bought a house, and had a loving girlfriend. Life was good!
It was early 2010, and I was living the life. I was living at home with my parents outside Pittsburgh. I was working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights as a nurse making $900 per week after taxes. I was only working 3 nights a week, 4 days off, and I had more money than I knew what to do with. I was 23 years old with zero debt. Talk about someone in major need of some financial guidance. I just blew it on partying, girls and junk.
It was then in March of 2010 that we were out at the Seven Springs bar where we hung out after snowboarding. Tim jokingly said to us, “I have cancer, ha, but I will kick its ass!” We actually all laughed together and shrugged it off. He was diagnosed with Burkett’s Lymphoma, which he told us was very curable. I mean we were all healthy as horses; prime of our lives and Tim was the toughest guy we knew. No big deal. We just went on partying and snowboarding closing out the winter.
The summer blew by like a breeze. I was working and hanging out with my friends and girlfriend. Life was good. I had just started a new business with my friend Payton. It was a network marketing company. I didn’t know a lot about it, but we talked everyday and I was learning. We would talk about our dreams and what we would do when we were rich. We would talk about his mentor in Utah who was a millionaire and how he was working arm-in-arm with him. It got me excited. Payton started to tell me that I needed to move to Utah and learn this business with him. I would indulge and tell him things like “yeah wouldn’t that be fun to move there, snowboard and build business with you guys”. I would say it and think it sounded like a nice idea, but never really went further than that.
We did not see much of Tim throughout the summer. We just assumed he was busy like we were with life. Like I said he had a house, great engineering job, and girlfriend to keep him busy. Then all of a sudden we got an invite to “Give Stem Cells for Tim” on Facebook. Everyone was shocked! It was September 17th. I remember the date, because it was my girlfriend’s birthday. I made it a point to visit him at the hospital before taking her out to dinner that night.
It was the first time I had seen Tim in months. He was bald and looked like hell. I found out he had been though chemotherapy all summer and it did not work. They were going to do a stem cell transplant to hopefully rid him of the cancer. Turned out he had Stage 4 lymphoma when he went in for treatment. He was very depressed. I did my best to cheer him up.
We all rallied together and tested ourselves to see who might be a match for Tim. We visited him again in the hospital and this time his spirits were turned around. He said, “I am going to beat this”. We were all pulling together for him.
The cancer was decreasing, and he was well enough to go home. Then we got a call that Tim had fallen out of bed, hit the table with his head, and broken his spine. He was back in the hospital and most likely paralyzed. They did another CT scan and found that the cancer they thought was disappearing came back in full force. It was all through his body and there was nothing to help it. Everything Tim did, he did it all out!
We went to the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Hospital to visit him. He was in the ICU with a tube in to breath. He was fully conscious and responsive, though couldn’t communicate very well with the tube. He was all there though. Even with being back in the hospital and paralyzed he was actually very positive and talking to his girlfriend about future plans. We were instructed to keep his prognosis a secret, but Tim wasn’t dumb. It was easy to see in every ones faces that came to visit.
The nurses were wonderful. They let us have a big group in the room even though we were only supposed to have two visitors at a time in the ICU. To try and keep the mood up we would tell stories of us being ridiculous together. We told stories of all the fights we had been in, girls we chased, trips we took, and snowboarding adventures we had. Tim loved it and we actually had some really great laughs there. The nurses had to come in and ask us to calm down a few times when we got rowdy.
He died on October 28th, 2010. Less than eight months after he found out about his cancer. He was 25 years old. I was in the theater watching the newest Jackass movie when I got the text he had passed. It was so ironic; it makes me smile a little.
That was six years ago as I write this and it still stands as one of the most significant events of my life. He was the first person I really cared about who pass away.
Then came a moment of truth: There I was standing outside on this beautiful fall day where he was buried. All my best friends and family surrounded me, and it was surreal. I felt like he was going to pop out and say, “Tricked you hahaha”.
It was at that moment that I realized just how short and precious life was. I realized there and then that I was wasting my life away in Pittsburgh. I realized that I wasn’t living to my potential and needed to make changes. It was a very powerful event.
I decided to break it off with my girlfriend and move to Utah. There was an adventure to be had and I wasn’t going to miss it. I knew that there was potential to this new business I had started, and I wanted to be around the people who would help me. I had no idea exactly what I was doing, but I didn’t care.
I pulled in to Salt Lake City on January 15th, less than three months after Tim passed away. I was 1,800 miles from home with everything I could fit in my little SUV. I moved into a house with no furniture and had no idea what to expect. It was the single greatest thing I have ever done!
People would ask, “How are you moving away? When are you coming back?“ I would tell them “I don’t know”. They would then tell me “I could never do that.” I am here to tell you that you can.
I tell anyone who is seeking a change or adventure that you can do it. You can always go back to your hometown. It will always be there and it will be the same as you left it. However, you will regret the things you didn’t do more than those things you did.
Since that time, I have been building businesses all over the world, traveling, snowboarding and trying to live the biggest life I can. Part of it is for Tim. I believe he is looking down and smiling. I believe he would want to be remembered for the great times we had. I wish he was still here, but I am grateful for the lasting lesson he was able to give me and I am able to share with you.
Remember, from Tim Paul, Life is Short, Go All Out, and Play For Keeps!
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
2 thoughts on “The Most Influential Person In My Life”
Wow Chris……How nice of you to write of Tim. But even more to remember him and be led to live your life because of him. I really needed to see this. He really thought the world of you and your family. Also…I can tell you that Tim was high energy from day one. He was that little kid you would have to watch every second because he was always wanting to do things that were unsafe. But I loved his happy ways and joy and wanting to try everything. Miss him so much. May you always find beauty in this world where we never really know what may be around the corner. Dawna
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Thank you Dawna. He was a big part of our lives and it has been weird not to have him here. Like I said I believe he would have wanted us to remember the best of him and to make our lives like you said “finding beauty” everyday.