‘He wanted everyone to know that he had a perfect life.’
Tim Bright died on Saturday, Oct. 4, after a four-and-a-half year battle with cancer. The Riverside High and University of South Carolina baseball standout, who alongside his wife Jenny founded the Brightlife organization to support cancer research, was 32.
His death stirred up a well of grief in me that I was told shaded everyone in my path for the next few days. He was a former co-worker. He coached my son in travel baseball. But he wasn’t my son or my brother, so why did the grief swallow me up? It’s not an easy question to answer. The best one I can give is rooted in the way Tim lived his life and the way he invited me and anyone else who would listen to invest in relationships and living even when we are unsure of the ending.
When Jenny and Tim asked me to pray, I prayed. I didn’t merely mention them in passing. I prayed the kind of prayers born out of love, believing all things, hoping all things. I took it on as a mantel. He was supposed to be one of the miracles. He had cancer for nearly five years and yet his death caught me off guard.
I began telling Tim’s cancer story in 2010 for The Greer Citizen when we were asked to write Christmas stories that featured a different side of the holidays. With trepidation, I asked Tim and Jenny to tell me how they would spend Christmas, knowing that they had just found out that the colon cancer had returned a mere three months after it was defeated and this time in his lungs. They were grappling with the new truth that chemotherapy would be a part of their story until a cure for Tim was found. I shouldn’t have been worried. They thought it was a great idea.
They gave up their Saturday morning to meet me at Broadway Bagel for breakfast. With hope and determination, they decided to spend their first Christmas as husband and wife without chemo. It could wait until January. And they decided together to become vocal about their story. They wanted to share it and help others in similar circumstances.
When Tim called in 2012 and asked if I would write a story about Tee it Up for Cancer, Brightlife’s golf tournament fundraiser, I eagerly agreed. The tournament brought in thousands of dollars for the Institute of Translational Oncology Research (iTOR), a clinical research group founded by Tim’s doctors. The next year, we met again to write about the 2013 Tee it Up tournament.
I also wrote about the time his brother Steven caddied for him at the BMW Pro-Am event. Steven asked officials for a waiver into the prestigious tournament just to put a smile on his big brother’s face. Tim, who had undergone a biopsy on his lung just two weeks before, thanked his brother by making sure his bag wasn’t too heavy to carry since the brothers refused the golf cart they were offered.
Tim’s memorial service was last weekend and the very large auditorium at First Baptist Church Greenville was packed with people. It was a testament to Tim and Jenny’s willingness to tell their story in all of its ups and downs. We all wanted to solemnly applaud their bravery and show Jenny how grateful we are that she shared Tim with us.
In a very poignant tribute, Steven caddied for his brother one last time. This time, instead of carrying golf clubs, he opened the pages of Tim’s journal. He said that Tim had written that he wanted everyone to know that he had a perfect life. If he helped one person along the way, it was worth it.
By sharing his battle and giving others hope, Tim showed us all that life is not about living as individuals, but about investing in relationships and sharing in the nitty gritty of life. His legacy is this: share your story in such a way that everyone in your path wants to be a part of it. The investment in others, though painful at times, is worth it.
We all wanted a happy ending, but perhaps another young cancer patient said it best not long before she died. “Maybe it’s not about the happy ending,” she said, “but about the story.”
You gave us one heck of a story Tim.
This tribute first appeared in The Greer Citizen, Oct. 15, 2014.
Visit www.storyoftim.blogspot.com for more of Tim and Jenny's story.