Dealing With Death

Photo by Lauren Lu

“I remember that I just kind of sat there and cried,” senior Emily Abshire said. “I didn’t understand how something like this could happen. His daughters woke up one morning and he was lying on the floor in his office, just dead. And they don’t know why. They did an autopsy and they just don’t know. He was just dead.”

36 Years Before

On Oct. 7, Tim Clark was born. As the sons of a pastor, both he and his brother, Brian Clark, grew up with a strong Christian presence in their home. Through Sunday church services and backyard ice hockey matches, Brian said their relationship grew past the point of being siblings to also becoming friends.

“My favorite memory would be ice hockey in the backyard in Ashoka, Canada,” he said. “We always had a rink that was in our backyard for two or three months of the year, and we’d play in the snow, or we’d play ice hockey a lot. We were competitive as rivals, but (we were also) friends. We just liked being together.  The relationship was like, as long as we are alive, we are each other’s brothers.”

One Year Before

On April 28, 2013, Abshire and Tim met in the Indianapolis International Airport, just moments before embarking across the world together. They spent the next week teaching English classes and sharing biblical stories to students who were not accustomed to the Christian faith. And while roaming the wonders of Taiwan, they also formed a bond that Abshire said she valued greatly.

“We became really close. He’s a really good guy, and we talked a lot about religion, and obviously, if you’re in another country with someone, you’re going to do things together, but we just got along really well,” she said. “He was kind of like an older-brother figure or a father figure. I mean, he’s old enough to be a father, (and) he was a father, (so) he was kind of like that to me.”

As the week progressed, Abshire collected memories from both her journey in Taiwan and her journey with Tim.

“We have a lot of really good memories because we were across the world being weird. First of all, he just annoyed me. He would hit me or make fun of me and would ask me about boys,” she said. “One (memory) that I really like is on the fourth or fifth day of our trip. We were sitting in the train station, and he was making fun of me about boys, and he was asking me about relationships and commitment, and he really opened up to me about (his) marriage and how there were a lot of problems and whatnot, and (about) his daughters. It was just a really good memory.”

“I learned that you can connect with someone, no matter how old they are, about anything,” she said.

Looking back on Tim’s life as a whole, and in particular, looking back at that trip, Brian said he often remembers the impact Tim made on Abshire and others around him.

“It’s an honor while you’re alive to be in the moment and to see people thriving or embracing (life) and enjoying the moment,” he said. “It was very life-giving and very great to watch him come alive around others. (It) always put a smile on my face. It was just awesome.”

“It’s an honor while you’re alive to be in the moment and to see people thriving or embracing (life) and enjoying the moment. It was very life-giving and very great to watch him come alive around others. (It) always put a smile on my face. It was just awesome.”

Brain Clark

The Day Before

On Jan. 25, 2014, nine months had passed since the trip. For Abshire, this meant returning to Carmel, and for Tim, returning to West Chester, OH. The miles that separated them did not allow the two to see each other much, but over that period of time, they were still able to keep in contact and stay a part of each other’s lives.

“So after Taiwan, we talked for a while, for a couple of months. I would text him or call him and see how he was (and) see how his daughters were,” Abshire said. “And then I just kind of forgot. (I didn’t) forget him obviously, but I had just been busy and hadn’t talked to him (in) a while. I remember that winter I had been like, ‘I should talk to Tim. I miss him, and I want to see how his kids are and everything.’”

Jan. 26, 2014

That morning, Tim’s twin daughters found him lying on the floor. Tim was not sick, and he had no injuries. Without any prior indicators that death was approaching, he had passed away.

“In January my friend who had gone to Taiwan with us (called me) and was like, ‘Did you hear that Tim passed away?’ And I just did not believe that that could be true,” Abshire said. “He’s, like, 30. How could someone that I know and I love possibly die? Death is so final. I had literally been thinking the day before about how much I needed to talk to him. I remember I was upset for like a good week or so. I was very sensitive to the topic, and I didn’t want to talk about it very much. My parents wanted to talk, and I was like, ‘I don’t really have anything to say about it.’ But it was also really upsetting because they never knew why he died.”

Because there was no presence of cancer, disease or injury, an autopsy was performed. When the results came back, they gave no answer as to how Tim could have died. It was reported as inconclusive. Abshire said this made it hard for many to cope or find closure with Tim’s passing. But even though she wasn’t given the answer that an autopsy is supposed to give, she said her strong sense of faith helped her through the grieving process.

“Tim and I were friends in Christ. We became friends through the trip, so our relationship was based on religion, so it was easy for me to consider what happened as God’s plan,” she said. “I just accepted that it was his time, like God wanted him for some reason. (Having a sense of faith) just shows you that this is not for the worst–it’s for the better. Even though it seems really bad here on Earth, you know that in a celestial sense, it’s better.”

Submitted Photos of Abshire’s time with Tim

Like Abshire, Brian used his Christian faith to deal with his loss and to move forward with his life.

“I’ve talked to funeral directors, and I’ve been a pastor, and I’ve seen that when you go to a funeral of someone who has authentic faith, there’s hope. There’s hope of a future,” he said. “When there’s not (faith), when this world is all there is to talk about or (when you only) talk about the past, you talk about what was, and you try to remember the good or anything about that person from what they did. There’s not a hope of the future. (With my religion) I would say there’s the hope of the future, but also a place to bring your pain.”

The Months After

On Feb. 1, 2014, Tim’s family and friends gathered for the funeral at his old high school in Oxford, OH. As more time passed, Abshire said she was able to deal with Tim’s death; however, certain things today still remind her of Tim and of their trip together.

“Sometimes I’ll just think about it, like when people talk about death,” Abshire said. “Obviously I think about it. I haven’t experienced that much death, and that was really hard especially. Also, when I think about Taiwan, he usually comes to mind, and I’m really close to Brian, Tim’s brother, and we talk about it sometimes. So I think it’s just those kind of things, like when you’re actually talking about death or Tim. It does come up sometimes.”

To others who suffer from the death of a loved one, she offers the advice of how she found peace with her loss.

Abshire said, “I would definitely say: reside in your religion. Obviously, I’m a Christian, so I believe that if you’re firm in your religion, then you should feel at peace with it because you know that they’re in a better place. Always praying and reading scripture helps. And the fact that my church prayed for him, and Anchors Away and Cru (all prayed for him) and being with Brian, who was like a religious figure in my life, (these) made it easy to cope with it that way.”

Today Brian lives in Florida with his wife and children. It has been nine months since his brother passed away, and yet he said Tim’s impact on him still remains strong.

He said, “(Because of Tim’s death) I ask this question: Why him and not me? But because I was given life and his was taken, I see my days and decades as a gift.”

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About the Author

Brielle Saggese