Meet My Friend Tim
D. T. Niles, a pastor born on an island south of India, is famous for saying that we, as Christians, are “one beggar telling another beggar where to get food.” That statement warms my heart. I’ll be honest, there are not many times that I have felt pastoral over the past year and a half. I have not preached since getting diagnosed, I have not regularly attended services due to my immune system or sickness, I am not able to carry the same load of counseling as before, and hospitals have limited visitations due to Covid. With all that said, I would like to share one instance from this year where I was blessed to show another beggar where to get food.
In early summer, while in my office at the church, the church receptionist answered a call from a wife asking for a visit for her husband dealing with pancreatic cancer. Though this is a call that I have taken many times in the past, I felt uneasy as I picked up the phone—it felt different since my liver cancer diagnosis last year. When the day came for a visit, I brought my Bible and mask, and I rehearsed how it might go in my mind. I greeted Tim’s wife at the door and walked into their living room to see Tim reclining in his easy chair. I was unclear how to share with Tim that I was also a cancer patient, especially since at that time Tim’s cancer was inoperable and mine was on course toward transplant. Nobody likes that guy who is always trying to one-up you, and I didn’t want to be that guy. However, I felt like Tim might appreciate that I have been through the same chemo as he was experiencing and know what it feels like to face your future with uncertainty and fear. As I shared about my diagnosis and feelings, I could see Tim’s expression change from “Dude, you have no clue what I am going through” to appreciation of hearing my struggles with cancer.
He first asked me how I deal with fear. Now for a pastor there is no greater pitch to swing on, and I took the next several moments to share with him how my faith, while not perfect, helped me deal with fear. I shared what Christ had done for me: how I had been rescued by my Savior through His death and atonement, and brought into a relationship with my Heavenly Father. Tim desired to have a similar faith and for the next several minutes I was in awe as Tim professed Christ as His Savior. This began a friendship that I pray lasts for many years on Earth, but I know will last for eternity in Heaven.
As cancer invades both of our bodies and Tim and I face the very real possibility of our deaths, I beg you not to assume yourself immune from facing fear, death, and issues of mortality. I often say that we live in a post-Genesis 3 world. The third chapter of Genesis is where sin is introduced to mankind through Adam, Eve, the fruit, and the serpent. Living in a post-Genesis 3 world means that we live in a world impacted and corrupted by sin. A world which is groaning as it awaits redemption and hope that is only found in Christ (Romans 8:22-23). This world never stops groaning, and though we may momentarily find means to shield our ears from hearing those groans, there will be a time for all of us when we will be shown our mortality. Christ is our only Hope for this corruption, fear, and brokenness.
Over the next several months, as he would be up for a visit, I would stop over and see my friend. We would talk about our faiths, our cancer therapies, our fears, and our families. We talked about the American west, as I so desire to take my family on a western camping trip, and Tim grew up in the west. I realized that regarding Tim, the Lord has placed me in a unique position to be able to empathize with his situation and to also care, love, challenge and encourage him. Tim probably doesn’t realize just how he is ministering to me. My visits with Tim are showing me that I can be an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer, even while cancer has taken away many of my normal pastoral responsibilities. I still have love.
I haven’t been able to visit Tim for the past 6 weeks while I healed from surgery but was able to see him on Tuesday of this week. He asked how I was healing from my surgery and how I was doing emotionally after the failed transplant. We talked, laughed, prayed, and cried together. I encouraged the two of us to focus on eternity, which has been the single greatest lesson I have learned from cancer. I shared a quote that I recently heard from the late Bill Bright, the founder of CRU: “We are all going to wonder why we took so many vitamins and minerals to stay healthy on planet Earth when we go to Heaven.” Heaven is not a place to be avoided but a place to be anticipated. In John 14, Jesus comforted the disciples amid fear to remember heaven and his sovereign preparation of our future home. Tim and I think a lot about heaven, and it helps. We agree that you should also!
You probably do not know Tim; I asked him if I could share his story on my blog. Tim is currently on hospice while seeking a second opinion on additional treatment. Christ will complete His work in both of our lives. He could use our encouragement and prayers; if you feel led to encourage him, please write in the comment section below and I will make sure to share your encouragements with him. Thank you! Perhaps today, you can go and show someone else love. Who knows, maybe you will make a friend for eternity.
Update: My friend Tim passed from this life of suffering to the eternal life with Jesus Christ on Monday, October 4th, 2021. Please pray for his wife, daughter, and family and friends as they grieve; May the Lord comfort them during this time of loss.
Tim Kirkpatrick’s obituary
Timothy D. Kirkpatrick, 61, of Adamstown, Maryland, passed from this life on Monday, October 4, 2021, at his home. He was the beloved husband of Gertrudes (Trudy) E. Kirkpatrick and devoted father of Maggie Kirkpatrick.
Born September 13, 1960, in Livingston, Montana, he was the son of the late David Duane and Nancy (Rounds) Kirkpatrick.
Tim grew up on the bucolic shores of the Yellowstone River in Livingston, Montana. Tim absolutely loved floating the river. He also enjoyed fly fishing and duck hunting with his brothers and friends. He excelled academically and was a leader in sports as well as student government.
Tim graduated from Montana State University with a master’s degree in chemical engineering in 1986. He began his career at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state, working on production of nuclear materials for our national defense. He then transitioned to providing wide-ranging technical expertise in support of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) program for cleaning up the legacy of seven decades of nuclear weapons research and production. He was the architect of many products that help the DOE understand the magnitude and complexity of the largest cleanup project in history.
After moving to Adamstown, Tim grew passionate about caring for the yard and together with Trudy, picking fruit from their trees. Sharing the harvest with neighbors and friends brought Tim joy. He especially enjoyed the cherry pies that Trudy baked. He was known as “Mr. Tim” to the neighborhood kids, all of whom recently sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
Tim was an avid Montana State Bobcats and Washington Redskins fan. He treasured his friends and loved making new ones. He was curious about others and what made their worlds unique. But most of all, he was a generous and kind man, a devoted family man and a model human being in every respect. He will be greatly missed.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Tim is survived by his sister Marie (and spouse Brete) Thibeault of Big Timber, Montana; and brothers Dan (Julie) of Billings, Montana, and Dave (Tina) of Bow, New Hampshire.
At 11:00 am on Thursday, October 14, 2021, family and friends will celebrate Tim’s life with a memorial service at Mountain View Community Church, 8330 Fingerboard Rd., Frederick, MD 21704.
Expressions of sympathy may be offered to the family at StaufferFuneralHome.com. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a contribution in Tim’s name to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (www.pancan.org).