Matt Smith worked with Tim and me and the team at GBS for several years. He doesn’t have a blog, so he asked me to share his thoughts concerning Tim’s passing.
I feel very inadequately prepared for sudden shocking news, and when something like yesterday happens, where I learned of Tim’s passing, it can be very troubling to try to come to grips with it.
When I first saw the news…I guess I just did not want to believe what it was saying could possibly be true. When that feeling changed to one of “this is really true”, it took my breath away, a huge kick in the stomach.
To people I worked with at GBS, it may be obvious, but most likely the furthest from obvious, that Tim’s loss has been a personal blow to me (as others). So many days after work, when I should have been on my way home, I stuck around to chat it up for another hour with Tim about all kinds of things, and most of the time not about Xpages or Java or anything like that, but about his singing in a barbershop quartet, about time-travel movies we have admired, brainstorming at a high level of some cool app and how it would make the world a better or easier place, or just some random political or social issue that came up in conversation.
He had a way of making you feel like you were his very close friend, when that might have been presumptuous at that point in time. Friend and colleague, yes….very close friend (like Nathan)….well, he made you feel like that. Good God, he was genuine. I just realized all of the adjectives describing him that seem like they have a common source:
Genuine, Genius, Gentle, Generous.
Nathan alluded to the fact that many people were going to be relating that Tim was selfless, and he was spot on. This was a trait of Tim’s that was impossible to not appreciate. It wasn’t just the time and effort that he spent, it was the way he did it. He was never condescending, never made you feel like you were stupid or uninformed. At times he surely had reason to, but that wasn’t his way. He truly wanted to impart knowledge to you no matter where you were in the techy food-chain. If you injected an idea that to observers would be obviously misguided, he had a way of gingerly letting you out of the embarrassment by telling you the good part of what you just said, or how that could be looked at another way that was correct or wise. I do not know if I am doing that skill of his justice in how I am explaining it, but hopefully you either experienced it, or at least can imagine how that could be done, and how it could be appreciated. He was a teacher at heart.
I don’t have a blog. I am not an IBM Champion. I can only aspire to get near to that level of skill and participation, and when I came onto the team at GBS, I was immediately immersed in tall Redwoods of the type, and it soon became clear that Tim stood as tall or taller than them all. I had not known him before then, but I can say now that it was my immense privilege to be in the midst of such a talent’s presence, and not only be there, but actually get a chance to be taught by him, to ask him questions one-on-one where I had all of his attention. That kind of opportunity just doesn’t present itself to me on a daily basis. And the fact is that even if Tim didn’t know the first thing about programming languages, his genuine non-assuming and generous spirit would have been as impressive. It’s just that his technical prowess, and eagerness to explain it, were overwhelming and infectious. The analogy I have is something that might make it clearer, it was like I was at baseball camp with some of the game’s legends, and getting a chance to play catch with an eager-to-help Stan Musial.
Even in recent months, on a couple of occasions, when I would be stuck on something that seemed to me to be an ‘advanced’ feature or item technically, I would reach out to him, and as always, he would stop and help. We even would just Skype call, so it was more than a chat, it was a real connect, and that is something that working from home all of the time, you learn to miss, especially when it is someone so engaging as Tim. I would always say I wanted to drive over to go to a Lunch SCRUM, but never got that done. That is someting of a loss, a missed opportunity, that is bothering me today.
In closing, I need to say that it hits me that the cumulative accolades, anecdotes, remembrances, and condolences that have streamed around the net, while each being seriously heart-felt, just do not seem to be enough. I don’t know if there could be enough.
I want everyone I know to know Tim, and now it is too late. For that, I feel especially sad.
Rest in peace Tim. We are all going to miss you terribly. You impacted more people than you could have known. We could all wish that we might have someone say the same about us when we are gone.
I can only hope and pray that all of the words written about him in these past days will provide some comfort to his parents and anyone else that cared for him.