I've had several people flip through the advance copy of LOOP, stop at the dedication page, and ask me who Tim Berry is. I've responded by saying, "He's a friend of mine who died in a car accident in high school."
It was twenty years ago today, in fact.
I had a huge crush on him at the time (and for a good chunk of time before then). I never found out if he liked me back. To be honest, I'm not sure if it would have made the grieving easier or harder.
When I was revising LOOP for my agent, there was a part she pointed out where she wanted to feel more of the main character's anguish. I ended up describing it as "drowning in an ocean of what-if's." Tim's death was the experience I drew on to capture those words. Because that's what the loss felt like at the time. Drowning.
But that's not what I want you to know.
I want you to know that Tim was funny. Like, a wicked good sense of humor. He had this laugh that I can only describe as a chuckle that dug down deep.
He was compassionate and tender-hearted and genuinely kind.
He was artistic and creative.
He had a strong faith in Jesus, and it was the kind of rare faith that drew people in rather than driving them away.
And then there are those random things I remember. His favorite book was The Stand by Stephen King. His favorite band was The Pixies. (I used to go after school and sit by his grave and eat pixie sticks and then leave one for him until I worried his family might think I was littering.)
We used to pass notes back and forth in Biology in his notebook. To this day, I'm sad I don't have them.
And more Biology shenanigans...we made a deal with our other lab partners that if they'd perform the dissections, we'd clean up. So the two of us sat underneath the lab table and talked while our lab partners sliced. And then we stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the sink and talked some more while we scrubbed out pans. I look back, and even with the memory of cleaning up frog innards, I still think I got the much longer end of the stick.
I want you to know that he has a family that loves and misses him very, very much. I don't think I could grasp the crushing weight of loss his mother feels until I had children of my own.
The fact of the matter is that what I really want is for you to not know any of this. What I really want is for the accident to never have happened. I want him to be vying with his brother for the position of favorite uncle of his precious niece and nephew. I want to laugh at pictures from a prom that never was on Throwback Thursday. I want to be Facebook friends with him and hit "Like" under pictures of him and his wife and kids.
But that's back to that ocean of what-if's.
So here is what I want.
I want those five words, "In Memory of Tim Berry," to provide some tiny bit of encouragement and comfort to his family and friends. I want them to know that he is not and will not be forgotten.