Losing mobility never stopped Tim from walking through life with a smile
Tim was always actively engaged in life. He loved his work, coaching and playing hockey, riding his bike, and spending time with his circle of family and friends. ALS took away his ability to move. It forced him to make huge adjustments but living with the disease never changed the way he approached life. Just a week before he passed away on November 6, 2016, Tim was out with his family celebrating his daughter’s 28th birthday at the Keg and eating his favourite prime rib dinner.
Tim’s wife, Beth, and his three children witnessed his gradual physical decline during the 12 years Tim lived with ALS, but “Tim never shut down,” says Beth with a big smile on her face. Photos of Tim taken in his wheelchair depict a giant of a man, 6 foot 4 inches in height, grinning from ear to ear. “He was laid back, easy going. He made it easy for us,” recalls Beth. Photos of Tim with his family around him, with hockey legend Bobby Orr, with the Premier of Ontario, and receiving the Queen’s Jubilee Award from ALS Canada all give the impression of a man who lived life to the fullest.
Tim was diagnosed with ALS in April, 2004. Troubling physical signs had been surfacing for a few months before he saw his first neurologist. In the summer of 2003, he and Beth were taking up golf, and Beth remembers Tim rolling over on his ankle several times. He felt his foot slapping on the walk to work from Union Station in the fall. Through that winter, Tim noticed the 9-year-old boys he was coaching were skating circles around him on the ice. By January 2004, he was so exhausted after a 45-minute workout on the recumbent bicycle that it took him three days to recover. They knew it was time to seek answers.
For as long as possible, Tim continued to commute to work as a Vice President of State Street Trust Company, five days a week. Beth would put him on the train in his wheelchair in Oakville and he would travel independently to the office in downtown Toronto. Eventually, he worked part-time then full-time from home, but as Beth recalls with a chuckle, “not without wearing out a wheelchair before its time, crossing the streetcar tracks a few times too many.” When he eventually lost the ability to speak enough, and use his hand to type with the mouse, Tim reluctantly went on long-term disability three years ago.
For a time, Beth and Lindsay, Barry and Jeff were able to aid Tim in his transfers, but eventually Tim required a Hoyer lift to move from wheelchair to bed or lift chair. Most equipment, like the commode chair from ALS Canada, had to be specially sized because of Tim’s height. It was always an adventure dealing with equipment or accessibility needs, but he never complained, says his wife. He had a way of approaching each day with the attitude that he would just do his best. His family did the same. All three children helped care physically for their Dad, feeding him when he could no longer feed himself, and attending to his daily hygiene needs, even though all of them, including Beth, tried to pawn off the commode sessions. Jeff was his father’s right hand man, watching TV with him, putting him to bed, giving Beth a break. Barry was his fix-it guy, doing the repairs around the house Tim always had. Beth kept her teaching job to help her keep balance in her life, and all three children were blessed to have their father attend their high school and post-secondary graduations.
On the day of his daughter’s wedding to Sean in 2014, Tim “rolled” Lindsay down the aisle in his wheelchair. He was a very proud father. By then, Tim’s stomach was giving him a great deal of trouble; he was easily fatigued, and apprehensive in the weeks leading up to the wedding, worrying whether he would stay well enough to enjoy the day. In the end, Beth says he lasted until 1:30 a.m. with the rest of the wedding guests, and the day was a memory that carried him through his next two years.
Tim’s Titans were formed for the Hamilton Walk for ALS in 2004, and Lindsay founded the Halton Region WALK for ALS in 2006 at the age of 16. She’s been running the event ever since. It was her way of showing her Dad she loved him. Tim’s Titans completed their first “In Memory Of” Walk and raised a record amount on May 22, 2017. It was a tough walk without their hero, but it won’t be the last, says Beth. He is remembered lovingly by so many people, a man who truly led by example. Someone who never lost sight of everything that was good in his life. Someone who kept moving forward even when he lost the ability to move.
During the month of June for ALS Awareness Month, we will be sharing the stories of people living with and affected by ALS who have chosen to seize each day in whatever way they can. You can also share your own stories and reflections on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and hashtag #SeizeTodayALS.