On Motherhood & Sanity


Sunday, May 1, 2011

more on Tim and things worth dying for


It’s been a couple of weeks now. Things have quieted down. I no longer have to remind myself every time I wake up that Tim is dead.

Tim’s death hit me hard. Harder than I might have expected. Perhaps because I had know him for less, so much less time than those around me who effectively went to school with him. Perhaps because our friendship was unusual, we’d met in different countries, coincided at different points in time, sporadic brief and to-the-point emails. I hadn’t realized how much I expected Tim to be a part of my future, and it hit me that my pain at loosing him was very selfish, because I realized that without Tim around, my life will be less interesting. With Tim around, my life would have been better. It is indeed my loss.

I think most of us non-photojournalism-world friends have been quite surprised to see the extended coverage, love, respect and appreciation that has been focused on Tim’s life and achievements this past weeks. He was a smart, passionate, determined guy out on a mission, and there is no doubt that what he achieved was special, meaningful and exceptional. But one question kept hunting me: was it worth dying for?

Thehubs rightly pointed out that he probably never expected to. One thing everyone agrees on is that Tim was exceptionally smart, and as tough and daredevil a life as he chose to lead, the fact is that probability was on his side.

This should not have happened.

The day before Tim’s death thehubs turned forty. I struggled to explain to my kids why it was such a significant birthday

“we are marking the halfway point of his life” I told them.

Tim’s been cheated out of that half, and looking at what he achieved in the first half, you just have to mourn all that we missed out on.

I admonished a friend who complained about turning old

“you celebrate a birthday because you didn’t die” I told him “we have forgotten this. We take life for granted.”

I‘d had this conversation with Tim. He didn’t.

The hubs and I have been stranded in a Swiss postcard with the kids for the Easter holidays.During the day we play amongst the wild flowers and the cows. At night the bottle of wine comes out and we remember and mourn the loss of our friend. We even have a soundtrack.

He’s been hit with a sense of urgency to make his life meaningful: It’s too short to waste on red tape and politics, the need to move closer to the field, to where the pain is, make every day count. I can't help thinking how since I met Tim, about nine years ago now, he had always expressed his desire to be in love, in marriage, with kids. I guess like the rest of us he assumed he had all the time in the world to get around to doing that. Tim achieved so much partly because of his sensitivity and partly because of his stern determination, which I hear was there long before any of us got a whiff of where it might take him. But it strikes me that, as usual, everything comes at a price. Not just the ultimate one he paid in Misurata, but the fact that he had to let go of one side of him, another Tim and another life he never got around to.

He achieved so much more than what most of us might expect to in our full lives, but the question kept hunting me.

I happened to be reading a book on terrorism and war. One I wonder if he’d read as he would have surely enjoyed it. I kept scouting the book for answers to my questions when I came across this:

“the noble man’s soul has two goals:

To die or to achieve its dreams

What is life if I don’t live?”

(A. M.)

Then it came to me, clear and simple: Tim did not go to Libya in search of death, he was there going about his business of living life to the fullest, the only way he really knew how, when death, being the rude maiden she is, walked in and ruined everything. Bottom line is it could have happened anywhere, at least it caught him fully living.


photograph of a Tim Hetherington Photograph

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