Remembering Timothy John Byford (1941-2014)

timothybyford
Photo from http://www.timothybyford.com/about_me

I’ve been contemplating for a few days how to write a special tribute to this unbelievably special and humble man, Englishman by birth but Serb by choice of his heart and his one of a kind, gentle and fascinating soul. I’m no one special myself, just a common, anonymous person, just another temporarily pulsating dot among millions and billions of others similar to me who are currently living on this planet, so I was truly wondering if I should try to write something about Timothy Byford and the way his amazing life and his death touched my soul. I was doubtful until a simple truth dawned upon me – Timothy came to Serbia to stay for good some 40 years ago to dedicate all his creative energy to making the childhood of Serbian kids more meaningful and beautiful. When he was in the most productive years of his life, I was one of those kids he lived and worked for. I was among those who grew up with the TV shows he wrote and directed at our national television, fascinated by that man with a long and to us unusual name and his happy face, wondering at the same time how come he decided to stay with us, learn Serbian and eventually with time truly become one of us. He influenced not only my childhood memories but also as it turned out my entire life – I started learning English when I was 5 and his contribution to bring the English culture closer to Serbian children was truly priceless. I never met him in person or talked to him, but being aware that some special bit of his incredible creative energy is still alive in me of today, I realized that I can and should write something in his honor, for I’m definitely somebody who grew up as his work grew up to find its eternal place in our cultural history.

Nothing was difficult for Timothy, he won so many important life battles with his signature smile I will always remember, losing only this last one, the battle with cancer.
His smiling, vivid and inquisitive eyes of an eternal child could never give away how hard and painful must have been these last almost 9 years of his brave cohabitation with his enemy, multiple myeloma. It’s unimaginable to me why such a good and modest man had to endure such an intense suffering for quite a long time. Nevertheless, he was happy. Happy to be still alive, happy to be able to write some more TV scenarios, happy to get new books to translate to English. He adored this country the way it is, more than we, native Serbs will ever love it. He loved Serbian children more than we’ll ever truly be able to love each other. He adored Serbian birds in one to him very special Belgrade’s forest, Banjicka suma, forest many of us who were born in Belgrade know almost nothing about, forest to whose preservation he contributed to and where he inhaled life to the fullest. He knew so many things, yet he never learnt to complain. He asked to have a happy funeral as he was convinced that this isn’t the end, because he’ll continue to live in minds and hearts of his loved ones and all those people whose lives he touched with goodness.

After last night’s TV tribute to Timothy, I found his website. I’ve been late for so many things in these last 7 years or simply lived oblivious of them obsessed by my own demons, but there is hardly any of them that I will regret more than not entering the world of blogging sooner, because among other things it could have inspired me to search for his blog. It wouldn’t change the fate, maybe it wouldn’t mean much after all, but I could have still written even just a few friendly words of support to a man whose work embellished my childhood. Instead I’m late once again, and I am terribly sorry, but I suppose it’s never too late to have memories.

If you happen to get stuck with seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or any bright side of your ordeals, try reading how Timothy decided to approach his illness and how he still dreamt dreams in spite of being certain that his days were counted – http://www.timothybyford.com (especially the post called “My diary entry for 4th July 2005 – the day I was diagnosed with cancer” http://www.timothybyford.com/blog.php?iStranica=3&&iIDHTMLElementPodGrupa=-1&IDNaziv=My-Blog&ID=142&&iPoStranici=0&).

To me, his never changing happiness is a true inspiration, especially because I’ve been through one real and many other PD induced imaginary life threatening situations so far. Sadly but true, I never knew how to live life peacefully and with a smile, yet I feared losing it beyond belief on so many occasions. It’s perhaps only now that I’m trying to learn how to accept a bit more calmly the imminent fact that I’ll have to die some day and to release some fear of that moment. I’m trying to find a way to “meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same” as Rudyard Kipling says in his poem “If” that I discovered thanks to Timothy’s website. What I wouldn’t like though is to leave this life too soon, knowing that I didn’t give any particular meaningful contribution to the world around me. I’m desperately looking for that elusive sense, for my own unique purpose in this world, for a way to do some real good somewhere and somehow. I would love to leave some mark, no matter how small it can be. Timothy can rest in peace as his life was definitely a wonderful and meaningful one.

Dear Timothy, thank you for so much good that you brought into our lives, our dear Serb with English origin. All your children by birth, and numerous others by art and heart will never forget you.

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