Grand County community turns out to honor Tim Rau’s life
July 9, 2009
Wearing sweatshirts bearing their 17-year-old deceased son’s grade-school nickname “Trouble” printed boldly in orange, Charlie and Diana Lynn Rau, with companion service-dog Duke between them, rode in the back seat of a slow-moving convertible Tuesday past 500 Tim Rau fans.
Friends and admirers lined the road on both sides, each holding a small torch of flickering light – a silent, powerful salute to the teen who lost his life rafting three days earlier.
The sun set just as candle-flames faded into wax as the YMCA of the Rockies fire pit glowed brighter.
“He’s going to try and blow out all the candles,” Diana Lynn jested. Tim, everyone knew, was that mischievous – always with a smile.
The lines of support along the road had now formed a circle around the Rau family, the fire, and the memories that rose up into a July night.
One by one, glimmerings from the past sparked laughs, tears,, thoughts of the young man who was embraced by a whole community.
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“Let’s hope Tim is up there making some wheelchair marks on the clouds,” one friend said.
“He never put the brakes on. Ever,” said a neighbor. “And maybe we can learn something from that; I mean, if you go around with the brakes on all the time, where are you going to go?”
“It’s not the fact that he fell down so many times,” those at the candlelight vigil heard, “but that he always got up with a smile on his face.”
A full moon rose over silhouettes of trees. A lit holy cross on the roof of a YMCA building shared precise space with the moon.
“Right at the cross,” Diana Lynn pointed out.
“I’m sad I won’t have to look over my shoulder anymore for his raging scooter,” a Middle Park High Schooler said as Tim Rau anecdotes continued.
“How do you know if you’re a friend of Tim Rau’s? You have wheel marks on your shoes,” a friend joked.
One girl shared how Tim Rau, even though confined to a scooter or wheelchair, “stood up for the Pledge of Allegiance every day.”
Another classmate who rode the bus with Tim said, “He was always getting on with a smile.”
Tim was dubbed a prankster, a jokester, the one who used his degenerative disease as an excuse to summon laughter. He exaggerated his disability and fell on top of middle-schoolers on purpose then said it was “by accident,” one friend recalled. Or on a river trip, he sporadically splashed the girl in front of him. “And of course, it was ‘an accident,'”she said with good-natured sarcasm.
And then, there were the spills.
“Tim came wheeling down on his bike and then – wham – hits the garage door,” a neighbor recalled.
Or, this reminiscence: “…And the dirt bike hits the garage door. And then he gets up, and goes, ‘YEAH!'”
Others commended Tim’s parents. “You did a great job with Tim,” a friend directed to Charlie and Diana Lynn. “You packed a 40-year life span into that kid.”
Diana Lynn recalled how in a track race years ago, Tim’s finish was accompanied by “half the school” running with him. “And I don’t know that he knew he could finish the race,” she said, but because of the support, he picked up his pace and finished. “And thank you,” she continued, addressing everyone. “Because it was all of you who created moments like that.”
The night was dedicated to an individual who filled the hearts of young and old, to those who knew him less than a year, to those who knew him from birth.
“He’d grown into such a man … He never gave up,” someone said.
And a toast: “Tim, I hope the water’s big, the powder’s deep, and the trail is smooth and all downhill.”