Dr. Tim Eichenbrenner of Charlotte, North Carolina lost his son Brian in a tragic car accident one week after Brian graduated from high school and four days before his eighteenth birthday.
Tim, his wife and his daughter were all crushed with grief. Certain that he could plow through the heartache, Tim went back to work a week after Brian’s funeral. He was doing what he always did: putting his energy into his work as a pediatrician.
“I didn’t handle the loss well,” he admits. He learned that ignoring the pain never works.
“There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.”
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Tim was angry at God. Every encounter he had was colored by his grief. He became depressed.
“I never thought I’d smile or laugh again. I had no joy,” he says. “I crashed and burned.”
“At my lowest point, a light switch flipped. And then somehow, I survived, I came out on the other side.”
The switch that flipped was giving up the question that was tearing him up, “God, why?”
Reading Harold S. Kushner’s book, “Why Good Things Happen to Bad People” made him realize he wouldn’t get an answer to why on this side of heaven.
As angry as he was at God and as disappointed as he was in himself, he realized that God still loved him and covered him with grace.
“She lost her life, but saved mine. Through her death, I discovered God’s grace.”
- Jack Wilson about the loss of his wife Annie in “To Live in the Light.”
Tim came to accept the truth of scripture that says, “He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) Bad things, like good things, happen to everyone on this earth. And while the good and bad are inevitable, God helps us through both of them.
Tim says that the change didn’t happen at once. “When you’re broken into a thousand pieces, maybe even God takes His time to put you together.”
Tim was raised in a church-going family. He explains, “I was religious, doing what I believed to be right. But I wasn’t spiritual. I didn’t know God until he reached me at my lowest point after Brian’s death.”
Tim knew he’d been given a second chance to get his life and his relationships right, and he didn’t want to blow it. He left his full-time practice to work in a health system’s float pool, which lightened his workload tremendously.
He wanted to share his hard-earned lessons with others. “The only thing I’d written for years were prescriptions,” he says with a laugh. “But I was teaching adult Sunday school, and wrote out my lessons, so I became comfortable with writing. I knew that I had much to share through writing, and told my wife about it. She supported my decision to move out of my comfort zone and do what I felt called to do.”
And that was the start of his book, a fictional novel titled “To Live in the Light.” It was five years in the making. He started in 2017, which is the time when he also made the move from full-time to part-time medicine. He worked on his book for three and a half years, and took six months to get a publishing contract. And then the publishing process took a year.
The book is fiction, with a story and characters that are not the same as his life. But the themes, including faith, death, appreciation of life, relational healing, and forgiveness are all based on what he learned through his own challenges and discoveries.
For years, Tim would go to work at 6 a.m. and pour himself into his patients and his work, and usually not get home until 6-8 p.m. “I missed so much with my family. I regret that. That’s a sin we create for ourselves. We think that the best thing we can do is to be productive. Too often, we see that as a top quality in our society.”
But Tim’s journey changed all that and he hopes his book can impart the truth he’s discovered. “What I want is for people to realize the importance of living this life that we’ve been given, to spend time with the people who are important to us. It’s easy to lose that in the busyness of our lives. I’ve been given a second chance, and I want people to know they can have that, too.”
And the reviews for the book started coming in. Neil C. wrote, “To Live in the Light is a satisfying read that poignantly captures the joys of love and the heartbreak of loss involving characters you'll quickly come to care about. Eichenbrenner has artfully crafted an intimate journey of faith with just the right amount of twists and turns. This debut novel is well worth your time.”
Another, from Donna T: “There are so many beautiful descriptions of God's redemption woven throughout the story. I'm certain this book will minister to many others and, most importantly, hearts and minds will be changed.”
While the book is a work of fiction, the main character, Dr. Jack Wilson, has some of Dr. Tim Eichenbrenner in him.
Jack talks about the changes in his life. “My experience of personal loss, depression and near-death strengthened my response to others going through similar trials . . . To be with people in their greatest time of need is a rare privilege . . .”
And Tim Eichenbrenner, “It may be great to see my book at Barnes and Noble, but then I’m humbled to realize that there are also thousands of other books in the store. What I would really like is for the book to be able to provide some insight and help for someone in their greatest time of need.”
We all deserve a second chance, is his message.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into this wonderful light.” – 1 Peter2
For more information go to https://timeichenbrenner.com/.
“To Live in the Light” by Tim Eichenbrenner is available at major online bookstores and some retail bookstores.