MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Walking up to the Blount County Justice Center on East Alexander Parkway, it looks like just a typical Christmas tree. But if a person takes a closer step, they will find it's much more personal than that.
"We started this four years ago. We brainstormed to try to figure out some kind of way to remember the loved ones that we have lost," said Tim Webb.
He and Jan McCoy partnered to get the memorial tree off the ground in 2018. However, it has been the community response that gives the branches their meaning.
"It just lets people know that they're not forgotten," Tim said. "Hopefully, it also shines a light for those who have to come into the Justice Center, to realize, 'Hey, if you don't get help, your name might be on here next year.'"
Tim is a father to someone who died due to an overdose. His daughter, Brooke, struggled with substance abuse. She died on May 23, 2018. She was just 26 years old. Today, an ornament hangs on the memorial tree in memory of her.
Tim's experience dealing with a daughter struggling with addiction is a tough one. Brooke got started, as many do, with prescription pain medications.
"She had a condition called Ulcerative Colitis, which is a lot of pain," Tim said. "She would go to the hospital and end up with prescription pain pills. And she would take pain pills until the pain went away. When the pain would come back, she'd go back to the hospital and get more."
Tim said it kept going like this for a while until the hospital put Brooke on a list of suspected abusers from the hospitals she would visit. At this time, Tim said he did not know the extent of his daughter's addiction.
"I didn't know any of this. And it was devastating to me. Brooke was my rock, and I was Brooke's rock. We could share anything that needed to be talked about between a father and a daughter, except this addiction. I don't think she wanted me to be disappointed in her," Tim said.
Tim said certain parts of Brooke's character seemed to shift. She began stealing some of his money, instruments and other valuables with the intent to pawn them for money.
Over the course of the next few years, Tim said his daughter's addiction advanced to street drugs like liquid morphine, heroin and eventually fentanyl. It was the fentanyl that she overdosed on.
He learned the extent of her addiction two weeks before her passing.
"About two weeks before she passed away, she came to me. She said, 'Daddy, I need help.' But, by the time I found out that there are programs to help, she was gone," Tim said.
Tim said he has made it his mission to ensure this doesn't happen to any other families. It's part of the reason he helped establish the memorial tree: to bring awareness.
"I thought when I lost my daughter I was the only one there. I was the only one that had ever lost a child to addiction. And come to find out ... there are more people that know about it and are already members of the club. And I was just the newest," Tim said.
Tim has written three novels about losing his daughter. They are called See It From My Side, More Than An Overcomer, and Don't Judge Me Until You Know Me. He said writing has helped him voice his emotions. He hopes the books can be resources for other fathers and parents dealing with a child going through substance abuse disorder.
An excerpt from the end of See It From My Side reads "My daughter is at rest in the arms of God. She hurts no more and is safe from anything desiring to do harm to her. She is happy and waiting for her family to come home.
I now start a new chapter of my life., dedicated to helping the struggling. I hope within the pages of my writings, I have shown you to see it from my side."
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse disorder, you can contact the Tennessee Redline for resources at 800-889-9789.
If you are looking to purchase one of Tim Webb's novels, you can find them at this Amazon link.