I want to close out this week with the greatest lessons Jeff taught me.
Like a lot of guys, I often trip and stumble over that phrase with anyone outside of my wife, my kids, and my Mom. And I let my awkwardness win more times than I ought, opting instead for the “3 slap hug” or “firm handshake and nod”. Jeff would have none of that.
He was almost always first to say “I love you”. It may be a chaotic mess as Jeff, Ro, and Grandma all tried to get out the door, but Jeff would dive in with a real hug and an “I love you, Billy” anyway. He wouldn’t not say it.
And he wouldn’t back down. I cannot remember a single time when we said good-bye without Jeff reaffirming his love for me. He’d go out of his way. He’d make sure he got to everyone. My Grandmother shared that just recently, he left her house in a hurry, but made a point to come back and say “I love you, Mom”. If there was a moment he could remind you that he loved you, he would take it.
And that, I think, is the lesson I most need to learn.
Because of Jeff’s courage and tenacity, I didn’t sit by his bedside with a list of things I’d wished I’d said to him. I knew that I was loved and so did he. I’d told him that he was one of my heroes. I knew that he was proud of me.
And it’s mostly Jeff’s fault.
This is my greatest opportunity to continue Jeff’s legacy: to love my family and friends with an unparalleled ferocity.
These people, whom I love dearly, deserve more than my time, talents, and skills. They need heart to heart connections as much as I do. Jeff understood the importance of those connections and tended to them with amazing care.
And though I am grateful for this lesson and all of the others, I miss and will miss that connection I had with Jeff.