This is the letter my husband read outloud at the graveside service we had for my dad on May 19th, 2012.
I will forever be thankful for his courage and the beautiful words that he spoke.
If you were meeting Jeff for the first time you would know he is a man of few words, yet many thoughts. He is not the loudest one in the room, doesn’t need to be in every picture or involved in any activity, and would always be happy to sit quietly just watching and observing. He is a man whose actions spoke in volumes and was one who did far more doing than saying.
In Proverbs 6:9 the Bible describes a “sluggard” as one that lies around, asking when you will get up from your sleep. I read this verse and cant help but to think of Jeff as the complete opposite. He woke up early each morning, was a hard worker his entire life, loved tending to his garden, enjoyed always fixing something, taking his grandkids to the park, and keeping busy. You never had to question Jeff about something, he was the type of man that if he said he was going to do something you better believe he would do it. In fact if you did question him he might yell at you, which I think I heard happen twice in the 8 years of knowing him.
We probably all owe Jeff some form of gratitude for fixing our VCR’s, broken phones, kids toys and camcorders, anything broken he would gladly take into the famous workshop: his beloved garage. He could seriously fix ANYTHING and was always working away on his tool bench in that garage. If you have ever seen that bench it might look messy from the outside but he always knew where everything was at any given moment.
I will never forget when I first met Jeff, ironically it was the night of the first date I ever took his daughter on. Little did I know then what that would grow to be over the months and years to come. In 2006 I asked him for his daughters hand in marriage and have never seen him so proud. Little did he know what an honor it was for me to have that blessing from a man like him. While Alex was in nursing school, I moved in with Jeff and Suzanne, and learned more in those 2 years from him than I ever thought possible. I loved hanging out with him and talking with him about his life. He was like an open book, always sharing stories about living in far away places, growing up with his brothers, Los Alamos, working on the ranch, and his most prized possessions: his wife and two daughters.
Jeff was a man of wisdom. You could ask him just about anything and he had an answer. Jeff was the ultimate Google, before Google even existed.
Alex found a letter I had written to Jeff while we were pregnant with our first daughter Olivia and I wanted to share a small part of it:
Just how much Alex loves and respects you makes me realize how lucky I am to have her as my wife. You are the coolest, most quietly caring man I have ever met and I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to really get to know you these last few years. You could not pay me a million dollars to replace you as my father in law, I would not want it any other way. You are truly a great man and I thank you for always being there for Alex and I. You have set the bar high Jeff, and I hope I can be half the dad you were to Alex to my first daughter.
One story I will never forget was a story he told about Alex when she was in preschool. He went to pick her up and was shocked when the teacher was upset with him for not telling them it was her birthday. The teacher assured him that they got a cake and sang to her anyways. Jeff had to speak up and tell them he was NOT a bad parent and her birthday was actually months away, Alex was just happy she got her cake and had no idea the embarrassment it caused her dad. He sat there and cracked up telling me that story saying she was a smart kid for figuring out how to get free cake and a birthday celebration.
Someone in the family recently thanked me for stepping up and encouraging Alex to do what she had to do for her dad and family in this difficult time, leaving behind her girls, job, husband and home. They asked me how I have been holding up. My response was while I am so saddened by the loss of a great man it makes me want to do more, to be better. To do more giving back and more serving of others. What I have learned the most from this experience is that no matter how much I try to plan my life or just when I think I am in control, it can all be turned upside down in a split second when God needs me for something greater. Through all this pain I have realized there is a bigger plan God has called us all to.
You know, while I have been dealing with my own pain, it has been more heartbreaking to watch my wife lose someone she considered her best friend and hero. I sent this text message to her the other morning in hope of being an encouragement to her and I really wanted to share it with all of you:
What a great joy today is. Another day the Lord our God gave us. Every breath is truly a blessing. He woke us up from our sleep and wants us to rejoice in his great name. God is so loving, so caring, and is the ultimate father. Though we have both lost out earthly fathers who have been such a huge part of our lives, our Heavenly Father is eternal. His love is never ending, he is the beginning and the end. He knows each star by name and tells the sun and moon when to rise. How blessed are we to be able to have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe!
I got a chance to pray with Jeff the days before he passed, he kept saying over and over there has to be something more than this life, asking questions and wanting peace knowing here is something greater than this world. I take great comfort in knowing that he found that peace.
I have also taken comfort in this passage that has helped me find my own peace these last few weeks:
In 2nd Corinthians 4:18 it says ‘while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which ARE seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
I am so taken back by the kind of man Jeff was, and will strive to be a better man each day because of his life. He was a true man, a courageous man. He stood for what was right. He was an amazing husband, father, grandfather, and friend. In honor of Jeff today I would just ask that all of the men here strive a little harder to be the man that Jeff was. To be the rock in the family, be the shoulder to cry on, he hard worker who gives their families the security they deserve, to step up even when its uncomfortable, to do what is right, to be that friend who is only a phone call or text message away, and the husbands and fathers we were created to be.
Suzanne: thank you for having such an amazing husband, for choosing Jeff 30 years ago, for the girls you share together and the memories you have made together.
Jeff, I will miss you with all of my heart but will be reminded of what a great example you have set for me as a man every day of my life. Thank you for the legacy you have left behind for us all that we will live through ourselves and your grandkids forever.