After numerous requests, I have posted the eulogy I presented at Jeff's funeral.
I had often dreamed of Jeff’s wedding. Even on the day of the accident I found myself rehearsing my speech that I would give at the reception. With him sitting next to me, blushing with embarrassment, smiling with flattery, and crying with tears of laughter. But instead, I speak today to ensure, that even though he is not sitting beside us, he fills the voids between us, offering up subtle words of encouragement and comfort. His body is no longer with us, but his spirit burns as strong as ever, and what a spirit it is to have on our side!
Jeff was a caretaker and my guardian. Having him around gave me the courage and motivation to push forward, far beyond the limits. Even at an age much too young to realize how blessed we were to have one another, he was still protecting me. In the summer time, we would often journey back to Quincy, Illinois to visit family. One of our favorite activities was to boat ride out to a remote island in the center of the Mississippi River. Because we were just children, we were not able to partake in the many adult activities that were going on, so we entertained ourselves in different ways. We would love to run up shore and float down the river, wrestling and swirling in the strong currents and undertows. One time I snuck away from the group and journeyed upstream by myself and swam out into the fast current. As I neared camp, I quickly realized that I was not going to be able to swim to shore before the island disappeared. However, my stubborn and determined attitude kept me quiet and swimming as hard as possible. I remember looking to shore and seeing a beach full of oblivious people, except for one small boy, about 11 years old, sprinting down the shore line in my direction. Using his big brother intuition, Jeff leaped into the water and used his superior swimming abilities to save me from certain disaster.
Three summers ago, the pair of us set out on our second annual “Bro Trip” to do a canoe trip in Western Colorado and then climb the Maroon Bells. The canoe trip was a perfect success, but draining on the body. However, when it came time to begin the climb, my ambitious habits took over and I charged up the mountain as quickly as possible, despite Jeff’s wise words of rest and nourishment. On the summit, I started to feel uneasy and ended up suffering from severe altitude sickness. My balance weakened and I passed out numerous times, but every time Jeff was there to catch me, singing words of encouragement. After being on that mountain for 17 hours we finally reached the car, together.
The reason I chose to share those stories with you is to help exemplify how courageous Jeff was, but neither of those stories compare to his heroic actions on the day of his death. As many of you know, we were with him for nearly two hours, while he was fighting with all of the strength of God. It wasn’t until first responders were on the ground and about 10 minutes away did Jeff finally take the hand of our Father. Despite his broken and mangled body, he waited to grab the hand of God because he was still holding on to me, protecting me, making sure help was there to catch me once again.
Jeff was the greatest hero I have, and will ever know. I cannot yet comprehend why God needed him, but I do know that God is good, God is just, and God is true. The reason for his accident cannot yet be seen, but that doesn’t mean it is not there. We all must listen and support one another on this difficult road we have ahead of us. Remember, Jeff is here, backed by the mighty power of God himself, protecting us and guiding us always. Celebrate his life and honor his memory. My love extends to you all and my heart is always open! Brothers and sisters, I sincerely thank you for your support.