I think about you a whole heck of a lot. I’m reminded of you daily because ever since I moved to this place, it has occurred to me how much you would love it here. You and the west side would get along great. Surfing, skate boarding, fishing, unique food, all forms of art, people of different cultures to your fill. Your vibe and personality is written all over this place and you haven’t even been here. I could see you thriving here, Jeff.
I’m glad you got to meet my daughter last fall. I wish she could have known my cousin, but your story will have to live on through my stories, of which I will certainly tell time and again.
Most of my memories with you derive from my childhood. You were a critical part of it. If we were eating popsicles in the backyard while running through the sprinklers with all the neighborhood kids, you were most likely there. You were there shopping with us at Kmart. You were there at Grandmom and Grandpop’s. I loved catching toads with you for hours in Caravel Woods. Adventurous kids all us cousins were…especially you. No doubt, you got into a bit of trouble. Remember the time you ran into the rose bush?! How about that time in McDonald’s when you sprayed water ALL OVER THE BATHROOM? Ha, my childhood certainly wouldn’t have been the same without you. You were, you are another brother.
The summer of 2005 was the sweetest. I was about to be a senior in high school and ate up the opportunity to live at Grandmom and Grandpop’s, making “bank” at Bethany Beach. You were there practically the whole summer and my only friend in Sussex. Thanks for waiting up for me when I got off my night shifts with mini crab feasts and hours of tv-watching. Riding around in the Dodge pickup with you through cornfields in the heat of summer, running errands to Bodie’s or Hocker’s made us feel grown up. Thanks for trailing me on the bike during my painful runs, while I attempted my last shot at making the varsity cross country team. I made it and now that I think about it, I probably owe it to you.
I haven’t been able to truly grieve. It has been difficult being thousands of miles away from our family, being so removed from it all. In a sense, I wish I could have somehow felt it all more. I wish I could have hugged all our blondie cousins and wept with your parents and our grandparents. It didn’t and still doesn’t seem real.
As I was talking to your mom on the phone right after your passing, she told me something right off the bat that I still struggle with. I know she was trying to reassure me, and I constantly need to remember her words, deal with them. She said to not have regret, to not think about what I could have done to help you. Jeff, I have regret and I absolutely HATE it. Why did I not keep in better touch with you after we all grew up and left our parents? How did weddings and Christmases and Easters become enough time with you? Why did I not pray for you more? Why did I not visit you on my own? But Aunt Jeanette is right. I am not a savior. None of our family could have been no matter how hard we tried. I know many tried very hard to bring you home. But the truth is, Jesus is the only One who could have helped you fully. And so, there is only one thing I can do now and whenever tragedy may strike again. Through all the questions and unknowns, my heart sings…
“Even when the fight seems lost
I’ll praise you
Even when it hurts like hell
I’ll praise you
Even when it makes no sense to sing
Louder then I’ll sing your praise”
Jeff, I believe you are in the arms of the Savior, worshipping Him like none of us can fathom. You see more clearly than ever and the thought of it makes me eager to join you. I remember the moment you gave your life to Jesus. The recollection of yourself as a little boy on that day gives me the greatest joy.
You have been a brother to me and so many others. Conversations were deep with you and it was obvious you cared more than most. The kindness you have given to those you love (and those you don’t even know) will always have a profound impact on my life. I’m torn that you could never visit me in Oki or give me my first tattoo. But don’t worry, I still plan on getting that ink one day in the near future (after I’m done having these babies). I love you forever.