Written by Dolores White
One day very early in his career, as a journalist, Jeff turned to me with great excitement and said he thought he was the luckiest guy in the world because he got to awake each morning and go out and live his dream and his passion. I recall that day and his words with absolute clarity. He reiterated that same sentiment again the day before he departed to return to his life abroad, his love and passion for what he did wasn’t diminished in any way by the enormity of the cloud that now resided over his head. His cancer returned 2 years later, and he battled with all the strength and courage the human spirit could muster to live the next 6 months he desperately hoped he had so he could realize his dream to marry his beloved Nicki. They married on June 6, 2009. He passed on June 29th a mere three weeks later at the age of 32.
The real moment of true purpose came in the autumn of 2012 when we were approached to be the benefactors for a library in the soon to be built Regional Hospice center in Danbury. It was the perfect way to honor Jeff ’s memory, and we gratefully accepted. A library in his name seemed very fitting, as he was never happier than when he was reading, writing or surrounded by books. When it was suggested that we should try to publish a coffee table book compiling some of Jeff ’s works to place in the library, it was then I had a true epiphany and realized after all these years why that commentary was first penned.
I remember saying without hesitation, yes, and it will be titled “Needing Help to Say Goodbye”, because after all isn’t that, by definition, exactly what the Hospice mission truly provides? The title, “Needing Help to Say Goodbye”, comes from a very early piece that Jeff wrote in July 1999 when he was a reporter for The Newtown Bee, having just graduated Boston College, setting out to write for a year in order to build his resume and portfolio that would help him achieve his goal of admission to Boston University where he would study for his Masters in Journalism. It resulted from the tragic and untimely death of a dear high school friend who was killed in a car accident on Jeff ’s 23rd birthday, having just graduated college herself.
When he passed in June 2009, ten years almost to the day after he wrote that touching tribute, it was published again opposite his obituary in The Newtown Bee, our local hometown paper in CT. It was a light bulb moment for me, as it put it in a somewhat prophetic light for the first time.
Maybe he was moved to write it back in 1999 from an unconscious place of “foreshadowing”? At least that seemed a possibility.
Make no mistake Jeff never accepted the fact that he was dying, for acceptance to him would have meant he was giving up on this life he loved so much. He was tenacious to the end, never losing hope that he would have just one more day, but that was not God’s plan. In death, as in life, he did so knowing he wasn’t alone.
The greatest gift a parent receives is having a loving, respectful child who grows up well and goes on to live their best life, which Jeff did in spades! For that I am now and will forever be very happy, proud and grateful to have been his mother.