I met Jeff in early 2013; our paths crossed as his career was technical in nature, and mine was as well. Through the years, Jeff always told the story — the story about how I showed up beaming and resolved his technical issue within a matter of minutes when the previous technician had taken days.
He told me later, that on the surface, I looked stoic and had my life together. Of course, looking back at my life, nothing could be farther from the truth, but that’s how our relationship started. We stayed in touch. Eventually, I was brought on as a consultant, and Jeff and I started a friendship outside of work.
I still remember the first time I took Jeff out to J. Gilbert in Glastonbury. Our conversations were surprisingly truthful — a dose of medicine I needed at the time, and maybe, perhaps, Jeff did too.
He started opening up about his medical struggles while I slowly bled out information regarding my own issues, issues that started from childhood. Looking back, our dynamics couldn’t have been stranger.
Here was a man fighting vigorously for his life, here I was so eager to take my own. As someone who lacks a basic family framework or safety-nets, Jeff was selfless and always there for me. He was my brother. He was my father. He was my best friend, an angel that came into my life when I needed it most.
I still remember the day he walked in on me, his heavy footsteps lumbering up the 14 or so steps to get into my home. He took one look at the rope, the helium tanks, and turkey bags and just embraced me. That embrace became something I have cherished. Selfless and complete. To his final days, Jeff was the epitome of the word selfless; his light reached the crossroads of those who despaired, helping them piece together themselves and making them whole again.
I can account for three lives that have been saved by Jeff. There were certainly more. Jeff loved the beach, sunshine, and saltwater as much as I did, as much as anyone did. It was on our way back from Narragansett Beach when we spoke about death.
Jeff knew my morbid opinion on almost ALL matters, but never asked how I would want that death played out. I joked as I always did with Jeff.
I informed him my mother was Christian, my father was Muslim, and that I attended a Catholic School, so it all seemed the same to me. In the end, I decided on whatever seemed simplest: covering the body in a white shroud and just tossing it. Jeff agreed with the logical thought process; he said his own belief was similar — that he didn’t believe in God nor religion.
We believed in science; he stated that he wanted to be cremated and placed right next to his dog Ivan’s remains, nestled in between the Mercedes 300 SLR model car and his Cutty Sark wooden sailboat. Jeff suffered from diabetes. When Jeff and I became closer, and he became my sponsor, I became mad one night and told him that he was too focused on my addiction.
I told him to worry about his own addiction and to stop sneaking McDonald’s into the garbage after dialysis. Jeff was human like all of us, but that aside, he was relentless in fighting his disease while also providing purpose to those around him. Before I moved in with Jeff, he had helped another person who faced addiction; today that very man celebrates his newly born daughter.
My thoughts are never far from Jeff and how if not for his stubbornness and unselfishness, how different the world would be. Even at Jeff’s wake, I was taken aback.
Another man walked up and told me how 20 years prior, Jeff had stepped in when the man was going to take his own life. He was going through a divorce with his high school sweetheart at the time.
The similarities made the hair on my arm stand up; my ex-wife nudged me as he was talking because the story was all too familiar. The stories about the support and comfort Jeff offered to those around him I’m sure will continue on. If Jeff made a connection, he was all-in; it didn’t matter if you had Deuce-Seven or Pocket Rockets. Once you had that connection with Jeff, he started a mental spreadsheet on ways to make you smile.
Upon entering his office after his departure, I found a note I had written to him in 2014. Behind the note, an abnormal EKG result from 2010. Behind that, a napkin of a drawing from another individual Jeff helped out in his life. It spoke volumes about Jeff’s story, again.
His body had not been annealed properly and was fragile, yet he took on his medical issues wholly and fiercely. His mind was one of brilliance; his soul full of compassion and love without any ulterior motive.
On the day of Jeff’s surgery, we joked as we always did. I bought him a coffee and coffee roll like I did every other morning, we had a routine; I forgot he couldn’t eat before his surgery. I told him I would make sure to throw it out, and we joked like we always did about his car being dirty because if it was his mother would think he was depressed.
He asked me how late I stayed up the night prior, trying to find the remains of Jennifer Dulos. He called me Scooby-Doo and the gang. I corrected him and told him we were the Hardy Boys. Jeff was always in your corner if he was your friend. No matter how silly my antics and random obsessions were, taking countless hours from my life, Jeff rooted for me and always reminded me that the only thing stupid thing I had done was to drink my life away.
As we approached his surgeon for his 5th and final surgery, I asked him not to die. It wouldn’t look good I kiddingly told him since my browser history was filled with ways to dispose of bodies (my obsession with reporting on the Dulos’ case). We hugged each other and joked.
Humor was our way of dealing with stress. That was the last time I saw Jeff. Jeff, you deserved more in this life than what you were dealt.
Thank you for showing me what love is — what intimacy should be with other humans. Thank you for respecting my boundaries. I hope I made you proud in respecting your own. Thank you for showing me after 39 years of living that some humans are still good and decent, and that love can conquer trauma. Thank you for the comfort you gave me and many others.
Some say you’re with your father or in a better place. But honestly, knowing you, I think you’re somewhere on a warm beach, playing with Ivan.
I love you and will honor what we started.