Goodbye, Good Jeff

“Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out; and indeed this body too wears out. But the teaching of goodness does not age; and so Goodness makes that known to the good ones.” –unknown

The death of a loved one is generally a difficult pill for people to swallow, no matter what the person’s relationship to you was. Losing a family member is obviously tragic (and something I’ve been fortunate enough to only have to deal with a couple of times so far in my short life), but this week I learned that losing a friend has a devastatingly unique way of breaking your heart.

The world lost one of the good best ones early yesterday morning, after a brief but frighteningly aggressive battle with cancer. Affectionately dubbed “Good Jeff” for being a) one of the very few people I’ve actually liked the first time I met them, and b) one of my favorite coworkers when I was at Eastern Mountain Sports in Northborough, Jeff was simply one of the coolest, kindest, most quietly badass people I’ve ever known.

That time at work when we had the worst kind of fitting room customers and Jeff somehow managed to smile while cleaning up after them. This guy was a goddamn saint.

I’m a firm believer that “everything happens for a reason,” but the phrase itself is a gross oversimplification of the way life works. And sometimes it’s a little harder to decipher that reason when the situation at hand seems so unfair—like the passing of a friend who celebrated his 39th birthday a mere two weeks ago. But Jeff’s untimely death, and death in general, has a few (not-so-)hidden lessons to teach us:

  1. Life is really terrible every once in a while. But the bad times allow us to truly appreciate how good the good times are, so remember to always be grateful for all the good and happy things you have in your life.
Sometimes we got to work outside, which was obviously way better than working in the store and therefore called for an even bigger smile.

 2. We’re all stronger than we think we are. Scrolling through Jeff’s Facebook timeline over the past 36 hours has offered a brief glimpse into how shattered his family and friends currently are. But even though it doesn’t seem possible now, they will all find happiness again, and some day Jeff’s memory will bring smiles instead of tears.

Jeff liked to party, and by party I mean “chill in a hammock in the middle of the woods like a champ.”

3. You just have to go with the flow sometimes, even when it sucks. I was lucky enough to visit Jeff in the hospital a couple of weeks ago. I was scared to go, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep it together, but being in Jeff’s presence made it clear that worrying about that had been a silly waste of my energy. Despite being stuck in an uncomfortable and uncooperative body, the Jeff we all knew and loved was still very much there—still smiling and trying to make jokes with the rest of us, dealing with his horrible situation in the chillest way imaginable. I’m sure we all like to think we’re pretty decent at the whole “go with the flow” thing, but Jeff had that shit mastered.

This was Jeff’s cat, Dirty Snow Pile. DIRTY SNOW PILE! If there has ever been a better name for a cat, please let me know immediately.
(Also, don’t worry—DSP was informed of the sad news and has been appropriately consoled by my friend Jess, who took her in when Jeff and his lady moved to Alaska a few years ago.)

I think it’s safe to say that all of us know these things already, but if we didn’t need a little reminder every now and again we’d all be immortal. As much as it hurts to know that Jeff is gone, it’s also important to try to stay positive and to be grateful for the lessons he taught us in his short time here, whether it was how to climb a little better, how to make a delicious chili, or simply how to love life even when life doesn’t seem to be loving you back.

Jeff came home for Thanksgiving last year, and Tim and I had the good sense to take a day off from work and go climb with him. He proceeded to show us up in the most humble way possible.

So thank you, and goodbye, Good Jeff (March 16, 1977-March 29, 2016)

–Mary Elizabeth Frye

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