What’s Important

In February of this year my friend and colleague Jeff McMahill was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The survival rate for his particular strain (Burkitts) is anywhere from a 30% – 91% depending on the level of risk. Jeff was diagnosed at Stage 3 but being an otherwise overly healthy male the doctors were confident he would be on the upper end of that range. I knew it would be a difficult recovery but have been completely optimistic he would survive this horrid disease. My heart was broken last week when doctors told him that treatment had not eradicated the cancer, it is now growing out of control, they are out of options, and it is time to call hospice.

Tuesday, October 25th my friend Jeff was told he had a month left.

In the week since that awful day his family has not left his side. Dozens of friends have been to see him, many who leave with a heart wrenching goodbye hug. But amidst the profound sadness has been the sound of laughter as we reminisce over a life well lived. Jeff does not want to spend these last days alone. He is surrounding himself with those who love him and rather than simply die, he’s living his last days to their fullest.

What’s important to Jeff right now should be important to us all. The stuff means nothing. What’s important is the relationships we build throughout our lives. The experiences we share together.

Jeff and his wife Annie went to New York last year for Game Four of the World Series. I remember Jeff telling me he wasn’t sure why they were spending so much money on a single baseball game, but he spent it because who knows when the Royals would be back in the World Series. The Royals lost the game they attended, but the next evening at a NYC bar full of Royals fans while everyone else poured their champagne into glasses, Jeff sprayed his bottle all over complete strangers.

That’s how Jeff is, and that’s how I’ll remember him. A man full of life, loved by all who had the privilege of calling him friend.

Bank accounts can be rebuilt. Broken relationships can be repaired. You can always get more “stuff.” Time is the only thing you can’t get back.

Cherish every moment – the clock is ticking for us all.

PostScript: Jeff passed away peacefully at 6:55am Nov 10, 2016 surrounded by family. His time was too short, but nothing was left unsaid. He loved his wife “she’s perfect,” his kids, and all who knew him. Our last words to one another on Nov 8th were “I love you.” Never goodbye. See you on the other side. War Eagle.

4 Responses to “What’s Important”

  1. Mom says:

    Our sympathy and love go out to you and Kelli and Jeff and all his family. This is SO HARD. We have lost many of those we loved, and our hearts go out to all of you.

    We love you, Mom (& Dad too)

  2. Lori Baerg says:


    First I am sorry to hear of the diagnosis of your friend. I will continue to pray happy days for him as he lives.

    What a beautiful blog and sentiment in his honor! You are a class act.

    Be blessed my friend.

  3. Paul Quinlan says:


    Very heart wrenching. Jeff is blessed to have friends like you. My prayers go out to you and and who you are Paul.


  4. Kathy Dreiling says:


    I recently heard the news regarding the loss of Jeff. My encounter with Jeff was brief, but meaningful. Through his help, I have my dream job. He was such an endearing person, and my prayers go out to his family, friends and co-workers at this sad time.

    In sympathy,

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