To My Friend Jeff, his Family, and his countless Friends.

Nov 10, 2016 was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining bright, the trees were in their full colorful fall glory. The glory of God was on full display. Earlier that morning we lost a husband, a son, father, uncle, friend. It still doesn’t seem real. I am thankful for the years we had and it was a privilege to be a guide on his journey.  Shortly after his passing Annie asked me to speak at his Memorial Service. It was an unexpected honor that I will always cherish.

We can all learn from Jeff’s story, and today, on the one-year anniversary of his passing, I want to share the words I wrote one more time.

Annie asked me to talk about Jeff as a father and his journey as a son of our heavenly father. As I wrote these words, I saw so many parallels between Jeff’s relationship with his kids and God’s relationship not only with Jeff, but with all of us.

There is an old proverb that says a father holds their children’s hands for just a little while, but they hold their hearts forever.

Madeline, Danielle, & Sean were blessed to have Jeff as a dad. When Josie & Clara joined the family I remember Jeff telling me how excited he was to have two little girls in the house to dote on again. Words can’t describe how much love his kids had for him, and how much love he had for them in return.

Jeff was always there for you kids. Anytime you came up on his caller ID business took a back seat and he took the call. Even when those calls were to deliver bad news you still picked up the phone – you knew your dad would give you grace, take it in stride and make everything okay.

He had unconditional love for you all. He kept you safe and went out of his way to make sure you knew you were loved. He went to your games, took you to the dances, and took you fishing. Being present in your lives was his #1 priority.

Danielle said something to me last week that I want you remember. She said even though it’s going to be different, your dad will still be there. There will be signs he’s still present, protecting you, and making everything okay.

At the Hospice House shortly after Jeff passed, Sean & his friends were outside and saw two A-10 Warthogs flying in low formation towards them on the horizon. As the planes approached it became apparent that they were going to do a very close fly-by. Several of us inside saw the planes as they passed. Leave it to Jeff to arrange an Air Force fly-by for his best friend and his football players.

Jeff’s love extended beyond his kids – look at how many of us have gathered to honor his memory. Jeff cared about everyone. You kids probably remember a time when a car went into the ditch in front of you on 435. Jeff stopped his car and everyone made sure these complete strangers were okay. That was Jeff. He didn’t care who you were, he would go out of his way to help when you needed it. Each one of you will carry the compassion he had for others the rest of your lives.

I worked with Jeff for six years, and we talked nearly every day. Of all those countless conversations the most meaningful began on a business trip to Oklahoma when we talked about God, salvation, and spiritual journeys.

At some point many people (myself included) look at this broken world and have doubt about God. That’s where Jeff was that day which opened the door to our first conversation about my experience as a Christ follower.

I asked Jeff why he was on the fence about God. Much if it had to do with religion and hypocrisy so we talked about “quote” religious people who say one thing and do another. We talked about people throughout history using religion to excuse their hate. I told him Jesus condemned the religious of His day for their hypocrisy.

I told him the unconditional love he has for his kids is how God feels about us. Nothing we can do will make Him love us less. He loved us so much he sent His Son Jesus Christ because He wants a right relationship with us.

I know Jeff took a step on his spiritual journey that day because after that trip it seems I was his “Bible answer man.” We continued discussions about what scripture says and what a relationship Jesus Christ means.

When Jeff was diagnosed with cancer he got to witness our Father in action.

Scripture says that WE are the hands and feet of Jesus. For nine months Jeff and the entire family got to see God flood a house on 95th with love, prayers, well-wishes, food, cards, flowers, books, people, and encouragement. A football team cleaned up the yard. A little girl with a small angel and big blessings came to visit.

You cannot witness that kind of outpouring of love and sit on the fence with regards to God’s presence. Jeff saw God’s work, said it was good, and was assured that a house with many rooms held a room for him.

Several weeks ago I went to visit Jeff with a plan to say everything I wanted to say – how much I enjoyed working with him – how thankful I was to be his friend.

I rehearsed the conversation in my head over and over but when I sat down next to him something else happened. I was speechless. Those of you who know me probably think I’m lying, but I literally didn’t know how to start the conversation. I think that’s because God had other plans that morning – Jeff needed reassurance, not reminiscing.

Molly Morrison Britt was also there that morning and after a while the conversation turned to near death experiences. Molly works with Traumatic Brain Injury patients who have shared many near death experiences with her, all with universal themes, the most important being they all experienced something.

Each person remembered light unlike any light they’d seen before. A sense of calm and love they could not describe. People who had gone before them were there. None of them wanted to come back.

When Molly finished, Jeff looked right at me and asked “Do you believe that?” Without hesitating I answered “without a doubt – everything she just described is described in scripture.”

In Revelation John says heaven “does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light.” In Corinthians Paul had a vision of a man who “was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things”

Paul knew suffering. He had “had been in prison and flogged, exposed to death again and again” yet wrote to the church in Rome “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Jeff heard that and I saw peace because He believed. Today Jeff knows this is true. Heaven is a real place. Jeff knows Jesus and has seen Him face to face.

Abraham believed and it was counted to him as righteousness. Jeff believed when we were hopeful for a cure. Jeff believed when he knew the end was near. I am confident that Jeff is in that place with inexpressible things and that our Father’s light shines on his path.

A journey started on an Oklahoma tollway has brought Jeff home. Now our journey continues. Danielle has some new ink that says “Day by Day” and that’s how we move forward. In times of pain remember the promise from our Savior who said “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

It will never be the same, but we can rest assured there will come a day where we all get to put our arms around Jeff again and rejoice in our journey well-traveled.

Let us pray.  Heavenly Father. Continue to bring family, friends and strangers as your hands and feet. May we see the Air Force fly-by’s and countless signs to come as notice that Jeff is still with us. We know the pain of loss will never completely vanish, so I pray with time we find more laughter than tears. That we fond memories become more numerous than painful ones. And may today be the day we call on you to be comforted. Amen.

War Eagle my friend – until we meet again.

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