Jeff

March 17th, 2011 by

Jeff was in an accident. Life flight to hospital, he is responding, whatever that means.

That was the text message from my wife on March 6 that started the worst week of my life. Jeff is my wife’s sister’s husband – one of two brothers in law that I have and look up to in ways that would probably creep them out. Next to my dad and brother, Jeff and Wade are the two adult males that I admire most on the planet.

Jeff used to be one of the Secret Service guys who stayed in the White House and protected Bush 41, the Clintons, and Bush 43. He has twentysomething years of law enforcement experience, and is a Federal Air Marshal. He has a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters the same age as my sister’s kids.

In short, Jeff needs a cape.

What you think when you hear life flight is “Whoa. Sounds serious. He probably broke some bones. Might end up retiring and walk with a limp for a while. Hope he’s okay.”

I called Sara’s sister, Kristen, and gave my best wishes to her voice mail – “Hope he’s okay, let me know if there’s anything blahblah whatever you say when there is nothing you can really do.”

Then Sara called and told me that Jeff didn’t make it. Jeff was alive this morning and now he isn’t and never will be again.

Holy shit.

Turns out the first phase of dealing with tragedy is, in fact, denial. People like Jeff don’t get killed in car accidents at age 45 for a few reasons in my rational brain. Number one, they don’t deserve to. Number two, his family certainly doesn’t deserve it. Number three, he’s a fricking government authorized protecting and serving machine with a gun and a badge and everything. These guys die heroically doing their jobs – I mean, hasn’t anyone ever watched a movie?

I went home and waited for Sara to get home. I called and told my parents, probably a couple of other people, my work, and whatever. I was fine until I called my brother. For some reason I could no longer hold it together and now he has a voicemail of me not really saying anything. “Uh…Josh? Jeff got killed in a…(forced exhale that is supposed to somehow make the tears stop)…whoa…umm…so…call me.

Annnnd…I collapsed on my knees in front of my recliner and sobbed like a child for about 20 minutes.

I’m sure there are people out there who are going to try to explain things in a “God has a plan” kind of way. Well, forgive me for saying this, but taking a husband away from his wife and a father who did nothing but love his kids is a shitty plan by any measure. If you can explain how it isn’t I’m all ears. But please spare me the religion on this one.

That thought originated when I turned on the news in an effort to compose myself and saw a story about a guy who held his wife and kids hostage when his meth lab was raided by the cops. He ended up killing his wife, stabbing one of his kids, and going to jail. Now his fucked up kids will be raised presumably by another family member who is probably just as big a piece of shit as their dad was. Awesome. This asshole somehow gets to live to a ripe old age courtesy of the taxpayer dollar and Jeff gets clipped by a jeep on a Sunday afternoon. Fantastic goddamned “plan”.

When Sara got home we both kind of staggered around all swollen-faced and packed some bags, I called everyone I knew who had an airplane to see if we could hitch a ride to anywhere within a couple of hours of Detroit, and we finally decided we’d “sleep” for a few hours and drive to Motown early the next morning. Probably not the very best plan considering our emotional and physical state, but it was what we had.

We arrived late afternoon the next day, and I have to say, the walk from the car to the front door was a long one. We both knew what was waiting for us, and I kind of assumed it was my job to try to hold it together. Which I did extremely well until I saw Kristen and the girls about seven seconds later.

It’s weird the things that run through your mind in times of extreme grief. I kept thinking that somehow maybe if I suffered more by, say, cutting off my right leg, it might be used as some kind of karmic bargaining chip to take a couple of hours of suffering away from everybody else. I would have done anything to make their pain stop or lessen in some way. Later in the week I came to realize that my grief was made of equal parts loss of Jeff and this helpless agony I was feeling for what Kristen and her daughters were going through.

At one point one of my nieces came to me and said “Uncle Dusty, will you draw me a picture of a cat?” (I don’t know if that was the specific request, but it was something like that.) I looked at her and thought “Right now I would build you your own art studio and drive the nails with my face if it would make you forget about this for one second.” And I meant it.

As in all things, no matter how hopelessly shitty, there is some good to be found if you look hard enough. Don’t get me wrong – nothing good enough to make up for the loss of Jeff, but some good. And here it is:

When we arrived I didn’t notice due to the weird tunnel vision and time compression surreal Dr. Who-esque swirling of time and space that was going on due to my acute stress, but there were about 20 cars parked in front of the house. The whole house was filled with people who loved Kristen and/or worked with and/or/or/and loved Jeff. I was very touched by the way this many people who had lives and families and professions and haircuts and diapers and whatever just dropped everything, closed ranks, and gave everything they had to support Jeff and Kristen’s family. And they probably didn’t give it any more thought than Sara and I did. This is what you do when this kind of thing happens. There is no question or hesitation, but there is a very definite beauty in the act, and it was not lost on me.

And I made sure it was not lost on my nieces, either, and I don’t want it to be lost on anyone reading this blog – at one point I told them “See all of these people who are here, planning the service, making phone calls, getting food, making beer runs (that was me), and hugging your mom and you two? This is it. This is the kind of adult you want to be.”

It was the pinnacle of human existence in my observation.

And sweet baby Jesus in a bulletproof onesie, did the Federal Air Marshals ever show up. From the moment Jeff died, they had two Marshals or State Police guarding his body 24 hours until he was buried. No, no one thought anyone was going to steal his wallet. It was pure honor and respect for him. There was one lady named Patty who showed up at Kristen’s house at about 9 am every morning and stayed there until 10 or 11 each night just planning the memorial service and funeral. She was far from alone, either – there was always either a couple more guys helping Patty, or at least one Marshal standing post a the house all day. When we left the house for a service, they had someone guarding the house. There isn’t a combination of words in any language that can describe the gratitude and respect I have for these people.

I spent a couple of days on bereavement graphic arts duty. I set up camp in the corner of the living room and collected photos of Jeff, sending them to others who were making cards, scrapbooks, memory boards, newspaper articles, funeral service programs, whatever. I also spent a lot of time making a memorial video of Jeff. And I’m going to go ahead and admit I observed a lot of interesting, heartwarming, and even funny things.

One thing was that I was the only dude in the house most of the time. Kristen has her posse of awesome friends who rallied around her in superhuman ways. They had kids (for some reason almost all girls) who played with my nieces, and my wife and mother in law and her mother and so on down the line. All of these chicks are planning the logistical equivalent of a massive wedding in the space of four days, and the energy level was as one might expect. No, I’m not saying they didn’t pull together a feat on the scale of the pyramids in that time, and I’m not saying they didn’t forget a single detail. I watched and listened (and did whatever I was told) and tried to compare it to how it would be if a bunch of dudes were doing this. It’s no secret that women do things differently than men. If you are confused/offended by that or would like to deny it, I would like you to shit in your hand and punch yourself, because you are a big retarded retard.

I have read that men say on average about 30,000 fewer words per minute than women do, and now I know that to be correct. Again, let me restate that I am not minimizing or downplaying broads or their ability to do shit as good as and in many cases better than men. I have to write things from a man’s perspective because I only have one brain, and my brain has a dick. Some might say my brain is a dick. And they might be right.

The scene was understandably very stressful, and no one except Patty really seemed to have central command in her brain. As a result of this and the fact that women are extreme communicators, there was a constant level of what I will call “chanic” at all waking hours. That would be a combo of chatter and panic for those who haven’t read my stuff before.

I realized the infectiousness of the herd (I hate to have to qualify this again, but I am not calling anyone a cow or otherwise intentionally demeaning men, women, or bovines) one day when I was trying to fix a doorknob and someone grabbed my arm and said “You need to email a picture of Jeff and the kids to soandso for the whozawhatza right now” (but without spaces between the words) and I dropped the screwdriver on the floor and sprinted to my computer. About halfway there the testosterone or whatever kicked in and I thought “Holy cow, that was intense. Why?” The service isn’t for two more days, and that’s a pretty tight deadline, but is the request seriously that urgent? Most of my adult life has been spent making decisions big and small, and one thing I have learned (particularly in flight training) is that most hasty decisions are bad ones. So even though emailing the picture was not a reactionary or bad decision, the urgency and emotion of the request made me slow down and question it.

But I shut up and did as I was told, because someone was in charge and it sure as hell wasn’t me.

There is obviously more than one way to accomplish a huge task, and they did an astounding job.

The memorial service (I think that’s what you call the open casket sobby/huggy part) was Friday, and it was a brutal 8 hours. We were all exhausted from the emotion of the past four days, and poor Kristen had to sit in a chair while hundreds of people came to pay their respects. I could not imagine how worn out she must have been, so I and a couple of other people took turns making sure she was okay. “Can I get you some water? Food? Another Costco pack of tissue? Perhaps if I dumped a bag of centipedes down my pants the resulting gyrations and flopping around on the floor would amuse you for a little while? Anything at all to make you smile for one second.”

They did a changing of the guard every 20 minutes or so, and three uniformed cops would come in and do that really cool robot walk to the casket, spin on their heels and two of them would stand with their heads bowed at either end of the casket. The third would do this super slow, super reverent salute toward Jeff’s body and turn and walk away. I made a point to watch them every time, and every time it made water come out of my eyes. That was the highest form of honor I had seen until the next day, which truly and completely blew my fucking mind.

Throughout it all, my wife was awesome. I can’t say how much I admire the strength and grace she showed in dealing with this, or how lucky I feel to have someone like her to support and be supported by. After everyone had gone to bed we’d talk about the day and people and feelings and all of that stuff. I wouldn’t have made it through the week without her. We agreed after the memorial service that most of the tears had been shed and we just had to stay upright for one more day, if not for us, for those around us.

When we arrived at the church, the entire entryway was lined with about 150-200 Air Marshals in black suits, standing with their hands over their hearts, staring straight ahead as we walked in behind Jeff’s casket. Anyone who thought they were going to make it through without crying was wrong. Seeing so many tough guys and girls standing there in Jeff’s honor with tears in their eyes was seriously moving.

The service was held in a huge church, and songs were sung, stories were told, and the most amazing part was when Kristen got up and read a tribute she and the girls had written about Jeff.

I am always amazed when people do this. I have seen sons talk about their fathers at funerals and it baffles me. I love my dad like Charlie Sheen loves Charlie Sheen, but I don’t think there is any way I could have the strength to do a speech at his funeral. Unless people want to hear a lot of uncontrolled breathing and sniffing. I guess we never know how much we can handle until we find out.

Kristen got up there and talked about how they met, fell in love, got married, and raised kids. She read letters that the girls had written, and she got through it with poise.

As I was listening to her, I thought “She’s got this. She’s going to be okay – not just for the speech, but even though she has a lot of pain ahead of her, she has it together. Her friends, family, and faith will fill in the gaps and she’ll be alright.” That was the first time in the past six days I started to feel better.

So here’s to you, Jeff. You were and still are a great guy. You leave behind a lot of people who were positively influenced by you, and two great kids who will grow up to be great adults because of you and Kristen. I know we talked about going ice fishing one winter; I just thought we had more winters ahead of us. When I do go, I’m pouring a beer out for you – but not the good stuff…you wouldn’t want that.

99 Responses to “Jeff”

  1. on 17 Mar 2011 at 12:37 pm bethk

    so sorry for your loss. life simply is not fair. beautiful montage.

  2. on 17 Mar 2011 at 12:51 pm Paula R in Philly

    Know that there are a lot of strangers out here who send their love and support to you and your family. There really aren’t any other words. Much sympathy headed to you from your reader in Philly. Sincerely,
    Paula

  3. on 17 Mar 2011 at 12:57 pm Jeanie

    Brought tears to my eyes. Great tribute. My sympathies to you and all of Jeff’s family and loved ones.

  4. on 17 Mar 2011 at 12:58 pm Uzy

    I am proud to say you are my friend, Dusty. Crazy-Beautiful as always. One of my biggest regrets is I never got to meet Jeff.

    UZY

  5. on 17 Mar 2011 at 1:04 pm Nightmare

    Stunning.

    You are hear by commissioned to write my Obit. Just as a PS though, it is hard to read words on a video when you are sobbing like sissy.

  6. on 17 Mar 2011 at 1:06 pm noel

    And thanks to you, his memory will live on in all of us.

  7. on 17 Mar 2011 at 1:06 pm Steph

    Just reading this made me feel a little teary.
    I am truly sorry for your loss and send my deepest sympathies to Jeff’s family and friends.

  8. on 17 Mar 2011 at 1:07 pm ScottL

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Jeff.
    You are a good man by helping the way you did

  9. on 17 Mar 2011 at 1:08 pm Susan

    you made me cry at work.

  10. on 17 Mar 2011 at 1:14 pm Diane

    Dusty, you’ve inspired me to change my itinerary for today:

    1. Go home & hug my husband for about an hour.
    2. Pester everyone I’ve ever cared about with “I love you” phone calls. The Drunk-Dial without the drunk part.

    Much love to your family.

  11. on 17 Mar 2011 at 1:18 pm dsloves

    Dusty – Crying on public transit doesn’t normally work for me. Today it does. Peace to you and your family. I don’t often push people to read lyrics, but if the muse strikes you — give these a read.

    http://www.dead.net/song/brokedown-palace

    David

  12. on 17 Mar 2011 at 1:38 pm SeaD

    That was such a moving and lovely tribute, Dusty. I am sorry for your loss and will think of you all with love from the Northwest.

  13. on 17 Mar 2011 at 2:22 pm John

    Sorry Dusty. That sucks beyond belief.

  14. on 17 Mar 2011 at 2:33 pm Adriana

    Thanks so much for sharing that. You paint such a picture with your words. I’m going to track down a box of tissue now and try to remove the snot from my shirtsleeve. =(

  15. on 17 Mar 2011 at 2:37 pm Jim

    Hey Dusty – Well…not exactly what I was expecting to read when I logged on. It is however strangely poignant. I lost a close buddy of mine last month. One of the most talented musicians and genuine people I have ever known. I too thought there would be more winters, more evenings hanging out with friends, the dinners, the wine and the songs…man the music was incredible. The finality of it all is what’s still got me screwed up. There’s nothing to say but his friends and family have come together and while it will never be ok, it seems to get a little better with time. Our regards to you and your family. – Jim

  16. on 17 Mar 2011 at 2:45 pm Carmi

    What a beautiful tribute to what sounds like a wonderful man! I am so sorry for your loss. How lucky you were to have had him in your life.

  17. on 17 Mar 2011 at 2:52 pm Spyder

    Nightmare/Mike sent me. Beautiful! I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending thoughts & prayers to all affected by Jeff’s too soon departure.

  18. on 17 Mar 2011 at 3:02 pm Ryan

    Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. -Dr. Seuss

    So sorry for your loss. One thing that comes from the loss of a great living American: You get to see the wake of beauty they left behind in friends and family.

    My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew Jeff.

  19. on 17 Mar 2011 at 3:04 pm Susan

    Jeff – My sympathies to you and your family. I could relate an awful lot to everything you wrote as my family has just experienced a very very sad loss…a child, who was sick for a year. The only thing I can think of thats worse is a sudden death that you have no time to prepare for. I agree totally with you about the bullshit of “God’s plan” – if he had these tragedies in his plan, then he must be one hell of a sadist…May Jeff’s memory be a blessing for all of you…

  20. on 17 Mar 2011 at 4:25 pm Neil

    Unlike you, words fail me..

    Jeff sounds like one hell of a guy, and the world needs more – not less of him!

    Regards to you & yours

  21. on 17 Mar 2011 at 4:26 pm Andy B

    Dusty,

    Well done and well said, as everyone else has commented already. I did especially enjoy reading your initial commentary of wonder at the reasoning God would have and the answer you provided yourself in your last few paragraphs.

    Something wondrous always comes from tragedy, like new plants when a forest burns down. This event in your life, and in the lives of others, brings you purpose and meaning.

    God Bless and keep writing!

    From a faithful Christian born just outside of Motown.

  22. on 17 Mar 2011 at 4:49 pm nym

    My eyes are leaking.

  23. on 17 Mar 2011 at 5:11 pm Dad

    Foxtrot Bravo, Son. You and Sara do the family proud.

  24. on 17 Mar 2011 at 6:00 pm Don B

    Dusty, as Jeff’s brother I experienced a lot of what you have written. It is almost like we were in the same head. Even though I couldn’t spend as much time at the house as I wanted, my heart was there with the girls. Your words describing the service were great,but you really had to experience it (unfortunately) to feel the power behind it. What a send off!! Some good did derive from the situation. We were reunited with people not seen in years and got to see the impact the family had left on them. It also brought me back to reality to realize what is really the “important” things in life. I watch your beautiful tribute daily with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. Thank you so much.

  25. on 17 Mar 2011 at 6:45 pm warcrygirl

    My condolences to you and Sara on the loss of your BIL. Don’t knock religion too much; many people find comfort in it at times like these. The video you made was beautiful.

  26. on 17 Mar 2011 at 8:08 pm TLee007

    Beautiful work Dusty, beautiful. He must have been one hell of a good guy. Good on you for helping as much as you did. That’s all I can say without tearing up.

    Trent :-)

  27. on 17 Mar 2011 at 9:05 pm Tatiana

    I am in tears for the family too. But also stunned at the love and support. Hang in there.

  28. on 17 Mar 2011 at 9:24 pm Angie

    Out of loss comes a multitude of growing. What is lost is the body. What is left is the factual gain of knowing that love continues through the children, the family, friends and magnitude of love that was shared and will continue. I too by seeing this great tribute of an awesome life that I never knew, yet protected by, feel some type of loss. Thus because one of the good guys left to continue a journey elsewhere. I wish you all peace that he wants for you all to have. I do know this and want to share it with you. God does not kill, he just promises to get us through it. The healing has started. In his honor I will pray…I am proud to be an American. I am proud of all of our people who serve to protect. I admire your strength in sharing this with the World. Carry on and teach us all again what he did and why. God Bless you all.

  29. on 17 Mar 2011 at 9:43 pm Coleen

    Just beautiful ~

  30. on 17 Mar 2011 at 10:05 pm Kristen

    Dusty,

    My condolences to you, your wife, and the rest of your family.

    Your tribute to your friend and BIL moved me to tears. You are correct, the world does not always work fairly, and the good guys are often taken much too soon.

    Hopefully, in time, you will find your smile again, and when that happens, your readers will be here for you.

    Remember that Jeff will live on through your memories and in your heart forever.

    ~kristen

  31. on 17 Mar 2011 at 10:14 pm Jim

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful piece. You brought tears to my eyes more than once. I am so sorry for your loss.

  32. on 17 Mar 2011 at 10:28 pm Jennifer

    I have laughed to your awesomeness for years, but this is the first time I have written. Much love to you all during this crappy time. He is definitely smiling down on you for writing this beautiful tribute, and his girls will love this (as well as your “worst album covers” ) when they are older…xoxo

  33. on 17 Mar 2011 at 10:52 pm Ken JP Stuczynski

    Dear Dusty — You are right. Talking about God’s plan is not some “answer” that makes things better. It doesn’t make sense, if not only because it can never make sense to us. What is left after all the dumb theological rationalizations is the naked trust that people call faith — not believing something you can’t know, but knowing something that you can’t believe, sometimes because you just need to in your heart. My own heart goes out to you, bro. Peace, Ken

  34. on 18 Mar 2011 at 12:28 am Tyler

    A friend of mine pointed to your post and I’m thankful that he did. I know a man like the one you knew in Jeff – a man capable of things that are only seen in movies and heard of in stories that you don’t believe. Hold on to his memory and tell everyone about him.

  35. on 18 Mar 2011 at 12:28 am Andrea

    So sorry for your breathtaking loss. It kind of knocked the wind out of me just reading it. I wish peace to find you (somehow), your family and anyone who was affected by this. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us…kind of puts things into perspective today.

  36. on 18 Mar 2011 at 1:11 am Chris

    Dusty,

    My sincere thoughts are with you at this time.
    I’m a stranger whos been reading your blog regularly for the past few years now.

    I’m a paramedic from BC, Canada.
    I love my job, but I hate it more then anything when I have to deal with tragedy like what befell your brother-in-law. I know that it shouldn’t affect me, and I’m supposed to remain professional, which for the most part I’m good at doing while in public, but privately, I think of the families of every single patient I meet, and I end up mourning a little….

    As a first responder, whether law enforcement, fire, or EMS there is always a great brotherhood at time of tragedy to honor the fallen. Whether in the line of duty or not, we all can relate with the pain the family must be feeling, as it sounds like the Marshalls were able to do with pride, respect, and honor.

    As a fellow first responder, I’ll be sure to salute the flag tommorrow morning on my way to the station for a fallen comrade I didn’t know. And it’s with a heavy heart, because I wish I didn’t have to…

    My thoughts are with you and your family.

    “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    -Chris

  37. on 18 Mar 2011 at 4:00 am Fred

    I don’t know you, I don’t know Jeff, but I am truly sorry for your loss. As one human to another I wish you comfort in your time of need.

  38. on 18 Mar 2011 at 10:15 am davejase

    Don’t know what to say… Thank you for being such a human Dusty- This was huge.

  39. on 18 Mar 2011 at 10:44 am mcconk

    So sorry for your family’s loss.

  40. on 18 Mar 2011 at 12:33 pm Dane

    I’m sorry for your family’s loss. I often laugh until I cry reading your stuff, but today I cried till I laughed.

  41. on 18 Mar 2011 at 1:20 pm Jason

    It’s so hard to find fairness in today’s world. Never could figure out how dirtbags live, and heroes die. Reminds me of a book I am reading. Ghost Rider by Neil Peart (drummer for Rush). Neil lost his wife to cancer and his only daughter to a car accident all within a few years. Very tragic to happen to anybody, but this book really hits home about facing hardship and how to deal with major and sudden loss.

    This was a touching post Dusty, and love the tribute. It just like Dane mentioned above, your blog usually brings tears of joy, today it was tears of sadness. So sorry to hear about the loss of this amazing individual. Jeff and other heroes that have fallen us always leave behind the best memories and inspiration to be even greater ourselves.

  42. on 18 Mar 2011 at 1:33 pm Denielle

    Dusty, your blogg was beautiful! I don’t think we have ever met, but I know Sara, Kristen and the girls (I am Shana’s cousin) and I am so glad I saw this on FB. You have such a great way with words and your video is beautiful! I hope some day I can meet you in person. Thank you for sharing this with everyone, you are great at what you do!! :)

  43. on 18 Mar 2011 at 1:40 pm Heather

    Most often when I read your blogs, it is because you have such a wonderful way of writing and expressing things that I could never find the words for.
    This was a beautiful post about the realism of death and the kindness of the human spirit.
    I am sorry for the loss that you and your family had been greeted with such surprise and I am hopeful that through words, memories and unspoken love, you will find ways to mend through hard times.

    Thank you for sharing a difficult story but finding the words to connect us all together.

  44. on 18 Mar 2011 at 3:20 pm Annette

    Ok Dusty, I forgive you for sitting NEXT to me at Thanksgiving dinner when you were in the infectious stage of the bird flu.

    It’s a small thing, but I would hate to find myself in Jeff’s shoes and not have told you that.

    Thanks for the beautiful, beautiful blog. I still don’t know the meaning of life or anything that happens in it, but you’ve done a remarkable job of painting a big corner of the Big Picture for me.

  45. on 18 Mar 2011 at 4:21 pm Texas Tini

    I’m crying at my desk right now. That was beautifully written, and You’re unconventional complements are so meaningful.

    I need a tissue.

  46. on 18 Mar 2011 at 9:17 pm John

    Dusty,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your family’s loss. I wish that I had something profound to say to “make everything better.” Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones. Like another poster said above, through your words and and your moving video, now his memory will live in us too.

  47. on 19 Mar 2011 at 4:26 am Kate

    My heartfelt condolences to your family for your loss. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.

  48. on 19 Mar 2011 at 1:16 pm Maria

    Dusty –

    What a beautiful tribute in the midst of an enormous loss. My heart goes out to you and to his family.

    As a young window myself, I would like to recommend a book for you to send your sister-in-law. It’s called Companion Through the Darkness by Stephanie Ericsson. It was recommended to me during my loss and captured the emotions I was feeling in a way that nothing else could. I don’t usually send out unsolicited advice, but pass this along in hopes that it will in some way make her loss a little more bearable. Senidng prayers and sympathy to all those who loved and lost Jeff.

  49. on 19 Mar 2011 at 4:50 pm Mishka

    All I can say is “wow”…that was awesome Dusty and I am sure all of your family will love reading this. It really hits home because I was with my family burying my grandpa who was 99 and died last week. It is always amazing to see all the people come out that love you and the deceased…it really makes you realize what is important in life. Thanks for this great post.

  50. on 20 Mar 2011 at 8:53 pm Ferris

    I would call you out for quoting yourself . . . but I need to get a tissue first.

  51. on 21 Mar 2011 at 9:35 am Tink

    I was glad to see you posted but hate that you had to post that. Prayers for you and your family Dusty.

  52. on 21 Mar 2011 at 9:41 am A.JONES

    So sorry for your loss. I lost my Dad in October and I know how you are feeling…

    My favorite quote…sums it up

    “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

    Still loving my picture you drew of my daughter in the fairy wings…it’s so stunning.

    Deepest sympathy to you and your lovely wife.

  53. on 21 Mar 2011 at 1:47 pm Sara

    So sorry. Beautifully written

  54. on 21 Mar 2011 at 4:58 pm Laura

    Monkey nuts! Not really, just trying to cheer you up. Wonderfully written. He would have liked it.

  55. on 21 Mar 2011 at 8:04 pm bree

    My thoughts are with your family during this terrible time.

  56. on 21 Mar 2011 at 9:00 pm Michael

    My honest and deepest heartfelt sympathy to you and your family/friends…we hear so often only the good die young and it really seems so damn unfair to say the least. I read your post and watched the video yesterday and it’s been so long since I’ve been moved like that…Jeff’s family is truly blessed to have someone like you pay tribute in a way they’ll be able to appreciate forever. You have my highest respect, as I’m sure you do of many. May Jeff rest in peace, and his family find comfort in the love and respect showed over the last few days to someone who was clearly a great, great man.

  57. on 21 Mar 2011 at 9:11 pm UpNort

    Dusty, I’m sorry for your loss. It’s beyond understanding why things like this happen to someone so young. Words are usually little comfort.

    Your tribute to Jeff was beautiful.

    My step-sister created a tribute similar to yours of my dad when he passed away. While I rarely watch it, because I hate crying, I always know it’s there when I need him.

  58. on 22 Mar 2011 at 9:09 am LJRich

    Dusty, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. My family and I are thinking of you and your family. A beautiful tribute!

    LJ

  59. on 23 Mar 2011 at 11:18 am Brin Marie

    I only know you through your writing, so the pat phrases will ring hollowly rather than have genuine meaning, but I want you to know that I am moved by your words, and saddened by your loss.

    May Jeff sleep in peace and wake in wonderment.

  60. on 23 Mar 2011 at 9:56 pm Scott

    Dusty,
    Unfortunately I got something in my eye while reading……I wish you and your family the best.,…
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  61. on 24 Mar 2011 at 10:28 am kiff

    so very sorry for your loss.

  62. on 24 Mar 2011 at 3:00 pm Sarah

    Thanks for writing this. I lost my friend recently also, it helped to read this. She was very young, and we had just spent Christmas together. She was a tough and tiny ballerina. None of it made any sense.

    There was also an open casket memorial. I admit, I was scared to go, but I wanted to be there for her mother and family. My knees shook when I approached the casket. I didn’t think I could make it. Not to say she didn’t look beautiful, as always. But I couldn’t look at her face. I stared at her hands, I was such a pussy about it. It looked like she was just sleeping. I expected that at any moment, her chest would rise and she would wake up wondering why everyone was staring at her. She didn’t.

    I sat in the chairs, just staring at various lilies for about an hour, between the hugs and introductions to her massive family who came from all over the world. I helped setup and was there to clear everything out, and it was the longest day of my life. I’ve run marathons that haven’t exhausted me as much.

    After everyone had left, I had a few moments alone with her. I walked up, and I wasn’t scared anymore. I told her how much I loved her, how I always thought of her as my sister. I reminded her about Christmas and how after dinner we found a little park with swings and slides and a bunch of kid stuff. It was cold, so our butts got stuck on the slides. We grilled octopus together on a tiny grill in her mom’s kitchen. Playing air hockey, and she beat me mercilessly. Meaningless memories to everyone but us. I told her that I hoped I was a good friend to her, and that I hoped she thought of me as a good person. I said goodbye to her and promised that we would find better slides to play on together again soon.

    Sorry to use your blog as my sorrow blog. I haven’t written much about it yet and it all just came oozing out. Sorry.

    I’m sorry for you and your family’s loss. Her family and I also thought about how other awful people in the world got to live and she didn’t. I think asking yourself that is pointless, there will never be a rational answer to it.
    With hope, we’ll all find some peace about it some day.

    – Sarah

  63. on 24 Mar 2011 at 9:22 pm Heather

    So very sorry…the world will be a darker place for awhile.

    Thanks for sharing…poignant, beautiful, and a few typical “Dustyisms” that gave me a chuckle through the tears.

    Proud of you for staying strong and being there for your family.

    Much love.

  64. on 25 Mar 2011 at 11:52 am Devon

    Dusty,
    I live in Denver, and have been following your blogs since 2006. I have never been as touched by your writing as I was by this piece.

    Warm thoughts go out to you and your family, from the Mile High.

    Thank you for sharing and thank you for being an example of a good human being.

    Best,
    Devon

  65. on 26 Mar 2011 at 12:15 am David Grier

    My sincerest condolences to you an your extended family.

    David

  66. on 29 Mar 2011 at 2:23 pm Daryl

    Dusty,

    Sorry for your loss. I lost my sister a year and a half ago. She had two kids, 8 and 10, and they are now left with her fucked up ex-husband and his fucked up family. We try to see them as much as possible, but it is hard because they’re in England, we’re in Canada, and he is resistent to us seeing them as he views it as a competition. We feel helpless, but give as much as we can–or as much as he’ll let us give. My point is that the kids are hanging in there, even with the limitations of the people around them. Jeff’s kids will be alright too. It sounds like they have a lot of great people around who unfortunately cannot make it all better, but can help them understand and focus on the memories. That’s all you can do. It’ll get easier, but there are also going to be days when it will be twice as hard. Those days suck, but they help keep the memories alive. Without them you’re just forgetting or trying not to think about it. All you can do is keep going and be there for each other, like you are. I’m sure your most recent post helped a lot of Jeff’s friends and family in some way, and I’m sure your sense of humour and outlook on life is helping them in ways you may not even know.

    Hang in there.

    D.

  67. on 29 Mar 2011 at 11:53 pm ed schroeder

    A fine tribute to a great man. I am sorry for your loss and that of your family. My thoughts are with you and yours…

  68. on 30 Mar 2011 at 5:49 pm Shelby

    A beautiful tribute

  69. on 12 Apr 2011 at 8:16 pm CaroG87

    Wow – That was incredibly moving and powerful, and quite a tribute to a wonderful person. I am truly very sorry for your loss and for the void that will be felt by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. You’ve done well in letting us all know and respect him as much as you did.

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  72. on 08 May 2011 at 10:27 pm Beau G.

    Dusty,

    So sorry to hear about your loss man. Jeff sounds like he was an incredible guy! We’ll keep you and Sarah and his family in our prayers.

    Best!

  73. on 08 May 2011 at 10:39 pm L

    Dusty,
    I’ve been reading your website since I was fifteen, since you first started. (I’m 24.) Reading (watching?) you grow into this amazing person has never ceased to amaze me, and it keeps me coming back. Two days ago, my big brother who is 36 had a major stroke and may soon be in the position that your Jeff is in. My heart goes out to you more than I can say, and as a loyal fan please know my thoughts are with you.
    If you and your lovely wife are ever in Canada, look me up!
    Kidding.
    I know I appreciate small levity right now.
    Take care, let others take care of you; sometimes you have to let go. There are no right answers, just really important guesses.
    L.

  74. on 13 May 2011 at 12:58 pm Pete

    Only an amazing writer could evoke tears for a complete stranger on the Internet. Beautifully told, and thank you for sharing his memory with us.

  75. on 26 May 2011 at 7:27 pm KK

    Dusty…you almost always make me cry, but it’s usually doubled-over-laughing-so-hard-I’m-about to-pee- my- pants kind of tears. You are a truly beautiful writer and your tribute brought me to tears over someone I’ve never met. Your wife is one lucky lady to have such a great guy like you for a husband.

  76. on 01 Aug 2011 at 7:14 am Kathleen

    Dusty,

    I know I’m wait late on reading and responding, but I had to say how sorry I am for your loss (and Sara’s). I could feel your pain as I read, especially since I could relate. My good friend Ed died unexpectedly last year at the age of 44 leaving behind two children. I, too, was amazed at how well his wife and the kids held it together, while I was a blubbering mess. I remember walking into the funeral home seeing him lying there and it was a total kick in the heart. Time does help, but a year and a half later, I sometimes still feel that kick in the heart when I think about him.

    Kathleen

  77. on 11 Aug 2011 at 1:38 am Kristen

    To my brother in law Dusty–

    I didn’t know about this blog until today, the eve of what would have been our 17-year wedding anniversary. This was a gift to my heart.

    There really are no words, but thank you. He loved you, too. And I love you very much.

    I’m so glad we had our times together as a family, even though it was way too short. He loved your amazing sense of humor. And he loved that you loved Sara like we do. And he loved your Dad and the awesome Air Marshal belt he made him as a gift after they just met. He loved drinking beer with you and spoofing on everything, and talking politics. He loved having you cook and entertain our kids and better yet–share drinks on your deck in the southern heat! He loved being an average guy with you, relaxing from his not-so-average career.

    Your words were encouraging. If I can talk about him with pride on one of the worst days of my life, maybe things for the girls and I will be okay after all. I never really looked at it that way.

    And while my heart aches, my questions are still unanswered, my losses are great and the fears for our future are still there—you are right. We are surrounded by good friends and family that will guide us and get us through this difficult thing called life. And that is all that probably matters.

    Thank you again for what you did here, and during the worst time of my life. You and Sara made a huge difference and I will never forget it.

    xoxo Kristen Bowman

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