January 27, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

I know it had been more than a month since Jeff’s passing, but the celebration Friday just gave me a bit more peace. It was truly awesome to see everyone there. And such nice things were said about Jeff. All the hugs did me a lot of good, too.

As I feared, the video is too large to upload here, so I’m uploading it to YouTube here:

My speech:

Hello friends! I want to first take a moment to acknowledge the passing of our friend, Dr. Henry Cunningham. He was a wonderful man with a calm, kind heart and he is already missed. I know Jeff was there to meet him with a huge hug. Our thoughts and best wishes go to his family. Let me just say “Cancer sucks”! I have harsher words, but we have kids here.

I want to point out the papers on the tables. There is a page for each of you so you can take your time and write something about Jeff or to the family, include your contact information, draw a picture, whatever! I’ll have everything bound into a book or two. Also on the tables are poems. There are seven poems which were written by someone we never met, but who followed Jeff’s struggle in his last few months. We know him only as Ken, or Sergeant Kiwi. He is very talented and I encourage you to mingle and read them all. I’ve also asked that you send me copies of pictures you take here tonight.

I am so happy and honored to see you all here. I am touched that you all loved Jeff so much and that you love our family too. It’s really apparent. You know Jeff loved you back with all his being and I’ll tell you now I love you all like family – a sweet, dysfunctional family. As in any family, you go through good times and bad. Heck, Jeff and I almost called it quits a couple times. Yup. But you can’t help but love Jeff, even as aggravating as he could be, right? He had an incredible sense of humor – a little strange maybe, but that was Jeff. He’d get that twinkle in his eye, a little smirk and tap his foot when he was messin’ with you, like he couldn’t wait to get to his own punchline. And smart! He was a news junkie and was constantly reading. I, however, am not a news junkie, so if I wanted to know what was going on in the world, I could simply ask Jeff for a synopsis. We had a comfortable relationship. I was the calming water to his wildfire; the yin to his yang, the structure to his chaos. (If you’ve ever seen Jeff’s office or his man-cave at home, you know what I’m talkin’ about.) We had fun too.

I LOVED to startle Jeff. LOVED it! He would be in his man-cave playing one of those first-person shooter games and deep in concentration. Making sure his flanks were covered, watching out for snipers, checking his ammo supply and weapon chosen. Very intense stuff. I would stand silently outside his door and then burst through the doorway with “WHAT ARE YOU DOIN!?” And he would jump out of his seat, squeeze and shake the mouse which would contract his finger on the mouse button such that he would often wind up shooting his own character. And I would double over laughing! Oh he tried to get me back. He would try to sneak up on me. But his feet and knees popped and squeaked and were so noisy, that I could always hear him coming. It’s a good thing most of his hunting involved lying and waiting for game to come in range because he wouldn’t be able to sneak up on it.

Jeff loved to have fun with big boy toys – cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles. He’s had them all. You’ll see just a few of his vehicles in the slide show. He wrecked two motorcycles during our marriage and luckily walked away from both. Oh, the road rash though, and the bruises… Ugh! He changed cars and trucks with the seasons or the gas prices. Thank you to our neighbor, Gary, for dangling the carrot and parking the fancy trucks practically in our driveway. You knew Jeff’s weakness. (I don’t see you ever working in a shoe store, so I think I’m safe. J) Jeff made any excuse to trade up. “The truck needs new tires. I’ll just go get a new truck.” “The wiper blades are bad. I’ll just get a new truck.” He researched the heck out of every purchase though and thank you again, Gary, for all the good deals so we weren’t in debt up to our eyeballs!

No, Jeff took good care of us. Even when he was in the hospital for chemo, he would order double entrees so I’d have something to eat when I came to see him in the evening. He was very selfless and considerate. Even going through all he went through, he was concerned for others. It absolutely broke his heart to see bald kids at MD Anderson in their small wheelchairs, riding alongside him in his wheelchair. Jeff was a steadfast friend, a loving, playful father to his son and stepdaughters, and a warm, giving husband to me. He had a huge heart and I am a better person for having known him. I feel very blessed to have shared a life with him and to have the gift of our wonderful son. Love you forever babe.