I'll never forget that first night of vacation in
2004. We had unloaded the cars and settled in for the evening in our
condo. Vacations were always a great time for our family. Every
morning, Jeff and I would get up early and go running along the beach and then
jump in the water to wash the sweat and grime of the run away. Jeff and
I both enjoyed running together. It was something that we had done
regularly, until it became difficult to match our schedules since both of us
had families of our own now. But vacations were always our time to hang
On that first night in 2004, everyone had gone to bed except Jeff and me. We stayed up watching sports center as the highlights from the day were being replayed. It seemed like such an insignificant comment at the time, but I'll never forget what he said to me as we watched. The baseball highlights were on, and he turned to me and said. "You know, I just want to be able to hit a homerun like that. Just one time." We both dozed off, Jeff on one couch and myself on another. When I awoke he was gone. He had gone to the hospital with what would end up being the first of his brain tumor symptoms. Those words were the last thing he said to me as a "civilian" in his war against cancer.
I, like the rest of my family, think about Jeff every day. The illness had changed him so much physically, that in some ways it was hard to make the connection between the Jeff that lay there in bed unable to move, and the Jeff that had run on the beach with me all those times. There are times when the reality sets in that he is gone from us, and it hits hard. I know that vacations will not be the same without him. There are times when I really miss my brother. But then when I spend time with his kids it all seems ok. He is there in every one of them, and being with them is always a happy time for me.
I am so thankful, that even though physically Jeff could not always do the things he wanted to, that he stayed true to his mental and spiritual strengths. I am so thankful that he meant so much to so many people, and that he was a great dad to his kids. It inspires me even in the sadness.
Even though we both knew he'd never get a chance to hit a homerun in a major league baseball game, it was still fun to think about it. It was really a silly thing to say, but when I think about it I wonder why he must have wanted to hit a homerun. I guess that's about the best thing you can do in baseball. The crack of the bat, the ball soaring, all the fans cheering all around you. The noise and the electricity that must surround a player who hit his first homerun must be amazing.
I can only imagine the cheering and energy that surrounded Jeff when he took his first step into heaven. I'd bet he was running.