It seems like most days, I have already planned out what I want to write about, and then something happens that changes the trajectory of my fingers. At times, it is frustrating when life has such an affect on my emotions that I cannot concentrate. Completing my homework becomes difficult. Thinking of something to write about in this blog becomes challenging.
So, today’s post is written in honor of Jeff Smit, a firefighter who gained his angel wings late last night. How do I know Jeff? I don’t. But, there are plenty of people who do. Jeff is from my hometown where I lived as a teenager, the same town my daughter lives and was raised by her adoptive parents.
Jeff’s wife, Katie, went to the same high school as me. She was a senior when I was a freshman, and I became acquainted with her on the wrestling team. My then-boyfriend was a wrestler, and I was always hanging around practice, watching him. I was too young to really date yet, so I soaked up every minute I could spend near him.
One day, the wrestling coach asked me if I would like to join the team as a manager. I gladly accepted his invitation. Katie and her friend Angie were both managers, but they were graduating that year, and coach was looking for someone to replace them once they were gone.
Back then, I was much quieter and a bit introverted. I felt slightly intimidated by Katie (shhh), as she was a take-charge type of girl. She struck me as the type who could beat up a boy or two if need be. And, she was always talking about wanting to be a firefighter when she ‘grew up’.
Needless to say, she graduated from high school and lived her dreams. She became a firefighter and even learned to wrench on cars. She married Jeff, who was also a firefighter, had two kids. Jeff and Katie also owned a mechanic’s garage.
I lost contact with Katie after high school. For one, we didn’t run in the same crowd, so we were never really friends. And, of course, who knew about the future Facebook? I would have never expected, back then, that the internet would take off like it did, and that our generation would be introduced to the ‘everyone must own a computer’ era. I never thought I’d be back in contact with a tenth of the people from high school that are actually on my friend’s list.
A few years ago, when I became a Facebook junkie, I came across Katie’s profile and sent her a friend request. She is a very busy woman, and I did not see her online very often.
After trolling her profile, I learned her husband was a victim of cancer. At one point (and don’t quote me), I believe he was found to be in remission, and then the cancer came back, this time so aggressively that there was little that could be done for him. The cancer eventually spread through his body.
I recently started checking Katie’s wall, to see how Jeff was doing. It wasn’t long, and she posted that the discussion of hospice care had finally taken place. I knew Jeff must be in sad shape if hospice was being brought in to care for him.
It was not long, only days, when I read Katie’s anguished and touching words:
Today has been one of those days of reality smack ups. Called hospice in today for Jeff for pain management. He’s pretty out of it, in a coma state…There have been times today that I am overwhelmed with grief, yet find peace in knowing the end for him here on Earth will be done, and the greatest journey of all awaits him at Heaven’s gates.
My hero…one of the strongest men I know. Rest easy tonight, honey, I’m watching over you until Jesus and God take over.
Reading this was enough to rip my heart out of my chest, but, it was also a touching reminder that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and where my life is at today, because there are others out there who truly do have it much worse. I cannot imagine being married to the same person for years, much less carrying his children and losing him in this way.
The clock has been ticking these last few days.
This morning, when I woke up, the first thing I did was check Katie’s wall. I read several posts before I found Katie’s words this morning and choked back the tears:
Heaven welcomed my Jeff home. A very peaceful passing. I was able to hold his hand through his journey. The Hero Fire Dept. has honored a Brother! I will miss you so very much, you are my heart, soul, and the love of my life. Until we meet again!
R.I.P. Jeff Smit, fallen on January 16, 2013 at 11:50 p.m.
In a short amount of time, I was able to envision a picture of a man who is loved by many. So many people have posted on Katie’s wall, their memories and stories of previous events that people remembered most about him.
The one thing I remember seeing about Jeff, during this time, was a picture of him and his daughter. The family must have had some family pictures taken not long ago. Apparently, the photographer was able to get some pictures of Jeff and their daughter, like she didn’t know it was being taken maybe? And, as much as I’d love to share that picture, I am limiting myself to what I have already included in this blog, unless Katie wants it added to my post.
BUT, I can describe the picture. The look of true love and adoration shined in that little girl’s eyes. I can only imagine that the love displayed in that picture is the type of love needed by all little girls from their fathers; the type of love that keeps teenagers from becoming statistics as teen moms or the next carrier of HIV or the next gang member. You don’t have to read all the loving words left by Jeff’s friends and family when you see a picture like this.
You can see the look of HERO in his daughter’s eyes. How can a person not feel sad and cry when you read that and see those pictures?
If one thing can be learned from this, it is this:
Life is too short for half-assing it. If you want to do something bad enough, then do it. Stop worrying about what others will think and what will happen tomorrow or the next day. Forever is not real in the physical form. Do the best you can with what you have today. Forever is where a person stays in another’s heart. Many people’s lives are touched forever and will always have those memories guiding their future steps.
For lives he has saved and touched, this tribute is in loving memory of Jeff Smit.