You know that teeny pang—a bit of envy, resentment maybe, self-doubt–you get when a friend makes good? Especially when you’re feeling a little low yourself?
I know I do. When my own life’s road has been bumpy—and I’m not proud of this—I’ve too often confronted those ugly emotions bubbling up from a self I don’t want to be.
Except when it comes to Jeff Zaslow.
Jeff Zaslow, who, until yesterday, caught that “lightening in a bottle” brand of exceptional success not once but many times, was a man I could only, purely, always, be happy for. Whatever joys he experienced—I wished him only more.
I imagine that’s because…he was Jeff Zaslow. Someone who, no matter what he got, always gave a little more.
I met Jeff when we were in our mid-twenties, in Chicago. We’ve been friends almost thirty years, sometimes more in touch, sometimes less. No matter how long it had been since we last talked, I knew I could pick up the phone any time and hear that inimitable, welcoming, grinning voice, saying “Jooooody” and in an instant he made me feel like the most important person in the world.
Always curious. Always funny. Always humble. Always caring. Incredibly generous.
I moved to New York, then Denver and he eventually to Detroit; I never got to know Sherry or their girls; only met them through Jeff’s emailed pictures and updates.
But I can’t imagine the depth of their loss. Losing Jeff devastates me as “chat a few times a year” friend. Losing his daily grounding love and support (and humor) will be an awful blow, and I am so very sorry for them, and his parents and in-laws and siblings.
When a loved one dies, it can help to hear that others loved him and will miss him. To know he was seen. At least in this respect, for Jeff’s family and close friends, there will be no end to hearing the love.
Jeff grabs your heart, jumps in and never leaves. I hope his family can find solace in knowing he lives forever in so many hearts both known to them and not. I hope his written legacy helps (thank God for his last book, inspired by and written for his girls!).
It helps me to know he truly–as he aspired to do–lived his life. His was not a life filled with many regrets for words unspoken or love unshared.
So, as Jeff was one of the most present people I’ve ever met, I’m committed to trying to fill the hole his absence leaves by remembering, in dark times, to perhaps be more like him.
Not perfect. But so very real, and so invested in other people’s happiness.
Ha’makom yinachem etchem be’soch shar avehei Tzion ve’Yerushalim.
Lovely tribute to Jeff here: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/local/author-jeff-zaslow-dies-at-age-53