A Year – An Open Letter to Jeff


It’s been a year since you left this earth.   One year ago today, our family and friends surrounded you, and held you, and prayed for your peaceful passing.  One year ago today, the nurses gently removed the intubation tube and turned off the half dozen “pressers” that kept your heart beating long enough for those close enough to get to you to say goodbye.

One year ago today that my life came crashing down; never, ever, to be the same.

So much has happened to me over this year.  I think often about the conversation we’d have if you just strolled in the front door.   Some laughter, some tears, a number of shared regrets.

Mostly, I think you’d be proud of me.  I think you’d like my choices.

Ok, maybe not my choice to live without a car or letting the kids take all your good kitchen gadgets in a hilarious rock/paper/scissors fest.  Caitlin got the big KitchenAid mixer, and Nathan the panini press.  You wouldn’t like the new throw pillows I picked out or that I’ve given much of your wildlife art collection away (all went, or are going to, loving, appreciative homes-to those who loved you).  You’d hate that I have strangers caring for your beloved pugs during the day and that I sometimes leave them for a weekend to go on a getaway.  You were a stay-at-home pug parent, and I’ve outsourced much of that I’m afraid.  Latch-key pugs.

But you’d like that I moved to the city (something you Enumclaw boys would never do, but you knew I yearned for).  You’d be proud that I took a big chance and changed jobs.  You’d be proud that I am embracing today and every day with everything I have.  You’d be happy that I am happy. You’d be happy that I didn’t just roll over and quit.  It would have been so easy to do that.

I’m not going to go so far as to say you’d be instantly happy that I have found new love- I know you better than that, Jeff Nicolai.  You’d be critical.  You’d be looking the new guy up and down and sizing him up and trying to find things that are wrong.  You’d get that patented Hess-crinkled nose, hard stare look on your face. Nothing was ever as comical (and as scary) as seeing you and your mom with that same look on your face having a Hess-off.   But then this new guy in my life would cook for you or tell you a funny story or gently bust some chops or shake up a conversation- and you’d begrudgingly say, “This guy is alright.”   You’d definitely be telling me not to give a f*ck about what anyone else thinks.  In those exact words.

The kids, my God, you’d be so proud of them.  Caitlin kicking med school’s ass; Nathan getting ready to start a summer surveying internship and taking life by the horns.  Carly and Logan traveling the world like some sophisticated, gorgeous, travel power-couple straight out of Conde Naste.  You’d love to see how Nicole looks at Nathan and how cute Rob is with Caitlin.  You’d be bragging.  You’d be absolutely obnoxious about all of it because that’s how you were.

You were so PROUD of all of us when you were on this earth:  I know you drove coworkers and family members and friends practically crazy with it.   You gave each of us a gift, Jeff.  A gift we carry with us and will carry with us for the rest of our lives.   You loved us unconditionally.   Me and my tribe of babies.  You took us in and made us your own and loved us unconditionally.  So remarkable.

The world misses you, Jeff Nicolai.  We miss your laugh. We miss your mischievousness. We miss your sarcasm, and we miss your meatloaf.   We even miss your ass-hat moves.  Yes, you had so many jack-ass moves that you and I had a running joke: you’d say something rude, crude or socially unacceptable and then look at me and bray, make donkey ears, and laugh.   You were seriously the funniest person I’ve ever met.  Quick-witted and acid-tongued with a very limited filter.  People either got you or they didn’t.  And you didn’t much care if they did or didn’t.  And I loved that about you…most times.

A year.  A lifetime ago.  A minute ago.  My life changed irrevocably when you left this earth.  It’s as if I am in a new life.  Jeff_oneyear.jpgThere was the life that we shared, and there is now.  There is before, and there is after. I will forever be grateful for those 18 years we shared; for that life we lived.  We had some crazy hurdles and some intense heartache, but I wouldn’t give back a minute, Jeff, if it meant never having what we had.  Not a minute.  How you blessed us all.

You should know that you left behind a strong, resilient family.  Carly, Caitlin, Nathan, and me.

You should know that we are your legacy.

You should know that, although your heart stopped beating one year ago today, your very essence breathes on in each of us.

You should know you are forever loved.  Forever.

I will love you forever.


9 thoughts on “A Year – An Open Letter to Jeff

  1. So perfectly said ! I am crying that ugly half breathing cry. Stephanie, your are so amazing! Love you, and I love & miss Jeffy so very much!

    1. Dan, I’ve been ugly crying all weekend….what’s a little snot among great friends? Dan, Jeff adored you. You were such a friend to him all the way to the end. I’ll never ever forget the loyalty and persistence and patience – I will love you always for it. <3 Steph

  2. Dan, I’ve been ugly crying all weekend…what’s a little snot between friends? He loved you. You were the very best friend to him all the way to the end. I’ll love you forever for this Dan. ❤️

  3. Beautiful! Still unbelievable! You are spot on. Jeff will live in our hearts forever! And a lot of chuckles with his personality! Proud of you Stephanie ❤️Jeff is proud of you too😍🤩

  4. I should have known better than to read this at work. It’s beautiful, and heartfelt. I don’t know if I could have handled the year so gracefully. No, let me rephrase that. I absolutely know I wouldn’t. Thank you for sharing this open letter. Your love was and is evident. My best to you as you continue your journey.

  5. Oh give me a break. Crying at work. That’s ridiculous. Jeff would want you all to get a serious grip. Sniff. Sniff.

  6. Thanks for the treasured memories! I know that Jeff and Faye are very proud of the family and the continued blessings that we are all able to share! Love and hugs! Ji

  7. Oh man Steph. This brought me to tears. Beautifully written. He WOULD be so proud of all of you. Especially you. You are kicking life’s ass! Love you, my friend ❤️

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