@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
I Should Have Written This Letter Months Ago
I thought about writing this letter months ago. About what your family means to me. About how I’ve always felt privileged to be in your orbit, and treated like family of your own. I thought about writing it so many times, I basically had it written in my head. And now you’re not here to read it. And now you’re gone. I guess what held me back is I didn’t want this letter to feel like a goodbye. Despite all my cynicism, despite the diagnosis and chemo, I really believed there was going to be plenty more time. You wouldn’t die. It couldn’t happen. Not with four kids. Not to your kids. It wouldn’t happen to your wife. Not your wife. I wasn’t supposed to write this letter after you died.
So this is more for me than it is for you. I’m so sorry, Jeff. There couldn’t be anyone less deserving of this fate. There couldn’t be a better family.
Who knew, those many years ago, way back in the fifth grade as I sat, quietly, a shy student in your wife’s class how intertwined our fates would become. That some years after your wife was my teacher, I’d come to your house as a mother’s helper, to watch your first son when he was just a baby. I still remember those days, at your first house. I still remember your first son before he could talk, although now he is in college and towers over me, intelligent, well-spoken.
From mother’s helper to babysitter, I happily watched your family grow from three to four. Then to a bigger house. And your family grew again, to five and then six. All four of your kids I cradled to sleep. I played with them and laughed with them. I watched them grow every step of the way and grew to become an extended family member. Your wife was always there for me. When I was just a kid she treated me as kin, and then as I went from a girl to a woman, she became one of my best friends. I could tell her anything. She has often been the first person I called if I needed advice, or if I had great news to share. I don’t need to tell you how wonderful your wife is. How selfless, fun, compassionate and thoughtful. She is, hands down, one of the greatest humans I have ever known.
And you two, together, were meant for each other. I’ve known few couples who are such a perfect match. Together, as a team, you set the highest example of what a marriage could be. Smart, funny, attractive, cultured and caring— I know life was never without it’s trying moments, but you set a bar for relationship goals. The only thing you guys were better at than being a couple was being parents. Adventurous and playful, but stern about education and showing kindness to others, your kids followed by example how to be the best version of themselves. As their nanny for over a decade, it’s been such a joy to see.
I thank you for always opening your door to me. All those times I simply dropped in. You’d always request that I drop in more. How we’d crack a beer together and talk about films and music. Thank you for taking me on vacations and BBQ’ing and assuring me when I’d get shy that I was family to you.
You weren’t just a surfer by hobby, but you carried the laid back energy of a surfer lifestyle. I’ll always remember you smiling, joking. I’ll always remember you as an exceptional husband, father and friend. This is killing me to write this. This is killing me to write “remember you,” knowing I can’t text you a new song I think you’d like, or drop in and see your face light up.
My heart hurts so much for your wonderful wife and your four amazing kids. They’re so young. They don’t deserve this. And it isn’t fair. This is not how your story was supposed to go. You were supposed to grow old with her. You were supposed to see your other three kids graduate high school. Your daughter’s sweet 16. Their college graduations, weddings and play with your grandkids like you once played with your own kids. Fuck, this isn’t fair. I hate this. I fucking hate this.
I’m so angry, Jeff. And I don’t know what to do with this anger. I don’t know where it’s supposed to go. It’s not like cancer is something you can physically strangle or beat with your hands until your knuckles are bloody. I wish it wasn’t right before Christmas. I wish it was warm and I could paddle out into the ocean and think of you. Your happy place as well as mine. I just wish you were still here.
I saw your kids, Jeff. And they hugged me and we played games and they could still smile. You should see how brave they are for each other. For your wife. They are every bit as good as you. And I promise. For the rest of my life I will always look out for them as much as I did when they were babies. I will try my best to be a beacon for them as you and your wife have been a beacon for me.
I love you, Jeff. I love your whole family. I know you know this. But it was never said enough. Your legacy lives on in your kid’s laughs, in their curiosities and drive to be good. I’m so proud of them. And I’m so proud of you.
I can’t say I believe this world is just. And now, the world has one less special person. But I can say that through the pain we are collectively feeling, our souls will sing praise of your memory and love.
Thanks for setting the example. Thanks for encouraging me in my own dreams. Thanks for making our lives better.