My hope is that you find this site as a source for inspiration as well as a safe place for you to share your thoughts. I’ve thought so much about where to even begin! There are just so many facets to losing a loved one and it seems so overwhelming to try to tackle them all at once. I decided that I want you to know first where I’ve come from and my personal journey in losing my husband. If you read the “About Sheila” section of this site, you know that my husband died from brain cancer in January 2010. He battled for 14 years which is an unbelievable amount of time to live with a terminal illness. With the time and knowledge comes much stress and a very calculated way of living life; yet it also comes with many blessings. Below is the eulogy that I delivered at Jeff’s funeral:
A Tribute to Jeff Turner 3/4/1972 – 1/31/2010
First I would like to thank you all for coming. The amount of love and support has been overwhelming and will forever be treasured.
It is so hard to believe we are really here today. It is a scenario I have envisioned for years since his diagnosis and one which I never wanted to happen. A scenario that, according to all statistics, should have happened long ago. But little did cancer know back in 1995, that it had met its match and his name was Jeff.
Many of you who knew Jeff did not know he had cancer until recently and that’s exactly how he wanted it. He fought this disease for 14 years quietly enduring daily seizures, multiple surgeries, countless rounds of radiation and grueling chemotherapy treatments. There was never one day that Jeff did not have to deal with symptoms of his brain tumor. Cancer was present in our every day, through our entire marriage and part of every decision we ever made.
We met in college way back in 1991. Jeff was a bad boy and I was a good girl (insert wink wink here). We were quite the duo from the start. We had fun together, shared a love for music and fitness and had big big goals for our future. We were a match made to last forever.
So imagine our shock when just 7 weeks after we were married, Jeff was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Talk about growing up real fast! We were thrust into a world we knew nothing about and into a whole new way of living. Back in 1995, this prognosis was grim and we had to decide, do we get busy living or get busy dying? Yep, we chose to live.
The truth is, no one ever knows just how much time they have on this earth. It is not up to us to decide but it IS up to us what we do with our time. While Jeff’s diagnosis was grim, his zest for life was full and therefore we chose to embrace the days we had and did the best we could. Who would have known that Jeff would survive for 14 ½ more years with his disease? No One. But if you don’t get busy living, you will find that you’ve missed out on an awful lot.
So we started a family, bought a house, continued with our jobs and lived our lives the best we could. We dedicated ourselves to raising money and awareness for cancer research and better legislation and taught our children the importance of doing their part to help others and be active in their community. Although cancer was a part of our lives, it was never the focus of our family. We enjoyed the days as they came and tried to be present in every moment we had.
There is a poem by Carolyn Matthews called Strange Blessings that I find quite fitting.
“Life can be puzzling. Just when everything is going so smoothly, out of the blue in sails a storm – in the guise of an illness, accident or disease. It’s natural to ask God, Why Me Why Now? We’re told that God works in mysterious ways, so it’s only by taking the time to turn inward as our misfortune has forced us to do – we realize that rather than focusing on how much we have lost, our reflection has helped us to see how much we how much we still have.”
If there is one thing this disease had taught us, it was the importance of slowing down. We didn’t need to fill the empty spaces of our day. And it forced us to put all those “little things” in perspective. Cancer taught us that plans and agendas aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Oh we tried to plan; we tried to organize but quickly realized that we weren’t the ones in charge here. So we stopped getting so far ahead of ourselves and realized something – You see, sometimes not having a plan is good. When you stop looking down at what’s on your plan, you start to look up at the world. Your eyes are wide open to discover the here and now.
I guess you could say we learned to “fly by the seat of our pants”. Just last spring, I remember we decided to take the kids to NYC for no particular reason. We hopped on the train and went. No plan, no map, no agenda, no show tickets, nothing. We didn’t have to get there by any particular time; we didn’t have any reservations for dinner… I know, that would cause many of you quite a bit of anxiety. But it’s times like these when you are open to adventure, you have to find your way and you can discover so much more than you ever imagined. We discovered so much that weekend, including that the kid’s favorite part of the trip was sleeping on the sofa bed at the hotel. Go figure, right?
Jeff lived his life fully and open to adventure. Most times, he was so content being at home reading books or playing board games with the kids but he would go willingly, often shaking his head, when I came up with another crazy adventure. Anyone who knew Jeff knew that his children were his absolute #1 priority. He couldn’t wait to get home from work every day to spend as much time as possible with his kids. He would take them everywhere with him and tucked them into bed every night with a prayer and a kiss. Jeff had the honor and pleasure of coaching Kyle and the “Amazing Rays” to a Minor B Little League Championship last year. He took off from work every time Eve had a performance at school. He was the best father I could ever have asked for. What a fine, fine example Kyle and Eve have to guide them in the future. It makes me so proud. Jeff knew that his time here on earth was limited but it wasn’t going to stop him from making a difference.
So I stand up here before you today to celebrate Jeff. To celebrate his life, his strength and his resolve. I stand here to celebrate his courage to face each day with the best he had, to never waiver in his faith in God and his family.
I am also so incredibly grateful to our family and friends for their constant support. Our family – for all the times you took the kids during his treatments, all the times you got them off the school bus, all the times you drove him to his appointments…All of the support and love you have given our family has been what has gotten us through this and will continue to see us through. Our friends – for all of the days you have been with us – to be there to laugh, cry, complain, smile with. Every single moment will always be treasured.
To Jeff’s doctors and nurses. Words will never be enough to thank you for all you have done. Dr Curtis Miyamoto, Kathy Hackney, Dr. Ali, Steve Coyle, Ed, Lil, Norma, Myra and many more were just as determined to make sure cancer didn’t get the best of Jeff. We became a family instantly. We laughed, we cried, they were there as Jeff and I started a family and watched it grow and have always been Jeff’s number 1 cheerleaders. I will forever be grateful to his amazing team of doctors and nurses who did everything they could to give Jeff a full and happy life.
I know that today is so incredibly difficult for all of us and it seems so unfair that God would take him at such a young age. I want you know that Jeff is at peace. He fought such an amazing fight and I am honored, and will always be honored to have been his wife. I want you to remember Jeff as the ultimate example of a fighter. A man, who when faced with a grim prognosis 14 years ago, decided that cancer would not have the last word.
So we celebrate Jeff’s life and the wonderful example he is to us to take each day and treat it as a gift. Every once in a while, think of Jeff, throw out your plan and discover the world around you. In times of struggle, try not to focus on the dark side of what you are facing, but instead look at what you have and do the best you can with it. And always, always, always LIVESTRONG. ~With Love, Sheila