Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Grief -- it should be a four letter word. I can count, I know it isn't. But right now I feel like it is.
My hubby says I'm ignoring it. But I feel like I'm eight-feet deep in it -- and I'm only 5'4" so that means I'm in way over my head.
What's it even supposed to feel like?
Crying? Check.
Anger? Check.
Fear? Check.
Disbelief? Check.
Pain? Check.
Denial? Check.
Acceptance? I'm not there yet.
How can you accept something like this at 30. It isn't supposed to happen this way. Months before the arrival of Poppy even.
But in the same breath (and the same set of tears), it was an amazing 30 years. So many people don't get a fraction of what I got. We all have said over and over again -- both to make things easier for us and easier for those around us -- that we'd rather have had the amazing quality of years we had with him than had twice as long and have had the time be mediocre.
Michael keeps saying -- and I know he is right -- soon all I will think about and remember are the great memories, the amazing 30 years I had. But right now my mind too often goes to those last few days -- me feeding my non-responsive father, him begging me to let him get out of bed, the image of his last breath. I keep thinking about what I will miss. What my child (and future children) will miss. What Michael will never get to experience. The pain that mom must be going through. All of the things the rest of the world will never get to experience because dad is no longer in this world.
On Jan. 28 we said goodbye to the greatest dad ever. I laid in bed with him, my hand gripping his right hand so tightly, refusing to let go. My mom stroked his spikey hair snuggled next to him in the hospital bed in what used to be dad's sanctuary -- his music room. The ritual of mom rubbing that soft hair was ingrained in her mind as she'd done it so much during his sleepless, pain-filled nights he'd been burdened with since his diagnosis. Sarah knelt next to him her hands holding his left hand, her head resting on his shoulder.
We sobbed, telling him how much we loved him, how we would be OK, we promised to take care of each other. He took his last breath, finally his face at peace after days of agitation and obvious pain.
He was diagnosed with cancer two weeks before my wedding, told he'd be released from the hospital with hospice the day before my 30th birthday and died exactly 25 weeks before my due date.
When dad was diagnosed in March 2010, they told us he would have a year if he did nothing to fight the disease taking over his once strong, hulking body. Dad did the opposite -- he did everything he could. That strong, too big, body was whittled down to close to half it's original size.
He suffered through intensive seeded radiation. He did rounds of excruciating and nauseating chemo. He soldiered through painful bowel issues caused by all the medicine he was ingesting.
If dad had it his way, he would have just chilled until the end. He would have never wanted to go through what he did that last week in January.
He did that for us.
He did everything for us.
He loved mom, Sarah and me more than anything else.
And I'm one of the luckiest people in the world because it didn't take dad getting sick for me to realize that. I hope to God that he knew that we loved him just as much well before his diagnosis, and he never doubted it.
That's the joy of being raised by social workers. We are a family where nothing goes unsaid -- for good and bad, but mostly for good.
I want to share two things -- what Sarah and I wrote for the funeral and also dad's obituary. I wrote the obituary the day after he passed. I couldn't imagine trusting dad's legacy with any one else, dad deserved so much more than even what I could have written.
And when I'm a little stronger, I want to talk about those last few days. I want to share the good and the bad -- I need to get it out, process it all. But also, I want to not have it so ingrained in my brain, but I think it is important to have it somewhere. Why not here?


Jeff Brown referred to his wife Bev Brown as his angel since he was first diagnosed with cancer in March 2010. On Jan. 28, 2011, Jeff became Bev’s angel when he died at home surrounded by his loving family.

Jeff had many passions in his 56 years of life. He crusaded for issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, HIV/AIDS awareness and ending hunger. But his biggest passion was always his family.

Bev describes their more than 34 years of marriage as a roller coaster ride – fun and exciting and at times a little unpredictable. Their twin daughters – Abbey Brown Doyle and Sarah Brown Spurgeon – held a special spot in Jeff’s heart.

The sisters each have their own special memories and moments of their father. His daughters' adventures both near and far were his favorite stories to tell for this vivid storyteller to share.

Jeff never worried about his declining health or the pain it might bring; his only concern was about missing out on all the future memories he had yet to make with the ever-growing Brown clan.

With the November announcement of his first grandchild, Jeff was overjoyed. He’d started stretching his grandpa muscles a few years back with "grandkitty" Comilla Spurgeon and "grandpuppy" Van Gogh Doyle.

Jeff had already made plans to teach Baby Doyle how to write haiku and throw a curve ball. Although he won’t be here for the arrival of his grandchild, Jeff will live on through the countless stories family and friends will share.

In addition to his nuclear family, Jeff was blessed by a tremendously close and supportive extended family of in-laws. He often joked that he was an “out-law” but considered each of them his sons, brothers, sisters, mother and father.

Some of his best memories were made with those family members on Bev’s family farm in Alpha, Ill. And that same family is the one that has helped support him through these past tough months.

Jeff was born in Belvidere, Ill., on Nov. 8, 1954, and grew up there. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

For more than 28 years, Jeff dedicated his life to helping people as a licensed clinical social worker. He specialized in treating addictions, and along the way he touched many lives both professionally and socially.

Friends would describe Jeff as gregarious, the life of any party and someone who never met a stranger. He often joked that the world revolved around him, and his intelligence and ease in conversation often made people agree.

Jeff shared his lifelong passion for the New York Yankees with his brother-in-law Chuck McLaughlin and nephew Wade McLaughlin. One of Jeff’s fondest memories was a trip to New York with Chuck and his sons Wade and Ryan to see Yankee Stadium one last time.

His love for music was one of his stronger passions as well. Jeff’s record and CD collection at a time numbered in the thousands, and he could name each one. Music was a passion his daughter Sarah shared with Jeff.

His gift for the written word was one that shocked many. Jeff was a published poet, had articles in national publications and helped do clinical writing for his profession. Daughter Abbey has followed in his footsteps, carrying on the writing legacy for her dad as a journalist.

Jeff’s love for Christ was evident in his actions. A longtime member of Community United Methodist Church, he often was one of the only tenors to sing in the choir. Like his touching poetry, the sweet sound of Jeff’s voice coming from such a strong presence was often shocking. In addition to choir, Jeff was involved in several missions and men’s projects at the church.

He lived life to the fullest, and he and his family never doubted their strong and forever love for each other.

Survivors include wife Bev, of Vincennes; daughters and sons-in-law Abbey and Michael Doyle of Anderson, Sarah and Chris Spurgeon of Evansville; mother Patricia Stewart of Belvidere, Ill.; sister Kristine and Mike Mollway of Machesney Park, Ill.; and several nieces and nephews that he loved dearly.

Jeff was preceded in death by his father and step-mother Russell and Janet Brown.

Visitation for Jeff will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday at Goodwin Funeral Home with his Celebration of Life service at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Community United Methodist Church with Ray Tromley and the Rev. Cheryl Garbe officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Good Samaritan Hospital Hospice or Community United Methodist Church Grief Support Fund.

Online condolences can be sent to

From Abbey:

It’s been a lifetime of shoes for dad and me. We both love them. I once had a room dedicated to them. Dad could have had a wing for his collection. He was a man of great – well let’s just say eclectic – taste when it came to fashion.

Some of my earliest and fondest memories of Abbey and dad moments are when he would “dance me” resting gently atop one of those shiny pairs of shoes. We’d rock back and forth, my head barely grazing his knees. Dad would pick me up and swing me around, dancing to such songs as “My Girl,” which he would sing to me while I sang, “My dad,” back to him.

Flash forward more than two decades and once again I’m stepping on dad’s toes. This time it is just my inherited clumsy manner, not our dance technique. But as my nerves settled during our father daughter dance at my wedding – just a few weeks after I’d learned of his diagnosis with cancer – tears welled up in my eyes as all I wanted to do was say, “Daddy, can I hop on those shoes and have you dance me?” Instead I snuggled into his shoulder and let the tears fall.

It didn’t take dad getting sick for us to express our emotions – Sarah and I were raised by two social workers, what else could you expect. I’m grateful we didn’t leave anything unsaid.

Certainly I wish Dad was still here so I could tell him, “I love you,” a million more times. I wish he were here to help Michael and I raise our children. I wish I could ask him what kind of noodles to cook for dinner. I wish I could ask him if I should go with a Toyota or Honda. I won’t get to ask those questions but I know in my heart that everything that needed to be said has been.

Without a doubt I knew my daddy loved me. I also know he always realized how important he was to me and how much everything he has taught me means to me.

We promised dad that we would take care of each other. He didn’t worry for a second about how hard this whole thing would be for him, dad just worried about us. That was dad. Memories abound – meeting a boyfriend for the first time wearing a tutu on his head, painting his toe nails in sparkly pink, protective talks about no dating until graduating from medical school and talks about the baby.

I know dad was over the moon about becoming a grandpa. Telling him I was pregnant was one of the best moments for me. And even though Dad will never physically be able to meet his first grandchild – I know dad will be watching over us and his memories and lessons will definitely be passed on.

I love you daddy.

From Sarah:

Dad always shared his full self with us. This was through stories, writing, long talks and sometimes tears. The truth was at times colorful but I feel like we had the privilege of truly knowing him.

I am thankful for the appreciation of music he shared with me. From music quizzes – quick, artist, album, title and year! – on our car rides together, to long discussions about new music we wanted to introduce to each other, it was something special we shared. Dad was always patient with listening to me rattle on when I would call about anything; a silly fight Chris and I had, what had happened at work, about my first day of school each semester and after taking tests. He helped me cook and write papers over the phone and I am so glad he shared with me the secret of his world’s best tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I will think of him every time I make them. He gave great advice, which for me mostly came down to “just take a breath and think about it for a minute”.

Through the love and respect he showed mom in their marriage he taught me the value of a strong relationship. This helped me find a good husband who got to know dad as a friend and father. Someday when we have children of our own I know he will be looking down on us to help our kids have great grammar and learn how to throw that curveball. I love him so much and will miss him every day but I know he will live on through our memories and stories. Abbey and I are lucky to have had such a great dad and I would not trade anything for the time we had with him. I am proud to say I am my father’s daughter.


I miss my daddy.

1 comment:

  1. I am thinking about Jeff today. I was so extraordinarily fortunate to be one of the many people who Jeff went willingly out of his way to help. His unexpected arrival in my life was a pivotal point in my growth as a human being. I was not a typical client for Jeff, but after hearing my story, and finding out that we both hailed from Wisconsin, he miraculously and graciously found time in his busy schedule to help me sort out a very challenging time. He gave me a vast array of tools with which I am still carving out my place in this world. He taught me to appreciate my successes, but more importantly he guided me patiently, with the expertise of seasoned veteran, to a recognition of just how important my interpretation of failure was. He allowed me to learn that there is a lesson in everything I experience in this life, and that I shouldn't concentrate so hard on where I went wrong, but to be more observant of what I learned from making a less than optimal decision. He helped me, inspired me, and believed in me. He was truly instrumental in helping me to open up a place in my soul where I could make peace with myself and those around me. He was never obligated to do these things for me by anything but his beautiful nature. I am grateful for Jeff Brown.