Monday, September 1, 2008

Building a Monument

We are writers. We paint pictures and build things with words. Let's build a monument to honor Jeff Watkins. What are your memories? Who was he to you? Who is he still?

For those of you who didn't know him, I'll give you a little synopsis. He was born with an inability to feel the entire front of his body. When he was a baby, he punctured his own eyes several times because he couldn't feel it, so they had to be removed. The doctors told his mother that he wouldn't live to be 2 years old. Not only did he live, he learned to walk and talk. He went to school and participated in the creative arts at Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, MA.

I am who I am today in part because Jeff was my friend. He put my life into perspective with his vary presence.

I met him at a Cross Current retreat at Doubling Gap, PA. We were in the same group and one night after a session he said, "Let's go somewhere and talk" I asked him why and he said, "Because I don't know you very well." So, I bundled him up and we sat outside on the porch rockers and talked.

For the past few years, he has been a member of this writer's group. I, along with other group members took turns picking him up and taking him to group and then home again. During those car rides, we talked about life, real life. Jeff didn't pretend like everything was fine when it wasn't. He always told it like it was and expected me to do the same. He could always tell just by the sound of my voice if I was sad, tired or upset. He would always ask about it and he would listen.

We sang songs to the radio. He was from OH just like me. We spent a lot of time talking about radio stations in OH. He knew them all and what type of music they had played in the past and what was currently being played. He could tell me the artist and year of almost every song that we heard. He laughed at me when I would start to belt out a girlie song that of course he didn't know the words to.

He put up with my freakish driving. He would always tell me when a motorcycle or a big truck would go by (sometimes it was just a Honda with a HUGE muffler on it).

He loved coke. We stopped at McDonald's or Chick Fillet every week to get him a coke.

He loved action movies with a lot of suspense. He also loved movies with a good story. I learned to love movies in a different way as I explained things to him. He "saw" more than I ever did.

He used to give a Christmas concert every year. Last year it was at my house. He came over one afternoon to work on the program with me. The concert was about an hour long. He dictated the program to me and I typed it out. The day of the concert, he went right down the program schedule without missing anything. He sang songs in English, Spanish, and Hebrew. It was a wonderful performance by Jeff and his friend Philip.

He was an amazing leader and teacher. He had a fabulous sense of humor. He was kind, gracious, and patient. I am so blessed to have known him.

1 comment:

Encouraged In Heart said...

I didn't have the opportunity to know Jeff for long, but the time I did know him...he made a deep impression.

It was not just his faith...his humor...his courage...his ability to be passionate about what he was his boldness that captivated me.

Two weeks ago at writer's group, Jen, Al and I were remembering our brother, and I vowed to honor Jeff by a bold act of faith...cause that's what Jeff represented to me, bold faith. I compared him to Peter in the Bible...a bold man of faith.

This past week I stood with my oldest son at his bus stop, where I remembered we didn't pray before heading out the door. I felt nervous at first, then I said, "no way...this one's for Jeff." We held hands and prayed, surrounded by our many yet-to-be-saved-neighbors and thanked God for Jeff.

Thank you Jeff for your sphere of faith and influence has deeply touched me and many others, my sons too...

With the promise of heaven, it isn't truly, "Good bye" ... it's,
"I'll see you in just a little while my brother."