Today is Saturday. On Wednesday, our dear friend and houseguest Jeff, husband of friend Connie and dad of adult daughter Lindsay who arrived last Saturday (and dad to son David, who wasn’t here), passed away in bed at our holiday home in Marloth Park, South Africa. When Connie awoke on Wednesday morning, she assumed Jeff was still asleep.
Checking further, she realized he wasn’t breathing. She came to our door (they were staying in the two guest cottages on our holiday home property), and Tom rushed out to help. As a former fireman, he knew exactly what to do. He confirmed Connie’s assessment. Our friend Jeff had passed away in bed.
Jeff suffered from a fatal disease called MSA, Multiple System Atrophy, described as follows from this site:
“Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a rare condition of the nervous system that causes gradual damage to nerve cells in the brain. This affects balance, movement, and the autonomic nervous system, which controls several basic functions, such as breathing, digestion, and bladder control.”
Jeff’s dream was to come to Africa to see the wildlife, and he did. On Tuesday, we all went into Kruger National Park, and Jeff, sitting in the front seat of their rented van, could see many species throughout the day. That night, when we returned, we had a nice dinner, after which he and Tom watched a Minnesota Vikings football game, enjoying every moment.
When we initially invited them to stay with us, we knew we wanted to do everything we could to make the visit memorable and meaningful for him, Connie, and Lindsey, who were loving and diligent caregivers, never burdened by the challenges, only burdened by the severity of his illness and how little time was left for him to cherish those he loved and his passion for coming to Africa.
Although Jeff’s speech was impaired due to his illness, his brain was sharp, and he and Tom chatted endlessly. It was rewarding to witness how much fun he had been having in the place he longed to see before it was too late. Tom and Jeff always enjoyed lively conversation during the 31 years we’ve all been friends.
Over the past ten years, we’ve been friends; we’ve stayed in touch and had a chance for a few get-togethers when we visited Minnesota. They lived only a few kilometers from our home in our old lives. With Connie as a professional chef and me loving to cook and entertain, we often got together over great food and drinks.
In tomorrow’s post, I will share the process of a foreigner’s passing while in South Africa and the wonderful people who supported the process in the past few days.
I apologize for not mentioning this in the past several posts, which I struggled to write, having to alter some of the text to avoid letting anyone know. I didn’t want to put it out there for the world to see when family and friends needed to be notified of Jeff’s passing instead of seeing it online. Connie had posted a few links to our site before their arrival, and many of their loved ones could have been reading our posts. Now that most of their family and friends have been notified, I can reveal the sorrowful passing of Jeff on our site.
We’ll be back with more tomorrow.
Be well. Cherish the day.
Photo from one year ago today, September 24, 2021:
Comments and responses A heartbreaking loss at our holiday home in the bush…Human, not animal…I had to pretend…
My heart goes out to you all, but Jeff left in happiness .
Love Pauline xxxx
Pauline, thank you for your kind words. You certainly know the sorrow of losing loved ones. Your thoughtfulness is appreciated by our friends and Tom and I.
Jess & Tom
I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. It is so amazing that you and Tom spent his last days with him and his family doing things that he dreamed of doing. May God bring his family and friends comfort and peace in this difficult time.
Thelma May, you are so sweet to write. We all appreciate your kind and thoughtful words. We hope life is treating you well.
Thank you, dear friend…
Jess & Tom