Unforgettable

Jeff Gromis
June 21, 1957 – July 31, 2012

Good friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

Jeff Gromis was a good friend.  To many of us in this room, he was an invaluable friend.  Over the years, I came to know and appreciate Jeff as a man of upstanding moral virtue, as an enduring source of supportive strength and affirming fellowship, as a man well acquainted with hard work, indefatigable commitment, and faithful availability.  He was a patient man who listened and pondered.  He was a man who appreciated excellence and knew that it was found in a tenacious pursuit of the details.  He was a generous man who loved to share his life, home, and family with others.

After receiving the wrenching news about Jeff, my heart broke for Beth, Meghanne, Hillary, Caitlyn, Cole, Madelyn, and Sophie. This was not how it was supposed to go.  Jeff is one of the good guys.  He lived right.  Loved right.  Believed right.  It wasn’t fair.  After the initial emotions, I immediately began remembering more than a decades worth of parties, church events, dinners, conversations, and other shared experiences with the Gromis family.

I know that it is similar for all of us.  I’ve read several of the posts on Facebook walls, heard of the many visits, calls, texts, emails, and the mounds of food.  And as this room fills with thoughts, both expressed and unexpressed, as it fills with questions that seek a logical explanation for an event that does not and will not make sense for a time, and as we cling to our hope in Christ because it suppresses the swell of emotions that continue to assault our hearts, I want to talk about something that we all have and that we will all cherish until we arrive at the appointed day that our faith is made sight.

Here is a quote from Mitch Albom, author of “One More Day”:

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.”

Thank God for memories.

Actions DO speak louder than words and I must say that Jeff Gromis is one of the loudest friends I have ever heard.  He lived a life that spoke loudly because he was a man of action.  And as a result of this, Jeff has left us with many memories; memories of a life well-played and a love that had hands AND feet…not just words.

I remember the enormous sets Jeff would build for my many ideas and productions at Hickory Grove Baptist.  And when my family and I are enjoying our backyard, I remember the role Jeff played in creating the patio that my wife had envisioned and talked about for years.  When I mow my grass, I remember Jeff bulldozing the uneven ground just because he was already there with a Bobcat.  When I drive my truck, I remember Jeff helping to replace the engine so that my family would not have to buy a new vehicle that we could not afford.  When I think of recruiting inexperienced actors for new roles, I remember approaching strong, quiet, and non-dramatic Jeff to see if he would agree to sit upon a throne, 15 feet or more above the stage, wearing football shoulder pads and holding long sticks in each hand, all draped in a white sheet, lit up by stage lighting as if he were the sun, and attempt to pantomime the words of a backstage actor portraying God the Father in Max Lucado’s, “An Angel’s Story”.  He did it.  I remember planning for a large group of friends to eat at Chima’s in Uptown Charlotte and Beth saying, “Well, I’m not sure if Jeff will go.  He always feels like he needs to dig out his passport anytime we go into Charlotte.”  He went and he loved it.  Jeff expressed his friendship, his love, and his faith through action and because of that, many of us today have treasured memories to hold, to remember, and to share.

To close, I want to say this to the family as an outsider that you graciously allowed inside on many occasions.  As I was driving to the office the other day, Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying” was playing on the radio and I thought to myself, “Jeff never saw this coming…none of us did.  But Jeff lived his life in such a way, that in spite of leaving too early, he has left his house in excellent order.  Jeff already lived as if every minute counted.  All his children are a delight.  His wife is a Proverbs 31 woman.  His testimony is unblemished.  Though death came knocking unexpectedly, Jeff lived like he was dying…no regrets.”  Jeff finished strong.

Good friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

Jeff, I will never forget you.

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