April 26, 2014

A Tribute to My Brother, Henry Jefferson Heath 1948-2006

Jeff Heath - Age 21
Today marks the 8th anniversary of my oldest brother Jeff's death. He is sorely missed and prayed for daily, though I am sure he must be enjoying by now his time with my parents in Heaven. "Ah-Ha!" you may say. "You don't know that...you can't possibly know that!" "You speak foolishly!" "Ah-Ha! Gotcha!"

Well... no you don't "Gotcha". With every fiber of my being, with every kernel of  every Catholic teaching I've ever known, with every prayer sent Heavenward for his Soul at every Mass I hear, with the knowledge of how he sacrificed himself to care for our aged parents, with knowing how he and my youngest sister Patty conspired and sacrificed to get my Mother out of a nursing home and back to her home to live out the few years left to her, with seeing him and his family caring for our Dad for the 10 years he lived past Mom's death...the list goes on and on. So you ask how am I so sure? Because he lived, breathed and died the 4th Commandment with its inherent and guaranteed legacy: 

"Honour thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest be longlived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee." (Exodus 20:12)

So...I believe in the promise as set forth by God Himself of the reward that awaits for those who live this Commandment. Can I do anything else but believe that he is now enjoying his Eternal Reward? No...and I would be hard pressed to be swayed otherwise. 

Jeff did not have to do any of what he did and if truth be known, probably groaned in fatigue at the mere thought of driving Dad across the river to the St. Louis VA hospital once a month, no small feat in itself during rush hour across the I-70 / Poplar Street Bridge. He could have left it to one of his other 4 siblings. But he did not. It is certain his life would have been much easier, had he opted to - as many have - and shut the aged parents away "for their own good and safety" in a nursing home. But he did not. He could have shucked it all away and not looked back, choosing instead to enjoy his life, his way, with his family. But he did not. 

My Siblings at Dad's Funeral in April 2006.
Jeff is behind me.

My older brother, along with my youngest sister and Jeff were the prime movers in assuring to the needs of our parents in their old age. I had my own young family to care for and could offer little in help, other than my support and prayers. My older sister was unable to do much more than I, though we both gave as much support as we could otherwise. But to those three, and especially to Jeff, the most merit belongs and I am sure will weigh mightily in their favor at their Judgments.

Jeff was killed in a construction zone accident while working for the Illinois Department of Transportation, a job he thoroughly enjoyed and in which he was well liked and respected. This day, instead of driving his big, orange-colored State truck, he was holding the stop-go sign and directing traffic. A truck with a construction trailer failed to slow and when the driver braked hard, the trailer jackknifed and hit Jeff broadside, throwing him into the truck he usually drove. He died upon impact. And there his earthly life ended and his Eternal one began. 

I remarked to my older brother and sisters during the wake of how we should not be sad, tragic though his death was and remained. That he most assuredly had been granted a quick release from this earthly paradise in large part because of his Faithfulness and Fidelity to our parents and the 4th Commandment. It was his reward as promised by God: "...that thou mayest be longlived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee." And the land He has given to Jeff is Heaven.  I don't know that they were all as convinced as I...

There are not enough words that will do justice to what I would like to write of Jeff nor is there enough time to relate more of Jeff's story, though in truth he deserves both. I had made the video below in 2006 as a tribute to Jeff and to his family - wife Linda and kids Melissa and Michael. It is amateur to be sure, but I urge you to play and pause the video and read a bit of his life and know his family - know our family. He was privileged as well, to be buried next to the parents he honored so well...in a grave where no plot existed but in which one was found...which was the privilege of having a high school classmate and friend the County Coroner...and another the American Legion president, who handed his wife the Veteran's flag that draped his casket. His son Michael was privileged to drive in the motorcade the truck his Dad drove every day. Jeff and his family were privileged to have an orange IDOT truck at every intersection along the route to the cemetery, with an IDOT worker in front of each giving a final "Farewell" to their co-worker. And privileged to have State Transportation Officials from Springfield in attendance as well. Yes, his life was full of privileges, though many were never to be known until after his death. Such is the benevolence of Our Lord and another reason for my unshakable belief in Jeff's Eternal Happiness. 

He gave so much of his life to his parents and had so much more of life to live, after Dad's passing just one month earlier. However, a sacrifice made of Love is never wasted, nor does it go unrewarded, whether in this life or the next. Jeff is now reaping that which he sowed and I can only hope that I someday merit the privilege of doing likewise. 

God Bless, Jeff...pray for me and my family, Dear Brother!

 Copyright 2014 David Heath - All Rights Reserved


  1. Such a beautiful tribute to a great man.

    1. Indeed...he was truly a Blessing to our parents, and left a living legacy to his children on the respect owed to their own parents, which will be carried forward through his Grandchildren. His gift will keep on giving...


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