This morning I woke up early and started my Sunday. Today is no normal Sunday for me, since later I’m attending my friend Jennifer Jaff’s memorial service in Hartford, CT. Right now I’m getting dressed and thinking about what the rest of this day is going to be like.
Jennifer was a great friend and mentor to me, so she has a special place in my heart. Many people will be attending the memorial, some as friends, some as family, others as clients or coworkers. I will be one of the few people there that was probably mentored by her.
Jenn and I had many things in common. We both suffered with severe Crohn’s disease, we both wanted to help others with not only IBD but all diseases and we both started our own charities in order to make a difference. Over the 3 years that I knew Jenn we grew very close, as I would discuss many things with her and she would guide me as I was starting the Intense Intestines Foundation. She had already walked the path that I wanted to follow in creating Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illnesses. Her opinion on everything was invaluable to me and her advice was always taken.
I’ll always remember one meeting in particular with Jenn in her new offices in Hartford last February. The IIF was starting to grow in the way I always dreamed and she took time out of her day to sit down with me, catch up as friends and discuss many topics in the nonprofit world. A highlight for me was when I was actually able to help her out. In just a few minutes I was able to set up her computer, website and blog more properly then it was. Something her webmaster didn’t do for some reason. I was so happy that I had the ability to help her out and return a small favor after all she had done for me.
We then got back to talking about the IIF and I told her that I was a little scared. Things were growing and I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with everything ahead. She then looked at me and gave me some advice in order to make things easier. Jenn told me about sites which can help me, software that can make things easier and organizations which help startup nonprofits like mine. Once she gave me about 3 pages of information, she told me something I will never forget she said “Brian I’m proud of you and you’re years ahead of where I was with the IIF.”. Coming from her this meant so much to me. She calmed me down and I left feeling confident that even with all the work I had ahead of me, that things would be okay and the IIF would be great.
After her death in September, I didn’t know what to do for about two days. I was lost and could only think about her in every way. It was such a shock and completely unexpected. Just days prior I read her blog post and everything seemed normal. When thinking about her, I realized I was doing the wrong thing because she would have wanted me to continue to work on the IIF. So I did what I know she would have wanted, which led to me dedicating our 2012 bike ride to her life.
Today is going to be a tough day and I know I will get emotional with everything Jenn and I had in common, plus all that she did for me. I’ll never forget the emails we shared, the phone conversations when I needed help and the advice she never hesitated to give me. Jenn will always be remembered by so many people with all the work she did to help patients all over the world. I’ll remember her in my own was as a mentor and most importantly a great friend.
If you’d like to read my post from the Intense Intestines Foundation’s website, click here.
Never Stay Quiet!