Parting words.

This was my speech delivered at the memorial service for Jerry Huffman at Bass-Smith Funeral Home & Crematory in Hickory, North Carolina on Saturday December 5th.

(Thought I would share... in case you weren't there)

"People loved to say his name. Down in Hickory, it was always “Jerry” “Hey Jerry.” “How are you Jerry?” spoken with a proud southern twang. In New York it was “JERRY” (Using my best Joe Pesci impression) “Hey JERRY... how you dooin?" People loved him. They really did. He was a special guy with a bright shining light. My Dad loved to connect with people. And he always managed to do that in a way that was genuine and unique to each and every person he knew. He sought to make his connections meaningful. He valued and cherished every single relationship.

Life is not about work, or money or material things. Life is about family and friends and the relationships you help create and cultivate. The success of those relationships are what make a person great.

We all had our own Jerry. I think even between my Brother and I… Dave’s Jerry was different from my Jerry. Danny’s Jerry was different from the Jerry that Horace or Lorene knew. Nancy’s Jerry was VERY VERY different from Donna’s Jerry or Julia's Jerry. That’s what was great about him. My Dad was a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

One of the underlying themes in his life was that of duality, contrast. There were times when he was bright, shining, brilliant. And there were times when he was dark and destructive. His life was a magical ride and tragic display of combat residuals. He was a Gemini. Sign of the Twins. He was a Tarheel, but he was also part of the Wolfpack. He was a Southern Boy living in New York City... and.. he suffered from Bi-Polar disorder.

The thing about being bipolar is that it’s a constant struggle to manage mood swings and medications. You can’t beat bi-polar disorder, you can only hope to contain it. So for the past 50 years, Dad did all he could to contain it. Sometimes he won. Sometimes he lost.

He always told me that he first knew he a had real problem when he was at boot camp, right before they shipped him off to Vietnam. He found himself smack dab in the middle of massive manic phase. They were calling him a super soldier because he was running circles around everyone else. He didn’t sleep. He didn’t stop. And on top of all that he was charming as hell. While the guys around him were incredibly impressed. He was scared as hell. But he pressed on. He didn’t really have a choice. I don’t know when that manic phase ended but I’m sure it got him through most of his tour.

When he came home, the depression set it… and that was the beginning of decades of a new war. His battle with bi-polar and of course PTSD. He would go through months of a feeling manic followed by months of unbearable sadness. His medications would help him normalize but they also robbed him of feeling much of anything. Which is often why he would end up going off the meds. He would stop taking his medicine and he would take off like a rocket into another manic phase… working, playing, partying and God knows what else. He would ride that wave as long as he could and if he was LUCKY, he would manage to get himself back on meds before he did too much damage. I'm sure you can see how that’s a dangerous game to play.

I’m sharing all this with you today because it’s not only important to understand where he has been, but where he is going. My Dad has done so many things. He was High School Class President. He was the Quarterback of the Hickory High Red Tornadoes. He got a world class education. He served his country and as a captain in the US Army, he led men in the Vietnam War. He survived. He came home.. started a promising career as a marketing executive in New York City and raised a family.

YES, he had his bad days. Bad months. Bad years. We all know that, but the fact that we are all here today is a testament to his true character.

So I think the most important thing to take away from today, from Jerry’s passing…. one thing we can do to honor Jerry.. is to always remember his light… his brilliance. His charm.

We should honor and appreciate the sacrifices made by our military servicemen and women. Our Veterans are physically, mentally and emotionally malnourished. They experience and endure things that most of us can't even fathom. When a young man goes to war for his country, his sacrifice goes far beyond the time he or she may spend in foreign lands, fighting in trenches, jungles and deserts. They witness daily atrocities. Their friends are murdered in brutal fashion. They kill men.. in similar fashion.. because we ask them to. That sacrifice is for more than a tour... that sacrifice will last a lifetime and that sacrifice... involves us all.

Please know that Jerry loved his country. He adored his family and friends. Please know that my Dad cherished his relationship with each and every one of you... and that it was indeed special and uniquely yours.

We can also honor him by never taking for granted our ability to fully feel the highs and the lows of life... to appreciate the full spectrum of vast human emotion....and recognize that we will always find true happiness in the balance.

May we all take comfort in knowing that Jerry D is finally… truly… free. Thank you."

#VietnamVet #USArmy #PTSD #Bipolar #Veteransaffairs #Beaconhouse #UNC #NCState #NewYork #NorthCarolina #HickoryHighSchool


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