There are extraordinary, unique human beings out there that only a few of us get to have and meet in our lives; if you’re lucky, you might have had one, maybe even met one; if not, keep searching. It’s worth it, even if your time is short. One of the most remarkable men to walk this planet has passed away, a saint dressed as a maintenance man. He was only 56. Jeffrey Underhill lived a life of very little apologies, an Aquarian to the core. He lived life on his terms and didn’t give a rat’s ass about anything else. It was either his way or stay out of his way. I met Jeff back in 2017. Although I had just done a little over a year in county jail, I knew that I needed more help to become the man I wanted to become, so I went to the Good Shepherd Center and spent two years there. That is where I met Jeff. That is where our friendship began, a friendship that I will never forget.
When I got to the Shepherd, it was a perfect environment. It’s a jail/prison setting, hardcore but effective rehab. Jeff was the maintenance man. Jeff did everything. He was the van driver, the carpenter, the plumber, you name it, and the Brothers had him doing it. He loved it, and the programmers loved him. Sure he complained like a little girl, but inside and out, he was the face of the Good Shepherd Center. No doubt.
It was my second day there, and I needed my medication filled. Jeff took me, we talked the whole way there and back, he told me who he was, where he had come from, he was born overseas, he had the perfect wife, the perfect job at Sandia National Labs, a few awesome kids, and all and all an ideal life. But, he got involved with drugs and alcohol and lost everything at some point. He even went to rehab once, after 30 days, tried to come home, and his wife would not let him. I could sense that it was terrible. Finally, about ten years ago, he crawled to the Good Shepherd, Julian Ortega let him in, and Jeff started his new journey. It took Jeff a couple of tries to get it right. He left the Shepherd twice, and Julian had to look for him twice, finding him and bringing him back. Julian would never let Jeff forget that, and I can’t tell you how many times Jeff would complain about Julian, saying, “I saved that vatos life.” Still, Jeff told me one day that if Julian ever stopped ragging on him, he would take it as Julian didn’t care anymore.
“How can a Dolphins fan and a Bills fan actually be friends? It’s unheard of. We could never watch the games together but we did bet, and I always lost. I can’t believe you are gone. “
The two years I spent there were magical. At that point, Jeff and I were very close, I was never invited into his tight circle of friends, but as an outsider looking in, he treated me with equal respect. I left the Good Shepherd because I fell in love with a girl. Jeff helped me move all of my stuff to this new apartment that Anna and I had gotten together. He walked in, gave Anna a bear hug, and told her to take care of me. About seven months later, I worked at the Shepherd as the Case Manager. I wouldn’t say I liked it. I was trying to push myself to get that elusive 9 am to 5 pm job. I quit the Shepherd, obviously disappointed many people, including Jeff. I will never forgive myself for leaving on bad terms.
I pursued my passion before the Shepherd and after; web design. I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and one of my biggest supporters and critics was Jeff. Even though I had moved on, I kept communicating with Jeff for three years. Every website I made went through him. First, he would critique, and I would change whatever he thought was necessary to change. We had lunch several times and texted daily. Then my world got knocked upside down, and only a select few knew about this. Besides my family, Jeff was the only outside influence that helped.
A month ago, Anna, my girlfriend, dumped me. I fell apart. I stopped working, eating, sleeping. It’s been a month from hell. Jeff was the first person Anna met when she moved here from San Francisco, they hit it off, and Jeff was placed on Team Anna. Whenever I would be texting or talking to Jeff, he always asked about her. The following day Jeff came to the house to make sure I was ok. He didn’t come in. He just drove that loud ass Mustang down my block. He wanted to know if I needed anything and quit crying like a little girl, and he was happy that Anna dumped me because she was too good for me. I thanked him for the fantastic pep talk, and he drove away.
The following three and a half weeks were brutal. Anna moved out, I said things that I shouldn’t have said, I contemplated suicide, I haven’t worked, but the good news was that I didn’t and haven’t relapsed. Jeff had been calling and texting. He was worried. On Monday, he told me that he was coming over to talk. I said, great, thank you. You have to understand, I don’t have a car, as of right now, I don’t have a job (I’m a web designer if I can’t create I can’t work), I’m isolated in this house, I have had zero human contact, and it’s been not very pleasant. But knowing that Jeff was on his way, made life a whole lot better.
I opened the garage, Jeff and that fancy Wimbledon White Mustang came pulling in. I was ecstatic to see him, I had not hugged this guy for a few months, so happy to see him, and even more so, the guy cares. He gets out and, I look at him, and I ask where Jeff was and why he had his car. The person in front of me was Jeff, but he was unrecognizable to me. He looked like a late-stage four cancer patient.
“I never saw Jeff get mad until one day I was a VC, before I become staff and I was doing to much and he ripped me a new soul. But then 30 mins later we went to eat at Stuffy’s “
I had to help him out of the car, into my house and into the most comfortable chair I could find. I had no clue what was wrong with him. He told me to sit down, and he began ripping me a new as*ho**. He knew my goal was to get a second chance with Anna, and he had mentioned that he had a plan on his way over, I was eager to hear what it was. He said that his plan was to call Anna and tell her to run as fast as she could away from me because I didn’t deserve her, and that she would be a fool for taking me back. I ask him if this was the intro to his famous plan or was that the plan in general? We talked about my relationship issues for about an hour. We went for a smoke, again, I had to help him out of the chair and then helped him get back in. I asked Jeff how he was doing. I wasn’t ready for the four hour conversion we were about to have, and he never told me to bring a fire extinguisher.
THE ALMOST ENDING
I want to be clear about this, Jeff is an Aquarius, and so am I, most people find that we are extremely difficult to get along (ask Anna), we rarely show emotions, the few friends we do have we treat like solid gold, we hate to cuddle (although I will try harder) and we see life differently than most. In short, f*** the status quo. I don’t think that Jeff knew he was going to die 24-48 hours later, but the way he was talking to me, there was a different tonality in his voice, the great man was sad. He went on a four hour rant, burning everything and everyone in sight.
Jeff starts out by talking about property taxes/homeowners association fees, $2400 a year, and how he had no money left from when he left the Shepherd, you can stack bills high and mighty when you don’t need money. He started talking trash about his, as he called them, former best friends and not to get into details, but how they betrayed him by leaving him alone in the house, with all the bills, unfinished projects, a brand new bed that was left there, etc. I didn’t even know he had roommates. The he starts talking about his family, his ex-wife, that’s when he told me the story of coming back from rehab and her not letting her in, and then going and popping the valve stems out of her tires, he was on rant. Then he was telling me about the new Brothers at the Shepherd, how they sent Brother Sean away, and gave me the update on that one. Jeff had nothing but respect for the Brothers, as I do as well, the Good Shepherd Center saved both of our lives. Then he asked me if I was good, because he had to leave cause the Brothers wanted him to do work at the Villa in the morning, I told him no, but, I’ll survive. I helped him from the chair to the his Mustang and he turned it on and drove off and that was the last time I was ever going to see one of my best friends ever again.
A good friend called me Thursday morning and told me Jeff was dead. I don’t know what happened in the next 24-48 hours, but somewhere along the road Jeff’s body told him it was time. I only got a chance to know him for five years, some you have known him for a lifetime, he was an animated character that made a difference in the lives of everyone around him. That’s how you measure the soul of a man, how many lives did he touch? Jeff had to of touched the lives of thousands of programmers, given out at least a million cigarettes, and literally always had his door open. It’s has been a shitty month in my life, I lost Anna, and, I lost Jeff. Jeff made up about 25% of my moral support network and Anna made up 60% of my moral support, I lost them in the same month. They say that a human is never forgotten until the last person that is alive forgets about you, well, then Jeff will never be forgotten. New Mexico lost a great man, a forward thinking individual who never ever cared about himself, it was about the impact he wanted to leave behind, and boy did he. He is a Hall of Fame superstar from the Good Shepherd Center, please make sure that his picture on the death wall at the Shepherd is placed at the top of everyone else’s.
Jeff, it was breathtaking knowing you. I am honored that you came and helped me with the love of my life, you could have been doing anything, but you came a helped me, and don’t worry, I’ll be there to kick it with you soon enough. Jeff, I will never forget you, you will always have a place in my heart, and I will think about you every day.
The Good Shepherd Center
If you have a loved one suffering from addiction the Good Shepherd Center can help. Please give them a call, it will be the smartest thing you’ve ever done for yourself, a family member, or a loved one.
“To serve, with respect and compassion, the most vulnerable in our community by providing sustainable resources, services, and programs that meet the most basic needs.“
218 IRON AVE SW, ALBUQUERQUE NM 87102