I thought I knew what leadership was. I’ve even thought I exhibited it occasionally. I know the definition of it. I’ve seen both great examples of it and poor examples of it during my time in the army.

Tonight I saw the finest example of it in my life. I watched from the back of the funeral home as my friend walked his two children up to the casket to see their mom resting peacefully. He explained that even though she looked like she was only sleeping that she was gone. I watched him do all this and keep his composure. He held it together for his children as I cried from the back of the room wandering if I could ever be that strong for people I love.

I know that he is hurting more than the rest of us. I know his children may not fully understand. I know that he has cried and will cry again when he’s ready.

But I watched him be a leader. Not only in this small window of time, but ever since the diagnosis. He stood by his wife through thick and thin. He loves his boys and would do anything for them. I witnessed him be a leader and a father in a situation where I feel that I would most likely run away. I know he will continue to lead his two boys as a great father and that there will be joy and happiness in future days. I know he will keep going.

This is my new definition of leadership. When the whole world has come crumbling down on you, when you have nothing left to give, when every moment is full of pain and sadness, you drive on for those you love. One step at a time, one breath at a time, one moment at a time. You keep going because of love. Not because you want to, or because you have more to give, you keep going no matter how empty you are because of love.

My heart aches with Jeff in this difficult time. No words can replace your loss.

But in this dark time, you have truly taught me something my friend. You have taught me how to be a leader. May I never forget it.