It was about 10:30 a.m. my time on Wednesday when I heard that longtime God beat pro Jeffrey Weiss had died at home at noon Dallas time, surrounded by his family. I’d last seen Jeff in September at a Religion News Association conference in Nashville. His family told me he’d probably last until January. Less than seven weeks later, he is gone.
Last December, he learned he had glioblastoma, a terminal brain cancer and the same ailment that Arizona Sen. John McCain has. Not wanting to use the word “death” to describe his fate, he came up with “egress” and used it with much humor during the last year of his life. He decided to “go out with fireworks,” as he told his employer, The Dallas Morning News, so he spent his last few months writing a column on dying for Religion News Service and pushing the Food and Drug Administration to move quicker in finding solutions for terminally ill people like him.
See here for a fabulous sketch by Morning News staff artist Michael Hogue of Jeffrey climbing a Mt. Everest-like slope shaped like a brain.
Last month, the RNA gave its Lifetime Achievement Award to Jeff for his work. After receiving the award at the RNA banquet the night of Sept. 9, he presented a speech read by his niece, Lindsey Weiss. As you can see by my photo (above), he stood to her left during the entire thing, wearing his trademark Fedora with a card stuck in it proclaiming "Cancer sucks."
It's a bit of a tearjerker, so I’ve transcribed it below (and here’s the video of him delivering his speech) for those of you who wish to remember Jeff’s last words to the reporters covering a beat he loved so much. “It’s kind of like his home room of beats,” his wife, Marni, told us.
I appreciate this award, even more so than when I was told my first time about this. And I’m here. I am working better than I am not working. I have loved this organization, even from my odd angles. I'll admit it might not have been a ton of angles and at times more so than I’ve expected. At the moment, I know I may have a particularly short amount of time because of my brain cancer. My glioblastoma may be setting a clock for me and maybe my egress will be at the time of my 63rd birthday this coming January.