“George”, Jay would say upon seeing me in the gym but he would drag out my name a bit and quickly add, “How we doin’?!” This was always accompanied by a fist bump as he walked by me.
I took a picture of Jay right before he left the gym on March 16th, at 6:41 pm. We were talking as he was about to leave. Rumors were starting to get out that we would probably be shut down because of the CoronaVirus. When we stopped talking I said to Jay, “let me get your picture before you leave in case we get shut down soon” or something to that effect. We couldn’t possibly know it would be the last time we’d see each other. We were shut down officially the next morning while Jay was at work.
Whatever Jay was dealing with at work (an investigator with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office) or outside the gym was never brought into the gym. What Jay did bring to the gym was a positive energy and a great attitude. He was genuinely happy to see everyone and to be training. “Jay”, as he was known to most people in the gym, is actually Jason Jerome. Most people in the gym never knew. I would even forget until I had to call him or text him and see “Jason Jerome” on my phone contact list. For as full of energy and enthusiasm as he was he was also very private. Jay had that quiet strength.
Jay was also a classic “chop buster”, a real talent. He could stir up the calmest people in the gym to the point that they would question their very existence. I had the opportunity to witness this on so many occasions. During most of those episodes, I laughed so hard my stomach would hurt or I’d be in tears. I would usually try to keep it together because if I was standing close enough Jay would invite me into the conversation to confirm whatever he was saying. My all-time favorite was when one of the better athletes in the gym would do well in a workout and Jay would say, “I heard you had some questionable reps”, accusing the person of not doing the workout correctly or even worse, cheating. Jay could do this with a straight face and just keep it going. While Jay would do this I was silently hoping he wouldn’t look at me and ask, “right George?” I could not keep a straight face.
Mostly though I will remember Jay for being a good friend not only to me but everybody in the gym. Jay was already to help anybody who needed it. If somebody wanted to do an extra workout or train a bit more than what was required for the day Jay would also jump in. And Jay was always one of the best performers in the gym. He did not need motivation. He provided motivation.
Jay and I texted each other on a regular basis during the pandemic shut down. My last text conversation with him was on May 20th. He sent me a “selfie” of him on his new pull-up bar. His text said:
“How’s everyone doing George? Almost there buddy. Hope you are well and safe. Counting the days to we get back. Soon hopefully soon. Pull-up bar came just in time. I wasn’t missing Murph this year due to the pandemic. Going to do it Sun or Monday whatever day is nicer.”
I thanked Jay for the photo, wished him well, and told him I would speak to him soon.
How I wish those last few words were possible.
How I wish that was still going to go off as planned.
Late last night I texted the home workouts like most nights during the shutdown. When I got to Jay’s name I started to text him and caught myself. Instead of the workout, my text to Jay said:
“I was missing you from not seeing you while the gym was closed. I can’t believe how much more I miss you now.”
We’re so glad that Jay was a part of our life for the last 7 years. Jay was an integral part of our community and the gym will be a little less bright from his absence. The world was definitely a better place while Jay was in it.
Goodbye, my friend. I’ll see you on the other side.