Submitted by his daughter, Madison Yale

What Jeff was like

Jeff Yale in 2000 after receiving his master’s degree from Florida State University

My dad, Jeff, loved his family and food, but he also loved cars and motorcycles. He’d get a new car every few years and had a thing for Harley-Davidson bikes. He even named his dog Harley! I remember him taking me for a ride on a motorcycle when I was 6 or 7; my mom did not like that.

My dad was someone I looked up to. He was a psychiatrist and was so proud when he opened his own practice. He would give you the shirt off his back, and he had a soft spot for everyone. In 2002, our local newspaper wrote about him helping a woman get through her depression. We had the article hanging up in our living room. My dad had mental health issues and drug addictions, but he was able to forget his own problems to help other people with theirs. I’m studying nursing now, and he’s a big reason why I chose the medical field out of a lot of other things. 

My most vivid memories of my dad

I was 9 when my dad died. He battled addiction my whole life, something I didn’t know until later. He’d fall asleep at random times, sometimes in the middle of a conversation. I thought that was weird, but it was just my dad. 

Jeff Yale and daughter Madison
Jeff and his daughter Madison

When he was really with it and engaged, he was such a great person. I remember one trip to the beach when I was 5. He was just happy, and we have so many pictures from that day; I find myself looking at them all the time. We didn’t have a whole lot of those days later.

The last memory of my dad was my ninth birthday. There are few I really remember, but this one had a luau theme. My grandmother made me a piñata, and all my friends were there. My dad just seemed very in tune with what was going on and was just totally invested in my birthday. It was like he was his old self again. I’ll never forget that birthday, partly because it was my last one with him. He died six months later.

How drugs took over his life

My dad was always in search of pills; he battled addiction to barbiturates, Lortab, Percocet and Demerol. As a psychiatrist, he had access to prescriptions. At one point, he started an affair with his secretary, who enabled his addiction and helped him get more drugs. My parents separated, and he moved out to live in an apartment of his own, but he’d always write my mom love letters, telling her he’d get better and come back.

My dad and mom planned to get back together

Jeff Yale and his son Tyler
Jeff and his son Tyler

In August 2004, my dad was going to move back in with us. My parents talked the night before, and he said he was packed up. He was supposed to pick us up for school the next morning, but he didn’t show. She tried calling him, but he didn’t pick up. My brother, Tyler, my mom and I all went over to his house. My mom had a key, and we went in.

I remember this so clearly: Harley was running around, and he’d pooped everywhere inside. My dad was lying on the couch; we thought he was asleep. We got closer and could see his face was super blue, and he felt really cold. My mom immediately rushed us out and over to the neighbors and started screaming, “My husband’s dead, call 911!” She says she doesn’t remember any of it, but I do.

My mom told my brother and me that he’d died of a heart attack. She just didn’t want us to think negatively about him, though I never did, of course. It wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 that she told me about his addiction. He actually died of an accidental overdose of methadone and anti-anxiety medication.

How I keep his memory alive

My mom put a monarch butterfly magnet on my dad’s casket before he was buried, and later, I got a butterfly tattoo on my back, just below my neck, in his memory. I also tattooed his signature, the letter J in cursive, on my wrist. He signed his love letters to my mom that way.

Though my dad died 15 years ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately. I’m engaged and getting married next year. I wish he was here to walk me down the aisle and dance with me.

If I could say one thing to him now, it would be

I miss you, Dad. Every day. I wish you could see me now. You’d be so proud of me and Tyler. You were an incredible dad, and that opinion will never change. I know how hard it was, and I don’t blame you. I will always love and remember you.