On our last night in Yosemite, after having been incommunicado for a few days (no cell phones, no internet) my husband Troy called his answering service and found several urgent messages waiting for him. We were horrified to find out our friend of ten years, and Troy’s boss for the past year, had died over the weekend.
Greg was our age, fit, healthy, happy-go-lucky. He had a wife and a six-year-old son, Connor. He dropped dead of a heart attack, no warning. We are beyond devastated. Troy can hardly move, hardly speak. Neither of us could sleep at all.
It’s impossible to believe that Greg is gone. He was so vital, upbeat, joyful, charming, funny, creative. Above all he had a generosity of spirit that one rarely finds in this world. Sure he had his troubles which he sometimes shared with Troy, but he didn’t let them crush his enthusiasm for life.
About ten years ago, Troy produced an album for Greg. That experience began a friendship and mutual respect. Last year, Greg called Troy out of the blue to say he was now head of music production for a new children’s learning website, and wanted to hire Troy as a composer. Seemed like a fun gig, and Troy jumped at the opportunity to work with Greg again. That job has not only paid all our bills, but paid for all the financial disasters of this past year. At a time of recession when most musicians are struggling to find work (including me) Troy has been swamped, thanks to Greg. The work has been fun and creative, but one of the best things about it was working with Greg every day.
Greg was Troy’s champion, his number one cheerleader. He got Troy the position of lead composer, then raised Troy’s rate because he believed Troy was “worth more”. He loved Troy’s compositions, and would say so every day. He would call in the morning with a request, maybe something like, we need a learning song about the Grand Canyon, and it has to be bouncy with a western flair. Troy would get behind his keyboards with manuscript paper, guitars and banjos, and get cracking. Later that day he would have written and recorded a song. Sometimes I helped with vocals. Then he would email the file over to Greg and wait for his call. That was the best part, getting Greg’s call. Greg was so encouraging and uplifting. In the past whenever Troy did any composing for TV or film, it was a constant headache. In Hollywood, they always want it yesterday, and then it’s never right. But Greg always loved Troy’s work, and would tell him so – believe me, very rare in this business. And they weren’t Hollywood compliments Greg was throwing out, they were sincere, thoughtful comments. When I would hear Troy’s footsteps bounding up the stairs from the studio at the end of the day, I could tell he had just hit another one out of the park, and Greg had given him the huge thumbs up.
I’ve been up all night crying and sick to my stomach thinking of Greg’s wife and young son, because I know that Greg is an irreplaceable person. I know that he was the rock in his family, and it pains me to imagine what his wife Melanie is going through.
He’s also irreplaceable to me because my husband was so happy this year. Career-wise, it’s been one of his best years. Working with Greg lifted his spirits and made him feel good about his work every day.
Recently I did a vocal session with Greg. He had a way of making everything fun, positive and upbeat. We laughed and joked our way through singing together, and at the end Greg said to me “We are definitely going to do that again!” About a week later, after a twelve-hour day at work, Greg came to see Troy and I at a restaurant gig. He came by himself, sat there smiling at us for the whole set. We took a break and visited with him. Again, he was so complimentary and sincere, I felt myself buoyed by his enthusiasm, and felt better about myself as a singer by the time he left. In fact, for days afterward I reflected on the kind words he said to me that night. That is a real gift, to walk into a room and make others feel lifted.
Selfishly, I don’t want to let go. I can’t accept that he’s gone, that my husband won’t be bounding up the steps two at a time at the end of his work days.
I’m having a real hard time believing that this is God’s plan. Why would God take a loving father away from his young son? When I think of Greg, I picture him carrying Connor as a baby in the Snuggli like a Daddy Kangaroo. At six years old, I wonder how much Connor will remember his Daddy as he grows up. It pains me to think of Greg’s memory fading away from him, or from any of us.
They say you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. In this case, that’s not true. We always were grateful for Greg, the work he provided, the encouragement, and the gift of his friendship.
There are a lot of shitheads in the world, but it seems they’re never the ones who drop dead of heart attacks. They live long enough to make life miserable for the rest of us. The world needs people like Greg to balance out the mean spirited ones, the ones who want to tear you down. Right now I’m angry at god, at the way the Universe seems to be weighted toward the negative. Today the world feels completely out of balance.
I guess it’s up to me to find a little more of Greg’s spirit in myself. Maybe if we all strive for more of his spirit, we can set it back on its axis again.
If I could ask a favor of you… it would be just this. Please keep Greg in mind, and in his honor, be kind enough to give someone a leg up when you can. Be encouraging. Be kind. I ask you not only to remember Greg, but to be a “Greg”, because God knows the world needs it, especially now.