Back on December 6, 2015, I bid a ceremonial farewell to my late husband Greg. Now, over the two weeks approaching Greg’s 54th birthday on June 6, 2017, I am taking the opportunity to post transcripts of the tributes that were delivered on the day of his memorial.
Below is a transcript of the tribute delivered by Thomas “T.G.” Mahnken. T.G. was one of Greg’s oldest friends – and he and his wife Deb shared many great times with Greg and me throughout our life together. Original video here.
Greg’s life and mine were intertwined in so many ways that just statistically should never have happened.
We met in high school in Del Mar California, where he was two years ahead of me in school, and our mutual friend Chris will talk a little bit more about that. We wound up going to the same college, Berkeley, although I only stayed there for a year. We stayed friends through my remaining college years at USC. Our friendship continued when I moved to Washington DC for graduate school and then for work; when I met my wife Deb, when Greg met Alysoun; and the friendship just continued to grow.
I can’t count the number of good memories that I have associated with Greg, although god knows I’ve tried. Ever since that horrible Friday afternoon six weeks ago, those memories have just been flowing over me. And the good news is that there are so many, so very many memories there. The bad news, of course, is that there won’t be any more – and that’s very hard to face.
Now what can I say about Greg that you don’t already know? Well, in some ways I probably can’t tell you anything about Greg, because the parts of his personality that I want to highlight were open to all. But what I’d like to do is give you a few vignettes that in a very personal way illustrate those qualities.
Greg was one of the funniest people that I’ve ever known. I’ve never laughed more or harder than when I was with Greg. Greg’s humor was genuine, it was honest. It’s all too easy to minimize the importance of humor. Greg had the gift of what professionals call observational humor – just finding amusing things in the situation….
Greg was not just funny, he was also fun. Greg loved life, he enjoyed life to its fullest. Greg was fun to be around. And one of the reasons he was fun to be around was that Greg had a talent for making the mundane memorable. I remember when Greg first moved down to Washington DC from New York, Citibank put him up at the Watergate. And Deb and I would go over to the Watergate and I just remember one time he thought it would be great to rent a Mustang – and it was about this time of the year – and drive out to Skyline Drive to see the leaves and the Shenandoahs. And so we had this fantastic day in this Mustang going out to the Shenandoahs along Skyline Drive and then – seeing how fast he could get the Mustang going on 95 – with not much traffic around – but just a day like that, he had a way of making special.
Or another time more recently when it was New Year’s Eve and Greg and Alysoun came over to our place, and it was supposed to be just a casual get-together – but they brought food – and not just a little bit of food, a lot of food. And it was Chinese food, so Greg made sure to bring chopsticks. And it was New Year’s Eve, so you had to have noise makers. And our kids were there, and he wanted to make sure that there was something for the kids. And so this casual get-together became a very special occasion.
Greg was also one of the most thoughtful people I know. I’m not telling you anything when I say that Greg had a big heart, and he was so considerate. Which takes us back to P.F. Changs, a more recent incident. This was about four years ago, I think. My son had just come back from his first week at scout camp, and Deb and the kids and I were meeting Greg and Alysoun for dinner at P.F. Changs in Tyson’s Corner. We get to our seat, this big booth, and my son is saying “I’m kind of tired, I want to lie down a little bit.” Then, he kind of bolts up, and says, “I’m not feeling good.” And so we try to get him out of the booth – ‘try’ being the operative word – and the kid gets sick all over the place. I as a father of course feel terrible. Greg just jumps to it, making everything right. He is immediately jumping into action, getting our food to go; getting his wallet out, tipping people (laughter). And I get the kid out of the bathroom, and at the maitre’d’s station, the kid gets sick again. And Greg goes back to the wallet, tipping people out, and just so considerate – his first, second, and third thought being how can he make this right and make everything run smoothly. So that’s another enduring memory.
Now of course not all the times we shared over the years, over the decades, were good. Some were very bad. Like when we were in high school, and a mutual friend Dave Shultz was killed in a car accident. Or the night that Greg was robbed at gunpoint outside my apartment in Dupont Circle. There were memories like that as well.
And that actually brings me to the last thing I would say about Greg – and a not so good memory, but one that will always be with me. Greg was a good friend, he was a loyal friend. Greg was there when I needed him. Greg was there in good times and in bad. I take you back to 1989, my second year of graduate school. I fly from Washington DC out to Los Angeles to visit my then girlfriend. ‘Then’ being the operative word. Who, about two hours after landing, she breaks up with me. And I’m in Los Angeles with literally no place to go, and no way to get anywhere because I don’t even have a rental car. And those of you who know LA know what a bad situation that is. A very bad day, at least for the 24-year-old version of me. Just despondent. And I call up Greg. And Greg was living near the Mormon Temple in LA, and I went and stayed with Greg. Again, he made it right, as good as could have been under the circumstances. Everything was taken care of. A very good, loyal friend.
So the world is worse off without Greg, but is better for having had Greg in it. We who are left behind are worse off for not having him in our lives, but we are so much better off for having had him in our lives.
Greg lives on through his acts and our memories, and that’s as close to immortality as it gets. Thank you very much.