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 Christopher Garcia – one of Greg’s oldest friends – who said: “He taught me how far a good positive attitude could go. And with the kind of impact a person could have on your life. I think he was it, and I have always believed that yeah, people can have an impact on life – and he’s always the one I think back to, and that’s kind of how I live my life, and that’s saying a lot.” Video URL here.
I’m Christopher Garcia. We were in the same high school together, down in the San Diego area, Del Mar Torrey Pines High School. And Greg was two years ahead of me, but I got to know him because my brother was in that class and we had a lot of mutual friends.
That was the tail end of the baby boom era where you had a lot of kids in school, and you knew their friends and their friends and their friends, and it was a good time.
These days, I tell young people – I’m a family doctor – I tell young people, hey, the key to life, and to having a good life, and maybe doing well in life, is to choose good parents and choose good friends. So they look at me funny – like what are you talking about? And I’m yeah, you’re right, you can’t choose your parents, I’m sorry about that, you’re right – but you can choose your friends, and that’s the key.
And I look back to my college years or just after that, and I really think that this is pretty true, we are – you know – really depending on our friends to help keep us out of trouble. And to help maybe impart their wisdom, especially if they’re two years older than us, and just help us to make right choices in life. And I think that was really true for me, and I think that’s the key. So I say that a lot.
And that’s really the only place we have control is picking good friends. And I think I was very fortunate to, I guess, pick Greg – and I was very lucky because he picked me, to be just a good friend to me. And just like Tom says, you know, and you all know the kind of friend he was, it just goes off the charts.
We were lucky to have Greg in our lives. We can all recall moments with him in our lives. I want to talk to you about the high school times when we met. He was a nice guy who didn’t lord over you because he was older than you. He made you feel real good. He was positive, he was happy, and very engaging.
And I think at that age I couldn’t have articulated for you why he was such a good friend. I just knew that he was good vibes and fun – and that was enough at that age to say ‘hang around him’ – along with other good friends that I had. And luckily they all kind of hung together as a big old group.
Um… a common activity that we did was the rocketry and astronomy club. We called it the rapid oxidation club ‘cuz we just liked to go out in the desert and blow up stuff. And it was on some land that was owned by the University of Maryland, and it was in the Anza Borrego Desert, and it was only for us to be able to trespass on. And there were these sand dunes, in the middle of the Anza Borrego Desert, just below the Santa Rosa Mountains – they’re a mile high. And we had a lot of fun during that time. It was our time to be away – I think four or five times a year we would go out on these long weekends, and it was paid for by the school district. So we made off pretty good.
But after that, you know, he was two years ahead, he went off to college, he went off to Berkeley – and when we saw him back the first time around the Christmas break, he came down and he visited and he made sure he popped in on us…. And yeah, he participated in some of the things we were all doing during those Christmas breaks, and he would talk to us about Berkeley, and we thought that was really fascinating, the things he had to say about Berkeley…. And he was doing well, too, you could tell – and I forget what his first major was, but eventually it was economics.
And one time we invited him along – we said ‘hey, we’ve got a bunch of us, you know, three cars of us going out to bowling.” And in high school, you know, we were not the crowd that went out to drink. We just did fun things that didn’t involve that stuff.
And he thought that was kind of weird – “Bowling? how weird.” Because you know in the early 80s that was not cool, you know, ‘bowling?’ So we went out, and I think we had like three lanes, and a ton of us bowling…. And on the way back, he said ‘that was the funnest time I’ve ever had in my life! That was … really a lot of fun … that was – good friends.”
And he didn’t know maybe half of them, but he was gonna know them ‘cuz they liked him and he liked them and there were new friendships established. And you know how enthusiastic he would get about things. And this was the early years, you know, we were all just having a good time, and you know, you start getting these tight bonds with friends who are going off to college.
So, he went away. I think the first time I saw him up there in the Bay Area was when I was back on the west coast. I had gone off to college, we were keeping in touch by letter writing – there was no email, right? And I went up to see him in 1985, and I had never been to the Bay Area. And he took us around, took us to great restaurants – that’s right! – and he got us some tickets to go see the symphony that night, I think it had just been refurbished – the Symphony Hall there – so it was some fantastic acoustics, it was great!
And you can imagine what kind of fun we had – and he paid for the restaurants, I’m sure he did. And just all that stuff that was helping me to get re-established, because back on the west coast, life was kind of a little bit different for me, it wasn’t exactly working out like I’d planned. And I was in the dumps, I think. And he offered so many words of encouragement during those years….
And then again I saw him in 1989 – I was there for a wedding in the Bay Area, and he took me around in his little Miata, driving crazy down to Stinson Beach and then zooming through the city in this little Miata with no care for the speed limit.
I think the last time I saw Greg was in 2000….I think Alysoun was attending a conference and Greg said ‘come on over, I wanna take you out and get you a wedding present.” … He got us a juicer, and he said “you guys will like it, it’s very important to have this.” And he was right, we used that juicer for a very long time. Actually we still have it.
I figured that we’d always meet up again … but I knew that when they moved to the east coast, ‘uh oh’, maybe it was going to be a little harder now. And then getting married and having kids you realize – ew, this is really hard, not so easy as a single person to be able to get up and go.
But with the miracle that was Facebook and email, I think we kept in touch a little bit that way, and that was helpful … but I know that he kind of didn’t do Facebook after a while. And then in recent months I remember seeing him getting hooked back into it, and I said “oh, great!” …. and then I saw he pulled away again.
So, it was great to have this kind of touch and go – it was over a long time – but it seemed that it was just a day before that we had seen each other.
Um, that time to get together again just never was gonna happen. And it’s not gonna happen now. And when I got the news, it hit me like a ton of bricks. TG called me, it was about 5:02, I was leaving work, I was in the parking lot, and I was like ‘what are you talking about?’ It was shocking. So I can only imagine what Alysoun is going through, and everyone close who had to go through this.
But I know the kind of person that he was, and I know that he was a great friend, you could want no better. You all knew him and I’m sure you agree what a great friend he was. Being around him brought energy, joy, laughter, good vibes, and an added bonus to your day. I learned a lot from him and I can recall so many so many pearls of wisdom that seemed so appropriate wherever I am and whenever I think about him. And it happens a lot. And it’s not because I’m sitting here dwelling, reminiscing about Greg, it’s just really is a big part of who I became. That’s a huge deal, to be able to have an impact on someone – in a positive way, I hope.
So we come together to celebrate his life and what he meant for us all. We forever have a part of him in our hearts, a part of who we have become. Our own experience is made up of a lot of experiences and events, but mostly people who have touched our lives – and Greg was one of those main players, I think. I think you can all agree with that. Certainly for me it was.
I do miss him, and I grieve a lot about him. I know that he would say something like ‘hey, don’t waste too much time doing this, get on with life. Live. It’s okay. I know you have to grieve. You will get through it. But start getting busy living. And you know, that’s what he did.
And I don’t think he would like us to sit and get into our funk. So find your strength to get out, and you know, get in touch with that inner Greg. Grab life by the horns and enjoy the ride. He taught me how far a good positive attitude could go. And with the kind of impact a person could have on your life. I think he was it and I have always believed that yeah, people can have an impact on life – and he’s always the one I kind of think back to, and that’s kind of how I live my life, and that’s saying a lot.