This is the first blog without my trusty editor. Since I started Life in the West in 2014, Greg read, commented and provided feedback on each post. My style more informal than he preferred yet his complimentary editing made my writing better. More readable.
I interred Greg on June 28 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, next to his mother Connie and with his brother Steve.
The service was aptly led by Greg’s brother Scott Sabin. Brother John was supposed to do it but something about a dialysis appointment and the forgetfulness of old age. He never showed.
Scott did a beautiful job on this drizzly, mosquito-filled afternoon. Simple and clear. There were additional words from Greg’s friend Sanjay who came from Connecticut to try and understand why this happened. At the end of his tribute, he turned on a little wireless speaker and played James Taylor’s Fire and Rain.
Afterward, we caravanned to Barbeau Michigan to the Cozy Tavern and Grill where all 20 of us sat at a long table reminiscing. It wasn’t lost on us that we did the same thing in 2013 for Greg’s mom. Same place. Same people. Same food.
When we finished our meals and said our goodbyes, a smaller group of family returned to the hotel for more time together. The desire to stay connected strong while sorting it all out.
But how do you understand this? A person so gifted in the world with degrees and intelligence, passion and curiosity who left us all too soon and so confused.
Jay Chow, Scott Lenker, Scott Sabin, Dave Chisholm, and Sanjay Gupta
The next day we journeyed back to Greg’s home town Livonia Michigan where we continued our memorializing for the friends and family that couldn’t make the trip north. An open microphone and photo slide show highlighted Greg’s life. Dave, his life-long, childhood friend and neighbor told stories of grammar school, little league, and their shared life of being paperboys for the Detroit News. His friend Jay from California and Scott from Oregon shared funny times at Intel, a sunrise hike in Israel to Masada, the 2014 World Series game between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals (4-3), and countless other experiences that made their friendships lasting.
Scott Lenker and Greg at the World Series
On Sunday when I left Michigan I wandered around the Detroit airport for hours, my flight canceled due to thunderstorms in Chicago, a last minute rerouting through Phoenix, and eventually home to Reno late that night.
Naively I thought there was a global-ness to loss. Somehow they would all feel similar. It doesn’t work that way. Each one is unique in its own crappy way.
Yet here we are with an unfinished life, in an age-old story told over and over in every small and large town worldwide. It is the story of alcoholism and the devastating fatal impact it has on our beloveds. The ones who lose the fight. The ones who lost their dreams and the hope that wasn’t enough.
“Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun
Lord knows when the cold wind blows, it’ll turn your head around
Well there’s hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again.”
Greg’s dad Gary and his mom Connie at Duke Graduation
Jay Chow and Greg
The Sabin brothers: Steve, Scott and Greg
Greg and his dad at the Marines Memorial Club
Catherine and Tyler Tollstrup