What is a hero? Through the eyes of a child, it may be the Supermans, Spidermans, and Batmans who save the planet, the superhero with super powers. To others it might be a friendly stranger, a brother, sister, mom or dad. A hero makes this world a better place. Their statement may be big or small, but their impact is unspeakable. Gregger was my hero. Would he be described as heroic by typical standards? Maybe not. But to me, he was a hero. He was courageous, good-hearted, generous, a survivor, and he ALWAYS put everyone else’s wellbeing above his own. He “saved” me in so many ways. He helped me discover the true me. He encouraged me to believe in myself. He gave me the strength to deal with the tragedy of his loss. He was kind, giving, loving, and compassionate. He didn’t meet a person who didn’t become his friend. I believe that captures the essence of a hero.
On August 30th, my hero could no longer save himself in the waters of Maui. He fought his final struggle and drew his last breath, but I believe he had two heroes with him that day. He passed the buck. The day started out as one of our best. We left Wailea heading to the beaches in Kaanapali for a day of swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. After a long 45 minute drive into no man’s land we arrived at a nearly deserted beach. Ashley and I were annoyed because we just wanted to plant our lazy butts in the sand and catch some Maui rays. All we could see was an outhouse, an okay beach, and clouds. Get us to Black Rock! So we piled back into our family mini van and back to Lahaina we trekked. The mood was a bit edgy as we all just wanted to get where we were going! Family VACATION FUNTIME! Park, unload, lug, and land! Ashley and I planted ourselves in the sand and the boys headed off to check out the snorkeling situation. Gregger was geared up for the water. For some reason I was a “jiggly” inside. I just wasn’t feeling it. I wanted him to wear a vest, but they weren’t renting them that day. Typical Gregger…”I’ll be fine! What are you worried about?”
Everything captured on film, we took our typical beach photos…Ash & Gregger, Ash & Tyler, Ash & Ryan, Gregger & me, and all the other combos. Two of each, just in case. One hugging, one kissing. Final words…”I love you. I love you too.” And off he went – into the water chasing after Ryan and Tyler with snorkeling gear dangling by his side. The beaches were crowded. People jumping off Black Rock, shouting, hooping and hawing. Ashley and I were fairly relaxed, but I was edgy not knowing where the boys had gone. Suddenly we heard screams of “Help! Help!” They were far off in the distance and we assumed it was the crazies jumping off the cragged rock. The cries kept getting closer and soon we were hearing “911.” My heart was racing. I remember yelling at Ashley that something was wrong and running from my chair. As I dashed to the edge I caught sight of Gregger’s bathing suit floating toward us, and I knew. At that moment, I knew. I screamed. I fell to the sand and I remember someone grabbing my arms. Suddenly crowds of strangers were holding me, hugging Ashley and me.
Gregger made it to the shore that day because of two special heroes..my son, Ryan, and my son-in-law, Tyler. Their courage and strength in the most difficult of situations could only be described as heroic. At one moment Gregger was smiling underwater and giving a thumbs up. Seconds later Ryan realized something was terribly wrong and reached out for him. He screamed for Tyler and between the two of them, they safely pulled Gregger in. They took off his mask, flipped him on his back, and pushed, pulled, shoved, and screamed until help arrived. Gregger would have called them his heroes. The quick reaction to save him in such an incredibly difficult situation could only be described as heroic. The paramedics, fire fighters, and doctors worked on Gregger relentlessly. Tyler prayed in the sand at his feet, while Ryan prayed by his side. It felt like the world was praying, but God had decided he wanted the Gregger that day. Whether his mom was calling (it was the 10th anniversary of her death) or they just needed another one of the “good” guys “upstairs,” we’ll never know. Whatever it was, someone else won the battle. But, my two boys were the heroes that day. They saved their hero and brought him to us so we could say “goodbye.”
There were a lot of heroes that day. The strangers on the beach holding us, praying for Gregger, keeping us safe. The paramedics, firefighters, and doctors fighting tirelessly to bring back his heartbeat. The chaplain who stayed by our sides for HOURS providing comfort, kind words, and support. We would not have survived without these people. But, my SUPERHEROES on August 30th were Ryan and Tyler. I will forever be grateful to them for their courageous efforts and strength for bringing my HERO back to me, to us.
“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death.”