Saturday, May 23, 2015

Until We Meet Again

I found out on Monday, via a Facebook post by his sister, that my friend Greg was in the hospital.  I was immediately concerned because it had been a while since I'd heard from him and this news was a shock to me.  The tone of her post sounded ominous.

And it was.  Because today, Greg died.  He was only 52 years old.

I met Greg 21 years ago when we worked together at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson, Arizona.  We immediately hit it off.  He was down-to-earth, extremely funny, witty, intelligent, and snarky.  We quickly became good friends, spending days at the pool, going out for dinner, meeting for coffee, sitting around on Sundays reading The New York Times.

Greg at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

Unfortunately, over the past few years we had grown apart.  I'm on the road over 300 days a year and although we still emailed and texted, neither of us made a great effort to get together in person when I was in town.  We really should have.

Thursday Greg had been moved from the ICU to the hospice wing of the hospital. Hospice. Holy shit.  Everyone knows what that means - death is imminent.

I just couldn't process what I was hearing.  It felt very weird to me.  I felt like it couldn't possibly be true.  I mean, this was Greggie.  In all the years I'd known him, he'd never even been sick. But this was bad, and from what I was hearing, something went very wrong.
Me and Greg, in a blurry photo circa 1996.  I remember the year because I went to L.A. to pursue plus-sized modeling and they tweezed the hell out of my eyebrows.  They were the skinniest things on my body!

I was talking to my aunt about Greg and she commented about how some people say they have lots of friends, or that they still have friends from the second grade.  We think, wow, isn't that nice.  But like the old saying goes, quality matters over quantity.  She agreed that it doesn't matter how many friends you have, but that you have a handful of quality friends in your life. To have known them and to have been part of their lives, to have interacted on different levels and to have shared different experiences, that's a gift.

And she's right.  I have a lot of acquaintances, but only a handful of quality friends.  Greg was one of those people.  Greg was a gift. 

Yesterday I talked with a friend of his in Tucson who told me he was getting worse.  I was planning to visit him when I got home next week, but he didn't make it.  He died this morning at 2:45 am.  His parents, in from New Jersey, were at his side.

In my life, I've never had a friend die.  Grandparents, great aunts, my father, my step-father, yes. They're all gone.  But they all lived well into their sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties.  They lived entire lives.  And, you kind of expect your grandparents to eventually pass.  But not your friends.  Not the ones you hung out with, laughed till the wee hours with, shared experiences with.  Not the ones who are as young as Greg.

Some of my best memories in Arizona include Greg.  We shared inside jokes, silly hand gestures, and code words to describe people.  We were cohorts in workplace pranks.  He was the first person to show me how to use a computer.  In fact, I still use the AOL email he created for me, sitting in his apartment in the foothills. He bought me thoughtful gifts. We attended the first ever Lilith Fair concert together. He was a voracious reader and introduced me to The New York Times Book Review. And when I moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling, and got sick shortly after, he was the one who drove out to get me and bring me home. 

It was on one of our L.A. trips that the photo of him I love most was taken.  I'm a 5' 9" plus-sized woman.  Greg was a 5' 4" pint-sized man (although he claims he wasn't small everywhere).  This is that photo - him, wearing my favorite University of Arizona sweatshirt.  I smile every time I see it.  And I always will.

See you on the other side, Greggie!

Gregory Douglas Niemsyk
April 1963 - May 2015

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2013: Pinged
2005: Sorry, no post for this day.


Ron Walker said...

That's a beautiful tribute, Salena. I'm sorry for your loss.

The Daily Rant said...

RON: Thank you. Appreciate your kind words.

Gil said...

So sorry the hear about the loss of your good friend. This is an excellent tribute to him.

The Daily Rant said...

GIL: Thank you

Sharon Keenan said...

This news of Greg's passing was a true shock. I am so sorry for your loss. I was friends with Greg and his brother, Scott, when we all worked at the Cranford Pool during our High School and early college years. We sure had some very funny times there. During my latter college years, when I had to have a "real" job during my Summers, I lost tough with the "pool crew". During those Summers we had a lot of fun at work and away from work. I also coached the Summer Swim Team, and knew his other siblings, and parents. Their family is so loving and fun to be around. The one year, I asked his Mom for a spare key to Greg's car and I stuffed the car with balloons for his Birthday. He later told me that he though someone was in his car,and he approached his car by crouching down and walking low along the other cars until he reached his car. He laughed his butt off when he realized there was nothing but balloons in his car. He also said that he expected someone to jump out from behind the hedges to further scare him. He was so much fun to work with and be friends with. I am sorry that you didn't get to see him recently. I am so thankful that his parents were at his side. He will be missed greatly. I loved reading your tribute to Greg as well as seeing the photos of the fun times! Prayers go out to you, his Tuscon friends, and the Niemsyk family.

The Daily Rant said...

SHARON: Such a shock, I know. I am sorry for the loss of your old friend, too. I can only imagine the fun times you all had together. That's exactly what it was like working with Greg, always laughs. Always. The story about Greg crouching down as he approached his car almost made me spit out my Diet Coke. SO funny! I can just see him doing that, and then just laughing about it. I have so many stories about funny stuff he was part of. He really will be greatly missed. Thank you so much for leaving a comment and thank you for your thoughts and prayers.