March in the Desert is traditionally a great month. The weather is almost always perfect with moderate temperatures and clear skies. The tennis tournament in Indian Wells is a fun event showcasing the best players in the world. However, while watching the third set of the tennis finals with Nadal vs. del Potro in a close match in Indian Wells last year, our world came crashing down around us. As my wife was listening to a message from one of my son’s friends during a break in the tennis match, I was suddenly getting a call from the Palm Springs fire department.
We were experiencing every parents’ worst nightmare getting the call that our 17-year-old son had just been in a skateboarding accident and was not conscious. He was being rushed to the trauma center at Desert Regional Medical Center and we needed to get there as soon as possible. While fearing the worst, we were hoping for the best. We ran out of the tennis stadium and the drive from Indian Wells to Palm Springs never seemed so long. On arriving at the trauma center, we were rushed back to see him. He looked strangely peaceful with little evidence of any injury immediately visible. However, the news could not have been much worse. Being a physician, I understood the severity of the injury but was not ready to accept it. How could a fall backwards from a skateboard result in an irreversible brain stem injury? I know that injuries can be unpredictable, but why Greg? Why us? He was a promising, well-liked, and intelligent high school senior looking forward to graduation and anxiously awaiting his college acceptance letters in the following weeks. We knew he was a good kid and we counted our blessings that we were fortunate to have two wonderful boys.
However, over the next week gathered in the intensive care unit with his friends, we learned even more what a special person he was and how he inspired others. He was very bright and loved people. He had a keen sense of humor and always brought a smile to others. He loved helping and encouraging his friends in anyway he could, whether it be learning calculus, playing the guitar, or attempting a new activity. He truly brought out the best in his friends.
We sat with Gregory for a mind-numbing week in the intensive care unit. We felt like we were reliving Greg’s entire life, as it seemed that everyone we had ever known visited. This helped us greatly and the support of our friends and the community was most comforting. His classmates gathered around his bed telling heartwarming stories, singing to him, and praying for him. They even allowed his friends to bring a guitar to accompany their singing. The staff at Desert Regional was so supportive and I know they relaxed many of the rules in the intensive care unit to allow Greg’s friends and the entire Xavier community to visit. The whole experience was surreal but the outpouring of love for our son Greg and our family was incredible. I understand his funeral with almost 2,000 people attending was one of the largest ever in the Desert. This was a tribute to Greg and his spirit. I felt this was the closest one could get to actually physically attending one’s own funeral as almost everyone I had ever known was there. My entire life flashed before me.
They say time heals but this has not been my experience yet. We are grateful that Greg was a happy kid and an inspiration to his friends. I know we tried to be the best parents possible and we have so many good memories of our numerous family trips and experiences. We were so looking forward to seeing Greg live his life, go to college, and eventually raise his own family. In his brief 17 years, he had such a positive impact on others. We will never know what he might have contributed to this world. Greg lived each day to its fullest and was kind to others. He had an unusual charisma, which attracted others.
It is comforting to know how happy he was and how much he loved his family and knew how much his family loved him. We have some peace in knowing he thought we were the best parents possible to him. Hopefully, we helped make him the exceptional individual he was in a life cut so short. He had a zest for life and lived everyday to its fullest. He was a great example to his friends and we can learn so much from him.
We miss Greg so much.