16

Good-Bye, Greg

On Monday, my friend Greg Joos died. Greg was married to Brooke (Henderson) Joos, a childhood friend I’ve known since I was two years old, and he left behind her and four children: two now-adults from a previous marriage and two sweethearts that play and go to school with my own kids.

Greg had been sick for a while, battling cancer, and we’d thought he’d been beating it. Then Brooke called on Sunday to see if we could watch their two children while she took Greg to the hospital, just until her parents could come get them. They thought he’d pulled something in his chest while coughing, and they wanted to make sure he was all right.

Of course, we said yes. The kids all had a wonderful time that afternoon, racing around outside in the crisp fall air, charging through the scattered leaves, tumbling about in my hammock as all seven of them tried to climb into it at once. When Roxanne and Max’s grandparents—Bill and Missy Henderson: great, wonderful people who babysat me as a boy and regularly came over to help out with the quads after they were born—came to pick up the kids, we learned that things were more serious. Greg had been checked into the hospital at least for overnight.

The next afternoon, in the playground outside the kids’ elementary school, I learned that Greg had died at noon.

I’d like to say I can barely imagine what Brooke and Roxanne and Max are going through, but I spend all day long imagining things. Of course, I can imagine it. But I hate to contemplate it.

Bear with me being selfish for a moment here. Greg and I weren’t the best of friends. We never had the chance—the time, really—to develop that.

Both of us had young children who occupied most of the free time we had. That’s the right and natural way of things. When you’re staring down the fact that someday soon your kids won’t likely want to have much to do with you (they’ll be teenagers), you want to spend as much time with them as you still can. Things like adult friendships can wait.

Once my kids hit those years when “separation anxiety” switches from “wondering where my parents are” to “wondering if my parents know where I am,” I figured I’d have more time on my hands to grab that beer, watch that ball game, chew that fat with all sorts of people. Greg was high on my list of people I thought would be a part of that. Until then, we’d just have to enjoy those few moments we could grab while watching our kids on the playground—or those even rarer moments when we all had babysitters on the same night.

And now that’s never going to be.

Then I think about how small, how tiny that is when compared to what Brooke, Roxanne, and Max have lost. All those moments with Greg that will never be. Plays. Games. Graduations. Proms. Weddings. Grandkids. The list goes on for their entire lives.

But while I might not have known Greg like a brother, I’m sure that he wouldn’t have wanted his family to bear that horrible burden forever in their hearts. Instead he’d crack that big, broad smile, give them a little laugh, and tell them to not wonder about what they’d lost but to remember what they’d had.

Life’s short. Too damned short. You don’t let the thoughts of what might have been drown out memories of all you knew. You take from it what you can in the time you’re given, and you treasure every bit of it for as long as you can.

I’ll treasure my memories of Greg—the good times we had and the laughs we shared, the delight we took in watching our kids play together—and I’ll use those as a light against the darkness of loss that comes with them.

While that illumination might sometimes seem like a small flame flickering in the vast night, the darkness doesn’t shine in the light. It’s the other way around. And that’s why we love the light.

Good-bye, Greg. I’ll always try to look for your light, and I have no doubt I’ll find it reflected in the hearts of your wife, your kids, and all those lucky enough to have called you friend. You burned bright.

Comments 16

  1. There’s a lot of truth in your post, Matt. I’m very sorry to hear of your friend’s death, and my heart goes out to his family.

  2. There’s a lot of truth in your post, Matt. I’m very sorry to hear of your friend’s death, and my heart goes out to his family.

  3. Post
    Author
  4. Matt, I am so deeply touched by this and truly sorry for your loss. I feel so sad for Greg’s family that he left behind. I can’t imagine they pain they must feel right now. This is a profound reminder that the time we spend with family and loved ones is so precious and that we should remember to “live” in the moment while the opportunity still exists. God Bless the Joos family…may they find strength and love in each other.

  5. Matt, I am so deeply touched by this and truly sorry for your loss. I feel so sad for Greg’s family that he left behind. I can’t imagine they pain they must feel right now. This is a profound reminder that the time we spend with family and loved ones is so precious and that we should remember to “live” in the moment while the opportunity still exists. God Bless the Joos family…may they find strength and love in each other.

  6. Cheers Matt, very well done.
    Best wishes to Greg and his family. I feel and mourn the Joos family loss. Greg was obviously a great man, that has quite the legacy left behind, shining oh so bright.

  7. Cheers Matt, very well done.
    Best wishes to Greg and his family. I feel and mourn the Joos family loss. Greg was obviously a great man, that has quite the legacy left behind, shining oh so bright.

  8. Hi Matt,

    I’m from Peoria, Il. I was trying to contact Greg at the College of DuPage to tell him something I thought he would think was funny…. and all I could find was his obituary. At first I was confused …. so I kept googling… and realized he actually did die. I met Greg when he was 19. We were in an EMT class together at our local junior college. He was a college student in fire science at the time, working at a local fireplace store, and the course was a college requirement for him. I was a young school teacher who had just moved to the area and wanted to volunteer in my community. Most of the people in the class were much older, so Greg and I asked to be paired together for our practicums. We frequently got in trouble in class… mostly due to Greg, of course. When “disco” was hot, Greg was on fire. I loved laughing at him. He was crazy, as you can imagine. And all of my pictures of him are on a motor cycle or a jet ski…. he had such a love of life. Our pattern was to communicate frequently for a short period of time, (and get updated pictures) then nothing for a few years. We communicated frequently in 2007, but not at all in 2008, so I knew nothing of his illness. He sent me pictures of his new family. He died on my birthday. I”m so stunned. What can you tell me about his illness? Thanks for responding, and I’m sorry for your loss– he was too young to lose the fight. Jan Sullivan in Peoria

    1. Sorry for the shock, Janet. Greg died very suddenly of a cancer that he’d thought he’d beaten. The College of DuPage just had a memorial service for him a couple weeks ago. I’ll forward your note on to Greg’s widow so she can contact you.

  9. Hi Matt,

    I’m from Peoria, Il. I was trying to contact Greg at the College of DuPage to tell him something I thought he would think was funny…. and all I could find was his obituary. At first I was confused …. so I kept googling… and realized he actually did die. I met Greg when he was 19. We were in an EMT class together at our local junior college. He was a college student in fire science at the time, working at a local fireplace store, and the course was a college requirement for him. I was a young school teacher who had just moved to the area and wanted to volunteer in my community. Most of the people in the class were much older, so Greg and I asked to be paired together for our practicums. We frequently got in trouble in class… mostly due to Greg, of course. When “disco” was hot, Greg was on fire. I loved laughing at him. He was crazy, as you can imagine. And all of my pictures of him are on a motor cycle or a jet ski…. he had such a love of life. Our pattern was to communicate frequently for a short period of time, (and get updated pictures) then nothing for a few years. We communicated frequently in 2007, but not at all in 2008, so I knew nothing of his illness. He sent me pictures of his new family. He died on my birthday. I”m so stunned. What can you tell me about his illness? Thanks for responding, and I’m sorry for your loss– he was too young to lose the fight. Jan Sullivan in Peoria

    1. Post
      Author

      Sorry for the shock, Janet. Greg died very suddenly of a cancer that he’d thought he’d beaten. The College of DuPage just had a memorial service for him a couple weeks ago. I’ll forward your note on to Greg’s widow so she can contact you.

  10. I just learned today (2/20/09) about Greg’s death. Greg and I both worked for the Metropolitan Council in St Paul. MN. Your comment about his big broad smile is spot on. I will also remember him for his quick wit and unrivaled (and baudy) sense of humor. Goodbye Greg.

  11. I just learned today (2/20/09) about Greg’s death. Greg and I both worked for the Metropolitan Council in St Paul. MN. Your comment about his big broad smile is spot on. I will also remember him for his quick wit and unrivaled (and baudy) sense of humor. Goodbye Greg.

  12. I was checking the local newspaper in Peoria, IL, today and saw the obituary for David Joos. It has been a long time since Iived there, only back for parents funeral last year. As I was reading the article, and looking at I did realize that he was the parent of a childhood friend. As I read further, I saw preceeded in death by son Greg. Even though it has been years since I have seen Greg, it was a real shock to realize that he has passed. I researched his tribute, and sadly read it several times. I knew he would be successful. When I had business in Peoria after school, I did reconnect with Greg and Brooke. They were just getting ready to move to NY. We used to stay at each other houses,as kids and I remember one time he fell off his bike, and his mother took him to the hospital to stich up his leg. I also read the tributes, and several names I remember from Peoria. We have lost a special man, who will remain in my memories for years to come. Brook is strong, we all were blessed with knowing Greg in different segments of our life. Rest in peace Buddy. Thanks Matt for the excellent words in Gregs honour.

  13. I was checking the local newspaper in Peoria, IL, today and saw the obituary for David Joos. It has been a long time since Iived there, only back for parents funeral last year. As I was reading the article, and looking at I did realize that he was the parent of a childhood friend. As I read further, I saw preceeded in death by son Greg. Even though it has been years since I have seen Greg, it was a real shock to realize that he has passed. I researched his tribute, and sadly read it several times. I knew he would be successful. When I had business in Peoria after school, I did reconnect with Greg and Brooke. They were just getting ready to move to NY. We used to stay at each other houses,as kids and I remember one time he fell off his bike, and his mother took him to the hospital to stich up his leg. I also read the tributes, and several names I remember from Peoria. We have lost a special man, who will remain in my memories for years to come. Brook is strong, we all were blessed with knowing Greg in different segments of our life. Rest in peace Buddy. Thanks Matt for the excellent words in Gregs honour.

Leave a Reply