I got a call from Heidi at the gym on Monday, about 4 hours before my weekly workout with Greg. She let me know that Greg had died the night before, and that I should come in next week for my regular slot… but not that afternoon. Despite my shock, or maybe because of it, it was only a few minutes after the call that I thought to myself: “I think Greg would be pleased to know that no one's letting me skip more than one workout.”
As it was, Ann Marie had been covering his workouts for a few weeks, but all the info I had up until that call suggested that he'd be back, maybe even this week. My wife and I have been training in back to back slots with Greg every Monday afternoon for more than two years. Not much of a record really, if you've seen the plaque on the wall honoring 5, 10, and 15 year clients. Still, spending the hardest 10 minutes of your life with someone for 100 or more weeks in a row puts you in a mindset unready to digest the kind of information I was getting in that phone call. All blessings to Heidi for her work getting the word out.
It is frankly hard to imagine never again hearing those those quiet, perfectly-timed, devastatingly effective cues that kept my failures clean and excruciating, and my motions smooth and disciplined. No matter how raucous the gossip at the front desk, or how off-color the latest joke, when the workout began with Greg, the cone of discipline descended and the expertise was palpable. I'll never forget the time I was slowing at ? positive on an overhead press, knowing I was on the asymptote to failure, signals of panic beginning to form despite my best attempts at marshalling pure stoic effort. Then, just audible in my left ear, utterly calm, Greg's voice: “It could still go.” I'd never heard that one before. The panic fell back, effort was focused, and there were a few more seconds of motion.
To be honest, there was a lot in life I didn't share with Greg. I follow no sports, I don't eat meat, don't drink alcohol (it tends to kill people in my family), but Greg knew all that, and came to trust that our shared enthusiasm and passion for… well… for enthusiasm and passion would be sufficient. Our shared interest in honest education and straightforward communication was another bond. Greg never hesitated to tell me about the things that mattered to him, even if the countries of our lives only shared a few borders.
Most importantly, Greg made a difference in my life and in the life of my family and my students.
After my father's brutal suicide left me drifting into weakness, he helped me regain strength. At 45, I am now stronger than I've ever been. Greg also donated equipment to the little independent high school where I teach, so that I could start a Body by Science program with the kids, who are stronger and more disciplned than they ever thought they could be. Greg gave me the guidance I needed to oversee two years of injury-free workouts there and the kids just keep getting stronger. Oh, and my wife is now scary strong too, in a way I never expected to see.
So, I sit here staggered at this loss, fairly blown away by Greg's influence on the health of my community, and then consider what an absurdly tiny fraction of his life had anything to do with me. So then I try to multiply by what I imagine to be some factor, some quantity representing how many people he touched, how many people he made a difference for, how far his example reached, how much his thinking and writing mattered, how much his practice mattered, and I come up with an impact I can't really wrap my mind around. I simply can't form an adequate image. Greg's loss opens a gulf beyond reason, but I'm going to trust that in the face of adversity, he'd want me to remember that “It could still go” to focus the effort for a few more seconds of motion.
In deepest gratitude and remembrance,
-Scobie in Seattle