Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Nectar of the Gods

My brother Mark's best friend Greg Gratton had just passed away, and my brother gave the eulogy at the funeral. I thought I would share his words.

Greg often shared during our times together that I missed my calling. “You need to consider a career teaching logistics at a university somewhere…

In reality, Greg’s the teacher, and the subject matter isn't logistics, its life. Greg taught me more about life than any individual has, and he continues to teach as we pause and reflect on how he lived life.

At work the lessons learned from Greg was the importance of being a servant leader, to always look at and for the best in an individual. Never tear down, always build up…

The Greg we knew at work extended past those four walls, and in Greg I learned what the true definition of a father is. His sons Michael and John are well armed and ready for life, and in Dad they also saw a husband, who loved and adored his wife.

Greg’s commitment to Kathy, Michael and John was real and unadulterated. When you look at your own mortality every day as Greg had to, suddenly the tasks and decisions in life become quite easy to sort – you sort to the core of your beliefs and values. Greg’s actions did all the speaking here, words were never necessary.

Greg taught me how to prioritize. God and Family first, friends next, and then everything else.

In Greg and Kathy’s extended family, I saw what heaven on earth looks like – a Zuleger family get together. Deer Camp and Deer Camp stories. Garage meetings, well lubricated with banter, discourse, unconventional terms of endearment, the Green Bay Packers and, of course, what I like to call the “nectar of the gods,” beer. The love, support and friendship that serves as the fabric of this extended family draws you in and changes your values.

Early in my relationship with Greg, I heard many stories centered around this gang, and then later Stephanie and I have had the honor and privilege of actively participating with these same folks. In this I learned that you measure worth by what you give in love, support and friendship.

Greg’s battle with cancer demonstrated the depth of character in this man. I learned, felt and tasted what real self discipline, sacrifice and humility is. Greg never complained, someone else always had it worse. Greg never questioned why, rather he always gave thanks for what he had. Greg never wanted the soft sell, he always insisted on every card facing up. Greg never gave in. Greg never, never, never quit. In his fight with death, Greg taught me how to live…

Above all else, Greg taught me about friendship. We started our lives on very similar paths and upbringings. As we reached adulthood, our individual paths took different directions, yet so much of our life experiences remained similar. Our two paths meeting in May of 2004 has changed me forever, and I’m thankful that the Lord allowed this to happen.

True friendship crosses all boundaries, it doesn’t judge, hold any grudges, allows opinion with impunity. True friendship multiplies laughter, divides pain and sorrow, and carries absolute respect for each other. Never a put down, actions ahead of words. A desire to improve each other, a self less desire to help, and with true friendship comes profound pain and sorrow at the loss of your friend.

I have known Greg for three plus years. And it was an absolute honor for me. I can only imagine what it must be like for the family and friends that can count their time with Greg in decades, rather than years.

I lost a son 20 years ago. Jamie was two and a half years old when he left the arms of his earthly father for the arms of his heavenly One. At this young age, Jamie didn’t get a chance to truly experience an earthly Dad.

I know that right now, my friend Greg has stepped in and soon Jamie will learn what a Dad is. I also know that when it comes my turn to cross over the threshold, Greg will be waiting to greet me with Jamie at his side. With an iced down cooler within reach, and long necks in each of their hands. And once again, we will fellowship together as we drink in the nectar of the gods...

Today, sitting back, watching the Packers beat the Seahawks in the snow at Lambeau, I toast my brother, and his best friend Greg with the nectar of the gods.

And the little blonde boy, next to the hand of God in the mural above, is my brother's son Jamie, who just met his Dad's best friend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Came across this tonight...


Tnx for the quick recap this afternoon, it made an impression!