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Remembering Stepdad Greg Hooper (1961-2016)

My Doctor, Greg Hooper, passed away from cancer in November 2016. Please read what his stepdaughter Lindsey had to say about her stepdad Greg at his memorial service.

In debating whether or not I was going to accept the personal challenge of sharing today, I was reminded of one of the many lessons Greg taught me.

When given an opportunity to have a platform to share, you take it, treat it with responsibility, and speak the truth of your experience.

As I started writing, I kept saying to myself “This couldn’t have been the platform he had in mind. This just isn’t fair.” Then I heard Greg again – “Life isn’t fair.”

Which would implicitly be followed by but we keep moving forward anyway. So, here we are.

It’s with great pride I say I was raised by Greg Hooper, and I call myself his daughter. Less than a year ago, at a work team meeting, I was asked to identify the one person who has had the greatest influence on my life.

I named Greg. When I did, I chuckled inside. What my team mates sitting around the table didn’t know was our relationship didn’t start out very smoothly.

I was first heard about Greg at age seven when I was away for the summer. I was on the phone with my best friend and neighbor from home. 

My friend shared my mom was having sleepovers with a man. Up until that point, it was just my mom and me so, as you can imagine, I wasn’t happy with this news.

But I also wasn’t entirely worried about it, at least until Greg joined my mom to pick me up from the airport that summer.

Greg was wearing his usual bright smile. I was not.

Instead, the look on my face was more like, “Ohh, this is war, buddy.” And so began Operation-Get-This-Man-Named-Greg-Outta-Here.

Little did I know at the time, and what I would later learn, is that turning challenges into games was Greg’s wheelhouse. I had met my match.

While I won’t go into the details of the hell, I attempted to put him through, and all he so bravely endured, I will admit – he won said match. Which is in large part a testament to how much he loved my mom, who has one of the most beautiful spirits you’ll ever encounter.

He knew what he wanted – and he wasn’t going to let a bratty kid get in the way. Boy, am I glad he didn’t – for so many reasons – just one of them being he also saw something in that bratty kid, who eventually turned around. 

Over the years, he, along with my mom, nurtured those qualities in me I hadn’t yet seen in myself. The ones that inform the person I continue to grow into and the light I intend to be for others.

Accepting that Greg won’t be physically here for the rest of this journey – the start of which he was so instrumental – has been my ultimate challenge. It’s also brought me to recognize how absolutely grateful I am to have simply been blessed by his presence.

You just don’t meet many Greg Hooper’s in a lifetime. Let alone to have learned from and been raised by him.

Some of the greatest lessons Greg taught me, I’m not even sure he did intentionally. I learned them simply by observing and watching him.

One of those is the power of being fully present in a moment.

As a kid, one of my favorite things to do was drive around town with Greg. We drove in his very well-loved and obviously well-used Suburban. Spits (or, sunflower seeds) would be flying in the air.

Some seeds got caught on the outside of the windows, but honestly, most of them shooting out of his mouth and landing right back inside the truck or on me. The Eagles would be blasting through the speakers.

And Greg would be singing away sometimes even with a cigar in his mouth. I’d sit in the passenger’s seat, wind blowing through my frizzy hair.

We’d both be bouncing around due to the ol’ Burby’s weak suspension. I’d just be filled with joy at the sight of Greg living out what it means for someone just to be free being themselves.

This is how I remember him. Growing up, watching his deep-seated commitment to valuing and protecting the sacred relationships he shared with his patients, Greg also inspired me to turn my attention toward others.

Being an others-focused person is who he was – both inside and outside of his profession. I so admire that about him.

On my twenty-first birthday, we celebrated with a family dinner at Tao Tao’s in downtown Sunnyvale. Realizing we had an extra seat at the table, Greg asked me a question.

He said, “Lindsey, you know what we could do with that extra seat?…We could invite a stranger to join us.” My face lit up with excitement – what a brilliant idea!

When Greg and I announced to the family we’d be right back because we were going to find someone to join us, blank, confused faces were looking back at us.

We walked down Murphy Street and into a bar where we saw a man sitting by himself. We went up to him. Greg explained it was my birthday and we had an extra seat at our table. Greg asked if he’d like to join us.

Another blank, confused face was looking back at us. At first Brian wasn’t convinced, but eventually, he decided “what the heck!” and joined us for dinner.

We had a very good time and, because of Greg, a new bond was born. Greg and I would often have good, long talks about the importance of connection, especially in a time like now.

He’d challenge me with questions like – how do you think social media is or isn’t fulfilling technology’s purpose of improving the human condition? The human condition was something Greg studied very seriously.

One of the things I respect about him most and what I seek to emulate is the personal responsibility he accepted and acted upon in his everyday decisions to make better what he could. When I think about the story of my twenty-first birthday, I reflect on all of the creation he so naturally put into that experience.

An idea most people wouldn’t have even thought of, a willingness to share it and an invitation to a complete stranger, another lesson tucked away in my pocket. When he was diagnosed with stage four cancer – a direct and aggressive threat to his life – he wasn’t thinking about what would be taken away.

He was still thinking about what he could create. I remember him telling me that, in many ways, his diagnosis opened up doors to new opportunities, like being able to spend more time, and build an even stronger relationship, with Grandma Betty and Grandpa Jeff.

He always chose that lens. Even while he was fighting for his life, he was continuing to teach me – all of us – yet another great lesson.

That, while you’re here, you choose whether or not you live…whether or not you show up for each moment you’re given, and who you touch along the way.

Even in his final moments with us, Greg was making that choice. The night before his passing, in his hospital room, my Uncle Mike put on some of Greg’s favorite tunes.

The first one he chose was funk band Cameo’s Rigor Mortis. The nurse came in the room and was like, “You can’t be playing that on this floor!”

But then, the best part was there was Greg, unable to talk, barely able to move, going like this [moves shoulder, bobs head]. Of course, he made us all laugh.

And that is just so Greg – to be in his final moment of this life and still just try to have fun and to make the people around him smile. And he’s still making us smile.

As truly tragic as this loss is, at just the thought of Greg, you can’t help but smile or laugh. This happens to me when I think of:

the times when I was a kid, and he’d make me look up words I didn’t know in the dictionary. It seemed so inefficient to look them up rather for him to just tell me the definitions. Later, I understood the bigger message he was sending.

The way he tricked me into cleaning up the dinner table. Greg would time me and making a game of how fast I could put all the dishes in the sink. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure that one out.

The moments when we’d sit around the table, and he’d help me with my math homework. I can still hear him teaching me about ratios: “It’s like apples and oranges…”

And when I got a little older…The patience he had with me as I wrote my statements when applying to college – and how he had the perfect words of encouragement to share with me when I burst into tears of frustration.

The comfort and guidance he’d give me when I’d get just a little off track due to various boyfriend situations.

The surprise smell of “fiestas” – one of my favorites of his famous breakfast dishes – on a Sunday morning. The emails he’d send me or articles he’d print out about world affairs, progressive ideals and agents of change fighting for social justice.

The thoughtful way he’d help me navigate trying to figure out that inevitable question of the meaning of life, and where the heck I fit into this whole thing. There’s just so much.

This experience was so surreal (Greg has always been, and still is, invincible in my eyes). My instinct is to talk with him about what I’m observing, feeling and learning, as we usually do.

And just as tears well up in my eyes, up pops another Greg lesson – I can see him peering over his glasses, and I can hear him telling me that “all things can be handled through communication.” He taught me communication is the universal solvent.

So, I’ve accepted communicating with him will look differently moving forward. I remain confident he’ll continue to be with me as I move through life. I’ll do my best to experience all of it as Greg did.

I will never be able to put into words all that Greg has taught me. Even more, all that he means to me. There is no combination of words that is sufficient.

The light I hope to be for others that I mentioned earlier – that is what Greg was to me and so many people all along. I miss Greg deeply.

I also get frustrated when I think about all the people who he had yet to meet who could benefit from knowing him. Then, I’m reminded that all those lessons he instilled in me – they weren’t for no reason.

They were intentional.  The lessons were to give me the tools to carve my paths and to build my bridges.

Just as I’ve watched Greg do all my life. And the greatest way for me to honor him is to put that into action every day.

Greg, my promise to you is to bring to life the wish for me you shared years ago: to

“continue to open my heart to those around me and to be a significant influence in the world.”

Thank you for being you, and for choosing my mom as your partner in life and me as your daughter. I love you.

About The Author

Lindsey is a resident of San Jose, California and works in Corporate Responsibility (CR) at EY. She’s passionate about skills-based volunteerism. Lindsey helps drive EY’s CR strategy through volunteer programs enabling professionals to meaningfully engage with their communities across the Americas.

If you have a special stepdad, you would like to honor, please submit your tribute to info@supportforstepdads.com. Have Tribute in the subject line. Thank you.

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