Thursday, July 8, 2010

Advice by someone who's been there

This letter was truly a gift. I had found it had become too hard to read the many heartfelt condolences I had received and had them piled up in a basket in my kitchen. Finally I was ready and I sat down to go through them. This letter was one of the first ones I came across. I knew that Laura's ex-boyfriend had lost his father at 12, but at the time it was only a footnote that didn't directly impact my life experience. Laura had asked his mother, who like me was left a young widow with four young children, to write me. I read the letter twice with tears streaming down my face, and after the second time, I impulsively decided to call her. It was late in D.C., but I knew three hours earlier in California where she lived. We talked for about an hour and there is nothing that can compare to the understanding of someone who has walked in your shoes. I also know that she has four wonderful children and a strong and loving family so that was an inspiration in itself. I found her letter so beautiful and its advice so pertinent that I asked her if I could share it. She graciously agreed and here it is:

Dear Katherine,

I am a friend of Laura’s, Peter’s mother. Laura is very dear to us and I feel like I know you from hearing about you and your family from Laura.

I was so sorry to hear about hour husband Thai. As you know, I have experienced the same loss at just about the same time you did. Four young children and very unexpected. It is so difficult to understand why this happens.

I saw the picture of your darling family from your visit to California. The boys are adorable. Laura thought I could pass on some thoughts that might be helpful. I can only tell you what I learned on the journey and I will admit I was muddling through most of the time!

I decided it was not going to help anyone by making the family victims of uncontrollable circumstance. Rather I took the path of letting them know what a fabulous and wonderful father they had. We talked about him all the time, what his favorite things were, sports teams, food, music. I think this was important because it gave the children an avenue to talk to me without worrying about upsetting me. This was really important for Charlie (he was 6) to remember his father with information shared by all of us. I reminded them of who he was and what a great guy he was by mentioning the small things. To this day, it comes up in conversation: “Dad said/likes/this or that.”

I was kind of tough when one or the other might think there should be an excuse for behavior because their dad had died. I did not let that happen—hard to do but it made them better able to accept responsibility.

Rely on friends and I know your family is close by which is so nice. Remind everyone to talk about Thai in regular conversation. The children like to know others feel the loss as well and that he is missed by many. People are sometimes uncomfortable, worried about bringing Thai up, but you will see the boys light up when his name is mentioned.

I also think it can be particularly hard on the children 11-14. Too old to cry and too young to understand. Peter was 12 and he kept a lot in—it took longer for him to understand.

You have a job ahead but it comes with many rewards. I have 4 wonderful children. They love each other and we have lots of fun. We have a great relationship partly because of Bryan’s death. We all share that loss and that is something special. I would have never thought it would be that way, but I am grateful. I do know I miss him everyday still and smile each time I think of him. He loved us very much and I know he would have loved to see the children grow up. There are rewards for me of seeing the family intact and happy. I know you can’t see it now but your future is bright. I know it was a blessing to have the children with me to share the loss and grow together. I can’t imagine being alone with a loss like Thai. I had to get up and going every day.

Please call if you feel like it. Take care of yourself and know you will see Thai in the children as they grow. I will be a surprise, maybe in the way they move or an expression. It still amazes me when it appears. And it is another gift I did not expect.

It has been 16 years and sometimes it feels like forever and others like just yesterday. The first year was a blur and I didn’t even realize it. I do feel fortunate to have had a great and loving husband—for too short a time for sure. From what I hear from Peter, you did as well.

Take care—Fondly, Margie

June 19, 2010

Remembrance from a sister in law

My sister Laura was born when I was 19 years old. She was an adorable little girl and I was crazy about her, but our relationship was much more like aunt and niece than sisters. As she's matured, however, she's turned into this smart, funny, and beautiful inside and out young woman who I so enjoy talking to and sharing things with. She was a huge support through this whole ordeal for both me and the boys. There is no question she is now a full fledged sister in every sense of the word.

The loss of Thai at this point in Laura's life seems particularly cruel. For years, I would find Thai at a family gathering espousing his views on world politics or the economy to a rather glazed over Laura. But as she attended business school and thereby fulfilled one of Thai's long term dreams, Thai and Laura could truly relate. He was fascinated by hearing about her classes, professors, and of course always had to dig a little into her love life. He loved brainstorming with her about her next career moves (nuclear energy!) At the memorial, Laura did a reading of the poem that was printed on the program and discussed Thai's influence:

I give you this one thought to keep
I am with you still
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone
I am with you still
In each new dawn.

Thai held everyone to the highest standard and always pushed people to do and be their best. I always valued that quality in him. Whenever talking about my school and career choices he would always challenge me to do something bigger and better than I even thought possible. After Thai passed, I was driving with my mom on a perfect summer day and I was surprised by the feeling that he was present in everything around me. His presence gave me a sense of security and an increased feeling of motivation. Motivation to take on my future endeavors in a way that would make Thai proud, in a way that would make a difference in this world. He left an indelible impression on me and after that day I know he will be with me forever.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Some of my e-mails before and after Thai's death

This was definitely the most difficult post for me to put together. The optimism we had in the beginning, now that I know the outcome, is heartbreaking to read. And yet I want to make sure that my boys know that I was always upfront with them. We were receiving a cautious but optimistic message on Thai's eventual recovery which I desperately wanted to believe and I shared that message with them until Friday night when we learned the devastating truth. Many of you have already seen most of these messages.

Tuesday 6/1 E-mail to a group of friends on my e-mail contacts

The outpouring of support for Thai and our family during this very difficult time has been overwhelming. I can’t tell you how much it means to us. We are so lucky to live in such a wonderful community with such incredible people.

Thai is currently stable, but fully sedated at this point. He had a rough time of it initially, but he seems to be mending as well as anyone can hope. We will know more in a few days when he is brought out of the sedation and the heart has a chance to recover. We are hopeful for a full recovery, but don’t know what that will entail yet. I am including the following note that was sent out by Thai’s partner since his description is better than mine. Here’s the note:

By now many of you have heard about Thai McGreivy. For those of you that did not I wanted to let you know and ask for your support and prayers for Thai, Katherine and their family. Yesterday morning Thai was starting out on a bike ride with a group of friends when he suddenly collapsed. He was brought to the ER at Suburban Hospital in cardiac arrest. After being resuscitated in the ER he was transported to the cath lab and had emergency angioplasty and placement of a drug eluting stent in his LAD. He is now in the CV ICU undergoing a cerebral cooling protocol while his CV status stabilizes. The next several days will be critical as his heart recovers and he wakes up from the drug induced sedation he is currently under.There were many things that went right in a terrible situation for Thai. He was with friends and not alone. A physician passing by stopped to render aid and monitor his pulse, which he had, until EMS arrived. As he lost pulses for the initial episode the Medics were on scene and able to quickly start to resuscitate him. He was brought to the ER where an experienced cardiologist, not on call for STEMIs, just happened to be ‘around’ and was able to respond to the ER on a holiday to facilitate his care. He had a resource nurse care for him from ER to cath lab to the ICU ensuring a great continuum of care. He was transported to a facility that was able to offer emergency PTCA as well as a cerebral cooling protocol for post arrest patients. All of the above state of the art and delivered very timely. As one of the medics, Chris, stated ‘today the system worked exactly as it was supposed to work’. That is not always the case as we all know. Shahana will help to coordinate the response on the MEP end. I know that many of you may want to visit and while appreciated I ask that you allow his family some time to focus on Thai and his recovery for a few days before dropping by to offer your support. The best thing we can do now is offer our prayers, love and support to Thai, Katherine and his family. Thanks,Angelo

I know I have forgotten people on this list. Please feel free to forward this note to anyone who you think might want to receive it.

Much love,


Tuesday 6/1 (Private e-mail to Carrie)

Thai is stable and off a lot of the artificial support he was on. We don't know when they are going to lift sedation. Maybe tomorrow, maybe Thursday. That's the next big hurdle since we won't know his mental status until then. The waiting is really tough. Just pray that he's still the same Thai we all love.

Wednesday 6/2 (private e-mail to Carrie)

Some good news is that his cardiac output/blood pressure is improving. They are going to try to lift sedation this evening. This is a really scary time because we just don't know what to expect in terms of mental status and I can't get any answers other than they don't know what to expect. I've asked sixty different ways and I get the same answer. So please send as many good thoughts/prayers Thai's way as you can. Also, there is an MEP facebook site that Angelo is updating with status updates if people want to check that.

Love, Kath

Thursday 6/3 (e-mail to Helping Hands group)

Thai had a bit of a setback last night when he came down with pneumonia. It was unfortunate, but not a surprise considering the amount of fluid he had in his lungs. They are treating him aggressively with antibiotics to get rid of the infection and a diuretic to get rid of the fluid. I talked to the nurse this morning and she told me that his numbers were moving in the right direction. The medical care at Suburban has been top notch so we are very lucky to be there. They have warned me to expect a bumpy ride, but everyone is optimistic that the ultimate outcome will be positive. In the meantime, it means they can’t lift the sedation as we had hoped. Unless things turn quickly, it could be several days, a week or even more. Of course, the waiting is agony, but the important thing is Thai is healing. And as his ICU doc told me last night, “This is all just ICU stuff. If he wasn’t having this stuff, he wouldn’t be in the ICU.” It made me feel better knowing that at least for them, this was routine. And Thai’s strong, so I think he may beat all their predictions. Four days before this happened, he had been on a 30 mile bike ride.

Again, thank you so much for the outpouring of support. It means so much and I’m sorry I can’t answer everyone’s e-mails personally. My Luddite-ness is catching up with me since I have no access to e-mail during the day when I’m at the hospital.

Much love,


Friday 6/4 (e-mail to Helping Hands group the morning before going to hospital)

Yesterday was a bit of a rocky day for Thai as he struggled to clear the gunk from his lungs from the pneumonia. They had started weaning him off of oxygen and lowering his respirator support, but sometime in the morning, his oxygen saturation numbers dropped and they had to up his oxygen back to 100 percent and increase the work the machine was doing for him. Because of his fragile medical condition, they couldn’t do all the things they would usually do to clear his lungs. They did finally manage to loosen things up with some physical manipulation of his chest and switched out his ventilator to a different kind and when I called this morning he was back down to 50 percent oxygen so things are improving. I’m hoping we’re at the beginning of the end of this ordeal, but am trying to keep myself prepared for the roller coaster to continue. Besides Thai, the boys are of course my biggest concern and I’m trying so hard to keep their lives as normal as possible. We are being optimistic, but honest, and trying to keep them in all their activities to keep them busy and active. Jan gave me a terrific book on helping your kids when your parent has a serious illness and it was a great relief that my instincts seemed to be right in this stuff. I have had amazing help from my friends both for me and my kids. Thank you so much everyone. I believe there have been a few silver linings to this nightmarish situation. One is I’ve finally lost that five pounds that was my summer swimsuit goal. The others are the love I’ve felt surrounded by, the affirmation of the essential goodness of people and the realization of how wonderful life really is. Seize the day because you really never know what’s around the corner. Some of you know this, but I wanted to share how incredible Thai’s partners have been in this situation. I’ve long known they were a great group of people, but I’ve really been overwhelmed by what they’ve been doing. There has been an MEP doctor at the hospital 24 hours a day from the time this has started even though they also need to cover Thai’s shifts. They have been there to monitor Thai’s care and offer support. I see why Thai loved his work so much working with people like this.Keep your thoughts and prayers on Thai licking this pneumonia and being able to get weaned off the ventilator and woken up. Love,Katherine

Saturday 6/5 (E-mail to Helping Hands website)

It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you the devastating news we received yesterday. Thai was winning the battle with pneumonia, but our greatest underlying fear was realized. Being finally stable enough to undergo a CAT scan, we learned that he had suffered massive and irreversible brain damage during his ordeal with no hope of a meaningful recovery. The love of my life and the beloved father of four sons as we knew him is gone, although his heart is still beating. I faced the hardest thing I have ever done in my life which was to tell his four sons that their daddy wasn’t coming home. They are grieving deeply but I hope healthily. Today we will go to say our goodbyes. Right now we are closing ranks together as a family to deal with this tragedy, but I will welcome your love and support in a few days. I will let Carrie know when I feel ready. I know your thoughts are with us.

Love, Katherine

Sunday 6/6 (Private e-mail to a group of friends)

We are ready to reach out and receive the support we know is there. You are such a strong, capable group of women and I know I can count on you. I am so lucky to have that support in my life. We are still waiting for a final resolution which is largely dependent upon the rules surrounding organ donation, rules I hope you never have to know. I want to start thinking though about how to honor Thai’s life and I need help getting started on that. I’ve figured out some things and right now I guess my main thought is a location. I have one idea—the Unitarian church on River has a glass open chapel that is nice, but may be too small. Any other thoughts of locations between here and Gaithersburg would be great. I’ve decided it will be spiritual, but not religious and I am planning on asking Angelo to officiate (although I haven’t asked him yet.) Any creative ideas in general are appreciated as my well is dry.

James informed me he is ready to play with his friends today. He is grieving, but it is so different (and easier) to deal with his. Let me know if Aidan or Matthew is available today.

Much love,


Monday 6/7 (E-mail to the Helping Hands website)

Thai rests in peace. He passed calmly and tranquilly around 11:30 last night. Around 1:00 that afternoon we decided the time was right to begin the process for organ donation. We spent the day at the hospital with Thai as the complicated process of readying facilities and finding recipients began. My mom and sister and several of Thai’s partners were with me and we honored Thai with affectionate stories, readings from his blogs, tears and laughter. We also spent time alone with Thai saying last goodbyes. At 10:00 Thai was wheeled out of the room and to the operating room while we told him how much we loved him until the elevator doors closed. We then waited upstairs for news.

At 11:25, the coordinator from the Washington Regional Transplant Community came to the door to tell us that the breathing tube had been removed and that Thai had not drawn any breaths on his own, but his heart was weakly beating. I said “Rest in peace Thai.” We all became completely silent and I immediately felt a pulse of energy that moved through me like a wave and gave me a feeling of total peace. We remained silent for a long time, a comfortable, intimate silence, but whether it was five minutes or 20 I could not say. Those of you who know me well know that I am not religious or particularly spiritual, but Nick, my mother, my sister, Angelo and his wife Amy also felt this sense of something passing through us. Thai always believed in concepts of interconnectedness and the conservation of energy in a broad way so it seems fitting. Maybe it’s true that “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

After that they reported that they had successfully removed Thai’s liver and it looked good and they were in the process of removing his kidneys. This morning we got the unfortunate news that his liver was too damaged during the cardiac event for donation, but will be used for research. His kidneys, however, looked great and will be readied for donation soon, hopefully giving a new life to two people. He is also a tissue donor and we have been told that more than 20 people may be benefitted by Thai’s gift. This gives us great comfort as there seems to be some purpose in this otherwise utterly senseless and tragic event.



Tuesday 6/8 (E-mail to Helping Hands website)

Thai’s memorial service is scheduled for Thursday June 17 at 3 p.m. at the Bethesda Theatre at 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda. I will send more details as the date gets closer, but wanted to let everyone know the date and time as soon as possible. We are also in the process of setting up a memorial fund in honor of Thai that will fund educational scholarships for excellence and intellectual curiosity in science, mathematics and economics. In lieu of flowers, our family will request donations to this fund.

I also want to say thank you again and again and again for everything people have done for me. I cannot tell you what a comfort this outpouring of support has been in such a difficult time. I have read and treasured all the e-mails that you sent and plan on compiling them into a memory book for our family. I apologize that I have not been able to reply to everyone, but hope you understand that they are truly appreciated.


Tuesday 6/15 (E-mail to Helping Hands website)

Before my life took this unforeseeably tragic turn, I had attended a talk by BCC parent Caroline Adams Miller at the Westland book fair. She’s a motivational coach and frankly very inspiring about your ability to reach goals in your life. As I had been toying with the thought of returning to work in some capacity, I bought her book called “Creating Your Best Life” which talks about reaching life goals and research proven happiness boosters . Proven booster #2 is “Expressing Gratitude.” Even before I dealt with Thai’s death, I tried to express my thankfulness to those around me, including, luckily, my beloved husband.

Well, now I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I knew there was a reason why Thai and I, who moved here 15 years ago with a 7 year ARM mortgage because we never planned to stay, stayed and added on and renovated and re-renovated because we knew we would be fools to leave for some bigger house with that mythical garage and yard I have always coveted. You just can’t buy community and I have to say you all have outdone yourselves here. Whether it’s a well timed hug, a beautifully written tribute, sharing a cry, mowing our lawn, walking our dog, taking care of the kids, bringing us another delicious meal, taking on the details of all the memorial service, providing books on loss, cleaning out Thai’s car, putting up my relatives, even picking up death certificates because I just couldn’t go back to the funeral home again, it has all helped to get us through this terrible loss. The McGreivys are honored to live in such a community. With the warm embrace of my family, this community, the MEP community, and even Thai’s many online friends, we are healing, although I know it will be a lifelong journey for all of us.

Some of you may have already seen the piece in the Post Health section today. It was written by our friend John Donnelly, a journalist whose writing I have long admired as he covered BCC’s track and field team. When he asked me if I were interested in him writing something on Thai, I said absolutely knowing it would be wonderful. What is below is a longer and even more personal version of the piece that was published today in the Post:

[article was in earlier post]

Also, some of you may be aware that Thai was a passionate and frequent blogger. If you’re interested, there are a number of online tributes that have been gathered at the following site: ( Please explore; Thai would be thrilled I am sure.



MEP in Haiti

I was incredibly proud of what MEP did as a company to support Mark Hayward, a physician's assistant, in his work in Haiti after the earthquake. Like so many of us, I was devastated by what was going on there and wanted to do more than just send a check, but had no idea what I could do. Mark, with the support of MEP, put himself on the front lines.

In my prior Luddite days, the link to Mark's blog was my one and only posting on Facebook. I had no idea that Thai had been interviewed for an article about Mark's trip to Haiti by and only stumbled across his comments while looking for his blog postings. I've bolded that section of the article, but the entire story is an inspiring example of how one person can make a difference.

The devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 12, was more than a news story for Mark Hayward. He saw the images on TV and immediately recognized places he had been, streets he has walked and thought of people he knew.

Hayward, an emergency medicine physician assistant at St. Mary's Hospital, worked in Haiti as a medical officer for a team of United States law enforcement personnel for three months in 2009.
"It was very personal," he said by phone this week from his home in King George, Va.
"I got a text message from a friend driving to work that night and got updates throughout my shift," he said. "It was evident very early on that it was a huge disaster."

Hayward was familiar with the poor infrastructure in the country and could only imagine the damage. The next day, he was in constant communication with as many friends as possible, and glued to the TV screen. At about 3 a.m., after not being able to sleep, he decided he had to do something.

He contacted major aid organizations, the American Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, to offer his assistance. He explained his medical background, including time as a Special Forces medic with the U.S. Army. He told them he had worked in Haiti and was willing to deploy to help. The response was not encouraging.

"They said, ‘Thanks, but we have it under control, just send a donation,'" Hayward said. "At the same time I'm talking to guys on ground, and I asked them what they saw in terms of need. I was told it was total chaos."

Hayward even contacted his former employer from his work in Haiti, who welcomed his help, but told him to wait until they could figure out terms of a contract for their services.
Hayward couldn't wait anymore. With the support of Medical Emergency Professionals, his current employer which staffs St. Mary's Hospital's emergency room, and hospital Vice President Mark Boucot, he was preparing to leave for Haiti. He bought a ticket to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic with his own funds and got the go-head to take off.

MEP completely supported his efforts and continued to pay his salary while co-workers covered his shifts.

"How could we not? I think our whole organization had been seeing what was going on and just feeling sick at the very thought. [Emergency room] departments are very team oriented and have to be staffed 24 hours a day, so if someone leaves someone else has to cover," said Dr. Thai McGreivy, a managing partner with MEP, which is based in Germantown. "All of us wanted to do something. So we all stood behind one, and he served as a representative down there for us."

Hayward loaded a large suitcase with wound and traumatic injury supplies donated by St. Mary's Hospital. He packed another bag with supplies donated by Harder and Harder Associates, a Virginia-based company which makes specialized combat medical kits. He took another bag of personal gear and left for Santo Domingo on Jan. 16.

He had no specific plans for what he would do when he got there. On a shuttle bus to a connecting flight in Philadelphia, Hayward met Will McNulty and realized they were both headed to Santo Domingo to provide disaster relief in Haiti. McNulty was part of Team Rubicon, a grassroots team of volunteers, which welcomed Hayward's assistance.

When they arrived in Santo Domingo, he met the rest of the team, which included a former Marine intelligence officer, a Marine sniper, two firefighters, two doctors and a Jesuit monk. Team Rubicon, founded by McNulty, fellow former Marine Jake Wood and Milwaukee firefighter Jeff Lang, was formed through social networking and casual meetings. They quickly raised more than $200,000 and traveled to Port-au-Prince to provide medical services.

Wood described the team to Catholic Online as "an incredible success story that began with two phone calls and a Facebook post. It has grown into a model for disaster relief that must be paid attention to. All but two of the original eight members had never met in person before, yet the team was able to cross into Haiti and save thousands of lives because they acted."

On Sunday morning, Jan. 17, the team made the long drive into Port-au-Prince. They set up shop at a Jesuit monastery Sunday night, and immediately started to see patients. The following day, they went into the southeast part of the city.

"It was kind of like going to hell," Hayward said. "We went to an impromptu refugee camp inside the city near a Jesuit school. All we knew was there were about 900 people in the camp who hadn't received any medical attention."

Hayward's first patient was an 18-year-old boy whose fingers were smashed by falling cinderblocks. Gangrene had set in. Their job was to clean it up as best they could, then find a hospital where the hand could be amputated.

"The whole day went like that," Hayward said. "We saw from 200 to 300 patients that Monday. Probably 100 had wounds like that one. Probably another 100 had significant fractures that hadn't been treated for close to a week. I had never seen anything like that in my entire life. The utter lack of the most basic medical care for these people blew me away."

As the days went on, the team provided first-response medical care to hundreds of patients at numerous locations. They also assisted with medical procedures at a general hospital with other volunteer medical teams. Some of the work involved providing first-aid care and prepping wounds for further treatment, but Hayward said there were some cases that he never expected to be involved in as a physician's assistant.

"I was saying ‘What the hell has gone wrong that I'm taking care of this kind of wound?'" he said. "If I was back in the States, I wouldn't have touched any of this kind of stuff. Frequently down there, I would say ‘If we don't do this, it's not going to be done, so we're going to the best we can.'"

Hayward spent more than 10 days working in Haiti and said he would not hesitate to do it again. His only regret was that he couldn't get there sooner.

"One of the big reasons we're doing this interview is to make sure folks in Southern Maryland know of all the good stuff done behind the scenes by folks in Southern Maryland to help out," he said. "The other reason we're talking is because I believe very strongly that if something like this happens again probably what we'll see in the news and hear from big aid organizations is probably going to be the same … There's a critical gap between when something like this happens and when big aid organizations are able to get their teams together to make something happen. That's where the need is for small volunteer groups."

Hayward said it was hard to leave Port-au-Prince knowing there was more assistance needed. However, by that time additional medical response teams, many much larger than their team, had arrived.

"It was [hard], but it was time to go," he said. "It was time for us to get out of the way and let them do their work."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Remembrance from another sideline Dad

My favorite part of this remembrance is the line that Thai's sudden, senseless death inspired others "to live the life that we want to live now and not squander the precious, yet limited time we have with our family and friends." My connection is too close to this situation to feel that comforting message, but I have felt it other times when a tragedy has touched me, but not so closely.

My last words to Thai were an utterly mundane good night and the last time I heard him truly alive was to be awoken by the comforting, familiar sound of his bike shoes clattering out the door. It did make me realize that you never really know when you will have your last words with someone, so striving to keep your interactions with those you love as positive as possible is always worthwhile. Of course, as I've spent a few mornings this summer scolding my kids out the door to their 8:30 swim practice, I realize that's not always an attainable goal. But always something to work towards . . . Here's Neal Nemeroff's rememberance:


I know since the tragic events of the last two weeks you have received messages of love, support and memories providing a foundation of strength helping you and the boys get through each day. I am fairly sure that my message to you will do little to ease your pain, but maybe my perspective on Thai and the meaning of all this will offer some solace in a truly incomprehensible tragedy.

The truth of the matter is I did not know Thai as a close friend. We have talked every month or so over the last 4 years; sometimes a “hey how things going” and other times an intimate conversation about our kids, while still other times more in depth conversations that oftentimes went a bit over my head. The healthcare debates in particular, early in the basketball season last year, would subsequently lead me to carefully choose my seat for the next game as far away from Thai as possible so I could actually watch the boys play. The frequency of my conversations with Thai would ebb and flow in correlation with the sports seasons that Nathan and JJ shared. With that said, I am not the most emotional guy in the world, so I have been at a loss to understand why the tears have been uncontrollably streaming from my eyes since Memorial Day. I found myself playing hooky from work last week wanting to be close to home, incessantly checking my email for community updates from you on Thai’s status and constantly thinking about what JJ and the rest of the your family were going through; my heart ached.

Katherine, in the soul searching that a senseless tragedy like this facilitates, I have realized that I truly admired Thai and I am pissed that I did not take advantage of all he had to offer and get to know him more closely. I am sure your perspective on Thai was obviously quite different than mine, but in my eyes he exhibited qualities that I admire and value most: Passion above All, Family Man, Quick Wit, Unparalleled Intellectual Curiosity and Compassion. These are all traits that make a great man and a great father. Nobody can deny, whether it is his very close friends and family, or me, a good friend, that these were traits (among others) that became the foundation of Thai’s persona.

Furthermore, in my eyes, Thai was the resident Bethesda Renaissance man. He was fully versed (and at times full of hot air) in a wide swath of subjects. Being of a more simple mind I appreciated his thoughtful approach to having fun at soccer (water guns – I mean who could have imagined); the idea of I.V.s at Starbuck’s so we would not have to drink the coffee to get the caffeine; his guts in buying a boat online and worrying about how to get it to the East Coast later; and his truly unmatched understanding of global economics that were often way over my head. Regardless of the subject matter or event, however, it was his passion in delivery and substance that always resonated with me. Nothing he ever engaged in was employed half-ass; everything was with conviction. He couldn’t even have a mild heart attack. He had to do it with gusto.

Finally, Katherine I have spoke to many Bethesda men over the last 2 weeks that cannot bring themselves to talk about Thai without tears welling in our eyes. The reasons are obvious, as past sons we know the value that our fathers have played in our lives and the compassion we feel for your boys is overwhelming. Moreover, and selfishly, Thai’s death reminded us of our own mortality. This incomprehensible situation has ignited a new passion in many Bethesda men to live the life that we want to live now and not squander the precious, yet limited time we have with our family and friends. These are not just my words, but those shared by many within the community that I have talked to. Because of this tragedy, hugs between Bethesda men have been rampant the last two weeks. I know Thai would get a big kick out of that on many levels. This is not a fleeting response. We (the Bethesda community) now want to live the “Thai Way”. The Thai Way reminds us to live with passion and compassion. To each of us that manifests itself in different ways, but to all of us it means we will become better because of Thai.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter I am sure my message to you will do very little to ease your heartbreak, and in fact I guess this message is more of a catharsis for me. I think, however it important for you to know that Thai’s untimely death yet tragic, is not completely meaningless. Where memories of Thai will remain in your heart and new memories will spawn from your sons’ eyes as they grow into men like Thai, Thai’s memory and will be served by all that knew him by following his lead of living life the “Thai Way”.

My deepest sympathies,

Neal Nemeroff

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Remembrance From a Neighborhood Kid

Edgemoor is full of many talented, accomplished and, most important of all, kind children. We have a 5 foot banner filled with beautiful and caring sentiments that the Edgemoor and surrounding neighborhood kids made for my children. (Thanks Carrie.) Jack Barker is one of these amazing kids and I have often told his mom through the years: "I just love Jack--he's such a great kid." And he is. Jack wrote a book of poetry, as all 5th graders at Bethesda Elementary do as their end of the year project, and dedicated it to Thai. Here is his dedication and poem which speaks to questions we all ask.

Dedicated to Thai McGreivy, who saved many lives before he couldn't save his own.

In Remembrance of

Why did he have to go?

Why couldn't he say "hi" to me another day?

Why couldn't he walk Sasha one more day?

Why couldn't he be with James, Luke, Kyle and Nick another day?

Why couldn't he speed down the street driving his blue car with the "Berkeley" license plate again?

Why didn't he just come home from the hospital fine and healthy?

Why did this have to happen to him, James's father?

Why couldn't he have stayed, why did he have to depart from all of us?

I'll always remember you.

I'm praying for you Thai.

A tribute from a neighborhood icon

Len Simon is a remarkable guy. He has handled the stewardship of the Edgemoor Citizen's Association for many years with incredible grace and skill. We have a lot of very bright, very opionionated people in our neighborhood so a discussion about sidewalks or dog etiquette can become quite passionate. Watching Len let everyone be heard while maintaining dignity and decorum is like watching an artist at work. He has also given me some precious Thai memories that I will always treasure. Each year, Len, his wife, and his sons organize a summer musical complete with props, live musical accompaniment, and uneven, but always earnest, performers from the neighborhood. Over the last two years, people learned something that I have long known from car trips and showers: Thai has a beautiful voice. I was so proud of him after he nailed duets from "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Oklahoma" with Julie Mack, a professional jazz singer. "Thai Bennet" became his new nickname. (Thanks Bob) I thought those duets with Julie would become an annual tradition, but alas it was not to be. Thanks, Len, for the memories. Here's Len's wonderful tribute:

The great writer Mary McGrory emerged from President Kennedy’s funeral, on the arm of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and said, “Pat, I’m afraid we’ll never be happy again.” He responded – “Mary, we’ll be happy. We’ll just never be young again”. That’s a bit of how I feel today about Thai. Something young and vibrant has been taken from us, and we will not see its likes again. His passing, for us, is a point of demarcation. You felt so good around him – the energy and enthusiasm. How can it be replaceable?

But Thai will be frozen in time. I sometimes feel that John and Robert Kennedy remain the icons they are because they never got old. No grey hairs, soft flesh, aching joints for them. Or for Thai. He will remain forever young, bright energetic and smiling, a standard against which all of us will measure ourselves, and come up a bit short. But the trying will matter.

What on heaven or earth was God thinking? What did he have in mind -- isn’t this a savage act –to take the best of us? The answer to that is unknowable to us. And yet we can already see God’s invisible hand. I know that in the last 15 days, we don’t complain as much, we try to be more patient, we impart acts of kindness to others more quickly – think of Thai. Think of what he would do. Think of what he can’t do now.

And you know what – here we all are. Can we stay together? Can we transition from strangers to neighbors to friends? Thai wants to know. He’s looking.

When Cal Ripken retired, he was asked: “How did you want to be remembered?” He replied, “How ? -- It is enough to be remembered at all.” Thai will be remembered. There is an entire neighborhood that will take care of that. And none of the McGreivy’s will ever be far from our thoughts or our activities. Boys: You are all our sons now.

The night before he died, Dr. King said: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life - longevity has its place”. I know all of us here would have loved nothing more that to see Thai at 50, 60, 70, 80 and beyond – each of us would have traded blood and years to make that happen.

There was once a good man named Paul Tsongas. And just like Thai, he tried to make it a better world. And just like Thai, he died very young, with young children, about 15 years ago. Recently, I have come to know his daughter Katina, who was not that much older than Nick is now when her Dad died. So on Saturday, I asked her, “Do you have a message for the McGreivy boys?"
She said, “Don’t be afraid of your pain. And don’t be afraid to express your love. Put your Dad beside you”. All of us who have lost a parent knows, they go to a different place, but never truly go away.

On Sunday I visited the memorial in Oklahoma City, where 168 people died in a bombing in 1995. The most profound part of the experience was listening to a woman who survived, and a woman who lost her sister in the bombing and then went on to raise her three children. They both had the same message: Nothing we do changes the past. Everything we do changes the future.

In times when the right words elude you, when you cannot bring forth the sentiments you wish to express, if you turn to Shakespeare, you will almost always find what you need. And so from Romeo and Juliet, comes a passage that reads as if it was written to Thai:

When he shall die,