On March 18, 2022, my husband, Bill Gregory, lost his battle to pancreatic cancer. This post is a hard one to write. I'm saying good-bye to my best friend. This blog was named by him and he pushed me to do it because he knew how much I loved to cook and talk about food. So this is a special tribute to my Billy.
I want to share the eulogy my daughter, Elena, wrote because the message should be heard. It's what Bill taught all of us. Moving forward, moving onward, and not to worry about the silly stuff. I encourage you to read it and share it with your loved ones.
I sang the song "Hallelujah" to him the day he passed as I held him close. His eyes met mine and I wanted him not to be afraid. He was going to a better place and would no longer be in pain.
He fought hard for 2 ½ years. They gave him 6 months but he refused to concede. He was a warrior, a true fighter. I don't care how big you are, how many fights you've been in, or how much weight you can lift; Bill will forever be the strongest man I know. He kept his pain quiet because he didn't want us to worry. The doctors all thought he was a champion. A champion that loved his family so much, he didn't want to leave us.
But, it was time. We said our good-byes and cried like hell. That day, and almost everyday since, we've seen cardinals appear out of no where. The cardinals sit on branches and on the fence right outside our window, facing us directly, and fly past us when we least expect it. They say the cardinal is a sign that loved ones we've lost will live forever as long as we think of them and keep them in our hearts. And that we shall.
We love you Billy. We all love you very much, forever and always. Go be free and enjoy whatever it is you're doing. Have a scotch with Dad and Grandpa. Hallelujah.
The eulogy my daughter presented that speaks wonders to how you can approach life:
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect over this past week, as well as a lot of time to gather my thoughts and contemplate how exactly I wanted to capture my dad in the most beautiful and meaningful way that I could.
And honestly, there is not enough time for reflection that could ever truly prepare me for this moment, standing before each and every one of you, to talk about a man - my dad - who made an impression on our lives that will forever reside in us. A man who was taken away from this earth way too soon.
There is not a single poem or speech that can even begin to summarize my dad. Not even the most carefully crafted, influential oration out there can pay tribute to him - it would only scratch the surface of the incredible life he built.
To say that he was great man would be an understatement. It would be vague and it barely begins to break ground and unearth the countless hidden gems and gifts that my dad had to share. My dad was remarkable. Phenomenal. Extraordinary; and the level of love, kindness, and selflessness he both possessed and exhibited was unmatched.
My dad knew how to make an impact, and while the memories we have of him will stay with us in times of sorrow, grief, joy, and happiness, it is the way that he made us feel, and the lessons that stemmed from those emotions, that will carry us through the rest of our lives.
I know my dad wouldn’t want any of us to be sad. If anything, he would want us to live each and every day moving forward with the passion and will that he had. That is the best way to honor and remember him. And while the list of life lessons my dad taught me goes on and on, I want to share a few that I know he would want us all to carry from here on out.
While number one is painfully cliche, it holds so much truth, and that is to not take life so seriously. There are so many moments in life that we take for granted, and sometimes we can be so blinded by anger, fear, or frustration that we lose sight of all the good that life has to offer. We shouldn’t take life as seriously as we make it out to be, and as the 5-by-5 rule goes, if it won’t matter five years down the road, don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it.
The second is quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how many things you have, or how many boxes you check off your to-do list. It is the quality of the relationships you have and the amount of happiness and fulfillment you obtain from any and all work you do, that matter in life.
Third, live with meaning and passion. My dad had an incredible passion and will for life, and these two qualities were what helped him beat all medical odds and statistics in his courageous fight against cancer up until the very end. It didn’t matter if it was a tough day or whether it was a good day, my dad woke up each morning with a smile on his face and the determination to make it the best day possible. Life is a gift, so live each day - whether it is good, bad, or indifferent - with meaning, intention, and above all, passion.
The fourth is mental toughness. No matter how hard things may be, it is your outlook on life that sets the tone for how things will play out. So rather than succumb to any negative emotion, let’s focus on living and persevering through any and all hardship we may face.
The fifth lesson is one that I’ve especially learned from him over the past two years, and it is as follows: Negativity sows the seeds for something beautiful to flourish. Out of anything negative, something good always presents itself at some point. Even in our darkest moments and saddest days, there is always good to come.
If there is anything that we take with us once we leave this room, I hope it is those five lessons.
And although he may not be here physically, he is undeniably here in spirit. Bill Gregory lives through all of us. His strength, tenacity, passion, and unwavering kindness lives on through my family.
He is in Ryan, who’s work ethic and passion shine through every task he takes on, and whose kindness mirrors the level of care my dad exhibited.
He lives through Ethan, whose resiliency, remarkable strength, and ability to persevere through anything burns bright.
He lives through my mom, who loves, cares, and exhibits a level of selflessness that my dad possessed.
My dad lives through every single individual in this room. Every soul he crossed paths with, whether it was in short passing or through friendship that has flourished throughout the years, carries a piece of my dad.
I would like to leave you with one last thing. Two years ago at the onset of the pandemic and in the early months of his diagnosis, I had the opportunity to sit down with my dad to interview him on his outlook on life when facing adversity. He responded with what is perhaps the best thing we could learn from him today, and everyday, and that is this:
No matter the obstacle placed before us, “we limit ourselves and our abilities to move forward in a positive direction because become crippled by fear. It is ok to be afraid, it is ok to have emotion, to cry, to be fearful - there’s a whole process you go through. But at the end, you still arrive at this point. Well, we’re here. Now what are we going to do? And you have to do something, so, we move forward.”
And move forward, we shall. Today, and everyday, for you dad. We love you.