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  • Dave Greten

The Head and The Heart

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to give a speech about my brother and I’s relationship called “The Head and The Heart.” And now, here I am giving that speech I always wanted to give at the venue I never ever wanted.

This speech is called “The Head and the Heart” because that is the best way to describe our very different personalities. Andy was the brain and I was the heart. This was reflected in the things we studied – Andy studied math and physics and I studied journalism and history. Andy would do your taxes and I would write you a lovely sonnet about them.

We were polar opposites – I was dark and brooding and Andy was light and sunny. His life was a steady trajectory upwards while mine was all over the place with tremendous ups and downs like a sine wave. Andy got straight A’s in high school and college and worked the same job out of school for 23 years. He started saving for retirement on his first day at work. Me, my grades were all over the place, I got everything from an A plus to an F minus. I’ve had hundreds of jobs and never saved for retirement.

Andy brought tremendous intensity to everything he did and he used to call me Mister 80% because I was always like “Yeah, a B minus is fine, whatever.” It was as if you had taken a fully well-rounded person and cut them into two, with Andy being one half and I the other. Our physics teacher in high school once asked our mother if we were actually related.

Despite all these differences, or maybe because of them, we got along quite well. I loved my brother and felt fortunate to have him as my brother and I like to think he felt the same way about me. When we were young, we spent hours throwing a baseball back and forth, tossing each other batting practice, wrestling, and playing video games.

I did these things with him because I knew I could never match him on the basketball court where he was unstoppable and relentless. We grew up in New Hampshire during the Larry Bird Celtics era and I used to think of Andy in that light – just like Bird, he was willing to pass the ball, fight for the rebound, or take the open shot – doing whatever it took to get the win.

Later in life, we developed a shared interest in mountain climbing. We climbed some big ones together including Mount Rainier in Washington State and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. During these climbs, I was always in awe of Andy’s willpower. He had a burning desire within him to conquer these mountains, to wrest the greatest achievement out of the experience. I could never beat him to the summit, he always got there first with energy to spare.

Andy and I at 15,000 feet, getting ready for summit day on Mount Kilimanjaro

Our father passed away at the age of 48, when I was 20 and Andy 18, and the one mountain we both wanted to climb was to reach that age. I turned 48 last year but not before going to the hospital convinced I was having a heart attack. It brings me so much pain to know Andy didn’t make it, he was only 46 years old. This is the one race I never ever wanted to win, I wanted more than anything for us to reach this peak together and take in the view together. But I guess it was not meant to be and I have to accept that.

But with you all as my witness, I promise to live my life in a way that will honor Andy for the rest of my life. I will be there to help the family he left behind – his wife Amy and his children Haley and Heidi. They are so beautiful and I promise to be there for them whenever they need me. I will also seek to live life to the fullest as he did, with a sense of humor and enthusiasm. I will honor him as if he were standing beside me on this peak even though he is not.

I have just one more story for you all. Long ago my mother and brother watched a movie together called Edward Scissorhands. It’s a good movie although a very sad one. At the end, Andy was mad at our mom for making him watch it. He said “Great mom, now I’m sad. Why would I want to be sad?”

It’s a great question – what is the point of sad movies? What is the point of tragedy? Wouldn’t it be better to drown yourself in comedy and laughter than sadness and tears? I’d suggest the point of tragedy is it brings us all together. Look around this room, look at all the people whose lives Andy touched. He brought us all together. That is a very good thing.

In the years leading up to Covid, all of us had been drifting apart and Covid made it all a million times worse. For a year we had lockdowns and social distancing and it made all of us feel alone, isolated, and scared, more intent on fighting one another than helping one another.

And now, tragedy. I think all of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news, it was so unexpected and shocking. I suggest we use this tragedy as an opportunity to heal the divides between us. I want to meet all of you. If you’ve got a story about my brother, I’d like to hear it because it would give me joy in a time of great pain. If not now, tell it to me several months from now. It doesn’t matter, there is no stopwatch when it comes to healing.

Let’s not squander this moment, let’s instead use it form enduring bonds and create a state of peace. When I got the news of Andy’s passing, I called my ex-wife and we both cried together and it brought us closer together and we achieved a state of peace, something our kids never in a million years thought possible.

I’d like to suggest you do something similar – reach out to a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. I can tell you that you will miss them terribly when they are gone. Ask someone how they are doing and really listen to their answer. Be there for them. Do so selflessly, with no interest in personal gain. Live your life from this day forward with compassion, kindness, and generosity towards everyone you meet. That’s what Andy would have wanted and you can honor his memory by doing so.

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