The day I was told my dad was dying coincided with the day Auburn basketball was bumped up to a #1 rank for the first time in history. It was nine days ago, and also another lifetime.
This is significant for a couple different reasons: Auburn’s head coach Bruce Pearl was named the head coach for UT men’s basketball the year I worked for Lady Vols, and my Dad was the biggest Auburn fan ever I’d ever met. If only we’d been able to share the news with him.
This week is also Lunar New Year—and as Lunas, I feel a special pull to anything revolving around the moon’s cycle—and this is the Year of the Tiger. The Auburn Tiger, as I like to think about it.
Dad, however, was born in the Year of the Rabbit. The more I read about it, the more it makes perfect sense.
People born in the Year of the Rabbit are kind, virtuous and popular. They are artistic and have good taste, with a liking for the finer things in life. They do not like to argue, preferring peace and quiet. They are compassionate listeners, excellent negotiators and always work well with people.
Dealing with my dad’s death is something I’ve barely begun to process. No one wants to become the newest member of the Dead Parent Society; it’s a club no one in their right mind applies for, but one that eventually most of us join, no matter how much we live in denial.
I’m not special because I’ve lost my dad, but I now can relate to the crushing weight of pain so many friends and family members have experienced before me; it feels as if someone put an anvil on your chest and sunk you to the deep end of the pool.
I also know it will make me a more compassionate friend to all of those who lose parents down the road. As my friend Shannon told me when she came to the hospital at 5am shortly after Dad passed away to be with us: You just don’t know until you’ve been there.
I remember when my friend Emily lost her father in high school; it hit like the ultimate gut punch. His death was an accident, a random act of fate, an anomaly, not the norm—it felt so far removed from my own reality at that time.
Then, one of my past roommates and dear friends Ashley lost her father in a tragic car accident during my first year living in New York right after college. Lemon and I rented a car and drove all night to Tennessee to be with her. A few years later, Lemon lost her own father to prostate cancer. I grieved for them both, heartbroken and scared that I was next.
But I got an extra 20, 15, 10 years on all of them; time with Dad that they didn’t have with theirs. Sure, the stroke was unfair, particularly the negligence that led to his TBI, which left us without answers and in a rehab facility for five weeks, Dad’s fate perilously in the hands of strangers who didn’t know him, weren’t particularly invested in finding answers to lead to a recovery.
But we accepted our fate and learned to live with the new norm. The new norm was that Dad was still there: in body, in personality and in mind, most times.
It’s almost like some divine presence gave us an extra six years with him so that he could become a grandfather. “Three,” he always told us. The number of children he wanted Kari to have. I guess that means she has to have one more in the future. For Dad, of course.
He and Charlotte became the best of friends; at nine months old, she started saying “Shasha.” When we asked her what that was, she pointed to Dad. So he became Shasha to all of us.
He also was lucky enough to get to know Mac, came to adore this curly-, tow-headed ball of relentless energy as each of us do.
And me, I was lucky to get to see Dad almost every day for the past two years, our lack of travel due to the current state of affairs a blessing none of us would truly comprehend at the time. We’ve always been a close family unit, and that will never change. If I didn’t see Dad for more than a day when I wasn’t on the road, I’d start to feel guilty. Even after the stroke, he knew down to the day how many hours it was until I’d hit the road again.
“Saturday? New York?” he’d ask with his limited words, knowing exactly where I was going and when I’d be back. “Back four days? Ella?”
Nothing ever got past him, even in the end. My sister, “Little Greg” as she’s known, who moved back to take over the family business, still consulted Dad about client financials, board members and obligations, and more—right up until last week.
And then he was gone. Just like that. No terminal illness, no bout of COVID—he was triple-vaxxed and often wore a mask even in his own home—just a sudden onset of seizures and a plummeting oxygen levels that cinched his fate. It was like a snail that crept up on you slowly before you had time to realize he was suctioned to your favorite plant: That’s how painfully slow yet quickly Dad’s death came upon us.
He was doing great in November; he waned over the holidays. We chalked it up to the seasonal illness we all go through. We’ll never really know the events that led to this point, but they’re insignificant because the reality is that can reverse his death.
We didn’t even get to properly celebrate his 70th birthday.
I remember Ashley and Lemon telling me: “the good to come from this is that the worst thing in my life is now behind me, and at least I don’t have to fear that anymore.” There’s some truth to that; 48 hours after Dad’s death, it was hard to think of anything as a blessing just yet, but nine days out, the reality that he’s pain-free is starting to sink in. I know things will get easier as the days, the weeks, the months tick by, but it’s hard to fathom that just now.
I’ve sat on this post for a week, because I don’t know how to write it, I don’t know what comes next. For someone who has always had her every day mapped out down to the hour, I feel adrift. How do you just move on without one of the most important people in your life a part of your everyday decisions? How do you mourn someone who was strikingly present one day, then apparently absent the next?
I don’t know the answers to any of this. This whole grief thing is just so new and unfamiliar.
These next months are something I can tell you I don’t to want to face. My first birthday in a few weeks without Dad, turning 39 and entering my 40th year. I remember Dad’s own 40th birthday party because I was there. So was a belly dancer.
Charlotte’s birthday, turning 4 in March. Mac’s birthday, turning 2 in May. Father’s Day. Every holiday that will follow from now until forever. The first anniversary of Dad’s death next January.
I’m sad, we all are, but also insanely lucky. Lucky I got so much of my Dad’s attention and heart and advice for just shy of 39 years. Lucky that he loved all three of us Luna girls unconditionally and equally adoring of his two sons-in-law, Josh and Scott.
Lucky that he survived a heart attack when I was in college—they gave him limited time even then—and then a near-fatal stroke, which against all odds and gave us another six years, limited though they may have been. Lucky to witness his deep love for his grandkids, whether they could fully communicate with words or not, it never mattered.
Thank you, Dad, for all the sacrifices you made for us. For the years you worked 80-hour weeks to give us more than we ever needed. For the kindness you showed your clients, your friends, anyone in a tough spot even if you didn’t know them well. For holding on as long as you did. For turning us into skilled athletes, intelligent businesspeople, compassionate citizens of the world.
And when Auburn wins their first national basketball championship this spring, we know it will be all because you were up there guiding them to that final victory. You were, after all, a basketball player first, and a War Eagle second.
On Saturday, we buried Dad wearing his trademark jeans, Auburn polo and matching fleece blanket, the seashells Charlotte painted for him last week and tennis shoes. He was never without tennis shoes, even when he slept.
We decided to forego a sad funeral and opted for a celebration of life instead. It kicked off with “Free Fallin’,” one of his favorite songs, then Kari and I shared a few stories alongside his best friends Kim and Neal, before our beloved former pastor Kal gave the eulogy, followed by—what else?—the Auburn fight song. Hundreds of people attended his visitation, a testament to the impact he had on this community, backed by a playlist of his favorite songs: Steppenwolf, Fleetwood Mac, Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs, the Eagles, the Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jethro Tull, Hootie & the Blowfish, Elton John, Billy Joel and more Tom Petty.
Then, we loaded up the car, drove to the cemetery and and watched as he was given a permanent home right next to our grandparents.
And now, I suppose, life moves on.
39 years wasn’t nearly enough time with you, but then again, no amount of time would have been.
War Damn Eagle, Dad. We love you, we love you, we love you. Nothing will ever change the pain we feel now, but we’re comforted knowing that someday we’ll see you again.
Gregory Paul Luna passed away suddenly on Jan. 25, 2022 in Tullahoma, Tenn. after a swift illness. Greg was born on Dec. 2, 1951 in Birmingham, Ala. to Dorothy Brown and Paul Thomas Luna and graduated from Banks High School in 1970.
Those who knew him as a kid describe him as an “outstanding football, basketball and track star” who was voted both “most attractive” and “Mr. Banks High” by his classmates. After many scholarship offers, he decided to retire from sports to study at his beloved Auburn University where he traded athletics for life as an ATO. He kept up with many childhood friends and fraternity brothers, who referred to him as “Tic” (short for Lunatic), until his passing.
Greg later obtained his bachelor’s degree in accounting from The University of Alabama at Birmingham, then worked as chief financial officer for a healthcare company. In 1978, he met Tullahoma native Jean Housholder through work; they were married at her parents Bill and Doris Housholder’s house the following year before moving out to San Francisco.
After four years as CFO for the western division of Hertz in California, Greg and Jeanie moved back east to her hometown Tullahoma where Greg went to work for his father-in-law at Housholder Artman, PLLC, the firm Bill founded in 1955. He went on to become managing partner, serving clients big and small across the southeast for 34 years, until a stroke in 2016 forced him into early retirement.
Even with limited communication abilities as a byproduct of the stroke, he never forgot a face, a name, a client or his financial history. Greg was a huge part of the success of Tower Community Bank, Citizens Bank & Trust, and the various other entities he served as a shareholder or board member.
But most importantly, he was a father and grandfather. He coached his daughters’ various sporting teams when they were young and never missed a tennis match or basketball or softball game. He fortunately lived long enough to become the favorite of his grandchildren Charlotte, 3, and Mac, 1, who dubbed him “Shasha.”
Greg is survived by his wife, Jeanie; his daughters Kristin Luna (Scott van Velsor) and Kari Clarey (Josh Clarey); his grandchildren Charlotte and Mac Clarey; his sister Donna Reed (Mike); and many nieces and nephews, each of whom he positively adored. Visitation will take place at Kilgore Funeral Home from 10am to 1pm on Jan. 29 with a celebration of life following at 1pm. The family asks any donations in Greg’s memory be sent to Tullahoma 501(c)(3) Redemption Underdog Freedom Fund.
My deep sympathy to you and your family on the passing of your father. Treasure all those good memories!
We definitely have a lot of them, and they’re more treasured now than before! Thank you, Joyce ❤️
What a beautifully written piece. Your Dad was amazing as his LOVE of your Mom was so evident that he moved to Tullahoma and put up with all of the OAK PARK GANG and their craziness! My heart with you all.. keep up your remarkable prose that paints a beautiful verbal picture.
That Oak Park gang was the best gang! Thank you, Beverly 🙏🏼
What a beautiful tribute!
Thank you, Caroline!
There is nothing I can say that can make this better. I am five years along the path from losing my dad and some days it is as hard as the day we lost him. But my sister E said something after our Dad died which I have found really helpful – grief is a hole that you keep falling down. As time goes on you remember that it’s there and you change your paths to walk around it. But the hole is still there and sometimes you still fall in. But even though the hole remains, me and my sisters have continued to live with it included in our lives. We don’t move on, our lives have just readjusted to include the fact that we had Dad, and loved him, and lost him.
We remember Dad always, and always love him.
I have enjoyed reading your blog for many years, and I am so sorry that you are experiencing this sadness. I pray that your family and friends will continue to hold you up as you walk through the next few months and years.
I love that analogy so much! Even 10 days in, I’m already starting to understand the good days and the bad. We have a lot of great memories with Dad and had a great weekend sharing them with friends and family despite the circumstances that brought us together.
Thinking of you, Catherine, and appreciate your thoughtful words.
A sweet tribute to one of the “funnest” people I’ve ever known. Thanks for writing!
Thank you for being there to celebrate him. It was great seeing all of you!
Thank you for sharing your father and his life with those of us who did not know him. Prayers for his family and friends, and may the happy memories prevail and sustain you.
Thank you so much, Sally ❤️
I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute with us, what an amazing family you have.
Thank you, Payal ❤️
Kristan, that is such a beautiful tribute to your Dad and your whole family!!! You were indeed fortunate to have such a wonderful father and such a wonderful and beautiful family!!! You did such a beautiful job of letting us all experience your life and the life of your family and your wonderful father!!!
Thank you so much, Rachel! ❤️❤️❤️
My new favorite thing you’ve ever written, didn’t think anything would ever top your tribute to Granddaddy. Love you forever, Greg. ❤️
We all love ewe ❤️
Kristin, I am so very sorry for your loss. Peace be with you and your family now and always. ❤
Thank you, Brie! We’re lucky to have so many great memories with him.
You have always had a lovely gift of words and how you passionately express yourself. This was a magnificent tribute to your dad. We will miss him greatly and celebrate his life in many tales and tributes of Greg for years to come. I know you will cherish your memories of him.
Thank you, Fran! And thank you for your friendship to him all these years.
I loved learning more about your dad through this, Kristin. And a thought popped into my head as I read… great men are pretty rare, but great dads are even rarer. Sounds like you guys struck gold.
It makes a loss like this so sharp, though. I love you.
Awww, what a great quote. I love that! Thanks, friend.
Beautifully written. Praying for you and your family 🙏🏼❤️
Thank you, Cassi 🙏🏼❤️
What a beautiful tribute to your father. We always loved seeing him and he was a laugh during tax season. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks so much, Liz and Jerry.
Kristen, your family has been abundantly in my prayers. Your family stories are such a joy to hear and I admire how close all of you are. It makes a loss like this all the more difficult. May each day take you further from your grief.
Thank you so much, Laurel. I appreciate all the kind messages!
A beautiful tribute. The year of firsts is hard, so so hard, and even as more time passes, it never gets easy. But it does get more bearable, albeit bittersweet. I’ll be rooting for Auburn this spring in his honor.
Awww, thank you, Shawna! I sure hope the Tigers can pull off a miracle.
What a remarkable Dad and beautifully written tribute. Losing a good Dad is so hard. The love, strength (and sometimes zany humor) of my siblings definitely carried me through the hardest times. Peace and love to you and your family.
I’m so sorry you’re also a part of this club, Kally. Luckily, we also have a strong family connection and a lot of hilarious Dad stories to get us through. ❤️
What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. He was a wonderful man! He was so kind to us when we came into the small group. He always tried to be so helpful to Grant as Grant was having so much difficulty walking. Your Dad would try to help Grant as much as he could and always had a chair for him and a glass of water. Once going upstairs at their house Grant fell and who was right behind him trying to help him up…your Dad. Kind of made the rest of us look pretty thoughtless but he understood how much trouble Grant was having. And, when it became too hard for Grant to go to your folks house and we were meeting at our house, your Dad came to our house. I know it was not easy for him to come here but he did!! He was so supportive and thoughtful without saying a word! What a kind soul he was. We were blessed to know him. I like to think that he and Grant are walking around heaven sharing happy stories and laughing a lot!
We loved Grant so, and I’m sorry you’ve also been going through the cycle of grief this past year. You have been on our minds a lot! I’ll never forget the Down by the Creekbank years (I can still know the words to all the songs!).
Thanks for being such great friends to my parents. ❤️
Oh, Kristin….. that is one of the finest tributes to a parent I’ve ever read anywhere, anytime. Incredibly touching, fabulously well done, throughly crafted with love, an exceptional overview of a life well-lived (his joy in life shone through in every image), completely tear-inducing…..a magnificent piece of writing. I understand just how difficult a passage you are on, as I lost my father to COVID a year ago and my mother almost 50 years ago. My condolences to you and your family. I am sending prayers, and will be thinking of you. Godspeed. All my best, lrh
I totally forgot you’d gone through this, too, this past year. Hugs to you, too, Leigh!
I’m just a stranger on the internet, but feel like I know you and your family after following for so many years. Your tribute was beautiful, and I hope your memories of your Dad bring you peace and comfort. Sending love <3
If by stranger on the internet, you mean friend from afar, I’ll take it =) Thank you so much, Andrea!
Only way I can describe this wonderful tribute is that it is “profound”!!! I served with Greg on TOWER’S Bank Board, and he prepared my taxes for many years !!! He was a loved man & will be sorely missed. May all your tomorrows be brighter ones!!!
He sure loved you and his Tower family, Nancy! Thank you for your love and support during this time.
Kristin, please contact me about a portrait I’m doing of your dad. I do these portraits of lost love ones as payback for the God gifted talent I was given. I could see how close you were to your dad and how a fun loving person he was.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristin. Praying for peace for your whole family. What amazing stories and pictures you have. I hope that the life well-lived provides some comfort in the coming days.
Thank you so much, Lindsay. We feel so wrapped in love by everyone!
I’m so sorry for your loss. Beautiful tribute and he is so proud of you!! xx
Thank you, Lauren!
I saved this post in my inbox for quite some time until I knew I could read it. But not without tears. My beautiful and vivacious 31 year old daughter in law passed away in September of a cerebral hemorrhage. Something we never, ever expected to happen and – just like your Dad – was gone so quickly that it still doesn’t seem real. I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristin. As a parent of grown children, I can tell you that he knew your love for him. What a beautiful tribute you’ve written. I’m hoping for peace and comfort for you and your family.
Jill, I don’t even know how to express my condolences and love to all of you for losing your daughter-in-law. What a tragic thing, and my heart goes out to your son and all of the rest of you.