(Staci Stevens ~ Greg Mass)
It is a blessing and an honor to stand in front of you this morning to share some amazing moments and stories about a young man that will live on in my heart forever, our dear Greg! For those of you that knew Greg, already know how truly wonderful he was, for those of you that didn’t know Greg, I am hoping that a few of the stories that I am going to share will help you to see what a miracle he was not only to his family, to all that knew and to our Xavier community.
Knowing Greg and his family has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I am filled with joy and peace every time I think of him. I smile a lot and still cry a lot as I will always miss his presence here on earth, but I know he sits with our father and is with us every day.
Greg still to this day is one of the smartest young men that I have ever taught. He took my AP Biology course as a freshmen, YES, a freshmen and not only did he get an A he got a 5 on the exam!!! He was humble, kind, and so silly! Silly in so many ways, I think that was one of most favorite qualities about him. One of my favorite stories is from my husband, Mr. Stevens. When Greg was in his physics class a teacher had come up to talk to Mr. Stevens so he had to step out of his room for a moment. Now, remember Mr. Stevens’s room is different than most rooms on our campus, he has a wall of all windows, and Greg must have forgotten this in his moment of silliness. As soon as Mr. Stevens stepped out of the room Greg stood up, took off his shirt, and twirled it over his head, put it back on, and sat down. When Mr. Stevens walked back into the room, he asked Greg if he needed to go down to Mr. Granger’s office to talk to him about his little prank and Greg gave a look of shock to Mr. Stevens as he immediately realized that he had forgotten about all the windows. He blushed and didn’t have any words, it turns out that Greg had been doing this in all of his classes when teachers weren’t in the room, but this was the only time he had gotten caught.
Greg was a very humble young man; he had no idea the amount of girls on this campus that would have loved for him to ask them out. Four years ago I had a most wonderful group of freshmen girls in my CLC, these amazing young women are about to graduate this year. One of these amazing young women, used to run up to the windows in my room that look outside to see if she could catch a glimpse of him at lunch while sitting with his friends. My girls even schemed up a plan to get me to ask Greg if he would tutor them in math, just so they could spend time with him. He was so clueless about the amount of young ladies that just thought he was so dreamy.
From the moment I met Greg, I always knew he had quite the sense of humor. Like I said before his silliness was one of my most favorite qualities about him. One of my favorite memories is when the door to my class room flies open and in run freshmen Jaski, Greg, and Logan. They all in unison scream 7 or 8??? 7 or 8???? Not really knowing what those 3 were up to, I simply look at the 3 of them and say 7! Jaski jumps for joy and Greg and Logan scream NOOOOOOOOO!!! There started the 7 vs. 8 battle that I would have with those 3 until their senior year! Jaski and I kind of let the 7 go after freshmen year, but not Greg and Logan, it was all about 8 forever!!! I mean seriously even when they were seniors in my class I would still get 8 references ALL the time. For those of you who knew Greg knows that this number has become more than just the number 8. As I recall, you can even ask Mr. Tricco about his first time meeting Greg, I do believe he was asked what is your favorite number? And then was told that 8 was the greatest number ever! 8 will forever remind of him, and he had a way of making sure that it did.
When Mr. Palomino had his son, he had given all of the staff a birth announcement and these little babies on a swan. I remember showing the kids in my classes the little baby on the swan and Greg was the first one to take to it, he thought it was a funny little baby and even said it was a little creepy. Well then you can imagine that I had to laugh at it too every time I saw it, because now I only heard Greg calling it a creepy little baby. I wasn’t too sure what to do with the little baby, as it meant something very special, so I decided to leave it on my desk. So there the creepy little baby sat every day, on my desk. At this time my class room used to be the one that Mr. Stevens is in now, after the hallway where my class room is now was completed, I was moved to where I am now. I thought that the baby on the swan got lost in the move, and to be honest had completely forgot about it. That is until one of the Mondays after Greg had passed. This particular Monday I got to school, go into the teachers’ lounge, put my stuff down, and checked my teacher’s box like I do every morning. When I looked over to my teacher’s box I froze. From across the room I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, was it really the baby on the swan, NO WAY it couldn’t be. I walk over to my box and I it is, the baby on the swan!!! I pull it out from my box and I see a number 8 hand written on a piece of paper cut to the size of the box, and a note underneath the box. The note was from Mr. Alling and it said that he had had dinner with Dr. and Mrs. Friscia last night and that Mrs. Friscia asked him to make sure I got this back. She said that all she knew was that it was supposed to get back to me. Tears immediately flowed down my face and my peers in the faculty room just looked at me quite concerned. Ms. Anders put her arms around me as she knew that was what I needed in that moment. I couldn’t believe it!!! I hadn’t seen this baby on the swan for almost 4 years and here it was with none other than an 8 taped onto it. I thought it was gone forever and here it is back in my hands. Greg had taken it off my desk his freshmen year and kept it all that time. I am sure he had planned to give it back to me at graduation. He knew me well, he knew that if he had kept it for all those years that I would keep it forever to remember him. In that moment I felt his presence standing right there by me, and I saw that infamous Greg grin and I immediately felt a calm come over me and I stopped crying and started laughing. I knew that was the reaction he would have been waiting for if he had delivered it to me himself. I still to this day can’t believe he had it for all those years; there again is that silliness I loved so much about him.
“It is a well-known fact that Greg Friscia was going to change the world someday. Although his time here was tragically cut short, he lives vicariously through you, and through me. I truly believe that if we following in Greg's footsteps, the world will become a much better place. It is up to us to keep his spirit alive and learn from Greg. After all that Greg did for us, it is our duty to go fourth and be the change in the world that Greg was going to be. He may be gone, but the impact he left on him community will forever exist.” This was said by Riley Nelson as he spoke about his dear friend Greg at the mass. It has stuck with me as he couldn’t have stated better. Greg is with us and he lets us know this every day. One week after Greg had passed I was getting Parker ready for bed, and while she was in the bath playing, she out of the blue looks at me and says, “Hey mommy, we don’t have to be worried about Barkley anymore.” Barkley was our dog that was really old and we had to put her down a year earlier. Parker hadn’t spoken about Barkley in a long time. I looked at her with and with a lot of confusion in my voice I asked her why? “Because mommy, Greg is walking Barkley up in heaven for us!” Parker had NO idea that Greg loved walking his dogs, let alone did she really know who Greg was. He chose to speak through her to me as he knew I would be listening and it was his way of telling me he was ok. Greg did change this world, he left behind his silliness that I fondly remember when I am having a bad day and need to smile, he left with all of us who knew him a ray of hope that even though his death was tragic and unexpected that there was a lot of good that he would still do. He brought together our community here in the valley, across the nation, and across the world. The out pouring of love for him was very evident about the life that he chose to live. He has forever touched the lives of many and he will never be forgotten. Greg was an organ donor, and for those of us that knew Greg knew that he would be the first to say that he would want to save others before saving himself. That is just who Greg was. One organ donor can save up to eight lives. There is that 8 number again……it’s as if Greg knew in some way that that would be his destiny. I have heard however, that they were only able to donate 7 of his organs, but that is just hear say. If it was 7 all I can say is “See Greg, Jaski and I were right 7 is better than 8!”
In closing, something that I am sure most of you may not know is that Father Jack is here at our school in no small part because of Greg. Father Jack came to celebrate our first mass together that Monday that I spoke about earlier and it was if Father Jack just knew that we all still needed so much comfort. That was the first time we were able to hear Father Jack’s Teddy Bear song. I will never forget that moment and the first time I heard Father Jack sing that song, it brought me such comfort and peace, and it still does. Every time he sings it I feel Greg with me and I smile so BIG! I now would like to ask Father Jack to come and sing that song in honor of Greg so that you all can feel Greg like I do when I hear that song.
(Gregory Friscia ~ One year later)
March in the Desert is traditionally a great month. The weather is almost always perfect with moderate temperatures and clear skies. The tennis tournament in Indian Wells is a fun event showcasing the best players in the world. However, while watching the 3rd set of the tennis finals with Nadal vs del Potro in a close match in Indian Wells last year, our world came crashing down around us. During a side switch in the match, my wife was listening to a message from one of my son’s friends while I was suddenly getting a call from the Palm Springs fire department.
Suddenly, we were experiencing every parents’ worst nightmare getting the call that our 17yo son had just had a skateboard accident and was not conscious. He was being rushed to the trauma center at Desert Regional Medical Center and we needed to get there as soon as possible. While fearing the worst, we were hoping for the best. On arriving at the trauma center, we were rushed back to see him. He looked strangely peaceful with little evidence of any injury immediately visible. However, the news could not have been much worse. Being a physician, I understood the severity of the injury but was not ready to accept it. How could a fall backwards from a skateboard result in an irreversible brainstem injury? I know that injuries can be unpredictable but why Greg? Why us? He was a popular intelligent high school senior looking forward to graduation and anxiously awaiting his college acceptance letters in the next week. We knew he was a good kid and we counted our blessings that we were fortunate to have two wonderful boys. However, over the next week gathered in the intensive care unit with his friends, we learned even more what a special person he was and how he inspired others. He was very bright but very popular. He was lucky that school came fairly easy for him. He would help his friends with calculus and was always a great resource for others. However, somehow he was as cool as they come rather than being considered a nerd. He truly brought out the best in his friends. We sat with him for a mind numbing week in the intensive care unit. Our lives flashed before us as it seemed that everyone we had ever known visited (which I think actually helped us). His classmates gathered around his bed telling heartwarming stories and singing. They even brought in a guitar at one point. The whole experience was surreal but the outpouring of love for our son Greg was incredible. I understand his funeral with almost 2000 people attending was one of the largest ever in the Desert. This was an outpouring of love for Greg and our family. I felt this was the closest one could get to actually physically attending one’s own funeral as almost everyone I had ever known was there. My entire life flashed before me.
They say time heals but this has not been my experience yet. We are gratified that Greg was a happy kid and an inspiration to his friends. I know we were great parents and we have such good memories of our many family trips and experiences. We were so looking forward to seeing Greg live his life, go to college, and eventually raise a family. In his brief 17 years, he had such a positive impact on others. We will never know what he might have contributed to this world. Greg lived each day to its fullest and was kind to others. He had an unusual charisma which attracted others.
Our oldest son Matt was 27 months older than Greg. They grew up to be be the best of buddies. Gregory I think matured faster since he had to keep up with his older brother and his brother’s friends. They had so much fun together. We so treasure now the many trips we took as a family. These wonderful trips bonded our family. As there are so many responsibilities and distractions in our daily lives, a trip makes for quality family time. Matt gave us the best gift at Christmas. He sent E-mails to Greg’s friends and teachers and put together a wonderful book of stories illustrating Greg’s spirit and influence on others. I will describe and excerpt some of the stories below to illustrate how special our son was. The first one is from his beloved water coach Pavol Valovic: each other so much. Thank you Greg for changing our lives.
In the same vein, the Palms Springs High School tennis coach sent a wonderful letter after Greg’s accident describing the impact Greg had had on his team. Although tennis was not Greg’s main sport, this coach of the opposing team noted the fun and comraderie Greg and his partner had while playing doubles. They truly enjoyed the game. They exhibited the joy of sports while demonstrating true sportsmanship. The coach talked to his team after the match and emphasized the fine example Greg and his partner exhibited as part of a team. One of his friends wrote that the week before his accident, he was talking to her about leading Kairos, a Jesuit school retreat. She wrote the following: “ Greg said he had no idea what he was going to talk about because often times Kairos speeches are about overcoming obstacles or personal struggles. Greg said “My life has been great. My family is amazing; my parents are together, nothing crazy has happened. I have great friends. I love my dogs. I just have an amazing life.” He was beaming when he told me this and I felt so blessed to hear him be so truly grateful for everything and everyone in his life. It is gratifying to know that we were the best parents possible to him and helped make the exceptional individual he was in a life cut short. However, he loved life and lived everyday to its fullest. We can learn so much from him. We miss Greg so much.Type your paragraph here.
(Isabella Bianco ~ Witness Talk)
Senior year started just as one would expect it to. I hit the ground running juggling school, sports, student council, clubs, and the dreaded college application process. My friends and I trudged along with hopeful anticipation for second semester. Our minds were occupied with the anxieties of college decision letters and the typical stresses of senior year. Nothing else seemed to matter beyond application essays and SAT scores. That is until March.
I remember getting the news at my soccer banquet in line for pizza. I got a text in a group chat that read, “Greg fell on his long board and is in the hospital.” I knew a group of guys in my class road up and down different hills around the valley. They documented almost every long boarding session with a GoPro. The 5-minute videos often appeared in my newsfeed. I figured he had fallen and broken an arm or leg or something bad but certainly not serious. Surely they got it on film and there’s probably a funny story behind it. My phone buzzed again “He hit is head.” Okay, so he must have gotten a concussion, he’ll be back in a week or two. Right?
I realized how serious it was in class the next morning. There was a gloominess as we filed through the classroom door. The room wasn’t full of the usual pre-class chatter and several of the guys were missing; they were still at the hospital. The murmurs began to circulate, “Greg had suffered a brain injury and was in a medically induced coma.” What? It was announced that with parent permission we could check out and go to the hospital. As the day progressed, more and more of my classmates left and finally, in the class before lunch, I drove myself and three others to do the same. The 20-minute drive felt like an eternity spent in anxious silence. It felt unreal. Xavier students, still in uniform, had taken over the waiting room of the ICU and even spilled outside to the grass. Everyone had serious and contemplative expressions. Some were talking to each other, but most sat in silence or mindlessly scrolled through Facebook and Instagram. The guys who had been there since day one were finding some relief in kicking around a hackie-sac. But where was Greg?
We were allowed in to visit him in small groups. After an hour of watching groups enter and return pale-faced and in tears, my turn came. We were escorted past two sets of double doors warning unauthorized personnel to keep out and given a healthy squirt of hand sanitizer. We arrived at small circular corner room and Greg, a friend and classmate since kindergarten, was lying there on a ventilator connected to several monitors and a tube draining fluid from his head. We crowded around awkwardly on eggshells trying not to disturb any of the machines. After two minutes of listening to the rhythmic breathing of the ventilator and watching Greg’s chest rise and fall in sync with it, the nurse encouraged us to talk to him and to touch him. To me the nurse was strangely energetic and optimistic. Soon funny stories were recalled and the small room filled with a kind of strained laughter. I placed my hand on his leg it was clammy. The whole ordeal lasted ten minutes. As we shuffled out I had a rock in my stomach. I did not know whether to be sad, hopeful, angry, or some mixture of all of them, so instead I was numb. I couldn’t decide what to feel so I shut off my emotions all together. It would be the last time I saw him.
I’m not a crier but that night, at a prayer service held across from the hospital, I cried, balled, on the shoulders of people I hadn’t seen in years, of people I saw everyday but rarely spoke to, and of my closest friends. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized the importance of this moment and others like it that occurred between my classmates and me. During Greg’s time in the hospital and soon after his passing we shared several unifying moments as a class. We ate lunch on the quad together (all of us, not in our usual cliques), we joined hands and prayed in a circle in the gym together, and we went back to class together. It was hard and often the empty desk would cause the class to erupt into tears. In my Calc class of only 10 people, it started with Caroline and Tyler, and then Nina, then Logan, then me, with Ms. Wilson doing her best to restore some sort stability by teaching through it. English started with James. Economics started with Meg. We were a mess but we were together. Suddenly college decision letters, final grades, and everything else that seemed so important was shoved aside. For the first time in a while my mind was not occupied with the near future but instead present in the moment.
Now, over a year later, trying to assign Greg’s death some sort of lesson doesn’t sit right. Greg’s life amounted to more than: Always where a helmet. Looking back, I can see that what mattered was being together because God was in the togetherness. I originally came to this realization sitting at the notoriously long stoplight across from my house. A song I had chosen when I lead a senior retreat came on the radio and I cried for the first time that week not out of sadness, but out of love. I couldn’t help but think how thankful I was for my class. I saw God in my classmates. He had been with us the whole time. He was in those of whose shoulders I cried on. He sat with us in the waiting room. He circled with us to pray in the gym. As long as I was with my classmates, God was with me. I have faith that he was with me even when I was alone but when I was with my classmates, God was visible.
Just when I expected to find loneliness and separation I found love. During the days of uncertainty and after his death I did not want to go home because that meant being away from the only other people who seemed to know what I was going through. Like never before I loved my classmates, even the ones I didn’t regularly speak to. I loved them as they cried on my shoulder and I on theirs, I loved them as we recalled old times and jokes from freshman year, I loved them as we stared blankly at the white board, I loved them as we prayed together. God was in them and I loved them.
Greg showed me first hand that God is present even in the worst of times despite our ability to see him. It is a lesson, that in the midst of darkness, allows me to have faith in God’s presence, even though I may be so absorbed in it that I cannot initially see Him.
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me
I know there is a lot of pain and sorrow in your hearts. We all love Greg very very much. I would like to put the pain aside and rather speak about Greg and celebrate his life he had here with us.
I feel blessed that I had a chance be Greg’s water polo and swim coach. Coaching is sometimes hard and draining, but kids like Greg make it so incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling. Greg was one of the co-captains of our water polo team and it was well deserved. He was a silent leader who led by example and his work ethic and selflessness were contagious. Greg was an inspiration for his peers, as well for me. Greg reminded me of myself when I was younger following the footsteps of his older brother into the sport that he loved so dearly. Last year was the first time boys water polo made it to CIF and I know that without Greg we would not have been able to do it. For Greg it was not about goals or personal stats, for Greg it was about the team. He would sacrifice and do whatever it took for the team to succeed. At one home game Greg got his eyebrow split open and probably needed few stitches but refused to go to emergency. He had the lifeguard look at it and went back to the bench to support his team. His dad performed a little patch up work right there at the bench so Greg could stay with his teammates and support them.
That is the story of Greg, an amazing young man who inspired people around him and made this place, my life, and the life of many others more meaningful. Look around, look at all the people Greg touched and shaped in one way or another. It takes a great person to be able to do that.
Greg is not dead and will never be because all of us have a little piece of Greg in our hearts…his smile, a story, a joke he told us during a meal. Therefore, Greg will live forever in our hearts and will be with us every step of the way for the rest of our lives. I know that Greg is in Heaven looking down on us and smiling and saying- it all will be ok.
We love you Greg very much. Forever!
Throughout a lifetime, a person will have many friends. These friendships will vary in strength, and will often eventually fade out or fall apart. But every so often there will come along that one friend that truly changes your life. They single handedly bring warmth and happiness to every situation, with their positivity and overall outlook on life. For me, the guys behind me, and some of you, that person was Greg Friscia. Gregory was not your average friend. For those that know him, you know that he was incredibly unique.
His individuality and incredible personality is what set him a part from other people. His ability to light up a room with that amazing smile and semi-creepy eyebrow rise of his, is what many people remember him by. Most people know this as the "Greg face". The Greg face was one of many trademark characteristics of Greg that we were all blessed to see every day. There are so many memories I cherish with Greg, like the time he took his shirt off and started swinging it around in Physics when Mr. Stevens left the room, only to get busted a few seconds later.
Greg and I became close friends through playing water polo, which looking back on was one of the best decisions of my life. He acted as a teammate exactly how he was as a friend: unselfish, honest and dedicated. The memories of getting into the ice-cold pool at 6 am, imitating Pavol's accent, losing games together, and winning games together will always stand out in my mind. If I could do it all again I would in a heartbeat.
When it comes to well-rounded people, Greg was the epitome. His intelligence in school was very widely known. He was notoriously known as a genius amongst our friends, although he was always too humble to acknowledge it. He was the only person I know who managed to maintain over a 4.2 GPA, score over a 2000 on the SAT, and somehow manage to get all the girls to fall in love with him. To sum it up, guys wanted his grades and athleticism, and girls, well the girls wanted Greg to ask them to prom.
Although Greg learned a lot during high school, it was what he taught the people around him that really made a difference. Yes, he tried to teach us AP Calculus, but non of us could quite grasp it like he did.
He did, however, teach us to appreciate the small things in life and to live life to the fullest every single day, just like he did. Yes it is cliché but it has more truth and applicability than most things I've learned these last four years.
It is a well-known fact that Greg Friscia was going to change the world someday. Although his time here was tragically cut short, he lives vicariously through you, and through me. I truly believe that if we following in Greg's footsteps, the world will become a much better place. It is up to us to keep his spirit alive and learn from Greg. After all that Greg did for us, it is our duty to go fourth and be the change in the world that Greg was going to be. He may be gone, but the impact he left on him community will forever exist.
To the Friscia family I would like to express how grateful we are for letting us spend time with Greg in his last days. Know that although you've lost one son, you've gained many.
On behalf of the Xavier Community, Coachella Valley, and beyond, I would like to thank you, Greg, for everything you've done for us. Know that you are forever loved and forever in our hears.