Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Richmond Celebration of Life Service Tributes to Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis

By Mel Greenberg

Complete texts from two of the three speeches made -- both on behalf of Richmond basketball operations director Natalie Lewis, also a past star swimmer for the Spiders -- have arrived and we promised to share them with you from Saturday's Celebration of Life Service.

Special thanks to Kelly Shuman, who is the Richmond media contact for women's basketball, for keeping the Guru and Richmond sides connected as the Guru attempts to complete coverage, as promised, of the entire event.

In-depth reporting began in the previous blog and thanks to Richmond for putting in a link at their basketball website.

***************

Here is the first, which is a remembrance from Matt Barany, who is the Richmond Swim Coach:

Natalie gave me a Thanksgiving Day card.

And I said, “Nat, who gives cards on Thanksgiving?”

She replied, “I do” with her big smile.

Well, her card was written with repeating sentences of “Thank you Matt for…” If Nat were here, she’d have hand-written notes in the mail this afternoon thanking us for being together today.

She’s inspired me to deflect attention and show appreciation for a few people in true Natalie fashion. Here are my thank you notes.

Dear Richmond Community: Thank you for adopting these women and thank you for loving us during this time.

Dear President Ayers and University of Richmond: Thank you for your hard work in establishing a place where young women can develop into great people. Thank you for your energy and your support.

Chief McCoy
Chaplaincy Craig Kocher
Counseling Pete LeViness
Keith Gill
LaRee and Brynn

Members who made sacrifices to support and mourn with us: We know these losses are felt deeply and we wish could reciprocate the love you have showered upon us.

Masters Team: Thank you for transitioning Natalie into life after swimming and making our “community” strong.

Dear Athletics: This is not a unique loss to swimming and basketball, but for all of us. The lessons from Natalie and Ginny are meant for all of us. We appreciate your understanding and graciousness. Please honor these women by winning the right way.

WBB team and staff: We will forever be linked. It’s a good thing…it’s a strong thing. Please know that we support you, always. Thank you for your love.

Dear former swimmers & divers & coaches and your families: Thank you for your service to our university. Thank you for loving each other; thank you for establishing bonds that will last; Thank you for loving me. Please hold each other as tightly as you need and please don’t let go, ever.

Dear current swimmers & divers & coaches: Even though you see the tears…I really am a tough guy! Wait until next week! Thank you for being here & now. We have a challenge ahead of us…it isn’t winning…it’s winning the right way.

Dear Doyles: The swimming family recognizes and honors her athleticism and her commitment to UR. We will honor her desire to win. Thank you.

Dear Michael: I’ve missed you. Through the pain, understand she loved you with all of her will. We know when she willed something, she willed well.

Dear Lewises: There is a hole in my heart and I can’t imagine the pain your heart feels. You have been a source of strength for me and I will forever be indebted to you.

Dear My Family: Thank you for giving me the greatest gift…the ability love and receive love. Thank you for being there for me at all costs.

Dear pregnant wife, Sam: Thank you for being my romance partner, my teammate, and my dearest friend. I am sorry I don’t sleep.

My 3 minutes (of allotted time the speakers were given) start now! I have one more note to write. The best way to honor Natalie is to pass her spirit along. I have a note for my daughter.

To My Daughter:

There is a person whom you’ll never meet, but you will feel her love every day – I promise.

When we found out we were pregnant with you, I said to your mom “Natalie will be so excited!” When we bought a house in April, I said “We’ve got to be prepared for Nat to pop in to play with the baby.”

I will be a great dad because of Natalie. She showed me how to be a positive source of happiness. She cheered, encouraged, and prayed for me to be successful. Even when she was tired, frustrated, lonely, stressed…she found ways to lift others up. She made the decision to give. She just gave gave gave us her love. I can’t wait to love you like Nat would.

It was important for Natalie to celebrate the small things…food, pictures, sunsets, her own smile, and PEOPLE. Her treasure was her family, her Michael, and her friends. She put all of those before herself. You’ll be my small celebration and you’ll be at the top of my list.

Baby girl. I learned about love from a 24 year old bright star named Natalie. I will be the best dad because she said I would. She was my believer.

I’ll see you soon and I’ll bring Nat’s love with me.
Love,
Dad

One last point… Natalie made a decision to be kind; it’s a decision we all can make. She also made a decision to love well; it too, is a decision we all can make. Don’t wait.

****

And here is another remembrance, which is the presentation made by Katie Sieben, a 2010 graduate and close friend and teammate of Natalie's.

It is amazing to see so many people here to honor two beautiful lives. When I walked in the chapel, Natalie popped into my head and said, “All of these people are here for Ginny and me?! This is so great.”

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Katie Sieben. I graduated from the University of Richmond in 2010 and was a part of the Spider swim and dive team. Natalie was my best friend, but she was much more than that. As I told her back in April, she was my family.

My first vivid memory of Natalie was from the Atlantic-10 Conference Championship swim meet back in 2007 in her hometown of Buffalo, New York.

I was a freshman in college and she was a senior in high school.

Natalie wasn’t even on the team yet, but she was at the meet, already showering us with her support and homemade cookies decorated with spiders.

This bubbly girl with straight, blonde hair bounded onto the pool deck with a giant smile on her face and happiness embedded into each step she took.

We spoke briefly and, looking back, I realize that was one of the luckiest moments of my life.

When this incredible girl with a heart so big entered my world. We often do not recognize the significance of moments as they are happening, but that moment changed my life forever, because that was the moment that started our friendship.

When we started living next door to each other after college, it was better than anything I could ever imagine.

I walked across the street just about every night to spend time with my Richmond family.

After a long day, I could always count on Natalie to be ready for an hour-long walk, talk and Frisbee toss in our nearby field.

I would walk out the front door of my apartment and Natalie would either already be waiting for me with a huge smile on her face, or she would be walking towards my apartment, in which case she still had a huge smile on her face, but she would also throw her hands up into the air and bob her head back and forth with glee upon seeing me.

There was something profoundly special about Natalie.

She made you feel like anything was possible. She made you feel genuinely loved. She made you feel supported. She made you feel comforted. She made you feel like you always had someone in your corner, no matter what. She made you feel like, with her by your side, you could make it through anything in life.

Being with Natalie meant you spent your days endlessly laughing, learning, cooking, exploring, going on adventures, doing arts and crafts, smiling, and hugging.

We were always astounded by the beauty of our world, whether we were watching a sunset, taking pictures of the fall foliage, or walking through the woods.

We would proclaim that the physical aspects of our world were beautiful, because they truly were. But the world was much more beautiful when you experienced it with Natalie.

Natalie was filled with endless kindness.

One morning I went for run, only to return to a treat she had left on my doorstep with a note that read “A little snickerdoodle for you. Have a good day,” followed by her signature smiley face and heart.

This year for lent, she decided to do something kind for someone every single day, but she didn’t want people to know what she had done for them.

Her gifts for people were almost always homemade, crafted with care, love and meaning.

I have homemade bookmarks, coasters, cards and hand-written letters to name a few.

The amazing thing is, I am not the only person who has examples like this. Her kindness touched everyone she met, whether you knew her for five minutes or for twenty-four years.

Natalie was the happiest person I have ever known.

Every day to her was an incredible adventure. A true gift. She was the light in every room, the joy in our lives.

When I picture her, I think of the way she would smile at me when she saw me.

That genuine smile where her cheeks would get rosy as she squinted her eyes, scrunched her nose, pursed her lips, and shrugged her shoulders. A smile that tells you how much you are loved, without ever needing any words.

I feel so thankful and lucky to have Natalie as my best friend.

She filled me with happiness, hope, and love every single second I spent with her. In 2009, she wrote me a two-page letter during a difficult time.

The last line of the letter says, “So just live your life and love.”

It’s so simple, yet so profound now. So just live your life and love. And that is exactly what Natalie did every single day of her life. I think about those words often as I now try to lead the life Natalie would have wanted me to lead.

Today I would tell Natalie that for the rest of my life, I will spread her kindness, I will sing her song, I will cherish our memories.

And as I continue our walks through our astoundingly beautiful world, I will carry her gently, I will think of her always, and I will love her forever.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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