At sometime around 7:30am today, I lost an amazing friend.
I am almost certainly writing this as much for me as for you and, while I know I’ll look back on this in minutes/hours/days and wish I’d written more/differently than I have, I need you to know who Gabe Houser was to me.
Gabe was a deeply loving husband. Gabe was an exuberantly expectant father. Gabe was a wonderful friend.
…for these reasons, Gabe was a CrossFitter.
Gabe, perhaps more than any other, is the person that put Jason and I into your lives. Three or so years ago, Jason and I fell into CrossFit on the UC Merced campus gym – on our own, with no coaches, with no idea, with no proper equipment, with no training, without a thing except a desire to be better. We spent about 12 months being “those-two-crazy-guys-who-run-around-the-gym-and-do-crazy-things,” until our good friends James and Gabe ended up asking if they could give “that crazy thing” a shot with us.
At the time, Jason and I were the most marginally average CrossFit athletes ever. We’d never had a coach or proper training; we probably both had 10 minute Frans, no idea how anyone overhead squatted more than 95 lbs and thought butterfly pull-ups were no small bit of voodoo. The only CrossFit related bit that we had was passion and a desire to be better and Gabe fell into being one of our first “coached” athletes [it’s difficult to understate “coach” there – we were enthusiastic but not much else back then]. In spite of all of our shortcomings, we knew just enough to be helpful (although maybe dangerous too) but it was an amazing experience to see our friends increase their fitness in visible and measurable ways.
Many months later, when Anthony was considering opening CrossFit Merced (and stumbled upon Jason and I via the interwebs), it was the experiences and rewards we’d had sharing CrossFit with Gabe (amongst others) that convinced us that we’d get our CrossFit Level 1 certifications so that we might share what we’d come to love with others. In a very real way, without House we’d have never been here or had the privilege of meeting any of you.
Gabe didn’t get into CrossFit to make a run to Regionals and he never had delusions of the Games. Gabe fell into CrossFit because [we never had this conversation in particular, so I’m on a short but, methinks, safe, ledge here] he’d fallen in love with the most amazing woman he might have ever imagined and hoped to impress her [in one more bit of full disclosure, Dora Houser loved Gabe for who he was and it was only Gabe’s ambition that drove him to be more fit, not a dictate from his wife]. In short order, Gabe, who’d never miss a good thing if planted in front of him, asked Dora to marry him and she accepted (…and Jason, James and I had our band’s first “wedding gig” at Gabe and Dora’s wedding).
If better was a means to an end, Gabe’s CrossFit story would have ended there – but it did not. Gabe might have begun training to do what he might to land the biggest catch of his life, but the reason he continued to train was simply to live life as well as he might. For those of you who got to WOD with Gabe, you’ll likely recall that he never topped a whiteboard but that never mattered. What mattered was doing what he could, each day, to be better.
In one of our favorite memories, Gabe joined Jason, myself and fellow CFMer Joe Ameen in the Tough Mudder race in Tahoe last year. Pre-CrossFit, I’m not certain Gabe had (willingly) “run” more than a mile or two and the 2011 Tough Mudder turned out to be a bear of a race – covering nearly 13 miles and thousands of feet of elevation. Jason and I finished among the top competitors and then spent hours thinking Gabe was walking his way (via DNF) to the course finish line. One cannot understate our surprise or enthusiasm then when Joe and Gabe came bounding toward the finish line with ear-to-ear grins on their faces at finishing one of the most difficult challenges they’d ever undertaken. […and, of course, Dora joined us in Tahoe to cheer on Gabe, Joe, Jason and I]
For many people, Gabe might have been memorable for what you saw on the surface – his orange afro (when it was let loose – AKA “two weeks without a trim”) or the Paul Bunyan beard were certain to draw a look or three in passing but to see Gabe for the obvious missed the beauty of the man. Gabe was (in no particular order): a loving husband; a dedicated son; an expectant,terrified and giddy father; an unwavering athlete and about the best damn friend a fellow could have.
Gabe chased better every day. He was better for it but, more importantly, his pursuit of better spilled over into so many of our lives as well.
Tonight, I can’t imagine waking up tomorrow and not greeting House with a big ol’ hug, telling him I love him and having him say “I love you too man,” but I’m grateful that this place let me share someone I love with so many of you.
I love you you House. I’ll miss you forever.