Our Defender, Greg Humphries, 1947-2023

By Megan Rice Humphries

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Our Defender, Greg Humphries, 1947-2023
Our Defender, Greg Humphries, 1947-2023 I first met Gregory in a swimming pool at a party. It was a hasty kiss in the deep end. I didn’t get his name. He had just earned his law degree. I assumed that meant money. I didn’t care for the way he drove. It was a constant revving of the gas pedal. Greg loved nature. He took me on a hike in Mt Pinos. He almost fell in the creek and his beer can floated down stream.I thought “Oh, oh, he’s a litter bug. He took me to Montana de Oro and the Swine Unit at Cal Poly. At that time he was reading “The Illiad” by Homer, and “Shark Attack” (the illustrated version). Humor was one of Gregory’s gifts. His mother, Ruth, said when he was a toddler he’d bang his spoon on the tray of the high chair and laugh and laugh. I consulted an astrologer to find out if Greg and I were compatible. She said we would travel well together and admire each other’s work. But she warned me he had Venus in Aquarius; that his heart belonged to everybody. Life heaped fatherhood on Greg. When I was in labor with Rabyn he took me to a small golf course to practice his putting. After Lael’s birth he suffered bad hemorrhoids.  Inspired by Clarence Darrow and the Constitution, he took on lots of cases that other attorneys turned down. Pro bono means “for the public good.” He maintained that all his clients were innocent.  He liked to carry his legal files in red insulated Trader Joe’s bags. He referred to Tommy’s Tacos as his branch offices. The way he dealt with his pre-court jitters was to find a parking attendant or security guard to joke with and hug. Greg struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Everything was either lost or found. He gave up cigarettes and celebrated the gift of long sobriety. But he once admitted he bought two pounds of butter cookies in Solvang, “just to get some relief.” Two of Greg’s favorite quotes were, “Proceed with due consideration and essential aggression.” And, “Remember your furious valor.” When he got cancer, he battled through the treatments. As he grew sicker, his spirituality grew stronger. He’d set out for solitary walks with his coffee cup, stare across the canyon and say every prayer he knew. Greg said yes to a 15-minute Bar Mitzvah at Pine Tree Circle. He kept a pocket-sized New Testament by the bed. “When we are young we dress ourselves and go wherever we want. When we are old others dress us and take us where we don’t want to go.” The last time he was in the hospital with his wounded tongue, he sang, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning… everything’s going my way.” At 5:30 a.m., two weeks before he died, I heard Greg leaving by the front door. He was fully dressed, carrying his car keys. He said he had a case in San Bernardino. 
Who Says Words With My Mouth?
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.


This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I'll be completely sober.  Meanwhile,
I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.


This poetry, I never know what I'm going to say.
I don't plan it.
When I'm outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.



From the translation of Rumi by Coleman Barks © by owner. provided at no charge for educational purposes

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