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Gregg’s story


Judy and Gregg (a.k.a. Mom and Dad) at Trillium Lake and Mt. Hood, summer 2012

This page is a brief (auto)biography of Dad/ Gregg, originally written by himself and his wife Judy prior to his death and published as his obituary:

On January 3rd, 2014 Gregg James Selander’s life in its physical form ended when he took his final breath with his family. He was very healthy, enjoying the universe, the earth, all creatures and family until April 25, 2013 when he was unexpectedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It seemed that he was beating that challenge when the ravages of chemotherapy led to his untimely death at age 64. Gregg requested that his remains be cremated and the ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean (meaning “peaceful”). He strongly believed that a person’s existence is like water- life being a wave in the ocean, and when that wave crashes at his death there would be no fear, he will still be water, part of the ocean of existence, which is God.

Gregg was the youngest of three children, and though as a kid endured much teasing, as they approached middle age he got to tease his brother Chuck and sister Leanne for being older than he was. Gregg grew up on the east side of St. Paul, MN, where his parents Ade and Betty were raised, and where his father and mother-in-law Fred and Jeanne (Nelson) Oberschulte also grew up.

Gregg developed goals early in life, and some that he accomplished were to go to as many dances, date as many girls, and ski as many slopes as possible before graduating high school. He met Judy at age 15. Since she lived in southern California, he thought that if he wrote to her every day for four years he’d certainly get a government job in the post office. Uncle Sam did offer him a job in 1969 with all expenses paid travel TO southeast Asia, but he turned it down when he learned that the trip did not include a return ticket. Gregg learned to study at the University of Minnesota and graduated magna cum laude just in time to marry Judy who was tired of carrying around four years of his letters. They wed in 1971 in Chula Vista, California on Friday August 13th, six years to the day from when they met on Friday, August 13th 1965. In their wedding invitation they stated that their luck couldn’t get much worse, so they might as well marry on Friday the 13th.

Their student teaching, graduate schools, internships, and residency took them from Minneapolis to Portland, Chicago, Whittier and Orange, California, always stopping in St. Paul to fill up on Gregg’s mom’s rice pudding and rye bread, and his dad’s humor and wallet. In 1977 in Garden Grove, CA, he was ordained as a Lutheran (ELCA) minister, which Judy eventually accepted when she found out it did not entail vows of celibacy and poverty. In Southern California, he worked at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Whittier, St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Garden Grove, St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, and Santa Monica Medical Center (now UCLA), getting into trouble at each site for his support for the LGBT community, his rebelling at authority, or for being too short. Gregg like to “stir the pot,” so to speak, motivated by his firm commitment to embracing diversity and justice. He loved his calling as a chaplain and walked difficult paths with patients for 34 years.

His life changed when Judy had 2 baby boys, and upon each delivery Gregg quickly noticed they were also short, and bonded to them immediately.
As Jacob and Nathan grew, Gregg commented, “For someone who didn’t like children, I am amazed at how much I love these boys, and how creative and funny a dad I’ve become.” To find a good place to raise Jacob and Nathan, Gregg and Judy decided to move to Oregon in 1988. He continued his hospital ministry, the last 17 years of which were in a combination spiritual care director/ mission-director-administrator position at Providence Newberg Medical Center. The staff became like a second family to him, which continued as they lovingly supported him in may ways through the last months of his life.

Because of some life experiences that Gregg had prayed and meditated on, by 1997 he found many traditional Christian understandings of God, faith, and religion impossible to believe. He eventually let go of a belief in a theistic God- one who is outside of the world and who intermittently intervenes in human life and history. His spirituality deepened with this change, and, as he said, “My devotion to Jesus became possible again.” As time went on, the teachings of Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh and the practice of those understandings began to guide him for the rest of his life. Upon receiving the Five Mindfulness Trainings of Buddhism, Gregg was given the dharma name “Profound Constancy of the Heart.” His practice deepened and as he moved into his all-too-brief retirement from Providence, Gregg drew closer to the others in his sangha, “Joyful Refuge,” and became a facilitator of the sangha. At the time he became ill with pancreatic cancer he was discussing seeking a mentor to assist with the deepening of his practice. Having been pushed suddenly into the detour of cancer treatment, he spent time and effort bringing together the Christian and Buddhist traditions for his support, consolation, and peace. This and the time in gardens, mountains, and beach were en-courage-ing to Gregg- giving him much needed strength and courage. Judy, Jacob, and Nathan were constant with their love and support, though they suffered greatly themselves. He died extremely grateful for them, and for others in the Buddhist and Christian communities who supported him with loving thoughts, caring breaths, and compassionate prayers.


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