Grief looks like blurry vision. Grief looks like crumpled Kleenex. Grief looks like wilted flowers and untouched casserole dishes.
At The Tribe Strength and Conditioning Gym on Saturday morning, grief looked like sweating. Like breathing hard. Like doing push ups. Like lifting barbells. Like trying something new. Like huddling together.
Tribe Gym co-owners Nick and Chelsea Vera and Ed and Andi Conway created a workout in honor of gym member David Molak, the San Antonio high school sophomore who took his life in January after bullies on social media viciously and relentlessly harassed him.
David was a much-loved member of the Northside gym and was recently named “Athlete of the Month” this past fall.
This award has now been renamed the David Molak Athlete of the Month Award.
According to David’s dad, Matt, the Tribe was a refuge for his son amidst the attacks.
“For David, it was a safe place. It was a place where he was encouraged. It was a place where they pushed him and held him accountable. And through that process he grew up and blossomed and got stronger and he got better. And he learned that if you work hard at something, you’ll get better. But the main thing was that he felt cared for; he felt loved here.”
This workout is a legacy WOD or “workout of the day” in David’s honor. A workout of the day is simply a combination of different exercises that improve aerobic conditioning and muscular strength for a given period of time. Think of it like working through different exercise stations, performing a set of tasks before moving to the next.
Not only did this workout include elements that David excelled at like short runs and a barbell movement called the "clean and jerk," it also included an element that David disliked called "thrusters." David had a reputation for attacking his weaknesses in the gym, putting in extra work to improve in areas that were challenging for him. A modified version of the workout was available to people who were new to this type of training.
In order to participate in the workout, athletes donated a small amount of money to David’s Legacy Fund, a nonprofit that will fund educational programs for students and parents and hopefully help get "David's Law," legislation that targets cyberbullying, passed by the state legislature.
In addition to the workout, several local business and individuals generously donated to a silent auction that will also help fund David’s Legacy.
Participants during Saturday's WOD for David consisted of David’s family and friends, members of The Tribe, and supporters of the Molak family from across the city.
State Sen. José Menéndez who is drafting the legislation to help better define and prosecute cyber bullying and Lionel “Leo” Vasquez, a father whose own son was the target of heinous, demeaning bullying, also attended the event.
One participant stood out from among the rest, Maurine Molak, David’s mother. Her husband and other two sons Cliff and Chris have been much more in the media spotlight working in David’s honor to get people thinking about small ways and large ways to reduce bullying. In her grief, Maurine has been sticking pretty close to home for the last several weeks. She has been fighting to manage her household, keep her commitments to her clients at work, and meet regularly with friends who love her and pray with her — especially when she doesn’t even want to get out of bed. Today, she took her first real step into public and out of her comfort zone by attempting this kind of work out for the first time ever.
Barbells can be intimidating especially when you haven’t been exercising a lot.
David had always wanted his mom to give this type of training a shot.
“He would always try to get me to come over here with him. I almost came one time and then something came up," Maurine said. "He would have wanted me to be here with him. And yet I am here celebrating him. He would have said, ‘Oh mom, you can do it. I know you can do it. You can do anything.’
"I think he felt like I was super mom—except I couldn’t fix what was wrong with him and that’s what makes me so sad. I couldn’t fix the situation. I know he would have been here cheering me on. He would have been helping me for sure. He would have been pushing me and making me do more than what I was already doing. And then after it was over he would probably say, ‘Ok, you did great, Mom. Let’s go to Baskin Robbins and get a cookies and cream milkshake.'”
Although they will never replace her precious son David, there are many people here who would love to cheer on Maurine, to push her to do more, and to share a milkshake. Coach Nick wants the Molaks to know, “They have a huge community here that love and support them. It was a safe place for David, and we want it to be a safe place for them.”
Top image: Tribe Member Scott Moore completes his last clean and jerk. Photo by Rachel Chaney.