Siesta Key, Florida
Tuesday February 22, 2022
A year ago, my friend from 50 years ago arrived in BV for a visit. Rob and his wife, Judy, were looking for a place that was sunny and cold for a winter respite. I hadn’t seen Rob except at a couple of reunions for probably 40 years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t need to worry, we picked up where we left off without missing a beat.
Both couples had seen all of life: kids, moves, jobs, travel, failures and successes, and yet, it seemed that life had landed us in pretty much the same place. We loved the same music (Miles Davis in particular), the same books, the same kinds of outdoor activities. They had 2 girls, we had three. They had grand kids, as did we. We loved to laugh and we did a lot of that even though we were in the middle of a pandemic.
But the thing that amazed me most was that after all those years we had arrived at the same place in our spiritual journeys. What a joy it was to take long hikes through the Aspens near our house and talk about Richard Rohr, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Ken Wilber, duality vs nonduality, and what might be next.
What we couldn’t have imagined was what would happen in the next year. Rob got sick – really sick. An old tumor started growing and radiation didn’t help like it had in the past. After what seemed like an epic battle that included more radiation, surgery and rehab, doctors discovered an aggressive cancer. Rob chose not to undergo the treatments that might prolong his life for a chance to say goodbye to the many people he loved and who loved him in return. His choice was difficult for those of us who loved him, but for him as he told me again and again, he was at peace. He knew that this decision was right for him.
Yesterday we got the word that he had died. I cannot help thinking about a conversation we couples had about life – it begins with a breath in and it ends with a breath out. I promised that I would breathe him out of this world. Every time I think about him, I exhale mightily.
Russ on the other hand wrote poetry.
Our Lady of Coincidence Cathedral
Highway 1, Key Largo
Bus stop sunrise
Two side-by-side seats
My friend up north
In his final winter, even hours
Others ready to greet him
The seats became an unexpected intimacy
Maybe even a church pew
With a sense of humor
A metaphor Rob would like
So there we sat in spirit sense
Sharing a Starbucks
Inviting others to the Sunrise Celebration
Of these earthly legs tired out
A bus coming to take us home
The air filling with light
The song of that old spiritual
Rising from the streets and sea beyond
Our eyes have such limited vision
See so little of the divine light all around us
But in the glow of windowed glass
And rays of sun
Came the psalmist’s words
“The wings of morning”
And a new life beginning
5:38 the next day
Back at Our Lady of Coincidence
Again holding vigil for Rob
Playing The Strife is O’er, the battle done
Cars and trucks adding bass and rhythm
A bus actually stopped
A lady got off heading to work
Her head solemnly bowed to task and way given each of us
I stayed waiting for Starbucks to open
Rob was busy, but knew I was here
I asked him if he was okay
He said yes
They like your cathedral in the Light
You know, humor at its best, it’s joy
Sitting for a while longer
With Venus as company
Vega, the brightest star around
Both welcome candles in this sanctuary
The song switching to Immortal, Invisible
As another bus stopped
I waved him on for now
For morning was dawning, lines forming
The great choir of day
Holding Rob in song
Filling in the sunrise.
Rob is light now. When I see the sunrise, I will see Rob. When I see the sunset, I will see Rob. When I wake up in the night and see the blanket of stars over BV, I will see Rob. And especially when I hike in the Aspens, I will remember him in all his brilliance.
Rob chose to invite those of us who loved him to sit vigil after his death. It is a beautiful tradition where family and friends sit beside Rob’s body and sing songs, tell stores, read to him as he leaves his body. We cannot sit with him in person, but we are sitting here in the sun feeling his presence and wishing him joyous passage.
And for his family, Judy, her girls, their children, my prayer is that they feel the peace that I felt the last time I talked to Rob. He has left this earthly plane, but his spirit lives on in them and the many people who knew and loved him. His memory will light their way.