Rob is Light Now

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.

Shalom Aleichem

8 thoughts on “Vigil

  1. Beautifully written by both of you. My condolences for the loss of your friend from this world, he’ll know he he lives on in your hearts. Peace to you and his family.


  2. We are so sorry to hear this. We enjoyed hiking with you all last summer and witnessing your deep friendship. On this crystal blue BV day, we, too, will breath in and out with thoughts of Rob. Hugs to you.


  3. Syd and Russ,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and poem for your friend. There is sadness in what we lose, beauty in what we had and are left with, and the acceptance of our life journey. The love remains. Always the love. May this peace hold you.
    Love and hugs.
    Kathy K.


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