I met a person this year, only once, but he changed my life. His name was Rob. He came to a New Years eve party at our home with a friend from my post religion phase in life. The number one thing I noticed1 about Rob is what he had done for my friend. You see my friend had gone through the loss of her faith around the same time as I did. She wasn’t as lucky as me though. Her acknowledgement of doubt and desire to seek truth cost her her marriage. She was very much a broken soul when I first met her and our families became close in the way only those that have suffered the same experiences can.
The day I met Rob stood out in my mind because of what it did for my friend. She walked in our front door beaming like a lighthouse. She was so happy, clearly in love and in every possible way I could tell a soul that was healed, and filled, with light. They were going to marry, they were so happy. Her life was on a new trajectory to something wonderful. She had this man to thank for it. I remember thinking this guy is gonna be a blast this summer when we all hang out together.
But unfortunately a terrible tragedy occurred and we lost him. Rob passed away. I didn’t suffer too much, I lost the glimpse of future days at the lake with him and my friend, our kids playing together on the beach taking it easy and soaking in life. But my friend, she lost it all. And I felt terrible about her pain and loss.
It is the closest death I have faced since the imaginary comfort of religious belief crumbled into the history of my life. It caused me to ponder the depth of my beliefs repeatedly since there are no longer those pat answers I was raised with to make sense of such a difficult thing.
Something happened though, something I am really glad I experienced. My friend sent me a few paragraphs she had written about her fiancé for his funeral. She wanted my help polishing them up. I was happy to help in anyway I could. Little did I know she would help me more than I ever expected. With her permission I am sharing the part that touched my soul here.
“I just want to share what I learned from Rob that changed me, and my heart, for the better….things that I will cherish forever, the memories, the stories, and our love.
The first thing I learned from Rob was about healing. Rob was a healer. I know he healed many of you and he healed me, from moment I met him.
His ability to mend others came in three ways. Things he taught to me by his example and presence in my life.
First, Rob taught me to listen to listen and not to respond. Listen by not talking, by leaning in, by looking you straight in the eyes, by touching, by sitting close and, most importantly, by making it about you, and not about him. His phone is put away and there is no speaking except for….’I am listening.’ ‘Tell me more.’ And ‘I love you and you matter no matter what you say or who you are.’
Second, Rob taught me how he healed by never walking away from a loved one or any person without making a friend of them or making them smile. He did this through teasing, joking, talking, listening, spending time with them and most importantly hugging. On my third date with Rob, he hugged me in that way he hugs and in that moment…every wound I had, every hurt I carried, was healed and I knew I wanted to be with this man! When Rob took his leave of someone, he left them better than when he found them.
The third way Rob was a healer was through his laugh. He laughed loud, and full, long and deep. He laughed with his whole face, his eyes, his body….Oh that man could laugh…….and it was contagious! Hard to be sad when your are laughing!
The next thing I learned from Rob his take on life. He was present. He lived in the moment. He savored his moments. To Rob, my cooking wasn’t just ‘good’ or ‘OK’. It was ‘delicious’ or ‘horrible’. He didn’t feel ‘fine’ or ‘meh’ in a half hearted attempt at life. He felt ‘fantastic’ or ‘terrible’. The views we saw weren’t ‘pretty’ and our adventures weren’t ‘fun’. It was ‘gorgeous’ or ‘the best day I have ever had’ or ‘the most amazing place I have ever been’ or just ‘wow’!
Then to both save and share those beautiful highs and lows in life took pictures of it all. He shared those pictures and those stories with everyone he spoke to. From the minutiae of his day at work to his latest adventure, he lived and he shared. He savored life and he remained who he was: comfortable in his own skin and unapologetic and unafraid of that comfort.
Every day Rob lived by this this imperative: Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love you.
He left life unfold as it did and lived it for all it was worth.
Rob, we never got to exchange our marriage vows. But I would like to make a vow to you today….to you, whom I love so deeply, with my whole heart and being, that I will honor you, cherish you, and love you until the day I die and I will do this by emulating that which I learned from you.
I will still give you my future by trying to be a healer: listening to listen and not to respond; when taking my leave of someone, leaving them feeling better than I found them through laughter, talking, a smile; I will learn to hug as you hugged. To love as you loved. Rob, I vow to emulate you in living in the present and in the moment. I will savor those moments. I will share the pictures and our stories and my stories with anyone and everyone who will listen. Unapologetic for who I am, comfortable in my own skin because I was loved….so much and unequivocally, by you.”
You see as I read these words and thought back to those few hours in which I became friends with my friends fiancé. I realized he had tapped into a key purpose of life I want to make my own. He definitely savored life. Every moment. He helped others heal. I saw how he had healed the broken soul of my friend. Even now after all this tragedy I could see a light in her eyes that he had left burning there when he stepped into eternity. She has faced a second soul shattering difficulty and although her new trajectory in life isn’t what she expected, it seems to me it is still on a healing path. Because of a man that taught her and me these simple truths… To savor life, to heal others and to hug often. A man named Rob.
- Besides his awesomely shaved head! We both sported the slick look that so few can pull off 🙂 ↩
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