one year ago today, my best friend rob’s life came to end after living with leukemia for a couple years. 12 months later, neither his memory nor the pain of the loss has gone away, but we certainly continue to celebrate him with good memories and shared stories. today friends and family will be celebrating his life together, but i thought i’d reblog what i posted just hours after his death one year ago today. much like last year, i hope you learn a little bit about the rob that i knew and loved.
**EDITORIAL NOTE: about 2 years ago, my best friend rob was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. since that time, he has had hospital stays at both uams and md anderson in houston, tx. there were times that rob could have walked out of the hospital and conquered the world and there were times when he was preparing to leave this present reality. this morning, rob’s preparation for death culminated with just that. so, on the wake of his passing, i thought i would offer a few words about him here. i hope that after reading, you gather at least a small sense of how beautiful rob’s life truly was.**
we humans tend to see the world in either/or terms. it’s black or it’s white. it’s hot or it’s cold. it’s right or it’s wrong. it’s good or it’s bad. we live in dichotomies. in bifurcated realities where the middle is often lost.
so it is with people. we see good people. and we see bad people. we seek out opposing forces and divide accordingly.
but there is, in fact, a middle space. and maybe not even as much a middle space, but a blend, a melding somewhere in between where, on any given day, we must re-evaluate and find ours and others’ place.
so it was with my best friend rob.
rob wasn’t a bad guy. and rob wasn’t necessarily a good guy. all the time, that is. rob was somewhere in the space between. some days, rob was certainly the bad guy. and on others, he was unquestionably the good guy. most days, like us all, he was somewhere in the space between. somewhere in the middle.
there were conversations rob and i would have that would make me pause and just say, “dude, let’s regroup and find a happy place.” and there were those days when rob was ready to solve the world’s problem, bleeding love and compassion. there were times when rob’s cynicism and sarcasm was so thick that you could only assume he woke up on the extreme wrong side of the bed. and there were those times when rob’s idealism and hope would spill over and you would feel an enthusiasm for something you never cared about otherwise.
but mostly, it was the space between. like us all. rob knew the world wasn’t black and white, but beautiful shades of grey. rob’s life was beautiful because he wasn’t just wrong or right, black or white, good or bad, but sliding back and forth in that beautiful between space.
in the middle of good and bad is funny and sad and optimistic and cynical and excited and fearful and childlike. rob was all those things. and you always knew it. rob didn’t waste time pretending to be things he wasn’t. he lived in the moment of that space between.
and it was beautiful. and it was heartbreaking. and it was enviable. and it was just rob.
it was sitting and literally crying because we were laughing so hard. it was facing the reality of cancer together and wondering if prayer works and if god is real. the space between was us running around with a video camera and a mullet wig on a florida beach. it was him trying to convince me to read the book instead of watching the movie…and it never working. that’s the space that rob lived in.
one of the beautiful things about the continuum that rob lived in is that his final handful of months was largely spent living in that good space. that space of optimism. that space of seeing the world in its beauty. of engaging people with a palpable joy and enthusiasm.
in the end, rob was the good guy.
and he left behind a good family. with a good, beautiful, strong wife. and 4 incredibly bright and intelligent and inquisitive and beautiful children. and good friends and a couple good communities of faith that he could call home.
rob was my best friend. and he was a good friend. ironically, there was a time that i only saw rob as a bad guy. as someone who i didn’t want in my life. what i found, though, was that during that time, i was the bad guy. rob never changed. i did. i discovered that, in fact, sometimes rob was the bad guy. but mostly, he was the good guy and a guy who lived in that space between. and i grew to love that rob. that guy whose life was good, bad and in that in-between space at any given time. and i learned that that was a beautiful, beautiful thing.
on saturday, february 13, 2010, rob’s life ended. he breathed his last breath and moved to another space. i don’t know what that next space looks like, but i’m certain that there’s a new community there who is enjoying the beauty of not just rob’s good and bad, but that beautiful space between.
i deeply, deeply love you rob and will intensely miss you. thank you for the time you gave me.
robert daniel toon: december 20, 1976 — february 13, 2010