Saturday, April 11, 2009

Who Robin really was and is

I asked my oldest son Brock to be my guest blogger today.
He is writing about his cousin Robin, who passed from this life one year ago today.


It's not that I can't believe she died.
I attended her funeral and her grave marks the event well enough that I won't soon forget it. What really gets me is that it doesn't seem possible that she's not here now. That she's not a part of what's happening now. Now is the future that didn't get to exist for her, that she doesn't get to be part of. Robin didn't live to see the nation's first black president and she's not going to be there when Hailey loses her first tooth.

I remember when she was here.
I remember running across the then giant lawn at Grandpa and Grandma's (it has since inexplicably grown smaller) desperate to get away from her before she tagged me. I remember coaxing her into reenacting a scene from Looney Tunes between Bugs Bunny and a girl bunny in an attempt to get her to kiss me on the cheek. I was young enough to not understand exactly what a cousin was, but old enough to know she was pretty.

She was such a shrimp as an adult
that it's easy to forget that for a long time she was much, much, taller than me. I was the older one by a whopping 2 and a half months, and, as far as I was concerned, the height differential was egregious in the extreme. At the time it seemed so unfair, but that was when I was young. When I didn't understand that Robin was an actual giant.

She had it all over me in nearly every way,
but my experience was that most people felt that way about her. If you were smart, she was smarter. If you were kind, she was kinder still. Robin made things cleaner, prettier, more pleasant and better just by being in the room. It seemed. She could fool you that way.

She made it look easy,
but anyone who really knew her knew how much was behind the smile. Happiness was a calculation for her. It was something she achieved by knowing how to line the numbers up right. She wasn't superhuman. She has her follies and was subject to the same foibles as the rest of us (she was kind of a ditz sometimes--a distinctly Rozier trait my wife has since informed me), but the difference with Robin was that she held a degree in the Advanced Mathematics of Living Right.

Me, my math skills were not always that great.
My most distinct memory of Robin--before I even think of the cancer and the sick days in the hospital and her bald head, I think of this--was the night I totaled her car. I was fresh off my Mission and on a fool's errand chasing down a girl in Provo, Utah. The newly married Robin and Jason (whom I had not met until that week) put me up and lent me the use of the car Robin drove to work and school.

That night the girl was busy with other things,
so I went out with a friend instead. On the way to the movies I was distracted. I knew things weren't going well with the girl and that trip and imposition on Robin and Jason appeared to be for nothing. I made a left hand turn at the wrong time and that was the end of the car.

I made it back to Robin and Jason's safely
and sat and waited for them to come home. About that time the girl called and informed me that, while she was sorry about the accident and all, her working theory in life was that bad news was better served all at once.

When Robin and Jason got home, they took it pretty well and informed me that the car was actually Uncle Richard's. Suddenly fearing my uncle in a way I didn't even know I could, I felt like I had heard one sick joke too many that night. After calling Richard, I asked Robin if she had a minute to speak with me.

I effectively ended Jason's night out with his wife as,
behind closed bedroom door, I proceeded to selfishly fall apart and dump all my emotional issues on Robin. I had never been so devastated or felt like such a failure.

Robin listened. She let me cry, and,
when I was especially hard on myself she built me back up. She didn't allow me to define myself in that moment, but instead relentlessly pursued the greater truth of who I actually was. She made me see myself the way she saw me. What car? I was the wreck she was most concerned about that night.

For me, that night was a real moment.
A step towards who I would eventually become. I think for Robin its relevance was entirely the opposite. It was just another kindness. Just her being who she knew to be with that intuitive sense of just what it is to be decent and care about the proper things in the right order that some people struggle their whole lives to achieve.

When she got sick it tested that resolve.
She was a new mother and there was a level of unfairness to the entire situation that still manages to take my breath away a little whenever I tell someone about it. It was her sick joke. For the first time, I saw Robin really struggle. We all did as we read her online accounts of the the hell she was being put through. If you had the privilege of visiting with her in the hospital, you saw much more than that. You saw Robin angry. You saw her frustrated. You saw her defiant. You also saw her weak and sickly and puffy and irritable.

And yet she was the same.
What was remarkable--what you noticed immediately upon seeing her--wasn't how her body had changed and betrayed her, but how little she had actually changed in the face of it. At her core, she didn't change at all. The cancer just left her layers exposed a little more than we were all used to. Maybe that was her last lesson. Yes, we're all human, but--she dared to ask--are we really going to let that stop us?

Now, in the future for her that doesn't exist,
it has been a year since she died. So much has happened without her and so much is yet to happen. This is why losing a loved one is so much more than the moment in which they slip away. Because we lose them all over again when life goes on without them. For some of us, that's every day. For others it's looking across the table at the next potluck and not seeing Robin there.

I don't know what will happen next
that Robin will miss out on. She was just 31-years-old when she died, so it will be a lot. My hope is that Hailey and my daughter Elora will continue to be friends. That Elora might discover in Hailey those parts of Robin that are already evident in her.

The memory of Robin will fade for Hailey.
Even for Jason, it will fade a little. Not completely, mind you. Never completely. But part of the loss is that fading. It is impossible for a person to remain as vivid in death as they were in life.

It hardly matters.
Death is more of an ellipse than any kind of ending. There is so much more afterwards, though much of it is unknown. I don't have a lot of specifics, but Robin does. Now she does. This much we do know: thanks to Christ, there will be a reunion.

In our last conversation,
She asked if there was a message I'd like to pass along to my father, who had been dead for over ten years. Of course she did. Even in the face of her own death, she was going to find a way to make it benefit others. Some good would be done, even after her last breath.

I'm glad to have known her and I wish she was still here.
There are very few people that deserve all the good things said about them after their death. Sometimes, romanticization of the dead really bugs me. But, with Robin, it's hard not to lapse into sincere superlatives. Thankfully, every single one of them is true."

Brock and Robin 1979

Brock just gave me this picture last night.
It was taken in 2002 when Brock & Erin visited Robin & Jason while they lived in San Francisco.


Rebecca said...

What a wonderful tribute to your cousin! Makes me wish I knew her. Thank you as well for sharing your story about the crashed car, I recently went through something like this, and your telling of this helped me to see a different prospective! I think you were inspired to share that story! Thanks again.

Mary said...

Brock. Wow.

darlene said...

Brock, that was an excellent tribute, and a fine piece of writing! Wow! Brought tears to my eyes. It shows your own depth and appreciation for the good in life, and it certainly immortalizes your sweet cousin. Thanks for sharing that with us!

Tom and Karen Mortensen said...

I am not sure what to say except what Mary said. I miss Robin but am so glad I was able to meet her a few times. She was and still is a very wonderful person.

Dennis said...

Brock, that was a touching tribute to a very special person.


Lisa said...

She seems like an incredible human being. You can truly feel the severe pain involved in losing Robin. It is sobering & Brock is so straightforward and "real" in his memoir. That pic of him & her is so beautiful, you really ought to blow that one up & hang it on the wall. The more I come to know your family's legacy, the more I realize that you are all being qualified to enter into the Father's presence. I can't think of a better way to honor this sacred time we know as Easter than reading about Robin through Brock. It really helps us to see the "big" picture and move towards our destiny despite the pain & suffering involved. Robin looks beautiful in that last photo.

grandmapeg said...

This is a nice tribute to your niece Robin. Brock did such a good job in describing the affects of losing someone in death. It really isn't just the moment that they slip from this earthly life but when, as he said, they aren't there in the future events. We do owe so much to Christ for the eventual reunion that we all will have with our loved ones.

Dad and Susan said...

It is a privilige to have read this. Thanks Brock for this unique perspective of an exceptional person. We miss her too. Love, Dad and Susan

kelly said...

Well, I guess Brock gets his writing skills from you! I didn't even know her and now I wish I did but at the same time I'm glad I didn't because I would be a wreck missing her!

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking of Robin and Mom all week. What a gifted writer Brock is. We all cherish memories of Robin. We are all blessed to have known her. Our lives will all be better because of her and her trials and her strength.
Peggy Sue

The Gage Cage said...

Well said Brock!