A Year Later

Robbie left us a year ago tonight and it’s been a year full of memories and memorials and grief.

Looking back, the time between receiving word the leukemia recurred and his death was incredibly fast. A dizzying downward spiral marked by the lung surgery but an increasing number of complications. Deb and I look back over the log I kept and rereading what happened and in reading last August’s notes, it is painfully clear how sick he was and how the complications pointed towards a sad ending. I was also reminded of how much discomfort he was in those final weeks but still wanted to fight this, admitting only in the final days how tired he was getting. One of my biggest regrets is that there wasn’t a real chance for any of us to really say goodbye. I keep being told he knew how much we loved him, but I just feel robbed.

He fought to the end and then was at rest. For Deb, Kate, and me, though, rest has been hard to come by. Our sleep has been interrupted; thoughts of him greet us many mornings. Little things continue to trigger bouts of sadness and depression; anything from a plotline on television to seeing something that makes us think of him. We have more good days than bad, but there come times – holidays, birthdays and the like – when life comes to crashing halt.

As a result, dealing with his effects has been tough and a long process. We have been in his room a handful of times beginning to sort through his things and after a while, we had to leave. Bit by bit, things were donated or tossed; the most personal of items were put into storage. It felt difficult boxing up his life, putting it away for safe-keeping. While in San Diego for the con, Deb’s brother Jim and his wife Jen came over and helped Deb complete the process. We then brought in a painter and fresh carpeting, preparing to turn his room into a guest room but with different colors and furniture, another bit of erasure that leaves me feeling empty.

In May, the granite marker was installed at the cemetery and seeing it that day made everything feel more permanent than it had since the funeral.

Over the past 12 months, contact with the doctors and nurses has dwindled to now just the occasional exchange via Facebook. His friends have slowly moved on with their lives, occasionally still posting on his Facebook page or being in touch with us. The grief hangs heavy over several of them and no doubt they keep their distance as part of their healing process. Tomorrow, though, two of his closest friends will have lunch with us and we will attend the wedding of another close friend’s older sister so we’ll be there to support one another.

Also during this past year, the outpouring of tributes and acknowledgements of his life have been overwhelming and impressive. Maryanne Honeycutt organized fund raising so a memorial bench and tree be planted at their high school with a ceremony planned for the installation. Naomi and Marina organized Relay for Life teams in his name. Farpoint held a memorial panel and named a Masquerade Award in his honor while Shore Leave printed lovely tribute from Peter David and inaugurated a charity Poker Tournament in his honor. The American Red Cross is benefitting from the donations raised during what appears to be a now-annual Celebrity Roast at Shore Leave.

He’s being remembered in print, as well. David Mack dedicated his first original novel, The Calling, to him while Peter David and Robin Riggs named a pirate ship after him plus a dedication in the first issue of IDW’s Sir Apropos of Nothing miniseries. Ann Crispin has based a character on him in her forthcoming Captain Jack Sparrow novel. She read me portions of it at Shore Leave and I was most touched.

In these and other ways, Deb and I are increasingly reminded of how many lives he touched. And how we were loved and supported in so many ways by friends, neighbors, and family. Believe it or not, there remain a few frozen food containers in the freezer from the constant supply of meals that made his seven month ordeal more manageable for us. I continue to marvel at the memory of the lengthy line of people during his wake and how full the church was for the funeral.

While gone in form, he’s still with us in memory. Obviously, I’d love to understand why such a random disease chose him and why he couldn’t beat it. I’ve daydreamed about what sort of adult he would have become and if he would have achieved his potential; who he would have married and what sort of children would have been the result. A part of me realizes that when Neil and I go, the Greenberger family name most likely vanishes, or at least this branch of the extended tree and that saddens me.

In the days leading up today, we’ve been at a loss as to how to mark the occasion. Deb doesn’t want to answer the phone and no work will get done. Kate’s taking the train and once we collect her, we’ll go visit the grave. And when the tears dry, no doubt talk about him and comfort one another.

Hopefully there is an afterlife and he knows we miss him.

26 comments

  • Beth Goodwin

    My thoughts are with all of you on this sad day.

  • Dawn Swingle

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Bob.

  • Kathleen David

    Bob-
    Know that we will be thinking of all of you today.
    Hugs to Deb and Kate. We miss him too.
    Kath

  • Robert Longo

    Bob,

    My thoughts & Prayers are w/you & your Family. I know how devasting this Disease is. 2010 marks 35 yrs for me. Like you I don’t know why Robbie but, I ask that question when my Friends who fought & died from this as well. All we can do is keep moving forward & remember them.

  • Bob,
    Thinking about you. Has it been a whole year?

    nothing else to say…

    best wishes

    Joel

  • De Baisch

    Hard to believe it’s been a year already. Peace be with you, Deb, and Kate.

  • Many many hugs and good wishes, my friend.

    BTW, not sure if I told you this or not: I also dedicated A Singular Destiny to Robbie, as well as to Joanie Winston, Joseph Pevney, and Alexander Courage….

  • Duane

    I never met Robbie, but through you, Bob, through your ever-positive outlook and tireless dedication to whatever it your doing, I get a good sense of the kind of son you raised.

    My thoughts are with you and Deb often.

  • Pazzi

    I remember exactly how I felt when I read your email a year ago…so I jsut have to multiply that feeling of loss for millions and millions to begin to understand how you and Deb feel.
    We are thinkin of you.
    Love, Pazzi

  • Pazzi

    I remember exactly how I felt when I read your email a year ago…so I just have to multiply that feeling of loss times millions to begin to understand how you and Deb feel.
    We are thinkin of you.
    Love, Pazzi

  • Terpette

    Funny how even when you don’t want the year to go by, it does. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Having lost my mother suddenly in November, I have an idea of what you’re going through. Though you guys are braver than me… I haven’t been through her belongings yet with my father, nor have I been out to her grave to see the beautiful headstone we picked out.

    Grief is never something you “get over”, in my experience. It’s a wound that heals, but it will always be with you. And I’ve come to realize that this is a good thing, because then you’ll always be reminded of those loved ones. The best we can hope for is to be fondly remembered and deeply missed and Robbie has both of those in spades.

  • Susan O

    It was a freak glitch of the phone system that allowed us to receive the medic alert call the night my grandmother passed; it was just as freakish that I was standing in a fabric store buying supplies for Farpoint when my cell rang AND I had it with me AND it was on, AND I heard it, found it, and answered it in time to hear the news of Robbie’s illness. I haven’t shopped there since.

    Our thoughts are with you.

  • Jim

    There’s nothing I can say to give you solace, this of all days, but be as strong as you can and know that as all storms end, yours will as well. I love you all.

    Jim

  • Richard

    My sympathies to you and your family, Bob.

  • Donald

    My thoughts are with you all today. I totally understand the “what if” thoughts and sense of injustice when someone so young has died. My older sister died in a bike/car accident 39 years ago at the age of 15. Over the years I have often thought about what kind of an adult she would have become and what she would have done with her life. The tears would come occasionally along with the thoughts of what was lost. They have come more frequently in recent years as I became a parent and understood even better the lose that a parent (versus a sibling) would feel. We named our brand new baby, Cynthia, after my sister and now the mention of her name still brings feelings of sadness and lose, but also of joy, hope and promise. The tears still come, as they are right now while I type, but they are transitory. Robbie has touched so many lives that he will continue to have a postive effect on this world for decades to come. Isn’t that what we all wish for in our lives? Peace and love.

  • Hotspur

    From what I read of Robbie from others, he was a wonderful person who made everyone smile.

    I remember one of my favorite verses from the Talmud, which asked who would live eternally with God? Two men were pointed out, who were asked their professions. “We are clowns. When we see someone who is sad, we cheer him up. When we see two people quarreling, we try to make peace between them.”-Talmud, Ta’anit 22a

    From what Kath David, Terri Osbourne and so many others have said, that was just the kind of person he was and that is something that cannot be taken by something like death. The joy he gave is eternal.

  • Reading this, Bob, all I can do is remember Robbie and weep. My thoughts are with you, Deb, Kate and the rest of your extended family — today and always.

  • Paul Balze

    Jesus, has it really been a year already? Hard to believe. My thoughts are with you all. Peace.

  • Jim McCain

    My thoughts are with you and your family today and frequently during the year also. Young peoples passing saddens me greatly.

  • Barb Goetz

    Robbie was an exceptional young man who made a difference in many lives. I think of him with every stitch I take on the picture I am making for him.

    My thought are with you, Deb and Katie today and through the year.

  • Jerri

    Really, there are no words that will truly comfort you… after all these years, there’s still a hole in my heart shaped like my only sister. Sometimes I can think of her, share silly stories and feel comforted. Sometimes just a random thing will remind me of her and the wound throbs till it bleeds tears. Healing has no timetable and it works in fits and starts… but I still feel that she is with me in spirit – I beleive our loved ones never truly leave us.

    There’s a saying I heard somewhere, and I’m not sure where it came from, but it goes… “No person is truly gone as long as there are two people under the sky – one to tell their story, and one to hear it.” Thank you for sharing Robbie’s story with us.

  • MHA

    I can’t believe it’s been a year, Bob. Watching Robbie and Kate grow up (along with Peter’s kids) has been a big part of what Shore Leave means to me. His absence will be felt for a long time.

  • Alexis

    Bob- I was thinking about you today for some reason and it popped into my mind that it’s probably been close to a year since has Robbie passed. Your prose on this website was beautiful, loving, poignant and heart-breaking all at the same time. While I never meet your Robbie, it is so clear from what I’ve learned about him in the last year is that he was a very special young man who touched so many and his memory will be a blessing. God Bless.

  • Ray Russolillo

    I had to read this posting in installments as I had trouble seeing through the tears. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with you, Deb and Kate. Know that, however difficult the loss, Robbie’s short lifetime was a blessing for us all.

  • I cannot WAIT to see Deb tomorrow and throw my arms around her!

    If it helps any: I have teetered on that edge and made it back. There is a life after this one and we will be with our loved ones again. I know that as strongly as I know that, by the grace of God, somehow I am one of the lucky ones and am still breathing.

    Love is forever.

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