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.