A Tribute to Robbie &
His Very Special Caregivers
A tribute to Robbie must begin by acknowledging his remarkable caregiving team:
Glen, Wendy, Jessica, Amanda, Ray, David, and LaShonda;
Lisa Green and her entire team at JARC; and Natalie Rosenfield and her team at JHCN
What Robbie Has Taught Us All
By Rabbi E.B. (Bunny) Freedman
I speak in the voice of all of these caregivers particularly those who were at Robbie’s side in the last few years of his valiant struggle to stay with us. We all cherished him and loved him with all of our heart and all of our souls.
I have been at the bedside of many many people who needed care in every predicament that one can imagine but never, never, have I witnessed such a humane and heartfelt group of caregivers that surrounded and protected Robbie with their precious love like they have.
This unique group didn’t come together by a stroke of luck or by some kind of accident or coincidence. Rather I believe this group performed extraordinarily well because Robbie made us better. Robbie brought out our best special selves. When we were in Robbie’s presence we found deeper resources of love and compassion. Robbie had a zest for life. He fought for life. Each time when it seemed that his life was ebbing away, he dug deeper and deeper and found the will to live. How could we not join him and support him in his desire to live. How could we not go the extra mile for him? How could we not love this special gift from G-d.
He demanded so little and gave us back so much.
G-d didn’t give him many gifts of verbal communication especially in his later years when he was hampered by a tracheotomy and the effects of intensive care and increased medication. He didn’t have our skills of communication. But G-d seemed to have compensated by giving him the purest soul and biggest heart that engaged us. He continually called to our hearts and souls. He loved our attention and yearned for our love. He responded to our hugs and kisses. He rocked to our music. He felt our hearts and our tears and he responded to us with all of his precious heart and soul.
Each of us, I promise you, will be better caregivers because of Robbie. He taught us to hear the voiceless, to appreciate our own gifts, to find the inner gifts in people that seem to us at first glance to be less sentient than we are, and he taught us to find our very own inner gifts and use them to help people that need us. My years of being Robbie’s “friend” has made me a much better person.
When Heidi and I were in Robbie’s room with his cousin, David Techner, shortly after Robbie passed away on Monday morning, Heidi was feeling a little down and disappointed. We hadn’t said the traditional final prayer, the Viduy, when much of the family was together with Robbie at his bedside the previous evening. I want to share with you what we talked about that morning. The Viduy prayer is a confessional prayer for those who are going to meet their maker and who want to make amends and ask for forgiveness before they depart for their eternal journey. It is a time to acknowledge any mistakes if they’ve hurt anyone or if they didn’t fully use the gifts they were given in a purposeful way.
Robbie didn’t need this prayer. Robbie had no guile, no duplicity, no deceit or malice in his heart.
Robbie never ever consciously acted in a mendacious way. Robbie never purposefully hurt anyone.
Robbie used every ounce of the gifts he was given by G-d to be happy, playful, and loving to everyone he ever met. He had a contagious smile for everyone.
Robbie brought joy with him wherever he went. Robbie loved the world around him. He loved pets, he loved the outdoors. He loved his family. If you loved him, he loved you back twice as much.
Robbie goes in front of G-d as a pure soul.
We all share a great quest for meaning in our lives and a desire to leave a legacy. It may not be intuitive to many but here in this room we all know with certainty that Robbie’s life was so meaningful and he carries an incredible legacy. We have been blessed to be present with Robbie and I hope each and every one of us will carry part of his pure heart in our own hearts.
He has given more meaning in our lives. He has added to our legacy and in this way I believe his meaningful legacy will last into eternity.