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A Tribute to My Brother Rob

My brother, Rob, passed away on Saturday, August 26, after a three-month battle with Glioblastoma brain cancer. At times, toward the end of a person’s life, he/she might share valuable life-lessons. When Rob knew his time would be cut short, he didn’t disappoint. He provided heartfelt insight of his time on earth. I was asked by his wife, Patti, to “say a few words” at his funeral. Below is my ‘eulogy’ for my brother, Rob:

The 3rd chapter in the Book of Ecclesiastes opens with “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” This chapter is really about the seasons we experience in our lives – both good and bad.

How can I possibly share one, two, maybe three, poignant stories about my brother Rob in just a few minutes? I simply can’t.

Instead, I will provide my brief impressions of what I observed during Rob’s final few months while he was with us…as difficult as it may be.

Following Rob’s diagnosis and surgery in May, the reality of his longevity was no longer in question. Once he returned to Centerville from Des Moines, he wanted to spend quality time with family and friends – and many times it would involve the enjoyment of a cigar – or two, or three!

Now, to be honest, I am not a cigar aficionado – far from it. But in late June, I had the opportunity to enjoy a cigar with Rob.  During our “session,” I realized that my cigar had emboldened me to ask Rob a simple, yet possibly intrusive question – which I would attribute to my cigar being laced with a ‘truth serum!’

My question to my dying brother was simply this: “Rob, as you look back now, would you have done anything different in your life?” At that time in June, Rob’s mind was still extremely sharp, but he had great difficulty speaking, he often was only able to stitch a word or two together…which was a great source of frustration for someone who normally is very articulate with his thoughts. Rob looked at me with a resolute determination and responded, “HAVE NO REGRETS.”

Later in this same conversation, Rob was able to make a point that smoking a cigar was most satisfying or fulfilling during the final third of the cigar…I don’t know if the smoke gets thicker, smoother, or is loaded with additional flavor – but it seemed to be the best part of the cigar experience, according to Rob. I believe that Rob was making a point about his remaining time with us.

As I now look back at our simple, yet revealing discussion, I can’t help but make an analogy between Rob’s cigar experience and his own life. You see, maybe a full cigar represents one’s entire life. Each puff marks a season that defines who we ultimately become – whether by choice or by circumstances.

Once the cigar is lit, life’s journey begins, supplemented with a great amount of anticipation and hope, and yes, even peppered with setbacks and pain. Rob’s journey included countless joyous occasions, whether growing up in Fargo with his family and friends, his marriage to Patti, the birth of their four children and their marriages, and now their grandchildren. The tapestry of his life is full of so many examples.

Rob was a planter, both literally and figuratively.  We know about the greenhouse and his beautiful gardens – this was the literal part.  Every season at the greenhouse and with his garden, he would reap what he had sown.  But he also had the uncanny ability to establish (or plant) relationships with others that stood the test of time.

And, in the last few months of his life, he quickly learned that what he had sown with countless friends and acquaintances throughout his life, returned a bountiful harvest of love and cherished friendships that painted a beautiful landscape for him to enjoy. This most satisfying harvest, I truly believe, was Rob’s final puff in his life.

Patti, Liz, Pete and Alex, on behalf of our entire family and all who love Rob, thank you for taking such good care of him, especially during this most difficult time. Your love for your husband and father has been absolutely amazing!

To Rob’s friends and colleagues in Centerville and beyond, your outpouring of support and love for him has been both inspiring and gratifying – words cannot adequately express our feelings.

And, finally to Rob – thank you for sharing these life-lessons with us. You will be deeply missed.

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