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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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John McCain & Rob Lind – Healthcare Realities

Rob Lind on Lake Francis, June 2017

Last week, while on vacation in Reykjavik, Iceland, I woke to the news that Arizona Senator John McCain was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, an aggressive type of malignant brain tumor that starts in the glial cells of the brain and spreads rapidly. Glioblastoma is not as prevalent as other, more common cancers. In 2017, this type of cancer is projected to have 12,390 cases in our country. Breast cancer, as an example, is estimated to have 252,700 cases in 2017 – over 20 times the glioblastoma rate.

Cancer impacts people regardless of race, age, gender, social standing, geography, and yes, even political party. Cancer is non-discriminating, an equal opportunity disease – many times due to chance. Of course, there are exceptions, such as cancers that are known as ‘cancer clusters,’ which, according to the CDC, are “a greater-than expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a geographic area over a period of time.” Cancer clusters can occur in dangerous environmental areas that can harm the population living nearby, such as toxic waste landfills.

The Brain Tumor Foundation estimates that treating glioblastoma may cost more than $450,000 (up to $700,000 in a lifetime of treatment). I’m not trying to make Sen. McCain’s misfortune into political fodder, but as Congress attempts to sort out what health insurance should look like for Americans who don’t have access to employer-provided coverage and are not yet eligible for Medicare, medical misfortunes continue to plague those who are employed, unemployed, insured or uninsured. Financial catastrophe is one diagnosis away for many Americans.

John McCain

The McCain news unfortunately serves as yet another poignant reminder that illness can occur at any time in our lives. Ironically, Senator McCain and his Senate colleagues are embroiled in crafting a ‘repeal and replace’ fix for Obamacare, with potentially more than 22 million Americans losing health insurance coverage, depending on which plans are being ‘scored’ by the Congressional Budget Office. It’s common knowledge that both House and Senate Congressional members can purchase private health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which offers about 300 different private healthcare plans – all considered good health insurance by any standard used.

Our country continues to struggle with the “downstream” question of who should pay for healthcare and how much should be paid. This never-ending, divisive and destructive dialogue is made under the pretense that we are unable (or unwilling) to address the true cost drivers of healthcare (found “upstream“) and, consequently, seek our answers through political discourse that will get us nowhere downstream. Meanwhile, the ‘John McCains’ in our country, including those uninsured, must fight this battle on two fronts: 1) Physical and emotional distress that comes with a serious illness, and 2) Facing impending financial disaster.

Rob Lind

Two months ago, I learned that my oldest brother, Rob, has glioblastoma. This news is painfully fresh for me and I’m still sorting out why this has happened to Rob. Most likely, we will never know the answers to the persistent questions we face when family members and friends receive such a devastating diagnosis. The McCain news served as a harsh reminder that you can be a U.S. Senator, or as Rob, a rural Iowa business owner. Both have lived their lives honorably, positively impacting others around them. But each of us must be armed with the knowledge that our health may be compromised at any time by an unwelcomed intruder. Thankfully, both John and Rob have good health coverage. They are the fortunate Americans.

The healthcare coverage problem continues to persist in our country without any prospect of immediate resolution. Meanwhile, any one of us may eventually receive life-changing news that someone important in our lives, (perhaps even yourself), will be visited by an unwelcomed intruder.

Healthcare is the maintenance and improvement of our physical and mental health. The absurdly high cost of healthcare makes it immensely more difficult for those who must endure the physical and emotional hardships when facing the care they need.  When our health is compromised, we worry about the cost and how it will impact those around us – another added layer of stress. In the U.S., more so than other countries, Americans worry about the family being financially burdened.

For Rob, I cherish the remaining time that we have together. Whether we discuss things that matter most in our lives, or climb into a fishing boat and experience the beauty of a Minnesota morning on Lake Francis.

Catching fish is optional.

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