When someone passes from this world, some say that we lost them. "I lost my friend, spouse, parent,etc."; but this does all concerned a disservice. We assume we "had" them, that they were somehow objects found, later to be lost. Yes, yes, I'm being tedious; it's a turn of phrase, but one I find lacking in import and meaning. When there is genuine love, genuine relationship, there can be no loss. Genuine being cannot be added to, nor subtracted from; and that which is real is not bound by the merely seen.
On New Years' Eve, a dear friend flew off from the merely seen. In his wake, he left a legacy of wonderful social activism and enriched the lives of those who met him and even those who didn't. I'd known Bob Publicover for almost twenty years as a landlord, as one deeply invested in social issues - most especially AIDs, being that he was one of, if not the, longest lived survivor, and as a dear, dear friend who provided that aforementioned enrichment.
A measure of the man is that when I returned to Massachusetts, we had dinner at the Foundry in Somerville and as I was showing him pictures of The Lord Buddha Charitable School in Bihar, he simply asked "how much?" Knowing Bob, I knew what he was asking and anyone reading this can probably guess that he meant how much could he send to help support the LBWF's effort to maintain the school. "As much as you're comfortable giving. He knew and I knew that I wasn't there to tap him as a donor, but we both knew that he'd volunteer up, anyway.
I told him I would include him on emails to Mahendra and that part of the process would be as much to get my friends in India used to maintaining contact with regular donors (as Bob very much wanted to be) as having him provide his own fundraising wisdom. I was being sneaky on that bit!
Both Bob and David his husband, handed me a check that proved a great support to the school and went to defray expenses and provide supplies. By this time, Bob wasn't quite mobile and his prognosis wasn't looking bright. Nevertheless, he continued thinking of others and when I notified Mahendra of Bob's passing, I received this:
"Hi dear John,
The news of Bob's death made us shocked.We pray to god for his soul's peace. Today in the school with the children, we will pray to the god for his soul and teaching activity will be closed for today. I am really shocked to know this news.
With best wishes,
I could write much more but there are plenty of other articles on the web. A few I'll list at the end. Mostly, this is just to give one small example of how natural and reflexive it was for Bob to care and give.
Another person in this mix who deserves a world of recognition is the man Bob married. David is compassion incarnate and in my estimation, Bob's equal in largeness of heart. Their union is one more giant step in the recognition of marriage as an inalienable human right not restricted by societal limitations or judgment.
To be sure, when someone departs from this plane, it's natural that we feel the absence and this will be felt in direct proportion to the impact the departed had on our lives. It is extremely reasonable that this hole in our shared experience be accompanied with a sadness, but in the passing of those who have cared for others and given of themselves to others, I would offer that it's also not unreasonable that a sense of gratitude lingers and heals that sense of lack or absence; after all, we've been given of these others inestimable gifts to continue sharing on and on.
Bob, till next time!
Links about Bob Publicover: