Eulogy For Rob Willhite

FEW CROSS OVER THE RIVER.
MOST ARE STRANDED ON THIS SIDE.
ON THE RIVERBANK THEY RUN UP AND DOWN.
BUT THE WISE MAN, FOLLOWING THE WAY,
CROSSES OVER, BEYOND THE REACH OF DEATH.
– Buddha

One day eight years ago I met Rob and was immediately struck by his elegant stature and his calm and kind demeanor. What was most striking, though, was a spirit presence, something ethereal that I couldn’t define, and it was that presence that put me in awe of him. He kindly invited me to join his meditation group, and I gladly obliged. And so began my journey into more structured meditation, a connection to the cosmos, and a deep friendship.

I remember being somewhat intimidated by Rob, and I realize that this was my own little grasshopper mind coupled with egoic limitations that were causing me to experience that feeling of intimidation. Rob’s “Robisms” reminded me to ponder in more enlightened ways, and I took great comfort in hearing him utter one of his typical sage sayings and following it with either a grin or a chuckle, and a twinkle in the eye that revealed the little boy that still wanted to laugh and play.

Then when Rob was diagnosed last Fall and I heard of all the trials and tribulations he was enduring, I realized that everything this remarkable man had experienced in his life was coming to a head and that the ultimate test was yet to come. I drove to Rancho Los Amigos a couple of days after his surgery to see him, not sure what I would encounter. Yet as I laid my eyes upon Rob, a great surge of joy washed through me, and this joy continued as we talked and joked around, laughed and smiled. He was in such great spirits that even though I was devastated to hear of his diagnosis, it didn’t seem to matter, because we were truly in the moment, friends enjoying each other’s company. Rob’s wonderful dry wit was still very much intact and he used it to say things that had me chuckling at his bedside.

1016444_696074497089656_1678297_nShortly after Rob was discharged to Bess’s home this past December, I made regular scheduled visits to help out, and continued to do so through most of March. Every single one of those days I spent with Rob was an absolute treasure. Our conversations ran the gamut of profound, funny, tragic, and philosophical. Most days we would go for a walk or visit the neighbor dogs for a bit, and on some days he and I would meditate. Our jaunts to the L.A. Zoo were also very special and I feel so fortunate to have gone with Rob there. He missed his animal friends so very much and was able to have two wonderful reunions with them. The first time we visited, Leadbottom, the Andean Condor, was being a butthead and refused to come to the fence to greet Rob, but during our second visit, Leadbottom finally relented, and I witnessed the friendship and bond which they shared. It was truly a magical moment.

Though I had known Rob for several years, it was only this year that I learned that Rob was a man who had never felt, as he stated, like he belonged on this earth. I knew what he meant. He was so evolved spiritually that being locked in the physical realm was challenging at best with him. We spoke at length about countless other subjects during my regular visits, and he revealed more of his life experiences and upbringing to me, making him more endearing and real, and dissolving the silly intimidation I had once felt so long ago. He expressed gratitude towards me many times for helping out during the course of his illness, but the countless spiritual gifts he had bestowed upon me during that time were staggering in comparison.

There was one thing Rob said to me when he was still at Rancho which struck me. He had said, “I’ll meet you on the other side for sake.” To which I replied, “Not just yet, Rob, not for either of us. But I absolutely will meet you for that sake at some point.” Eventually, we will share that bottle of sake on the other side. I look forward to it.

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