The best thing about burying your kid? You get front row seats in the chapel! I told Zach that when it comes to eulogies, it’s always good to open with a joke, so there it is.
Caryn sat down between her friend Stephanie and Zach. I sat with Maura and what I remember most clearly about that moment, aside from the uncontrollable sobbing and the unrealness of it all, was that we needed to do this next part for Rob.
We chose the least Jew-y rabbi in Long Island (no easy task since Woodbury is basically Jewville), and he turned out to be a man of few words, none of which I remember other than him saying that it was now our turn to speak.
We didn’t really have a plan (other than taking beta blockers courtesy of my friend Tony a few minutes before we went into the chapel), so Zach took the initiative and walked to the podium.
“Robbie used to torture me,” he began and then took a long pause before he added, “The end,” and faked walking away. I loved that he had taken my advice, but it still took me by surprise. “I’m going to freestyle this, but like any good freestyle, some of it was prepared,” Zach continued.
I don’t remember all of what he said because I was crying the whole time, but I do recall that he spoke about last Christmas when we were all together in my house, and what a great time he and Rob had and how later in the afternoon they went out for a walk to buy a pack of cigarettes, just the two of them, talking about the usual bullshit, making each other laugh and just enjoying each other’s company like only brothers can, not knowing that this would be the last time they’d be together. It was the sweetest, most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever heard, and I was never prouder of Zach.
Next up was Rob’s best friend, Sarah. We’d never met before, but Rob had talked about her often. I think she may have been the one person in the world he really confided in. They were “twin souls” and I was happy to learn that Rob had had her in his life.
Sarah talked about their friendship, about his wacky money-making ideas (manufacturing beard brushes and cheap sunglasses), about him being a Pastafarian (it exists, look it up!), about him always being in the middle of a dance circle, and about joining him on his quest to try every burger joint on Long Island. She concluded:
Any time I needed Robbie he was there for me. At times I felt bad that he was stuck being my best friend because I am truly a lot to handle, but Robbie never once complained or questioned why he was friends with me. He simply loved me and our friendship for who and what it was…We were more than friends—we were family and we always will be. Robbie, I will forever love you and cherish the memories that we made.
Then it was Caryn’s turn. She asked me to come up to the podium to help keep her steady. “I don’t know if I can do this, babe,” she whispered when I got up there. “Just start, babe,” I said, and she did.
She began with the Serenity Prayer and a poem called “Legacy of an Adopted Child.” She then read a poem of her own. Here’s the beginning:
Robbie was a gift to us, from an angel that wanted him to have more.
She didn’t know when she placed him in our arms, he was already broken at his core.
At three years old he said to me, Mommy, I have a hole in my heart that never closes.
That’s too much for any child to bare, so we tried to fill it with love and roses.
And here’s the ending:
You will never know, my dear sweet son, how much you were loved and by so many.
The pain you felt each day you woke, must have been unbearable and heavy.
And now you have left a hole in our hearts, and somehow Robbie we all see…
That this world was just too hard for you, and you can finally rest in peace.
Caryn sat down and cried in her friend Stephanie’s arms while I wiped the tears off of my glasses.
I was the closer. I was the one who would finally get this good time over with. Before I began, I looked out at everyone seated in the chapel and I couldn’t believe how packed it was. It was a sea of black dresses and suits, but it was also a sea of love, and I felt every gentle ripple in my bones. I’ve always had a fear of public speaking, but this was different. It felt like Rob was up there with me. This is for you, dude, I thought and took a deep breath. This is what I said:
I got to see Rob a lot these past two years since he moved out to California. For all his troubles, he was a good hang. I don’t know why but it always surprised me just how smart and funny he was. We mainly talked about bullshit—our favorite TV shows, movies, songs that we both liked because Zach turned us on to them. The deepest we ever got was when he talked about his cat Biscuit. We went out for dumplings a lot and always ordered too many and always knocked them off. My favorite part of our visits was when I dropped him off in front of his place and he’d say, “I love you, Dad.” And I’d say, “I love you, Rob.” We both needed to say it and we both needed to hear it. And I think he knew it, I think he knew how much we all loved him.
With that in mind, I’d like to read a couple of excerpts from a letter I wrote to Rob about 20 years ago…
You were born a poet. Let me quote a few of your best lines:
I bet my birth mother is still crying.
I wish God would take the sadness off me.
If she kept me, I never would’ve known you.
I have a space in my heart that never closes.
As I sit here wrestling with words that invariably elude my grasp, I wish I could write like that. But what do I expect? You are seven and I am only forty-two…
I hope that one day God grants your wish and takes the sadness off you, because your mom and I know how truly blessed we are to have two beautiful sons—one chosen by us and one chosen for us. It’s like we wrote at the end of your baby book:
Mommy and Daddy waited a long time for a baby–a baby boy just like you. And though it might have been nice to have you grow in mommy’s belly … always remember that you grew in our hearts!
Perhaps the only thing we neglected to consider at the time was your heart. Which reminds me of sandcastles. A few summers ago, you and I built a beauty on Uncle Stephen’s beach, and you wanted to surround it with a moat, so we started to dig a hole with your big yellow bucket. We kept digging faster and faster until the hole got so deep that you jumped in. “Daddy, get the water,” you said, and I ran into the waves, filled the bucket, dragged it back, and dumped it into the hole. The sand quickly drank it up, so I kept going back and forth, trying to fill the hole with water, but it was like pouring the water down a drain, and after a while we finally said the hell with it and ran into the ocean.
You are the sand, little boy, and I will always be the water.
And that was where I intended to end this letter until you came padding into the room in your G.I. Joe pajamas. “What are you writing about?” you asked. And when I told you it was a story about you, you asked, “Is it going to be in a big magazine?”
And I said, “Yeah, how do you feel about that?”
And you said, “Scared.”
And I said, “How come?”
And you said, “Because I’m going to be in it alone.”
And I said, “No you won’t. I’ll be in it with you.”
And you said, “I love you daddy.”
And that’s when I had to stop writing.
The good time wasn’t quite over. Next stop: the cemetery.