Monday, July 22, 2013

When a mighty rock falls

For the first time, I don’t know what to say to my Big Susan, Neiman. You see, last night she lost one of her Big Susan’s, the Rock. 

Y’all know that I know what it’s like to lose a Big Susan. I’ve talked about here and here I talk about losing the original Big Susan. While that gives me an inkling of what she is feeling and a great deal of empathy for what she is going through, each person’s grief is their own and the loss is deeply personal.

The Rock was her answer to all of life’s practical questions.  He helped her buy two homes, multiple cars, computers, and assorted electronics, tools and the like. He installed, he repaired and he tinkered. He was a second home to her late dog, Beau and her current pooch, Grace. They didn’t go to a kennel – oh no. They stayed with Rock in the Big House.  I’m not sure who enjoyed those visits more – Rock or the dogs.

When Mini-Me first came onto the scene, Rock help Neiman and I see each other.  He got me freebies, vouchers and discounts so I could take Mini-me to the Mile High city.   I knew how to thank him – I had chocolate covered strawberries delivered to his desk. He only cared about the chocolate; the strawberries were just a vehicle to get the chocolate to his mouth.  And, the Rock was no chocolate snob – spending lots on that really good chocolate was lost on him. He didn’t savor every bite. He was like a kid on Easter – just munch it down with joy.

But Rock wasn’t just there for the easy stuff.  When Neiman faced family angst, he was there. When she fought her own battle with cancer, he was with her every step of the way. Lending an ear and often a shoulder.  As she has moved through her career, every turn, every change in navigation was done after talking to Rock.  When Neiman knew it was time for Beau to cross the Rainbow Bridge, Rock was there.  He held her hand, knowing she was doing the right thing.  The tears that fell night were not Neiman’s alone.

Losing a friend is so very hard. It’s a different loss than that of a parent or family elder.  You look at yourself differently – at your own mortality and many questions race through your head.  When Neiman called me last night she simply said, “he’s gone.” She was quiet. There were no tears – just silence. Grief comes in many forms and shocked silence is one of them.  I reminded her that Beau was waiting for him.  They are together in an old house with a big yard and lots of things to fix.  A man should always have a dog by his side and Rock is now with Beau. A whole different kind of big house.

My trip to be with her this week has been long planned – we had planned to fill the days with girl stuff and a shared birthday visit with Rock.  I will still be with her this week – but our time will be different. Our visit with Rock will be goodbye. Our days may be filled with memories and tears – perhaps some laughter will find us along the way.

Neiman spoke to Rock every day for the last 13 years. Now, she doesn’t know what to do. I tell her to keep talking. He’s listening.

Robert Reid Blankenship 1956-2013

Friend to many, Big Susan to dear sweet Neiman.

May his memory be a blessing

To read about Robert and his extraordinary contribution to the lives he touched, click here.

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