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Church of BobJune 15, 2007

More than five years ago, I quit smoking. It was hard. Really, really, really hard. My friend Bob, a recovering alcoholic with a lot of years sober, gave me his nine-year chip. That was the talisman that got me through -- whenever I HAD to have a cigarette, I clutched it like it was the lighter I used to carry. I love a sobriety chip in that you can squeeze it as hard as you can, and you can't bend it, can't break it, and then your fingers smell like quarters afterward.

I kept it on my person for a solid year, either around my neck or in my pocket. When I went to Italy by myself later that year, it really WAS the only thing that kept me from smoking. I mean, who would have known? Surrounded by smokers, in a different country, NO ONE would have known. But I would have had to go home and I wouldn't have been able to lie to Bob. Probably could have lied to anyone else, but not to him. He would have known.

Bob died on Monday as a result of complications after surgery. He leaves behind a wife and two grown kids. I have never, ever, ever known a family closer than they were. He almost lost his family to drinking, and realized at the last minute that to keep them we would have to quit. He did, and it worked. The love that poured out of that family was something incredible to witness.

He was the funniest man I've ever met. He was Robin Williams funny with better timing. He was short and round, but got skinnier as the health problems increased. I thought he was an asshole when I first met him, almost nine years ago. He talked about his boy and called him The Beast, which I thought was cruel. It took me six months to realize that he actually loved the kid more than he loved anything else, except maybe his daughter and his wife.

He was the only person I took advice from. Pretty much, if he said to do it, I did it. When I was debating taking the job I have now, the job that I love, he told me I should do it, that I was changing in my old job, becoming bitter and jaded, and that I had to get out while I still could. I packed my bags and went.

He was talky as a jaybird. He never, ever shut up, and you never wanted him to. I'd tell him something, and that would set him off on a thought, three stories, and five jokes, and I'd learn as much as going to church. He WAS church. Church of Bob.

He came to our wedding, even though he didn't go to parties with alcohol for the most part. He stayed long enough to give me his blessing and ten hugs. I think I only saw him two or three times after that, in this last very busy year. I'm trying not to kick myself too hard in the ass for that. It's hard, though.

The funeral is in two hours, and I don't want to go. I'm going to see a lot of people I don't care to see, and worse, a lot of people that I know Bob disliked, people that treated him so badly that he retired in despair from the job he loved. A year ago. At least he retired. It's a blessing, when I think about it. At least he got a year off the job with his family. And those people who forced him out will be there crying, and holding on to each other, and I'll be there wearing my chip necklace, and trying not to hate them too much. And I'll probably hug people and smile and chit-chat, and the ONLY reason I'm going is to look into Bob's wife eyes, just for a second. To smile at his daughter. To hug the cop that he adopted as son. I know Bob doesn't give a shit whether I go or not, he loved me, and I loved him, and the last time I saw him we told each other. We always told each other. But I want my presence there, my body to be standing with the hundreds and hundreds of people who will celebrate this incredible man's life today.

The church will be full, most in uniform. I'm going from work, so I'll be in uniform. And I'm dreading the bagpipes more than anything in this world.

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Comments

I am so so sorry for your loss. It's incredible to have someone like that in your life.

As to the miserable jerkwads that will be there just think of the scene in "All of Me" with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin where she says she wants to come back as a bird and sh*t on the enemy's head.

You'll get through this. You really will.

...and the ONLY reason I'm going is to look into Bob's wife eyes, just for a second. To smile at his daughter. To hug the cop that he adopted as son.

And it will mean SO much to them that you are there. I know, it's hard (I hate funerals and memorials), but it's so important to let those who live on know that their love for Bob is shared.

Bob's family will be so glad that you are there and you will feel better having done it. I'm sorry for your loss.

I'm so sorry, Rach. You do what you have to do, and if you want to go, then just forget those other people. xo

I am sorry for your loss. I know what you mean about the bagpipes. They get me every time. Hold on to your memories tightly today, as well as your chip.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

It's tough stuff, ain't it? Your presence WILL mean something to his family, though, and someone has to represent the good guys.
I'll be thinking of you.

Good for you, going even though you don't want to. It will mean a lot to the people who matter that a person who loved Bob and that Bob loved came.

You know what stuck out for me? Not the loss, but what this man meant to you, and maybe not today, but you should try and share that with his family if they don't already know. I know I loved to hear things like that when my grandmother passed away.

After the initial shock it was wonderful to hear stories from her friends, things I never knew about her, but made me love her even more.

It's times like these when your emotion and passion come out in your writing and I am right there with you, feeling the things you feel. Good on you for going, and thank you for sharing Bob with us too.

My condolences. It sounds like the world is a little grayer for us all now.

My thoughts are with you today, and I so sorry for your loss.

I'm sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful post. Have you considered sending it to Bob's family?

I'm sorry for your loss and for Bob's family's loss. As much as you don't want to go now, you're a strong enough and smart enough person to realize that you would ultimate regret it if you don't go and have that moment, however brief, with Bob's wife and family. Love, Elisa

I am so sorry for the loss of your strong and wonderful friend, Bob.

Cry your cry. You've lost a powerful force in your life. You were blessed and now you are bereaved. Weep, wail and mourn. There is no shame in it.

My condolences to you.

I'm sorry you've lost your friend. He sounds spendid - everyone should have a Bob.

Rach -- if only I could influence one person in life as much as Bob influenced you. You are so blessed to have had such a friend, one who was wise and kind. I'm very sorry for your loss and I wish you the very best in your time of mourning. May your great memories of Bob help you through. I think you should have a private ceremony for Bob after the big funeral to thank him properly. My heart goes with you.

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.

I like to remember a story my friend told me from a recent funeral she attended for a friend's mom. She was sitting behind the 2 YO granddaughter of the lady who died and the girl was standing on her mommy's lap and looking over the room. The girl kept looking up in the corner and whispering "hi Grandma". Bob will be there with you.

I'm sorry for your loss. This post was a great tribute to your friend.

Your reason for going today is the best reason of all. Bob's family will know just as you do who the people are who treated him so badly and will be there just to show their 'grief' and be seen doing it, and your presence, someone who really knew him and loved him and appreciated who he was and what he did, will be a comfort. It really will, even if it's just for the second you look in his wife's eyes.

Hugs to you, my friend.

Oh, honey. Much love to you, and I'm very sorry Bob's gone. Your tribute brings tears, m'love.

I'm so, so sorry you lost your friend Bob. How wonderful for you to have known someone like that.

I'm so sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute. It's so rare to find such special people, I hope you can take comfort in the fact that you were lucky to have such a great friend.

Rach, you sound so sad. I'm so sorry for your loss and I think it's wonderful that you'll be there to honor this man who so obviously meant very much to you.

I agree with Amy. Send the post to Bob's family. Condolences...now I gotta go wipe my eyes and blow my nose.

The English word 'blessing' and the French 'blessure' or wound come from the same root. They are something that leave a mark. Bob has left his mark on your life and what what was a blessing truly leaves a hurt when it is gone. More hugs to you.

Oh, I am so, so sorry for your loss. It sounds like the world will be poorer without Bob, but at least there will be good people who will remember him as fiercely and as fondly as you will.

You're going for his family.

I'm so sorry.

The words aren't nearly enough: I'm sorry for your loss. You wrote a loving and eloquent tribute.

Oh, sweetie, that is such a tough thing to go through. I'm so sorry. Bob is such a special person and think of how he touched your life. While you will miss him, just knowing him did a world of good for you. Cherish your memories and it's good you're going to be one of those people who knew him, loved him and were touched just by knowing him. Stand and be counted.

What an amazing tribute to Bob. As someone who has her own share of chips, I know what it means when someone gives you one of theirs, it's holding their faith and love for you in your hand. And when they can't be with you it's there. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope this doesn't sound odd, but I think both you and Bob were extremely lucky to have met. I'll be thinking of you.

i'm so sorry about your friend...you are in my thoughts and prayers.

What a wonderful tribute. It can't have been easy for you to write. We can't bring our loved one's back, but we can vow to make a difference in someone else's life. That way when we have gone on, someone will writie something this beautiful about us.

Will keep you and Bob in my heart and in my prayers this weekend.

What a beautiful remembrance, I'm so sorry for your loss of such a wonderful friend. Your presence at the funeral, as difficult as it may be, will mean the world to the people who really matter there.

Be kind to yourself when it's over and you're home again.

I'm thinking of you.

I'm really sorry that you lost your friend. It sounds like both of your lives were enriched by knowing each other. Thank you for sharing--it reminds me to appreciate what I have and who I know.

Your post made me tear up. Both you and Bob are so fortunate to have known that kind of friendship.

I am thinking of you both and wishing kindness.

Maxly

You're going to see his family, and it will mean a lot to them to see that he meant so much to you. As someone else suggested, print this post and send it to them. Don't change a word, it was so powerful and moving. His widow and his kids will love to read it.

What a wonderful tribute to Bob, your friend and it sounds like--mentor. I am so sorry that he is no longer in your life and I know that he will help you from wherever he is. xxo

You remember him so gorgeously. You make me want to know him. He obviously loved you so so much.

I am so sorry that you lost your Bob.
Honor your grief, and take care of yourself. Call if you need us.

Hugs.

He sounds like a wonderful man. A big hug to you.

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. He seemed to be a great person.

My thoughts will be with you. Obviously he was a great friend who influenced your life. Please be sure and let his family know how much he meant to you...it will give them a little comfort as time goes on.......and hopefully you will find comfort in your memories of the church of bob. i hate funerals too and usually try to avoid them.....kudos to you for going to pay your respects.

what a remarkable tribute to someone who was obviously a remarkable person. ((hugs for you and Bob's family).

So sorry, Rachel. I know it may not mean so much right now but it sounds like you were such a lucky lady to have someone like Bob in your life, even if it wasn't for as long as you would have liked. I am sure Bob feels exactly the same way about you.

Take care.

Oh sweetie. I'm coming late to this but I wanted to know that you are in my thoughts. I went to a funeral last week for a firefighter and the bagpipes about killed me. I haven't been to a funeral since my mom died and man. Hard shit. Hope you are doing okay.

xoxoxo

Rachael, I'm so sorry. That's two guys you loved in the same year (yes, I'm counting Digit, and I hope Bob wouldn't mind). I hope you'll be glad you went, even if it's a flawed event.

I still can't hear Taps without tears in memory of a wonderful Marine who was my boss many years ago. But I am ever so grateful I was able to attend his memorial service. I hope you find that peace attending the service today.

Just wanted to add my condolences to all the others....he sounded like a very wise and kind friend....very much like you...now you can carry on where he left off. Please continue with your writing as you certainly have a wonderful gift for words and conveying deep emotion. Bob will always be in your heart, long after his physical absence. I lost a dear sister in law who died at the age of 3, but I always feel now that there is someone looking after me from on high...so to speak...I'll tell her to say hi to Bob(hope this doesn't sound to wierd)!! Hang in there, you have a wonderful partner to take care of you in your grief. Love Irene

I just have to correct the above comment, My sil died at age 38, not 3! Sorry about that. I hope it makes more sense now. Irene

Thanks for this post and sharing Bob with us - I'm so, so sorry for your loss. Hugs to you.

That is some fierce and beautiful writing or maybe what I mean is that it is fierce and beautiful living. I'm sorry for your loss, and I'm also very glad to hear about Bob. It sounds like he was useful. A blog friend just reminded me that even the biggest jerks are doing their best. I hope that the memorial held a small gift for you.

I'm so sorry for your loss, Rachael. But I am glad you had such a friend. You will carry him with you.

Oh, how terrible. I'm so sorry Rachael.

I'm very sorry about the loss of your friend. He sounds remarkable, the sobriety alone is amazing - it's such a hard thing to maintain in one's life.

My thoughts are with you.

what a loving tribute to someone who obviously gave you a part of himself in life, and will live on in your heart. I'm glad he got to be part of your wedding day joy before he passed, and that you have such special memories of him. My heart goes out to you for your loss.

Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. Hugs and kisses to you.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.

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