Robert at rest

On September 20, 1914, my grandmother (who was then 17 and not yet my grandmother) married the man who would be her first husband: Vidoje Gogo.

She could not know as she stood for the photograph — a large bouquet of flowers in her left hand; her right hand resting on the shoulder of her new husband — that in just three-and-a-half year’s time, she would be transformed from the teenager that she was into a recently widowed mother of two small children — one almost two-and-a-half year-old girl, and a newborn baby boy:

Vidogo Jogo and Ljubica Likich
Vidogo Jogo and Ljubica Likich

The nearly two-and-a-half year-old girl would grow up to be my Aunt Millie, and like my grandmother, she too would become a mother.

Today my Aunt Millie’s younger son, Robert, passed away after what would probably be described medically as a “brief” illness, but was, if you were the one going through it, long and arduous.

As the end of my cousin’s life unfolded, each breath was an extraordinary effort, but much of my cousin’s life was an extraordinary effort, so it was a task, while not of his choosing, that he was up to.

I have written about my cousin Robert before; he once told me his favorite color was tangerine, so just over two years ago, I made this hat for him:

tangerine crochet hat
A tangerine textured crochet hat for my cousin Robert

Then last year, I gave him this blanket:

orange crochet throw
An overview of the completed crochet throw

Most recently, I gave him this claret colored hat:

claret crochet cap
A claret seafarer’s crochet cap for Robert

The day I gave Robert his new hat, he wasn’t feeling well, but he dutifully visited with me and agreed to wear it.

Conversation did not come easily to Robert, but because his brother had recently been very ill and the long-term prognosis was (and is) grim, I made a point of talking to him that day. I did not realize that those conversations would be our last.

Born July 9, 1953, in Stanislaus County, California, my cousin Robert’s transition from late adolescence to early adulthood also marked his transition from a typical teenager to a troubled young man beset by schizophrenia — a disease that is not well understood today — and which in the late sixties and early seventies was even less well understood.

As anyone who has cared about a person with schizophrenia knows, life with this brain disorder can be very isolating, and my cousin’s habit of avoiding social interaction belied his impishness of spirit and the quick wit that went with it.

However, late in his life, my cousin Robert found a home here in North Carolina, and for the past seven years, he and his brother have lived in a board and care in Rocky Mount, about an hour east of Raleigh.

The people who run the board and care are particularly generous and not only created a stable and loving home for my cousins, but embraced them both with all of their quirks, welcoming them into their lives — taking them on trips, inviting them into their homes, and bringing them to their churches where equally generous congregants greeted them with open arms.

My cousin Robert’s life was full of challenges that I have never had to face, and I do not know that I would have the strength and fortitude needed to walk just one day in his shoes, but he but somehow he managed to move forward all 22,466 days of his life with a measure of grace that I cannot begin to match.

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14 thoughts on “Robert at rest

  1. Your expression of love and devotion of family touched my heart. Offering Love Light Comfort and Grace as you deal with the passing of you cousin. I will think of you both whenever I see his favorite color!!

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. Such a lovely tribute for a special family member. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts as you deal with Robert’s passing.

  3. My condolences on the death of your cousin Robert.
    Thank you for sharing his ‘in memoriam’. It is an impressive tribute.
    He must be one of your cousins you wrote about in your blog post A road less traveled.
    I wish you peace and strength in these difficult days.

  4. I am so very sorry to hear about this Leslie. I love you so very much and wish I could be there for you. You have been such a dear friend. I know how much he meant to you.

  5. Just read this today Leslie. You and your mom have been great to those boys. Sorry to hear the news. I will pass the word.
    love,
    Jean

  6. Hi there Leslie I was with Robbie and David for along time and had the picture that was sent to you. I kept them in special treats and goodies that they loved. Robbie loved twinkies, hot chocolate, colas cheese , pizza and tea. I was able to give them lots of pizza due to my son working at a pizza place. They loved Sonya lots and lots and always looked forward to her visits (especially to Denny’s or IHOPS) and had me to call her to see when she was coming and we would mark it on my calendar. It was a pleasure to me to be there for them and assist them as best that I could with there needs and wants. Robbie and David sat with me a lot, we ate lunch together and had some great, cute, fun conversations. When we went out to the mall, to the fair or most outings, they stayed with me. Robbie loved to go out to the mall and eat cheesecake and have a cup of coffee at Books A Million. I look at my picture of them a lot during the day and miss them so much. I do have an airplane David painted and would love you to have it also. I consider Robbie and David a part of my family and both are so special. I loved reading what u wrote, Robbie made my day a many of times with his cute remarks.. Thanks so much. (Robbie wore that tangerine hat all the time when it was cold.)

  7. It is a rare honor and privilege to share even a small part of your life and your gifts with someone as exceptional as Robert. Unless you took the time to meet him and listen, you would never know you were missing learning the special perspectives and delightful gut-busting humor of one of the most interesting and intelligent people you could ever hope to meet. Well done, Crochetbug. You brought joy and humor to each other, each of you sharing your keen intellect and humble hearts.

    Your readers are an amazing group of compassionate, loving, intelligent people. Heart felt thanks to all for their kind condolences. It really helps to heal a broken heart.

  8. I just read this and WOW! The love and emotion really comes out! Beautiful! I wish I had done something like this for my brother before he passed. I really connected with you in reading this and your love and compassion for your cousin.

  9. I am just finding your blog today, and even though I know nothing about you other then what I have read on your blog so far I wanted to let you know just how sorry and sad I am that you lost your cousin to such a horrible illness. I have had my own issues with depression and anxiety although I am one of the lucky ones who can control it through medication. Unfortunately when schizophrenia grabs ahold of someone it is very difficult to get a grip on your loved one to be able to bring them back. I too lost a loved one to this horrible disease. My heart goes out to you and your family as you go through this most difficult time. Sending prayers of strength and understanding. Hugs!

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