A Eulogy for Rob Smith

Greetings, loyal minions. I will drop some of the blogging shtick I normally engage in while writing for this post. As this entry is posted a memorial service is occurring in Savannah for Rob Smith.

As many other bloggers have written, many more eloquently, I am more than a little surprised at the sense of grief I feel. There is a void that I hadn’t expected would be there. The void is complicated by a number of factors. Why should I have such a range of emotion for a person whom I never met - and corresponded with via e-mail very infrequently?

As other have mentioned, to read Rob’s writing was to start to know the man. Perhaps he is one of the few who you could really say you know through his writings. Rob didn’t write from behind a mask. He wrote and let every raw emotion, impulsive thought, humorous contemplation, or serious reflection just flow out through his keyboard.

Unlike other blogs where the primary author has problems, I never felt like an unwelcome voyeur when reading Rob’s work. Other blogs have share the quality of a diary. A diary where the author writes and doesn’t really think there is anyone else out there reading. There is something discomforting about reading someone’s most intimate thoughts and thinking to yourself that you are somehow intruding into their life. I never got that feeling from Rob’s writings. In fact, Rob’s writing was welcoming and engaging to the reader. He wrote about his experiences knowing that he had an audience. Rob wrote desiring an audience. He didn’t want us to throw him a big pity party when things were hard. He just wanted you to know what was going on in his life and what he thought about it.

Rob was unafraid in writing. Unafraid in a way I know I could never be. I compartmentalize. I have compartments forvarious elements of my life. Blogging is one compartment. I carefully segregate the compartments of my life and don’t generally blog (at least in a meaningful way) about compartments I don’t want to share. Rob, as best I could tell, didn’t have internal barriers similar to those I’ve erected. His life was one open book. A book he freely made available to all. If you were lucky, and I wasn’t, you might have gotten to meet Rob and become more a part of that life story than you bargained.

I felt connected to him in a way I don’t feel connected to other writers I read regularly. I don’t imagine other writers want me to connect to them, quite frankly. Most bloggers, myself included, are content to know that there is an audience out there who cares - at some level - to read what we put out. As long as someone reads, we’re happy. At some level Rob wanted people to connect to him. Rob’s title graphic said that he was on a ceaseless quest for adoration from people who didn’t know him. The only way people can adore you is if they know you. And Rob let you know him through his writing. If you liked it, you adored him. If you didn’t, well he didn’t give a rat’s ass about you anyway.

When I read that Rob’s service was going to be today, I started making calls. I was nearly done booking a flight, rental car, and hotel for a journey I felt I needed to make. It was only when I called my wife and remembered the date that I cancelled my plans.

If it weren’t my son’s second birthday I would have left DC early this morning and made my way to Savannah. I would have been traveling by plane and car to attend the memorial service of a man I never met. Instead, I will be at home. I will spend time with a son I love deeply.

By spending time with my son today, I’ll remember Rob Smith. I’ll be grateful for doing so. I’ll be more grateful than normal because I’ll be doing something that Rob longed to do, but couldn’t; and now will not have the chance to do. When I put my son to bed tonight I’ll go downstairs, pour myself a drink, and put on a John Prine album. For Rob.

Rob, if I can butcher Robbie Burns for you: If there’s another world, you live in bliss; If there is none, you made the best of this.

Fare thee well Rob Smith. Fare thee well.

Carry on.

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