My Friend Bob
There are people who live on the periphery of our lives. Maybe it’s colleague, a neighbour or some writer on a blog. These people, living their own full, rich lives, add to the tapestry of our existence, but are rarely featured prominently. Conversely, each of us exist on the periphery of someone else’s life. It’s not a judgement; it’s just the way things go. Bob appeared to live on the periphery of everyone’s life.
Bob was an older gentlemen from my church, probably in his seventies. He was there most every week, always doing something. He would take it upon himself to watch the coats outside the sanctuary during the service, lest someone come in tempted to steal. He would hang around before the service ready to usher should a need arise. And he always intended to write articles for our quarterly newsletter. Every few months he would ask about it, as he had some articles to contribute, though I don’t think he ever actually submitted anything.
Bob and I shared a neighbourhood, essentially. I would run into him on the street regularly. Even more regularly, we would be wind up in the grocery store at the same time. He was always good for a chat, even if his talk grew smaller and more repetitive with each encounter.
A confirmed bachelor, his outlook on life slowly changed over time. Years ago, he would extol the virtues of singlehood. “Don’t get trapped,” he would warn. This turned into a lament, as he would often tell my father how he didn’t have time for other activities, because he didn’t have a woman to look after his home. Eventually, this lament became more pathetic. At our regular grocery store run-ins, which usually involved me marshaling two children through the aisles, he would always comment on how good a father I was, following up with the comment, “you’re doing better than me.”
I don’t know what support system he had outside of the church (and within the church, he didn’t so much make friends as drift past everyone with a friendly word, but little more), but he did not have a family. In recent years, he spoke much of a lady friend he had in a town an hour or so outside of Ottawa, but the confirmed bachelor, he wasn’t going to marry her.
I don’t know if this woman existed, and if she did, I don’t know the true depth of their relationship.
We hadn’t seen Bob for a few weeks. Late last week, we learned that Bob had passed away at the Heart Institute, alone. There was no funeral, no announcement in the paper, no family to claim his body.
Once we, as a church family, heard this, arrangements were quickly made to claim the body, have him cremated and find a suitable resting place for him. A memorial service is currently being planned. Though on the periphery of so many lives, you can see that he touched each one.
Outside of our church, Bob likely won’t be remembered, not very much. Even within the church, it may be a small subset of the community that remembers and cherishes Bob. For all his quirks, Bob was a loving man, always offering a smile and always offering friendship.
There’s little that I can do to remember Bob, but I can write about his memory and publish it on a blog that will reach a wider audience than his upcoming memorial will. So here’s to Bob and here’s to everyone else we have lost, recently, regardless of how close we were or how close they let us become.