The Gift Of Goodbye

I was at work one day going about the business of figuring out why our accounts payable system wasn’t behaving, when I received a phone call from a friend I used to volunteer with at the zoo. I glanced at the phone and although excited to see Patti’s name, I was apprehensive to answer for the news it might bring. We had both donated our time along with a number of amazing human beings, many of which were elderly. It wasn’t uncommon to get emails informing us of someone’s untimely or unexpected passing, so I had grown accustomed to receiving bad news from people that also enjoyed spending weekends at the zoo alongside me. When I answered the phone Patti quickly explained to me the reason for her call, and it wasn’t what I had expected, at least not in the capacity of losing a fellow docent. It was instead a notification of sorts… a mutual friend was gravely ill, and wanted to see us before he died in only days time. Patti told me that his caretaker would be contacting me shortly to make arrangements, and to expect a phone call soon. I was taken back in both horror and in honor… I would be seeing our friend for only the second time in person, and yet it would be the last. And thinking in that very context, what sort of impression did I make that he would want to see me before he died?

I met John on a social website for gay men and we pretty much hit it off instantly. He was handsome in his pictures and I liked his way of thinking. Although there was hope we’d eventually meet in person one day, and with him being local that was certainly possible, our online friendship evolved into a sort of we’re all in this together kind of thing. We would chat online and discuss the perils of the gay world, and then on occasion we’d have more personal conversations about what I did in my spare time… and for me that was volunteering at the zoo. John seemed to really enjoy hearing my stories about how rewarding being a docent was and also the funny experiences that just happened naturally, especially with other docents I worked with. I think I was telling him about Patti and I heroically springing into action one weekend and looking for a lost child, when he asked me about her last name. My first reaction was that I was actually typing to Patti and she had some kind of alter ego. Being online since I was a 14 years old I had seen my share of crazy. However, after John explained that he worked with a lady named Patti that also volunteered at a zoo, and she often spoke about a “Mike“… the coincidence was too obvious to ignore. When I confirmed his suspicions it seemed as though we instantly became closer, while the planet simultaneously became smaller.

This revelation of shared friendship felt really cool because I had already thought Patti was amazing. John eagerly shared that she often spoke fondly of me and I was touched deeply. It’s perhaps the biggest compliment you can receive when someone you respect and admire talks favorably of you when you’re not present in the conversation. I consider that a very special acknowledgement and I greatly appreciated John mentioning it. Patti and I also began speaking of John when we were together, totally enjoying this experience of sharing a common friend and learning more about them through each other’s eyes. John would often tell me things about Patti that warmed my heart, and I’m sure he’d do the same with her. Here we were three people with three different lives, just enjoying the presence of each other in our awareness. Looking back, it seemed like a very love filled, very basic and wonderful human interaction. Simple, and yet fulfilling in a small but significant way.

Finally, during a Memorial Day Weekend visit to Chicago, I ran into John in a hotel lobby and finally met him in person. He was much older and shorter than I had expected, but I felt extremely comfortable in his presence. Our interactions feeling very normal and almost like we’d seen each other many times previously before. We chatted for a while and came across even more people we both knew in common, which begged the question, why hadn’t we met sooner? I didn’t realize John was an avid photographer, and I posed for a few pictures when he asked… apparently he thought I was pretty photogenic… yeah I can totally see how he saw that. We promised to start seeing more of each other in Miami and we went our separate ways. We continued chatting online afterwards, sharing stories of our time in Chicago and once again discussing plans to meet up again one day soon.

Here we were three people with three different lives, just enjoying the presence of each other in our awareness.

One weekend while at the zoo and Patti was transporting me to my next shift via golf-cart, she informed me that John’s health was declining. Patti explained that many people at her job were doing the best they could to help him out. He was a kind and spunky soul and everyone enjoyed his funny and frank disposition. He was the kind of person that helped define a particular place or environment, the kind of person that would be talked about whenever that place was mentioned. When the threat of losing someone with such presence is real, the void they could potentially leave behind becomes something to be feared… by everyone. Clearly his absence would affect the dynamic of all that worked with him and it was something Patti was dreading. I was saddened that I may never see John again, that our friendship would just end in some cold and empty chat window, some bytes of data representing our last interaction. I was completely wrong.

I wish I remembered the name of John’s friend that contacted me after Patti’s phone call. He was very solemn and soft spoken, exactly what you would expect from someone making such arrangements. He took his job very seriously, as if it were a sacred task, and he explained to me that John was very tired and weak, and was not expected to live more than a day or so… two at the most. John had told him to contact Patti and I because he wanted to see us before he died. I almost started crying when I heard this, having never been in the position of honoring a dying man’s wish. I knew I had to be there for both of us, since Patti was battling a severe case of bronchitis herself. I also knew that I had to bring my favorite picture I had of Patti, driving a golf cart, wearing a smile ear to ear. At least he could finally see us together, even if it she couldn’t be there in person.

Later that evening I arrived at John’s loft apartment and met his dear friend. It was decorated exactly and appropriately as I would have imagined… a large high ceiling room, modern and industrial, looking a bit like it belonged in San Francisco or some other big city. There was a blue light shining on the wall, giving an almost bar effect, something John and I talked about in depth online and the reason I do the same at home. It was a very cool place and I was happy that John was able to end his journey surrounded not only by friends, but by representations of his life and what he loved. There was a small raised platform in the back of the room, and that’s where John laid in his bed. He had just been medicated and his friend informed me that John might seem to fade in and out of consciousness as a result. As I approached his bed I recognized the small frail man I once met years earlier. With a large camera by his side, he welcomed me and I sat next to him. Only minutes later, two of his co-workers arrived, a pair of very funny ladies, and we all instantly became a kind of family.

John’s friends and I were given a gift that evening. As the four of us sat around talking to him, we knew why we were all there. We each held a special place in his heart and he wanted to share the last moments of his life with us. Knowing that we were the recipients of such a request, filled our hearts with love and admiration. During our conversations John would fall asleep for several minutes at a time and wake up to find us still there, smiling back at him. This continued as he tried to take one last photo of all of us in his bed… we laughed as it almost seemed as he was making a game of it. Eventually his naps grew longer in length and we knew it was time to leave. We said our last goodbyes, thanked his friend and left. In the elevator on the way downstairs, we stood mostly silent, barely speaking except to acknowledge how sad the situation was. At the same time we knew what a special experience we all had, one that we wont ever forget. Two days later John’s friend called me to let me know John passed away. He had waited for his family to arrive from their long journey from Australia, as his came to an end.

I saw Patti the other day at the zoo and I thought of John. I’m no longer a docent but was speaking at the volunteer general meeting about bees. It was wonderful to see her and remember the common friend we both had, the friend that made us love and respect each other even more through his stories. Every now and then I think of John and although we didn’t have the friendship that people write books and movies about, it was a beautiful human experience just the same… a common bond of love and respect shared by three people that never once all met at the same time. The experience of seeing John off to new horizons made me believe more than ever that we continue living even after our physical bodies die. It didn’t really feel like an ending at all, it was really just a “so long for now“, and “see you all on the other side.”

I Support You

I support you, and everything you stand for
I support you, and so want you to soar

Flying high, with pride and so much light,
Flying high, always fighting the good fight.

I support you knocking door to door,
I support you when you’re tired and crying on the floor.

I’m sorry I can’t march in your parade,
I’m having breakfast with friends, those plans have been made

I’m sorry I can’t cast a ballot in honor of you,
I’m enjoying a little extra money, and bills not being past due

I’m sorry you’re scared and they just turned you away,
I’m sorry they despise you and beat your friend today

I support you, yes I really do
I support you, I just said I love you

I support you in every way I can,
Just don’t question my allegiance, to the white and orange man.

Mike Robert

When Mom Gets Old

I’m getting to be that age, you hear it often around the office almost on a weekly basis, someone’s parent is ill or has suddenly passed away. I’m very blessed because my mom is still around, about to have her 81st birthday. My mom isn’t in the best of health, and I often worry about her and how’s she feeling. It’s difficult for her to catch her breath and she’s constantly connected to a variety of oxygen machines, concentrators they call them, and they sustain her life. When she walks out the door, the gentle hum of the machine she’s carrying can be heard underneath her words. She’s a talker like me, that’s where I get it from, and I often have to stop her and say “breathe through your nose” so she can get some O2. You can probably guess I love my mom very much and I don’t know what I’d do without her.

Mother’s Day With My Mom
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We Are More Than A Party

When I first realized I was gay I was 17 years old and terrified. Although I was sexually attracted to other men, I was frightened to become a part of the stereotype I saw on television and magazines. Of course times were different and what you saw on television was exactly that, a stereotype. As I began to meet other gay people I realized we were a diverse crowd of Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics and any other ethnic category you could find on a college application. We celebrated our diversity because we needed to, our sites were set on fighting the AIDS epidemic, acceptance and equal rights. I quickly realized the scary images I saw in my youth were no where near the Gays and Lesbians I had come to know.

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Experiencing Homophobia Overseas

Living in the United States can and will make you pretty spoiled. You become accustomed to life as you know it, and take everyday occurrences completely for granted. Many of us here in Miami are reminded of our abundance as a nation when we share the experience of someone that recently immigrated from Cuba, and see their reactions to to a well stocked produce section at the local grocery store. It’s an all out emotional meltdown at times, something neither person is prepared for. While economic prosperity is something that’s relatively easy to appreciate and witness, individual freedoms are not. Most people vacation in areas of the world where they are welcomed with open arms, but even in the most beautiful and serene locations, the gay tourist has to be mindful of their destination in a different capacity… their personal safety. There are many parts of the world where being homosexual is against the law, and I’m not referring to some distant land on the other side of the planet, I’m talking about enjoying the beauty and splendor of the Caribbean. It was there that my partner Eric and I became very appreciative of the security and liberties we now enjoy in the United States.

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In The Hot Seat with Abraham Hicks

Spiritual journeys can take you more places than American Airlines, that’s probably why they’re called “journeys.” They can transport you from a small church with a white steeple in the deep South, to mega-structures and re-purposed stadiums that accommodate tens of thousands of people in a single Sunday service. The can bring you inwards, to take a deeper look into what makes you you, or they can take you outwards, quite literally, to the great outdoors where the Pagans celebrate the gifts and cycles that nature affords them. Or they can take you to Orlando Florida to meet a lady that channels a group of ancient non-physical conscious beings that she refers to as “Abraham.” The last reference, while sounding more science fiction than spirituality, is actually something Oprah Winfrey and I have in common… we both got to speak with Abraham Hicks and learn about the “Law Of Attraction.” Not intended to replace your religious beliefs or spiritual practice, the concept of Law Of Attraction is a way of looking at the events in your life, how you react to them, and how you “attract” positive and negative experiences alike.

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Changing Perspective On Loss

This article was originally a post I wrote within a spiritual based online group called “The Lightworkers Lab.”

Sometimes really bad things happen to us in life and we don’t understand why. We beat ourselves up, we’re angry at God, we ask “why?” in complete agony over what just occurred. People will say “everything happens for a reason” and we want to scream because the pain is unbearable. The answers aren’t always immediate and sometimes it takes years or even decades to see the light behind the darkest times in our lives.

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I Know Things

I was driving back from lunch this afternoon and parked the car, when I was suddenly blessed with this little poem in my head.

I know things

I know things that most let pass by.
I know the bird that soars, across the morning sky.

I know the child that’s ignored by their kin,
Laughing still, because of love within.

I know the lost dog, searching for a home.
Wanting someone to hold them and say they’re not alone.

I know the serpent, hiding in the grass.
Just wanting to live, waiting for a meal to pass.

I know the man, with bitter and anger on his face.
His life suddenly gone, not leaving but a trace.

I know the woman, weeping in her hands.
Trying so hard to keep it together, and dealing with life’s demands.

I know the world, that’s crying for change.
Wondering when the balance of power, will finally rearrange.

I know these things and I keep it to myself.
All of them inside, on a tiny little shelf.

Michael Robert

North Pole Data Breach Affects Billions

November 22nd, 2017 – 1:56 PM North Pole

Turns out no one is immune to the sting of cyber crimes according to representatives from the North Pole who reported a massive data breach on Tuesday. Hackers have reportedly stolen personal information from over 1.5 billion children around the world in what elves described as “naughty” behavior. The attack, thought to have originated in China, sought to gain marketing information obtained from millions of letters to Santa, regarding children’s preferences on a variety of toys, most of which are made there. “It’s very disturbing” said Mrs. Claus, before offering reporters hot chocolate and cookies, “children have a right to privacy also.”

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The Need To Control

I was looking for parking the other day at the local grocery store and immediately located a middle aged man, with just a few groceries, loading his vehicle. This was probably the most simple and mundane of tasks, not requiring much effort since the amount of plastic bags he had in his cart was probably fewer than twelve. Yet he seemed to relish in the idea that I was anxiously waiting for him to finish and leave so I could park my car. Clearly he was in control and he milked the opportunity… so much so that another person came, loaded their vehicle and left before this guy finished. I ended up taking that spot instead, with some level of satisfaction that the guy with control issues never got to achieve a power-play orgasm. Clearly he would have climaxed while backing out ever so slowly, suddenly stopping for traffic that wasn’t there. Still, I was completely pissed off at this obvious and pathetic need to control.

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