On Tuesday, May 3, my husband’s dear friend of twenty six years took his own life.
Even separated by time and distance there are people whose threads are so woven into our every day moments that they exist there almost unseen, until suddenly, the thread is cut. The story ends on this hunk of rock, all sin-scarred and grief laden. In an instant, the picture is irrevocably dim.
Robert Knox Mitchell, Esquire, was my husband’s lifelong friend, and so the Husband knew him best. It was an honor and a privilege to gather with those who loved him to say goodbye, and to share our stories of this man who lived larger than life, and gave the literal shirt off his back to the people he encountered.
Most of those stories are not mine to tell, and frankly I could not do them justice. Here is perhaps a brief glimpse of the man that he was.
Rob combined a brilliant intellect, a sharp wit, back-slapping humor, and many other traits that drew people to him. Rob was an avid reader and deep thinker with wide interests. He was: a barbecue connoisseur; boot collector; a proud ambassador of Texas in London; a lover of his state’s people, places, music, and history; a horns-waving UT Longhorn fan; a Spurs and San Antonio diehard por vida; and a walking catalogue of good music and trivia. These things marked him as outstanding – but they did not define him or limit his true character. Rob was cherished and admired by friends and family for his humility, empathy, and compassion, all of which led him to never fail a friend and to always say a helpful something when it most counted. Rob was a constant and true friend.
But I will tell you what I do know. His unparalleled gift was loving others.
See, Rob’s heart had this miraculous capacity to continuously expand, fitting us all in with a great joy and exuberance, seeing us the way he wanted us to see ourselves.
He loved my husband, and in true Rob fashion, he drew me in, loving me and our babes equally and with unqualified delight. He had a booming voice, a powerful hug, and would not be dissuaded when giving you gifts – and he reveled in the giving of gifts.
I’ve spent interminable moments planning the possibility of losing the husband. The paralyzing list of details, of practical matters, of who and what and when and where. There was never a moment that didn’t include the knowledge of Rob, Sarah, and the support of his family. I knew that if Husband were gone, the Mitchells would be our backbone, for now, and for forever.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I have said, and still maintain, that it is possible to be in the throes of crushing grief and still experience gratefulness. And I am all humble gratitude at the great gift of knowing and loving Rob.
But there is a gaping hole now, in the weave of our story, and a heartache that will never go away.
And yes, there is gratefulness too, in the knowledge of Rob’s faith. And even though his last actions were those of desperation and deep despair, we cling with an iron grip to Romans 8, knowing that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate Rob from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
And for us, perhaps the greatest sadness of all is, in the end, he was unable to see how the gift of his love buoyed us all up, and how so very much he was loved in return.
Please, if you are ever considering suicide, know that you are deeply and profoundly loved. Please reach out to those who can help, who want to help.
This is a devastating grief.
IMALIVE: An online crisis network. If you are in crisis or considering suicide,you can chat live with crisis-trained volunteers.
If you or someone you know is currently in danger, please dial 911 immediately.
To Rob, our brother and friend. We miss you tremendously and will always.
To Sarah, Ella, Claire, and Martha – We are your backbone, for now, and for forever.
(Credit to Rob’s best friend Jim for writing Rob’s legacy, and Dr. Andrew Stoker, First United Methodist Church, Dallas TX for the sermon on Romans 8.)
(I have been tearing up our house looking for all our photos of Rob and Husband and of course, all of them include them acting like idiots. And because we got married in the stone age, and my scanner broke, you get a picture of a picture. And once we got together post marriages, we only took pictures of our children! So anyway – this is them, acting like fools on our wedding day.)