MICHAEL S. ROBBINS - Rabbi Douglas Krantz
I am Douglas Krantz. I met Mike fifty-two years ago, when I was twelve years old. Mike and his family have been a part of my life and the life of my family every day of my life since 1962.
Now we say these words as an expression of our hope:
ברוך אתה ה' אלהנו מלך העולם רופא חולים.
We hope for healing for those who cannot be here with us today because of illness. May they be healed.
During these difficult moments when we are struggling with loss, we come to begin to remember Mike. We cannot ever sum up a human life that was so rich, so varied, so important to each of us. Today we struggle to swim in the choppy sea of our sorrow born of our many memories of Mike.
Today we gather with abiding love and gratitude because Mike so richly blessed all of our lives. We come here today to do for Mike what no one of us can do for ourselves, to set his body gently to rest and to begin to remember him. As we talk about Mike we are painfully aware that were our world ordered by our sensibilities, Mike would not have suffered and would not have died as he did, too soon. But our lives are not so simple as are our deepest wishes. We know equally that with all of our collective wisdom and all of our collective life experiences, with all of our hope and all of our love, we could not have imagined a human being as special as was Mike, with all of his talents, with all of his gifts of strength that taught us so much and brought us so much love and joy.
Surely I hope we are aware that we are not here because Mike has died. And we are not here because Mike lived. We are here because of the way Mike lived, so vigorously and loved us so deeply. We are here today because Mike made each of us richer—more profoundly human by his presence in our midst.
We all have our stories about Mike because he was such a powerful part of our lives. The venue of Wolverton and Sequoia was transformative. We went to Wolverton with Troop 200 in 1962. I think the next year, Mike was running the camp. Many of us came of age at Wolverton and have been nourished by those memories.
When my brother David and I were seventeen years old, in December 1965, we went with Mike and Arnie to the Grand Canyon. We arrived in a driving snow storm. We pitched our tent on the snow. The next morning, in a thick overcast and a lightly falling snow, we hiked down the canyon without seeing more than twenty-five or thirty feet in front of us. At some point the snow turned to rain. We arrived at Phantom Ranch without seeing the canyon. We awoke to discover the glory of the Grand Canyon. A vicious cold front had moved in during the night. We hiked slowly to Indian Gardens because the temperature was too cold for stops. The night at Indian Gardens was the coldest night of my life. The only question remains: Why would our parents let us go at all?
We all have stories to share, all of them glorious.
Now we have some speakers. Louise is first. But before she comes up, I want to say that we who knew Mike before Louise know for sure what she did for Mike. Louise made him whole or complete and transformed. Louise did not tame Mike , but she liberated his capacity for love. When I think about their love, I think of these words from Pablo Neruda:
I love you without knowing how, or when or from where,
I love you simply without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
Mike wrote a book called Electronic Clocks & Watches—dedicated, of course to Louise. The preface said that the book was about the technology of time keeping in the electronic era. Well, today our sadness is profound because the clock that was the years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds has stopped too soon for all of us who were transformed by Mike, made better by the man we admired, respected and loved.
And when we are again out-of-doors in Sequoia at night and look up at the canopy of the stars, we will remember Mike because of these words by Stephen Spender: Mike “flew a brief while toward the Sun and left the vivid air signed by his honor.” And I would add with his profound love for each and every one of us.
Grateful for the memory of Mike Robbins, we now rise.