Life is short ... we remind ourselves of that fact anytime something devastating happens. We think about how we should live life to the fullest, spend more time with loved ones, tell people we love them every day, take that vacation we've been dreaming of ... because we never know what tomorrow will bring.
That reminder came again last week to a huge number of people who all have one thing in common -- admiration for a truly kind, generous and thoughtful man who touched our lives in some way. Many of us met Bob Biggins at one of the most challenging and tragic times in our lives, when we faced the difficult task of laying a loved one to rest. I first met Bob in 2001 after my husband Jeff died. Our good friend Bill Moore was a funeral director at Bob's funeral home, Magoun-Biggins, so we decided to go there. Like many people our age at the time, I had never given any thought to where I would go if I had to say goodbye to a family member. So when I was in the position of staring down the dark hole of grief and feeling helpless, Bill reached out and said Bob had offered to handle Jeff's services if we wanted them to. They were there at every turn to guide me through. With real heartfelt compassion, Bob was like a big teddy bear, always willing to give a hug I desperately needed, making me smile even in the throws of grief, and knowing exactly what to say, but with sincerity, not because it was his job.
With our input, Bob and Bill put on a beautiful service to honor Jeff, and made my family feel as comfortable as humanly possible at an uncomfortable and frightening time. In the end, Bob never sent me a bill. Years later after we had to deal with remains that were recovered, Bob and Bill again handled the "processing" with understanding and love.
Bob and I became friends, and he became a regular supporter of the Jeff Coombs Memorial Foundation. Many of us who met him through the funeral home had the honor of calling him a friend even many years later, because that's the kind of guy he was.
Last year when my friend lost her son suddenly, I called Bob and he said "absolutely, we'll take care of her." Bob held her hand, and more importantly, her heart, through the process, helping her honor her son in the way that was right for her and her family. He looked after her like a caring big brother, enabling her to survive the worst emotional pain she had ever felt.
Bob and I talked about catching up over a glass of wine. I know he wanted to tell me how happy he was in his new relationship with his fiance Donna, and that he hoped the same would happen for me. He sometimes checked in on me and told me "keep an open mind" when it came to love, often finishing with the inside joke "because you're kinda cute." Life got in the way and we never did get to catch up. But I had let him know how thrilled I was for him that he found love again after losing his soulmate, Chris, to breast cancer.
While in NYC the day I found out Bob had passed, I walked into Macy's to get out of the rain before meeting my nieces at the 9/11 Museum -- the whole reason I met Bob in the first place. One of the first things I saw was an enormous display of colorful, mostly patterned bow ties. After unsuccessfully fighting back tears on the train to NYC, I smiled when I saw them and said a quiet little "Hi Bob."
Rest in piece, my friend. You've reminded us that life is precious and is meant to be lived. Thank you for touching my heart, and my kids' hearts. Now our hearts are with your family and friends.