Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
After a long and difficult fight with ovarian cancer, my dear, dear friend, Robin, has made her transition, a valiant warrior full of life to the end. She bore more than any person should be forced to. She was 70.
I took this when she visited me in 2014.
A smart, accomplished woman, she was the first woman New York Times sports reporter–a pioneer in sports journalism. The first woman reporter in a locker room. She lived and worked in Paris for a half dozen years. She knew the contentment of.a happy marriage to an awesome man, raised two children (and cats!) and experienced the joy of grandchildren.
Like the rest of us, her life had its challenges and she faced them with equanimity, at least it seemed so to me. I loved her –and admired her, tremendously.
I met her at a conference in Manhattan, she and I, seated a little apart from others, engaged in conversation that went on for the entire decade+ of our friendship. Both of us smart, alive and yes, a little neurotic, we recognized each other as kindred spirits. It gave us a shorthand I have with very few friends. We were sister-friends in the best of ways. And laugh–boy could we laugh! At each other, at ourselves, at life.
Storm over the river as we fished that day.
From her diagnosis some years ago to the end, she chose not to live out her disease on social media. It was a private battle and a brave one. I was lucky enough to be in the group of friends with whom she shared her diagnosis early on. This made it easier to provide support when she and I traveled together on noteworthy trips.
And travel we did—like a twisted version of Thelma and Louise, she from the East coast and me from the West, meeting up for adventures.
We marveled together at the beauty of Sedona –I was thrilled to introduce her to its red rocks and vortices; she loved them so much she brought her husband back after our trip. Besides being a professional writer, she was a gifted painter and developed her watercolor talent after she retired. It was a real talent. She was good.
Robin’s painting of that storm that hangs in my Rochester home.
Our hotel patio in Sedona overlooked an amazing view and I remember her excitement at the colors, the view, and her sitting out there with her paints, delighted to replicate the gorgeous red rocks against the bluest of skies.
But before that, the two of us took our best trip: fly fishing in Montana. She might have been a sports reporter but she wasn’t a fisherwoman. What an experience for two somewhat girly girls! (At least as far as fishing was concerned! Our running joke on that trip was about which nail polish to wear.) On the river we were rapt as our guide taught us to cast from our boat.
A big, beautiful Montana thunderstorm came in as we were on the river, a storm she painted and then gifted me the piece. It hangs in my New York home along with my favorite of her pieces, a watercolor of the Statue of Liberty that still takes my breath away.
I treasure my Robin Herman pieces. But I treasured her even more.
But–no matter where we were, laughter reverberated from our car, our hotel rooms and restaurants as we explored together. Had we met sooner, no doubt we would have traveled more. She often credited my travels with inspiring the amping up of her own with her husband, especially after her diagnosis. They took many wonderful trips together all over the world. I credit her with inspiring me in ways she probably only knows now.
In her last weeks, she told me numerous times and specifically how I had contributed to her life. I responded in kind. Nothing left unsaid between us at the end.
She was a huge supporter of my writing and this past year, my performances.
“I don’t think I’ll be here for your January Zoom performance,” she told me. “Can I see it earlier?” By the time I was ready to show it to her privately, she could no longer manage it. She died in her sleep just hours after my performance. But making her laugh, if only for a few minutes, would have made me so happy.
The long strings of text messages at the odd hours we kept. The cat memes. The phone calls. So much. I’ll remember them all.
Dolly Llama and friend.
In her last months, I found this llama online and had one sent to her and one to me. “You’ll be getting a package from Eastern Europe. Don’t worry, it’s from me!”
We amused ourselves across the miles during her last few months texting photos of our llamas posing in different odd places. In one of those texts was a video of her llama (whom she and her family named “Dolly,” yes, as in “Dolly Llama”) in her grandson’s hand as he took his very first steps. Helping him walk for the first time.
“Now, she’ll be a family legend,” she wrote me, in tacit acknowledgment that this would be a story her family would tell after she was gone. But then, this was Robin. Once she’d come to terms with the inevitable she made sure that I, and I’m sure others, knew our contributions to her life and in this case, family lore. A final gift of love.
I already miss her so much.
After Montana I started talking with her about fly-fishing in France in the Loire Valley. Of course, she spoke French, so who better? I knew it would be another hilarious adventure. Sadly, her condition never improved enough for us to go.
Still, I like to think of us there, on that river bank, against the backdrop of a gorgeous chateau, casting and casting, deeply in the moment, knowing there is no other moment but this one.
And this one. And…this one.
Dear friend… may the secrets of life now revealed delight you. Visit me any time.
And when it’s my turn, I hope you’re waiting, that smile on your face, fishing poles and a map to the Loire in hand .. and we’ll finally get that trip.
PS Yes! Bring nail polish!