We observed the façade behind Bob’s smile as his energy quickly waned. He slept twenty hours a day, and no longer walked on his own. Cynthia, his dedicated caregiver for the past seven months, was exhausted.
Andy had filled his iPad with pictures--skiing in Vail, house boating on Lake Powell, snorkeling in the Bahamas, losing money in Vegas, touring Bryce National Park--so we could reminisce about our shared vacations. Cynthia dusted off her and Bob’s wedding album, and we viewed photos of their sons, wives, and grandkids. We marveled at the passage of time and our good fortune.
I asked Bob to reflect on his life. He easily divided it into three distinct parts. The first one involved his childhood. He grew up on the east coast in an affluent family. He lacked for nothing and expressed gratitude for the opportunities life had bestowed upon him. For a career, he wanted to be an airline pilot, but told me “good Jewish boys become doctors or lawyers--not pilots.” He made his family proud by graduating from the Duke University School of Medicine.
He spent the second phase of his life as an accomplished neurologist, first as an avid researcher, then as a clinician. His list of professional degrees and accolades is impressive. Andy and Bob worked side-by-side in the neurology department at Kaiser Permanente in Bellflower for many years. They had fun ruminating about their patients, hospital politics, and the joys and challenges of practicing medicine.
The final phase of Bob’s life involved flying. He and Cynthia--both instrument-trained pilots--had owned a plane for twenty-four years. Nothing gave Bob more joy than plotting a course for faraway destinations. I’ll never forget when he took us to Catalina. Between the heavy winds, cliffs, and short airstrip, I closed my eyes as he expertly landed his single-engine wonder on the island.
After Bob had finished describing the three phases of his life, he pointed at several oil paintings, trendy lights, and delicate woodwork around the house. He modestly admitted he had made them all. He didn’t mention the baby grand piano in the living room, but I recalled the classical songs he had played for me during prior visits.
Cynthia roused Bob from sleep shortly before we left. The minute she wheeled him into the kitchen, I knew I was in trouble. Saying goodbye to him without shedding tears would be impossible. He observed my grief and calmly said, “I’ll see you on the other side” with a relaxed, confident smile. I think he greatly anticipated his final journey to a place of no pain.
Oh, how I will miss this funny, generous, determined, and talented man who made the world a brighter place. I will never forget you, Dr. Shofer. ~RIP~