I’ve been distracted recently, and here’s why. I want to introduce you to one of those special people who make the world a better place for all of us. Although Rob G (as compared to the beardless author “Rob D” in this old pic) is no longer with us, his legacy will last a long time.
I wrote a pen and ink notecard to Rob Grogan nearly a decade ago, telling him how nice it was to experience his “Front Porch” magazine and its pleasant stories of real, nice people in a real, nice town. He was apparently surprised to receive a message that didn’t rely on electricity for its delivery, and wrote back. We picked up a conversation that ended with our final chat just over a week ago, when on his enclosed front porch we sipped our favorite espresso drinks from this very same shop in that very same town.
When we first met, Rob asked me to write a piece on some of the good things I told him about having seen in some bad places from my lifetime at war; moms and dads, babies, celebrations, kindness and generosity…you know—life. As I headed off to a year in Iraq I faithfully kept those stories coming for each monthly issue, then continued them with work in Afghanistan and other locales. (To be perfectly honest, I didn’t always make deadline, but I did always make the issue.)
That column ran for more than two years. We called it “For Goodness’ Sake” because it was about exactly that—human goodness. Some of those stories made their way into your copy of Powerful Peace. In fact, you can read some of Rob’s own words in the final paragraphs of Chapter 35, if you have it close at hand.
Rob was writing about having been in Russia, and that’s the same trip from which he and Virginia first brought home their beautiful baby princess, Lexi. Rob always bragged about Lexi’s accomplishments: in gymnastics, in her resourcefulness in starting a little business while just a teenager, and on and on. When now-grown-up Lexi, Rob and I sat down over coffee a couple weeks ago, he excitedly told me, “I’m going to be a grandpa in May!” We really believed he would be there when baby comes. In fact, I’m still sure he will be.
Rob is a man’s man in the way that this old SEAL admires a “real man.” He didn’t have big muscles, or tell everybody what to do—those are things I don’t give a shit about. He just cherished his wife and child, offered kind words in abundance, questioned how and where we could do better for society at large, and made people feel cared about whether he was setting copy or pulling a tap at the local bistro on his weekly service night.
My friend Rob Grogan succumbed to a long-lasting, tortuous cancer a few days ago. I don’t cry very often, but I’m crying today as I try to process this. He was in genuine agony for long stretches of the illness…yet he remained positive and encouraging even when those around him lost courage from time to time. And as I headed back out into that stiff winter wind, and crunched across the snow to my car after our visit, I was happy and buoyed up by a spirit that would not be—could not be—has not been—repressed.
So that’s my story of Rob Grogan, a great man, in a brief essay. But there is one other thing I want to tell you about. Rob’s ordeal was incomprehensibly expensive, especially for a self-employed magazine editor in a small town…whose grandchild is due in just a couple months. They’ve been struggling with so much for so long.
I invite anyone who wants to help Rob’s family, no matter how small the amount: click in to www.SEALofPeace.com and pick “Donate” at the top button bar. We’re having a memorial service on March 16, and every single penny that comes in beforehand will go to helping Virginia and Lexi manage those ordinary financial pains that will inevitably come along with their extraordinary grief.
Finally: if you choose to contribute, please make sure you include your name and phone number with the donation. I want to call every, single donor to thank you personally.