By Marianna Foral
I read this excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five at the service in Chicago two weeks earlier:
The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is "So it goes."
There are many beautiful and meaningful parts to that writing. However, that last, and actually most iconic part of the piece is the phrase “So it goes,” and it is the only part that I do not think actually applies to Bobby.
“So it goes” implies a sense of complacency, that there is nothing left that we can do and therefore no reason to be concerned. I take issue with that phrase because that was such the opposite of anything Bobby ever expressed. At no point and for no reason would Bobby ever stop doing or stop caring and just shrug to say “Well, so it goes.”
He was constantly going and planning. Whether envisioning a new program to code, brainstorming ideas for an app that could give you a rating for which toothpaste is more green and sustainable, repurposing old PBR cans and wire into a semi-spherical lamp to be called a “beer candelier,” or not relying on everyone else but actually giving in and donating to NPR himself...he could never just let things be and saw how he could affect change in everything.
Bobby saw what a lot of people can see — the good and bad things, the quirky and weird things, the great things and sad things, the big and small things. And, for some people, it is just enough to see these things and know they existed.
Bobby also saw what only some people can see — potential and opportunity in all those instances. But the incredible thing about Bob, and what he bested me and most everyone else in, was that he acted in all of those instances and almost always did something about it.
Bob was not a fan of sitting. Before he had his standup desk at Groupon, I know he used to get up every 30 to 45 minutes to take a lap around the floor, grab a coffee, and go to the bathroom. Certainly, part of his inability to sit was the vicious cycle of free coffee and caffeine, but that restlessness was also a defining factor of Bobby's personality and energy.
I have never met anyone with so much unbridled, determined, passionate energy. Before I ever met Maria, I would sometimes look at Bobby and marvel at how anyone could have handled this undoubtedly rambunctious kid and raised him to be such a wonderful man.
Where my instinct after I finished a project would be to take a break and reflect on what I had just completed, Bobby immediately thought about what he was going to do next. It was sometimes overwhelming, but mostly inspiring to love someone like that. It also was scary at times, especially when he started talking about a cross-continental bike trip from the northernmost point in Alaska to the southernmost point Argentina, and it sounded like I was going with him.
Bobby had so many adventures and ideas and plans. He loved life so much, and I had no idea how he was going to do it all.
As awful and terrible as this time has been, I have found a little comfort in one thing. It is that he can be everywhere and in everything now in a way that he could not before. Bobby loved science — stars and space and the cosmos and Earth and nature and weather and plants and physics and technology and robots — his brain was always partially in reality and partially enveloped in all the wonders of the world he lived in, putting him on what I felt like was just a different level than everyone else.
So maybe part of this is okay because this human thing — the petty, thoughtless things we do, the superficial things we care about — this self-centered condition of humanness, it was not enough for him. And no longer limited by a body, he is above all that now. As already shared today in the Physicist’s Eulogy and Vonnegut, Bobby is always here —the effect he has had on my life and countless others is incalculable. He is still part of this world he loved so much but in a way that suits him and his spirit much more — finally making use of his abundant and infinite energy.