Dr. Robert Jon Swanson died on December 7th, 2013. His brief seven decades of life was devoted to helping others to live theirs.
His courage in the face of his own years of suffering from the horror of Progressive supranuclear palsy, (knowing as a surgeon his own ghastly prognosis and future), continued to instruct, by example, me and those around him that the brilliance of character is not singular but kaleidoscopic; that facing death with steely strength is also a wonder of life.
Near his last days, when I had the opportunity to speak to him by phone, he could not speak. I would. But I never was as a loss for words because I could hear him thinking, his mind flying curiously in all directions, absorbing information at lightning speed and analyzing it with an archers’ accuracy.
Sometimes I knew to be silent. With great effort he would make a sound indicating he understood and agreed; our bond together, mentoring me through my early years made us almost telepathic. But it was his vast intellectual understanding of the world that allowed me to speak, that freed me to know that I was talking to my first real teacher, who would not judge me but rather help loft me into my own existence.
He is still a standard bearer for me, my brother Jon, my cousins and everyone in his immediate family, continuing to light the way as my late father and mother did for him. He was a shooting star; the one you wish upon, the dust to become the dreams of the future and the knowledge that you yourself can make them a reality, a shimmering glow of the soul, the hope at end of the tunnel.
Happy Birthday, Bob, I think of you every day and I listen to you speak.
“He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet