Today I went to a memorial mass for Bob Louttit and unexpectedly had my perspective adjusted. Every once in a while you have a chance meeting with someone who is truly amazing. Someone you don’t realize has a galvanizing impact on your life until they have passed. In my life Bob was one of those people.
Bob was the father of my former boss, Tom. In my memory he is constantly smiling, always wearing a button down shirt and sometimes a v-neck sweater over it and his eyes are alive. When he spoke to you he looked at you and when you spoke he listened intently continuing to make eye contact. That may sound like nothing special but pay attention to the people you talk to for one day and you’ll see that it truly is.
Bob would come to the office to do small projects. From the very first time you were on the receiving end of his smile you knew you were in the presence of greatness. His joie de vie was infectious and no matter how large or small the project he was more than happy to do it; smiling all the way through. He took pleasure in being needed and when he needed help he was comfortable enough to ask. On Several occasions I was privileged to help Bob with graphic or computer oriented projects. I was more than happy to help just for the sheer enjoyment of spending time talking with him. These favors he’d ask for; piddling little things to me like designing a Christmas card or scanning and repairing an old photograph, were embarked on with extreme enthusiasm. Often his exuberance for the end result shocked me and only now I realize it was because he was seeing something I wasn’t. I was seeing a printed piece of paper and he was seeing that someone was willing to help him achieve a vision he had but couldn’t quite achieve on his own. I was never as stunned as the first time he offered the family home on Block Island for a weekend in exchange for my services. Luckily I was not fool enough to pass it up.
As the years passed the trips to the island were planned with great anticipation and joy. The house Bob built with love and care is filled with things that make it a home and retreat for his family and those they share it with. This place is more than a luxury item in the possession of someone who has it because they can; it is a place to go and recharge your soul and reinforce the ties that bind us. In your life the things that make you feel comfortable and cared for are things you store in your heart to call upon when all else fails to bring you solace. In many trying times I have recalled our family trips to Block Island never failing to smile, even through the tears.
After talking with Tom a few weeks ago about how Bob was fairing with a long and fatal illness I pulled out our photos from the island. It’s been a few years since we’ve been able to go but just a second with those photos and I could smell the ocean and feel the breeze blow through the porch. I could hear the goat braying waiting for the kids to bring him the left over popcorn from the two hours curled up on the couch in the family room watching National Geographic the night before. Pictures of us on the porch, in the hammock, and running amok on the beach knowing we wouldn’t have to rush back to reality for two more days brought tears to my eyes. Bob had no way of knowing what those days on the island would come to mean to us, he only knew what magic it held for him and he was willing to share it with anyone open enough to embrace it. I’m sure he would smile if he knew the four of us share a vernacular on a daily basis born out of the experience his generosity and hospitality provided.
Bob’s children shared stories about their dad at the memorial service and he was exactly the man I expected him to be in every one. I am not so naïve as to think he was always this perfect being but I am also not blind to the fact that he achieved a state of grace in more moments of a day in his life than many people can ever hope to know. If you were fortunate enough to know Bob you understand how sorely his light will be missed in this world and if you know his children you won’t be able to miss the spark of him that ignited who they are.