Incredible and Indelible
There are very few things in life which truly make sense to me. I mean, I understand why the sun rises in the east, why gravity is a law, and why baseball is considered the greatest sport ever, but beyond those, the water becomes murky. Take the universe’s fascination with the Kardashian’s, why the DMV has never tried to improve it’s reputation (surely, they’ve heard the jokes), or how six months ago my teenage daughter still thought boys were gross, and now she cannot stop relishing over all of them; I just don’t get any of it. I’d like to pretend I understand, but it would not be truthful, because I don’t. I wish I did.
By the time anyone reads this, I will have likely stared at a blank computer screen for over an hour trying desperately to collect and organize myself, and then spent a few more hours trying to make sense of it all. Under ordinary circumstances, writing a blog post is an enjoyable 30-60 minute purge of Vision therapy bliss, but today, it is anything but. Sadly, the words just won’t come. There is nothing happy to say and no wit filled sarcasm to unleash. There is only sadness in my heart. My usual silliness is on the sidelines, my wit has temporarily dried up, my sense of humor overcome by many other sensations and emotions, most of which are too complex to even explain. The world can be a cold hard b*tch sometimes and I don’t know why. In case you haven’t already figured it out, this is the post I haven’t wanted to write; a post I’ve been dreading for the last four years.
The first time I met Robin Vreeland was in 2005. We were both attending COVD’s Annual Meeting and as those events can sometimes go, Robin and I were both just faces in a crowd. We said hello once or twice, just enough to put a face to the name. We didn’t actually become friends until the 2007 meeting in St. Petersburg. At the time, I was attending the Annual Meeting as a representative of P.A.V.E. and Robin was a vision therapist in Dr. Mark Dean’s office. Our mutual friend, LeeAnn Batten, invited us both to dinner along with 10 or 12 of her closest VT buddies and we had a blast. By pure coincidence, Robin and I sat together and over the course of that meal, we became immediate friends. Later that week, we would connect with Karen Danoski and Tom Headline, too. As the years progressed, my interest in attending COVD’s Annual Meeting grew, both because the energy of the group and because it was an opportunity to reconnect with amazing friends. Along with Robin, Tom and Karen, amazing people like Jessi Stevenson, Ivette Huerta, Irene Anderson, Deb Killion, Melody Lay, Natali Sutermeister, and Dr. Mark Dean all connected with Robin in their own way and in their own lives. From those connections grew amazing friendships, as we all became a family whose reunion occurred once a year during the annual meeting. Over the years, we’d laugh, we’d cry, we’d tell jokes, we’d discuss personal growth and setbacks, we’d sit in lectures rolling our eyes at each others’ shenanigans, we’d even go out on the town and enjoy the hosting city as one big obnoxious and loving family. Times were good.
About four years ago, we were all shocked to learn of Robin’s colon cancer diagnosis. She was very gracious and kind in sharing with all of us, and assured us things would be fine. She was right. She beat the cancer over the next year, and not long after, a few of her closest VT friends surprised her in her home town of Myrtle Beach, SC. Thanks to Tammy, Robin’s sister, we were able to rent a house on the beach and spend four days celebrating Robin’s clean bill of health. Our family unit was solid.
As time passed, we have continued building our family; holding VT events of our own (really we just hang out, play games, and tell lots of stories) to reconnect both in South Carolina and in Texas. The old adage of being able to pick your friends and not your family may be true, but we all quickly became a family through our common bonds.
About a year after the above photos were taken, Robin announced her cancer had returned, and this time it was terminal. Being the determined fighter she has been throughout her entire life, Robin had no fear. I remember one time, during one of our retreats in Myrtle Beach, Robin informed us she was given “two years of quality life” by her docs. When asked if she was scared, she quite bravely responded “No. It just means I need to make every moment count…and I have a lot to do!”
And, boy, did she.
She went on cruises, a cross country road trip, adventures in the snow, baseball games, boat rides, and the laughed at every turn. Lots and lots of laughs. I recall one of her visits to MD Anderson in Houston where she shared that her bodily functions had become surprising to even her. She worked hard to maintain a straight face in the moment. We all laughed with her.
In 2016, Robin was recognized by COVD through an award entitled “Making Vision Therapy Visible”, and it was my honor to present it to her. During her acceptance speech, Robin thanked the entire COVD congregation, shared the details of her cancer diagnosis, and estimated it would be her last year to attend the meeting. Although many tears were shed for her, she filled the room with hope and love; both of which were met with a standing ovation. Robin is one of the strongest and most courageous people I’ve ever met, and the imprint she’s left on my life is both incredible and indelible. She is, and will forever be, the glue which bonds our little VT posse together, all of whom I love deeply and consider to be my family.
News came this week that Robin has entered hospice care and is unresponsive. Sadly, there’s not much else which can be done. As she continues her journey towards the sunset of life, my eyes may fill with tears, but my heart is full knowing she has lived every day to the fullest and was loved by everyone around her. She has helped to create so many wonderful memories for her family, her friends, and for her beloved VT community. Everyone who loves Robin continues to hold out hope for a miracle, but sadly, her cancer may have other plans. The time for her to let go seems to be upon us.
As I sit here looking for an ending to this post, I am consumed and comforted in the knowledge that Robin’s heart is adored, her legacy is strong, her imprint indelible, and her friendship is cherished.
Go easy, Robin. We love you.