Robynne Neugebauer – Remembering a friend & sister
Robynne loved being in Toronto. She was a colleague and the type of friend that comes into your life to change it forever. She taught me that friendship was easy and not demanding and that little things could make her happy. She said we were sisters. She shared her joys and her disappointments. She listened to mine.
I should have met Robynne when she was a teenage ‘her words’ as she was in the same class as my younger brother Richard. In graduate studies at York University we passed each other but never met – another missed time. ‘Why didn’t we meet? She would question me from time to time. We passed each never meeting – until the mid nineties – we met at a wedding. Her eyes shining and with a shy smile she asked if I was Ricky Jacobs’ sister. We never looked back. Her last email message to me was that our friendship had stood the test of time.
While she lived in Toronto I found that she loved to meet for coffee, meals with friends, go to concerts, conferences, – When she sold her home in Toronto she gave a lot away to a church to help newcomers. When she moved to Ottawa, she said it would not be forever, she would return as Toronto were everyone she wanted to be with lived. She did not want to move but her job took her there.
Robynne really enjoyed her friendships and did everything to make sure they developed. When she came to my home, no matter who was there she would engage them in a conversation which made them feel welcome, chatted with them as if she knew them forever. I have been told by many of those individuals that it was the eye contact and her genuine smile that showed she was really interested in talking to them. Robynne remembered everyone’s birthday and loved to buy special cards. Once, when I told her ‘no more gifts, I have too much” she sent a gift in my name to a family in a developing country – a pair of chickens – a hen and a rooster to start an egg business. She always thought of something to give, she was indeed a giver.
Robynne made a joke of having tea with my mother and Malo who made the tea – she would say this is special tea “it is Maloti.” – which is really Malo’s real name. She called my mother ‘Auntie’ and had that special mother-daughter relationship with her. She promised her she would be there for her 85 birthday.
The last time she visited us was in mid August to wish my mother for her 84th birthday which was September 7. That day she said she would be greedy and have an extra cup of tea with a twinkle in her eyes – a joke between her and her friend Malo. She had these relationships – different with each one of us – knowing what made the relationships and trying to meet the person where they were not what they should be. For me she knew that I loved our 1:1 conversations where we would talk about world issues or girl issues. We spoke on the phone for hours when she lived in Ottawa at least twice a week. Usually more.
I can tell you all the things Robynne did for me and all what she gave me. The most important thing for me was that she gave of herself. We could argue and we could laugh our heads silly. Robynne always would spend some time at a meal with me before she would see my mother and then rush off back to Ottawa or to her father. She was always rushing to make sure she saw as many people when she came to Toronto.
She would say how guilty she felt because she did not have time to see everyone, this August visit was for her father and my mother. She wanted to spend time with them.
In the car while I was driving her to visit her father – her/our last visit, she told me she worried about him and her love for her family was very evident. She spoke about her brother Mark and his sweetness and how she wanted to visit all the family in one place. That she was going to invite each of them to lunch – thinking that they were the only one and have them all show up at the same restaurant all together so she would not have to split her time but would have all the time to visit and enjoy them.
Family was important to Robynne, Friends were important, and her animals were important to her. Her cards would include their names and paw prints. In Toronto when she was single, Robynne would visit our home daily with Mia her little doggie. Mia knew the house Robynne told me and demanded to visit us. We loved having both of them.
Robynne loved life, she did everything to make sure she lived her values. Even on down days she told me she played music and her spiritual beliefs sustained her. When anyone was in trouble – in any way, she would send out emails asking people to pray for them and follow them up with more emails. She never gave up.
Robynne had courage to go on no matter what was thrown her way. She never gave in but tired to find the way out, the sliver lining and the good things that were out there. She made her own happiness.
On Wednesday September 5th 2007 she called me and told me that she had spent time in the hospital with gastro and was now home feeling better. She gave me a detailed description but said she was OK I as usual told her she needed to make sure she had fluids – the nursy thing I was concerned she would get dehydrated, and to make sure she got some good celery, into the chicken soup. She was concerned not with being ill but with getting the course outline to her students. We talked for over 20 mins about everything and silly things had a few laughs – when I told her to rest and that I would call her again the next day. The next day there was no answer so I left a message for her saying the chicken soup must have worked and to call me when she got in. I did not know that my friend had died of a heart attack. She never returned to her beloved Toronto.
Her friends still speak of her with a hint of sadness but with joy.
Robynne had sent me these few lines in the summer of 2007–
Angels have walked beside me,
all my life–and they still do.
This is to all of you who
mean something to me,
I wish you much happiness.
The Candle Of Love, Hope & Friendship
Finally, for me Robynne, when I think of her – her face comes before me with a smile and that sparkle in her eye and it warms my heart. As long as I live Robynne’s love and warmth continues to live within my mind and heart and I will speak of her kindness over and over again. Rest in Peace – dear Robynne [Dec 18, 1959- September 8, 2007]