In Thanks to Robert Levithan

His spiritual prowess and resonant vocabulary for navigating hardship did not come without a lifetime of heavy lifting. But sitting in Tuesday meetings at Friends in Deed, I revered Robert’s calm response to the grief of the hundreds of survivors that surrounded him. His unshakable heartful felicity, his enchanting ease of speech and soothing way of translating life seemed to offer many a lantern in the darkness, a roadmap through the void.

He was riveting and undeniably handsome. At 60 years old and living openly with fatal illness, it was strangely as if the circumstances of illness and aging had over time, in fact, harvested his being into a strapping, embodied, powerfully masculine champion. He dressed in white as a kind of signature and translated peace with a frequent pearly smile.

My 2012 self wanted to be like him, or to at least cultivate a route of similar vast effect. To be able to break through the dark vortex of human mental agony with a single sentence that delivered a simple and essential flip of perspective was, to me, a fascinating form of wizardry. He was one of the first to influence my eventual move to New Mexico, where he had spent significant time during a period of dire healing in his 20’s, and where he later returned to attend a school in Santa Fe called Southwestern College, an institution to which I applied as well after learning that’s where he went.

When a public person dies, sometimes it seems as if the social world launches into a series of sadness contests, especially with the modern presence of social media. Today, after learning of his death, I don’t feel sad; honestly, I barely knew Robert. But news of his passing brings me to reflect on how he was for me, as with so many others, a true road angel and ambassador of light.

— Julia Daye