Saturday, April 30, 2016

Her Light Burst Out

On Sunday, April 24, 2016, the following obituary appeared in a local newspaper:

Robin Deana Eslinger, age 46, passed away peacefully at her home in Belmont, MI, on March 30, 2016, surrounded by family and friends, following a 2 ½ year battle against appendiceal cancer.  Robin is survived by her husband, Paul Eslinger, daughters Brianna and Amanda Eslinger, grand-daughter Leah Skeel, all of Belmont, MI; her parents, Roscoe and Julia Specht of Rantoul, IL; sister Joy Specht, and brother Roy (Misty) Specht, and a multitude of extended family and friends.  Robin represented the People of the State of Michigan for 19 years as a Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Kent County, and was universally respected by her peers as a fierce advocate, a loyal friend, an exceptional wife and mother, loving sister, daughter, and mentor.  

A Memorial Service for Robin will be held on April 30th at 11 a.m., with visitation preceding from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Northlawn United Methodist Church, 1157 Northlawn St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505.  In lieu of flowers, donations will be accepted toward an engraved bench or other similar memorial to be placed in Robin’s name with information available at:

A few facts about one's life - name, age, date of death, who was left to live without said loved one, and perhaps a sentence or two about a career - meant to neatly encapsulate a person's life. But we know that life - however loving and grand - is rarely, if ever, neat.  Robin asked me to write her obituary and speak at her memorial service.  Robin knew well that I, too, am rarely, if ever, neat.  Rarely, if ever, traditional.  So here, dear reader, is my unapologetic, unabridged obituary for my wonderful friend:

On Wednesday, March 30, 2016, at 4:40 a.m., an immensely kind soul flew up and away from any pain or suffering, and surrounded us with love.  Robin Deana Specht Eslinger, 46, was born on June 30, 1969, to Roscoe and Julia Specht in a farmland area of Illinois known as Rantoul.  Robin was the middle child a/k/a peacemaker, growing up on a farm with her older sister Joy and younger brother Roy, albeit blissfully with a rhyme free name. After an 80's montage of idyllic teenage years that included band geekdom (playing flute and ordering her peers around as drum major), and stage (including the portrayal of Nurse Ruth Kelly in Rantoul High's production of Harvey), Robin joined the workforce where she fell for her classic car-loving coworker, Paul Eslinger.  Given that they worked at Menards, the two of course decided to build things together - a marriage, home, family, and life, appropriately in that order, and, during their more than 22 years of marriage, they were doubly blessed with gorgeous daughters, Brianna and Amanda, and then granddaughter Leah Grace. 
In her career, Robin ultimately donned a white hat as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Kent County, using her combination of kindness and tenacity to secure justice for victims and offenders for nearly 20 years.  As a prosecutor, Robin was extremely organized and methodical, carefully highlighting the facts in each case necessary to prove a defendant's guilt yet she married those skills with an empathy that could be felt by the victims in her cases.  Our Prosecutor, Bill Forsyth, described Robin well, "She was such a genuine person.  I think people could see that in her and it helped her relate to victims, to witnesses and to juries." 
Robin is beloved by her friends and coworkers in the Prosecutor's Office, as I know she is also loved by court staff, police officers, the defense bar, her church family and community.  She never hesitated to provide an ear, or shoulder, or trip to Culver's when needed.  Indeed, even in the midst of her struggle with this vile disease, it was nearly impossible to leave her office without her turning the interaction around - "But how are you?  What is going on with you?"  Her experience - both in criminal law and in life - was invaluable and her heart immense.  She truly was the heart of our office.
Even as she was rising in the ranks of assistant prosecuting attorneys at the office, Robin raised two beautiful daughters with the help of husband Paul.  Her first-born, Brianna, is named after a cherished character in Robin's favorite book series - Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - and developed a talent and love for art. Robin's office walls are adorned with wonderful examples of Bri's art.  And Bri also inherited her mother's incredible heart and empathetic nature, which she is now passing on to her own child.  Robin's youngest, Amanda, inherited her mother's perfectionist nature and strives to excel at every study or activity she undertakes; and, like her mother, typically succeeds.  Both have their mother's beauty; both have her sense of humor and love of life. I have no doubt that Robin lives on in the two of them.
In September 2013, Robin began her fight against the appendiceal cancer that ultimately took her life.  Yet 2 ½ years of rigorous cancer treatment did nothing to alter her basic core of kindness, empathy, and faith.  And what a bright shining core.  You see, Robin understood the meaning of life.  To live. To love. To share your light with the world.  And she did this every single day. 
Robin was universally respected by both coworkers and opposing counsel.  She treated everyone with kindness and fairness.  And those aspects of her personality were evident no matter the context in which you encountered her.  She was a fierce advocate, a loyal friend, an exceptional wife and mother, a loving sister and daughter.  And a mentor to everyone in her life.  She was, quite simply, an ideal human being.  If you noticed a bit more kindness around you on March 30, 2016, it was her light bursting out and flying free from our spinning blue orb.  So as we celebrate her life and honor her memory, please "Keep On, Keeping On", and let kindness guide you along the way.

As I share this with you today, I'm reminded of one of those first doctor's appointments over two years ago, when she introduced the doctor to those who were with her: "This is my mom, Julie; this is my husband, Paul; and this is my best friend, Kim."  Best friend.  In truth, the phrase caught me off-guard because I was used to hearing it in school - grade-school, high-school, even college - but it had been a long time since I'd been labeled that way.  And I can't quite describe how immensely proud I am to have held that title in her life for even a short time. 

Today, I'll share the above obituary at her memorial service.  I know that she is with us.  I know that she will hear us, laugh with us, shake her head in a self-depreciating way, and wonder why on earth so many people felt the need to gather on a Saturday just because of her. 

Beauty + kindness + empathy + intelligence + a love of really good desserts.  That's why. 

We can only hope that our own lives inspire others in such a way. 

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