This was one of the last messages we got from Holstein, written shortly before his lung surgery in November. The operation went well, and, by Christmas, we all thought Bob was out of danger. Next thing we knew, he had passed into the light. As those who did not know him may be able to tell from this note, he was the real deal: honest, humorous, courageous, profane and prayerful, no pretense, no phony piety.
Ivo Sefton de Azevedo, one of our Just Good Company board members from Brazil, only knew Bob through the Internet and through Fr. John Baumann's final homily, which, Ivo said, moved him to tears. "As I kept reading it on and on, I felt as if one of my dearest friends was being well spoken of. Once I read that hawkish Cardinal Spellman used to contribute rather generously to some of pacifist Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker human promotion efforts, which caused some of his surprised friends to ask him why he did that. To which Spellman replied: 'She may be a saint!' Let me say now that I want to know more about Bob Holstein and, if possible, share that knowledge with Spanish-speaking readers of Just Good Company. Why? Because Bob Holstein may be a saint."
Here's one of Bob's last notes:
From: Bob Holstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Companeros-listserve <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 08:15:08 -0800
Subject: [companeros-westcoast] Surgery Date on 20th of November
Just to keep your prayer wheels moving, I am going under the knife
[actually the surgeon Bob McKenna says he is five feet away at times
with the scope and camera doing the dirty deed]on the 20th. That was the
date of my scheduled total hip replacement and had a good ring to it?
I continue to be given a sense of peace about this experience. I know my
asshole will start puckering the night before and day of the surgery,
but up til now I have been truly given the gift of equanimity of spirit.
I am claustrophobic and so my only concern is coming out of surgery with
tubes in every hole and being restrained. But there are wonderful meds
for this and hope they give me some.
There is a 15% percent chance the nodule is not malignant. They will
determine this in the surgery process and if we hit the jackpot it is
hurray time and they sew me up. Of course this will require many days of
notifying so many concern friends[you] that it was all a hoax and that
the attention given me was fraudulenty extracted. So it makes having the
fecking cancer more practical logistically. ha ha.
One of the important studies performed last week was a VQ gas study of
my lung function [effective air/blood transfer]. With my severe asthma
[I know many Compas will identify with this]I have significantly
diminished lung capacity. So it is critical that they do not take too
much. I luck out here pretty well as the upper right lobe of my lung
[actually everyones]is the least effective chamber for air delivery [in
my case 19% of 59%]. So on paper taking the upper right lobe is ok if
you have to do it.
Had my heart study yesterday and it seems in great shape for the
surgery. So it is all systems go for the 20th. We go the day before for
blood tests etc, and will stay there in LA for the next days adventure.
McKenna says I will stay in Cedars probably 2-5 days depending on my
lung function [has sent folks home in one day]. So I will be home for
thanksgiving for sure. A little interior pain due to the intercostal
ribs spread during surgery etc. but no probably ambulating.
My big decision right now is going to the Ignatian Family Teach In. We
have a big ICUC/PICO fundraiser tonight for a local Judge who has sat on
the bench for 50 years. A great character. Bob Semans is going to do a
large painting describing this man as Mediator and it will hopefully hang in the
rotunda of the most beautiful of all courthouses in California.
So Wendsday I will make the final decision. I really want to go [to Ft. Benning]
mainly for self interested reasons- the number of students coming is through
the roof and we fucked up on the housing. But most importantly I want to be there
to see my niece Sarah Berger reign as the Boston College rep to the SOA. And
then the Companions who went to Salvador came up with the idea of bringing two
students from the UCA to the Teach In and they are coming-so a lot reasons. But
I do recognize my primary responsibility to my wife and kids to be ready for
this surgery. So I discern.
In the line of Bill Dudley and others I wanted to let you know of what
was going down. Hope it is not more than you would want to hear. I want
to get over this and get onto some late year duck and goose hunting and
some winter steelhead fishing.
bob of the Cedars of Sinai