When my world ended

Actually it started a bit before this, in 2018 when a major social media company’s egregious blunders threatened both my business and my charity. Those events hit me hard, but I was willing to weather the storm and I was handling it well enough; rebuilding both my business and my free art mentorship program from scratch. While it was tough and somewhat stressful, it was doable. I was going to survive this.

That is, until the worst happened...

On July 26th, 2019, my best friend of close to 38 years died ... this incredible woman, whom the public knew as a voice actress––and knew her as a superb one. I was with Russi on the day that she tried out for the part of Minnie Mouse and when she won the part, we celebrated together with a feast of tempura and sake that evening. 

For those 38 years, I was blessed to know the many sides of her and just how deep her superb went. She was my mentor and patron, my teacher and guiding light.

Much of what is good in me came from knowing her. In her last days, I got the chance to tell her just that. In her typical Russi style of “it’s less about me than it is about you”––wanting to give me more than she got–she replied softly, “Me too.”

She was a giver to the last. Still wanting to make me smile.

She was always there to offer words of comfort. Always trying to get me to see the lighter side of life — even the tragedies. If she could be here to comment on what befell her at the last, she would probably say, “well Robbie, life is like that“ and offer me a wide smile. 

Russi taught me that caring about others, offering a ready smile, some compassion and kindness are the greatest acts we can perform to improve this world. 

Through those 38 years, we helped each other get through our respective early bad marriages; we ate tempura and drank sake together ... often. We giggled together; we organized her closets and created her garden together; we buried our pets in solemn and grateful ceremonies together and we planted trees for the future together.

We made art together, and books for children together with her husband Wayne AllwineIn every moment came her pearls of wisdom and elevating words of comfort … and that kindness; so much kindness.

It was that kindness that led her to offer me a forever home. She knew my goals for helping artists and wanted to contribute to that. The home I have been living in for over 25 years was once her home. She wanted me to have it when she passed.

However, Russi’s family have refused to honor that. So, along with the loss of my dearest friend, I am facing the loss of my home and, with all my time, attention and money gone to helping others, facing potential homelessness.

The storm did not stop! 

It is terrifying, as I face every day not knowing if I will have a home.

But the sh**storm did not end there!

A couple months later, and on the day of Russi’s Disney life celebration which was so very hard to get through, I came home to find out that my uncle passed away.

The next morning, shockingly, my husband died of a heart attack.

Compounding matters, the loss of such significant loved ones, the grief that never seems to go away and the perpetual terror at the impending loss of my home has weakened my immune system. In December of 2020, I endured weeks of a virus (not Covid-19) that caused damage to the cornea of my left eye.

The onslaught of tragedy and loss that I have encountered in the past year has been almost unbearable.

Then, of course, a worldwide pandemic struck. (continue reading)

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