After Bob’s funeral we gathered at the boathouse on University Lake for a boat dedication by the rowing community. A four had recently been purchased by the UNC Men’s Crew and they decided to dedicate it to Bob, who had been the team’s faculty advisor for over 16 years. His name was beautifully inscribed on the bow of the boat. As they walked it out of the boathouse and laid it in the slings, I was still in shock, and would be for many months. “Dr. Robert C. Millikan” shone in bright white letters on the pristine black finish. How could that man, my brother, be gone?
About a dozen alumni that Bob had coached over the years came to pay their respects. By now I am used to hearing people talk about Bob, but at that point I wasn’t. To me he was my humble brother, someone I’d known and joked around with my whole life. I didn’t know how other people experienced him. Hearing the rowers describe how Bob had mentored them and how much he’d impacted their lives, was very moving. The same was true speaking with the long line of his Epidemiology students, colleagues and friends after the funeral service.
After they christened the boat with champagne they took it out on the water and “pulled 20 for Bob”. It was the end of the day and the fall leaves were at their brightest orange, yellow and red. As the sun lowered into the trees an almost translucent golden glow filled the air. Flowers that had been on the boat during the christening were now sitting on the dock as the four rowed by. In that moment, I knew we were sending Bob into the next world. A feeling of deep gratitude and joy came over me.
In the Kickstarter video for the upcoming MILLIKAN SYMPHONY CD I say, “I want you to be a part of it,” and I mean it in the deepest sense. It has been almost 5 years since Bob’s death. We are about to launch the CD into the world and I want to feel everyone’s “hands on” as we send it forth. There are many ways to participate. You can support the Kickstarter (for finishing funds), come to the CD Release Party on Aug. 24th (what would have been Bob’s 60th birthday), and leave a comment on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.