I talked recently with Kevin, Robb’s partner who was with him during the year we broadcast “Robb’s Life.” We kept Kevin’s identity a secret because he was military and because his parents were opposed to the fact that he was gay. They still live near the Quad Cities and are still not supportive of their son, so I am still referring to Kevin only by his first name.
Kevin remembers the last couple of weeks as very difficult. Robb had very little strength.
“He was in and out of consciousness, and during the last two or three days he wasn’t lucid,” Kevin remembers.
The night before Robb died, suddenly he sat up in bed and began screaming Kevin’s name. Someone else was sitting up with him at the time.
Kevin rushed into the room. Robb was emotional but he didn’t say anything else. He just kept repeating Kevin’s name.
“We put him back down and got him comfortable again,” Kevin says.
Robb always had the belief that someone who is dying can hang on until given the permission to leave. That night, Kevin gave him permission.
“I started saying that it’s going to be okay,” Kevin says. “You can go.”
According to Robb’s father, the next morning, April 19, 1996, Robb talked with Dr. Katz on the phone and told him that he was ready to go.
“Well, Robb, then why don’t you go?” replied Dr. Katz.
That evening, Kevin and Robb’s parents were in the room with him. He did not want the indignity of wearing a diaper. He had commented to Kevin more than once, “I’d rather die than wear a diaper.”
“He never lost control of his bowels until the last night,” Kevin remembers. Kevin and Robb’s parents were in the room with him when, after dreading it for so long, Robb lost control.
“We started to clean him up and change him,” Kevin says. “We could tell it was happening. I held his hand and he passed away.”
Despite the horror of the moment, and the deep sadness, Kevin told Lorney and Hattie, “He said he would rather die than wear a diaper and he proved he was right.”
They all laughed.
I got the call from the family in the evening. I have forgotten who called, it was such a shock. I was told that I could bring my camcorder if I wanted, but the thought horrified me. We had told Robb’s story. Videotaping him at this point would be an invasion of privacy, in my opinion. Robb always trusted me to know what went too far. I felt protective now.
Within an hour, I was at Robb’s home in Rock Island. The door opened and I entered his living room, where the family was sitting around the bed and in chairs around the room. Robb was still in the same position in which he died, with his mouth open.
I must be squeamish. I did not want to see him that way. The image has haunted me. I stayed for a while, talking with the family, then went home, still stunned.
Almost a year to the day after we started shooting the series, it was over. How could it end so soon? It just didn’t seem right. After gearing up each week for another outing and another story, I never really thought the end would arrive. It left me with an empty feeling.
There would be one more story to shoot. Robb’s funeral.