Norman lost a great man this week.
Not as some would define great, though. He didn’t have a lot of money. He never married. He never had children. He never had a big title or a full career with retirement. He never got to go on vacation or do a lot of the things that some take for granted.
He did have a full life that he loved, though. Robert Foster aspired to become a teacher, and after graduating from the University of Oklahoma, he taught at a junior high, where he excelled at being a mentor and leader to so many children. He also served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard due to his love for state and country.
Robert was diagnosed in his late twenties with multiple sclerosis, and at a time with little to no treatment options, his life began to take a turn. With mobility becoming an issue, he worked as an award-winning chaplain volunteer and Christian book salesman until his disability progressed, which he lived with over the next 50 years.
MS left him unable to use his body, but did not stop his mind or heart. Robert never complained of his condition or the direction it took him. He always had a smile on his face and only nice things to say. Everyone who met him was amazed at how wisdom filled, kind and soft-spoken he was.
His only daily interaction was his caregivers and his sweet sister Shirley, who lived nearby caring for his needs, bringing meals and providing the occasional haircut for many years. If you asked his caregivers, they would tell you Robert gave them much more than they could ever give him.
He loved Jesus and going to church. He loved strawberry milkshakes. He loved old movies, and if you saw his small apartment, you would know he loved books — he had over 1,200 lining the walls of his room. He also loved OU football, and he loved people.
When his caregivers got him up for the day, if it was warm enough, he took his wheelchair to the courtyard and wait for people to come out so he could talk with them and ask what was going on in their lives. When his caregivers put him to bed at night, he would ask about their day and family activities.
He lived his life through the experiences of others. I once asked if he would like to have a handicap van rented so he could see things like the Grand Canyon, and he would say, “I’ll see greater things when I get to heaven.”
Well, Robert is seeing greater things today. He is finally running and leaping. Norman lost a “great” man this week, a man that had so many challenges in life, but met them all with grace and contentment waiting for a greater reward.
There are no lessons here or sympathy requested — I just wanted everyone to know that there are great people living among us that we may never meet, and Mr. Robert Foster was definitely one of them. He will be truly and greatly missed.