It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life
Five days prior to my second heart surgery, my 65 year old father, Bruce Wayne Stueve, had a stroke. It occurred around 10am. He died at 12:56pm in a hospital bed in Atlantic, IA. He was surrounded by most of his family.
I cannot say his death was entirely unexpected because he had been living under its specter since 1995 when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He beat this cancer, but more stood up and took its place like rampaging rows of orcs at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. The stroke was a side-effect of these cancers. This is not to say the last 27 years of his life were spent in agony. Many were spent in complete silence on the cancer front. Unfortunately, those years were often followed by what felt like manic bouts with body eating trolls. He lost a kidney. He lost bits of his liver. He lost his strength. He gained some tumors.
But he always bounced back. With an almost idyllic sense of wonder and a resilient strength, my father continually found his way home. He continually found his way to his own Shire, to the joy of his own simple life.
But at 12:56pm on Friday October 7, 2022, (only three days after he turned 65 BTW), my father died. Almost a month later I am still shocked, I am still sad, and I am still sitting in the funeral home looking at his perfectly preserved face. I am still standing in the hospital at his doctor’s side as she announces, “He has died.” I am still saying, “Happy birthday, Dad,” over the phone because we live miles apart. I am still hugging him in his kitchen after my last visit before he dies. I am still laughing with him. I am still learning from him. I am still growing and changing, and figuring out who I am because of him.
I always will be.
I will not deify him though. Perhaps he was a bit distant. Perhaps he hid some of his internal struggles from his children, his wife, the world. Perhaps he was not perfect. But at 12:56pm on Friday October 7, 2022, when I realized I would never hear his crisp, raspy voice again, never feel his huge arms hugging me tightly, and never smell the all to familiar scents of Brut or Old Spice cologne as he entered a room, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was not only a good father, but a good man.
Perfection be damned.
One of the first things I can remember him showing me is JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books. He said they were special and, as a little boy, I believed him.
I still do.
Because he introduced me to them, they’ve always reminded me of him. And for me, there is one quote that stands out as something my father always supported. It’s summed up by none other than Bilbo Baggins himself:
“It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”
Though my father struggled with cancer, though he was not perfect, though he died far too young, Bruce Wayne Stueve was a good man who knew better than anyone that it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.
And that too is worth celebrating.