Saturday, May 2, 2009

Circle of Influence


During the course of a lifetime we connect with thousands of people, but busy lives, selfish interests, and simply circumstances, keep acquaintances from entering our circle of influence. Yet there are those that defy logic, requiring neither proximity nor extended exposure to leave an indelible impression. Bob Church (aka Bubba Lee Strunk) was one of those rarities; pretentious and unapologetic in his candor, yet humble enough to be uncomfortable hearing the profound impact he has made. Often the most enjoyable slices of life arrive late and depart far too soon, so is my acquaintance with Bob Church.

Our first meeting occurred on the internet, peculiar for a man unabashedly comfortable in his own skin to be loitering in a virtual realm where paupers routinely pose as kings and reality is none the wiser. Bob Church did not ‘do fake’; he was nothing less and nothing more than he appeared to be and a tag line at the end of his e-mails was a not-so-subtle reminder to the rest of us: “Life’s short…get over yourself.”

Soon after our meeting Bob was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer; the timeline remains fuzzy as he rarely spoke of it directly. In my opinion, it was not that he struggled with his own mortality but by recognizing it unduly, he was giving it more power over him than it deserved. No matter the odds a former-Marine will never embolden the enemy and finally when surrender is unavoidable it cannot be under the terms of the enemy. Bob’s words from a recent e-mail stick with me, “In small doses I feed him poison. Despite my efforts he may win the battle, but I’ll be damned if I stroke his head and feed him!”

Bob was a regular working man as required by the world, but it was at the request of his heart that he penned his stories. Had he bowed to the masses and written the type of drivel an editor wants to hear, I’m convinced he would have been on a book-signing tour ten months out of the year. As much as the world needs to see his work, they deserved it in pure Bob-esque form. The following is a paragraph from a response Bob gave to someone that asked, “Why do you write like you do?”

So chide me if you will—mock me if you must—but somewhere within, you know I’m right. If you’re interested, I have one piece of advice for any writer: Leave the safety of acceptance and you will find a new world so complex, so appealing, so goddamn interesting… that you won’t want to leave. Never again will you be satisfied to tell someone else’s story in someone else’s terms; never again will you accept normality as a hallmark nor universal acceptability as a precept. Don’t describe a character’s life or actions, but help me experience his dreams. I promise your writing will fly like never before—with or without a few extra illusory similes.

At Bob's personal request there will be no extravagant funeral, simply a gathering of friends and family to celebrate and reminisce. No doubt he will be watching over those in the circle, for they meant the world to him, but I wish for him to know that his circle of influence goes well beyond those in attendance. Although I am unable to physically attend, tonight we will chat as long as you like.

The cooler is packed, the minnow bucket full, and there’s an open seat in the boat. Even though the crappie left their beds weeks ago, still you wink and accept the invitation. A mischievous smile crosses your face as you dust off one of your famous stories.

“Dan, did I ever tell about the time…….”

As we head off to a quiet cove, impervious to the troubles of the world, my mind quietly records the chuckle of a man larger than life. Bob Church I salute you. God speed and Semper Fi, my friend.

9 comments:

Jo Janoski said...

Oh Dan, you've outdone yourself with expressive words, so spoken from the heart. Count me there in spirit on that boat tonight. P.S. I'm posting that Bob quote where I can read it every day.

paisley said...

what a glowing tribute to an amazing man i am proud to have say i have known and love......

Jo A. T.B. said...

A beautiful and touching tribute Dan, you brang me to tears. New to Word Catalyst, I'm new to Bob Church's aka Bubba's writing.

I've a special mentor much like Bob, his name is Wintersong~ Jim. I wish I knew Bob, and I would like to get his book someday soon! There are many writers who inspire me and you are one of them! Bob was so lucky to have such wonderful writer friends, his work and wisdom are a gift to the world! My condolences!

Scott Clawson said...

What a great tribute to Bob, Dan. I, too have printed Bob's quote and taped to the window in front of my desk so that I may read and be reminded daily.
The people who move in and out of our lives leave their residue of existence and influence which together shape who we are. Here's to them and here's to Bob. I know he has a soft, quarter-beam trade wind carrying him across still waters of ease, his pain has passed and he is right now, writing more prose for those near him to enjoy.

Selma said...

A very touching tribute. I am very sad to hear the world has lost him.

cordieb said...

what a heartfelt tribute to such a real man! Blessings Dan. My thoughts and prayers of comfort are with Bob's family and friends, including you.

Blessings, CordieB.

Shirley said...

Dan, I can't think of anything Bob would have enjoyed more than a seat on that boat! Except maybe having all of us in there with him! This is truly a beautiful and heartfelt tribute.

Kim Church said...

Wow. I'm speachless.. I think Dad has achieved what only the unhuman can..... Immortality!

snore stop said...

There are many writers who inspire me and you are one of them! This is truly a beautiful and heartfelt tribute.