I am not really sure why, but I have been thinking about my late cousin Bruce a lot lately. He passed away just over year ago, after battling cancer of the esophagus. Since he has been on my heart lately I thought I would blog about him. Here goes...
Technically Bruce is my second cousin, his dad (my Uncle Jim) and my grandmother (his Aunt Doris) were brother and sister. Bruce was about 11 or 12 years older than me so it wasn't like we were close growing up, but I do remember he was always really nice to me when I was little. Bruce and I became good friends as adults. He lived in St. Louis and had become a big Cardinal fan, and we just seemed to have a similar sense of humor, so we just kind of clicked. I always saw Bruce at church on Christmas Eve in Gibson City. We always had a funny story to share with each other and always looked forward to our visits every year.
Bruce was amazingly talented and had an incredible artistic eye. He originally moved to St. Louis to be a costume and set designer for the STL Repertory Theater, and later opened a photography studio. He specialized in commercial photography, often focusing on portfolio work for actors and models. One of my favorite Bruce stories is when he told me that he was actually doing some photography work for rap artist and STL native Nelly and the St. Lunatics for the "Pimp Juice" product campaign. He knew I loved Nelly, and was probably the only member of our family who knew who Nelly was. One of the St. Lunatics gave Bruce the "Biggity B" tag as his rap/hip-hop name. FYI my rap/hip-hop nickname is J-Fab... I came up with it myself, but I think it would definitely be "St. Lunatic Approved".
This blog was partly Bruce inspired, although I didn't realize it at the time. Several years ago Nikki and I met Bruce and his partner, Dana for dinner in STL when we were at Winter Warm Up. It was a great evening. Bruce was laughing at the stories Nikki and I had to tell about our day at Winter Warm Up, along with other random adventures. He said "You know, I would love to have a film crew follow you around, you guys just crack me up, and I think the world should see your random adventures." I never thought of it, but Nikki said that this blog, especially when we where blogging from San Fran, was kind of like the written equivalent of "Bruce's Documentary". I am sure he is leaving comments all the time on the blog in heaven... I wish I could read them. I think it would have been fun to follow Bruce around too. Besides hanging out with Nelly, he just always had a good story to tell. Bruce and I both grew up in Gibson City and as we got older we shared the same fond memories and fascination with the "church ladies" of our younger years, our mothers and grandmother/aunt being three of them. Bruce liked to refer to Gibson City as "The 9 x 13 Capital of the World" referring to the 9 x 13 pans that contained casseroles, cakes and goodness that defined our formative years. Okay, so the world wasn't going to be saved by a casserole or dessert in a 9 x 13 pan... but it sure was a good place to start.
As I mentioned before Bruce was my Cardinal buddy. He went to opening day at Busch Stadium in 2006. Although he was dealing with chemo at the time he managed to take some incredible pictures of the stadium, and I treasure them. I know Bruce is my angel, and he often makes his presence known when I am in baseball mode. Right after Bruce passed away last August Nikki and I went to Cincy and Pittsburgh on our 7 games is 7 days "Redbird Riverbank Roadtrip". I went to Bruce's visitation on Sunday evening, and we actually left the day of Bruce's funeral. At first I thought about postponing our departure so I could attend the funeral, but I knew Bruce wouldn't want us to miss the game. I knew I made the right decision when we were at the game that night in Cincy and the "Reds Minor League Player of the Week" who was highlighted on the jumbotron was "Jay Bruce". Bruce's full name was James Bruce Summers, and his photo studio was known as J. Bruce Summers Photography. Bruce didn't make it to see the Cardinals World Series win in the fall of 2006 but he was definitely with us in spirit when we celebrated in my living room and later at Tumble Inn.
I will close this blog with two things. The first, is a prayer that was on a prayer card Bruce made and handed out when he was battling cancer. The second is a list of "Bruce'isms" that were provided on a similar card at his memorial service. I carry both cards in my wallet, and have copies of them at my desk at work. I look at them often, and I am better for it when I do.
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to do it bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, help me to do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
"Never give in- never, never, in nothing great or small, except to convictions of honor and good sense:"
"remember your roots, family and friends"
"always remember to tell someone you love them"
"celebrate together, being together"
"be tall, smart, strong & handsome"
"put on a clown nose and make someone smile- send in the clowns"
I miss you Bruce and think of you often.