Purple Light: Honoring Franco and Bruce

Purple Light organizer and PANCAN volunteer, Todd Cohen, discusses the connection between his ‘camp family’ at Camp Harmony and his ‘purple family’ of pancreatic cancer survivors, caregivers, and volunteers, in addition to paying tribute to both Franco Juricic and Bruce (2:44).

Speaking at this past Sunday’s Purple Light event, Michael Weinstein, a 13 year pancreatic survivor and PANCAN volunteer, pays tribute to Franco Juricic and Bruce, while emphasizing that it is all the volunteers that continue to work tirelessly to fight pancreatic cancer that are the real heroes.

Hope’s Alive!

Enjoy the super-talented Madeline Hopkins (Linda’s cousin’s granddaughter) perform the song Hope’s Alive at Bruce’s Celebration of Life.

Hope’s Alive was Bruce’s favorite song and it was written and recorded by Erin Willett who lost her father to pancreatic cancer. All proceeds from the song go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. For more information about the song and where to download it, click HERE.

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A Wife Honors Her Husband

When Bruce first told me he didn’t want a traditional Wake, I suggested a Celebration of Life instead. He asked me what that was so I explained what I knew about it. He listened and looked at me and said: “Do you think anyone would come?” I said: “Are you kidding? For you, everyone will come.” Thank you all for proving me right and for being here today.

There are several people I need to thank.

First of all, none of this would be possible without Henry Schmidt’s help, so thank you, Henry. I’d like to thank everyone who donated food, made our centerpieces, or helped with setting up. many of you have been here since early this morning. There are too many to name but I appreciate all of you. Doug not only wrote Bruce’s obituary and eulogy, and designed our program and bracelets, and did our slide show, but he and his friend, Marc, made a beautiful video which you’ll see shortly. Jen did our picture boards and the framed picture of Bruce. Chris and Jen bought all of the items for the kids. Chris will be our DJ today. Bob Pecarific assisted with our audio.

I’d like to thank our Purple Family, whom Bruce loved so much, for their support of Bruce and me, for their visits to the hospital, and for their unending advocacy for pancreatic cancer. Equally involved in advocating for pancreatic cancer is my Never Ever Give Up group, some of whom drove eight hours to be here today.

One member of our Wage Hope family, Muskaan, deserves a special acknowledgement for driving Bruce and me into the City for all of our appointments at Sloan Kettering and Weil Cornell. Few of you know that outside of the hospice staff, Muskaan was the last person to see Bruce alive. She stayed at the Hospice after the rest of us had left. I had a bag packed to stay overnight but I was told to go home and rest and that it was unlikely Bruce would pass that evening. Sadly, I got that terrible call a couple hours after Doug and I got home.

Bruce’s brother, Wayne, and his wife, May, were at the hospital with Bruce every day just as they were when he had his surgery. Another brother drove with his son straight through from Florida to see Bruce. The day they got to the hospital was Bruce’s last good day.

Debbie, Michael, and Gianna were with us at the Hospice on Bruce’s last day. They tried to come back after Doug called to tell them about Bruce but it was snowing and they were forced to turn around. My sister stayed with me for two weeks after Bruce passed, stocking up my freezer so she knew I’d have something to eat after she left.

As most people know, Dylan Flinchum was Bruce’s super hero. He gave Bruce strength to fight these past three years. Any time Bruce had a setback, he’d always say the same thing: “This is nothing compared to what Dylan goes through.” Dylan was supposed to be here today but he had a setback of his own recently and could use our prayers. Dylan’s four grandparents are here. By the way, I’m sure if Bruce were here he’d tell all of you that you should attend Dylan’s next Dinosaur Stomp on May eleventh.

More than anyone, I have to thank my family here by my side, as they’ve been for Bruce and me throughout the past four difficult years. A special thank you to Doug, Chris, and my fourth son, J.P. I would not have made it through the terrible night of January 17th and the early morning hours of the 18th without them. They were beyond amazing!

In the past four years, I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent three major surgeries. Bruce was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery, numerous rounds of chemo and radiation, and a brief try with a clinical trial. Laura had chemo, radiation, and surgery after her own cancer diagnosis, and she’ll have another surgery this summer. Chris underwent an emergency appendectomy. Jake was hospitalized with a serious illness that lasted months and left him unable to walk for a while. Ella was hospitalized as an infant with a serious virus. And not to be outdone, Colin had to be rushed to the hospital after a terrible accident outside his school. All the while, the constant in my life and the person who kept me sane was Bruce. He would always say, “This is just a bump in the road.” Then he’d assure me that everything would be alright. I have Cat scans every three months and the week after next, I face my first scan without Bruce by my side to reassure me. Fortunately, Chris is going to take me for my scans. I’m hoping Bruce’s strength and positivity will get me through whatever lies ahead.

Finally, as much as I appreciate all of you being here, and I do, if you really want to honor Bruce, live your life as he did—be kind and care about others.

Thank you.

A Hero Gets His Curtain Call

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By JP Schmidt

Good afternoon,

We leave our fingerprint on this world based on the life we lead, and we all hope to leave a positive impact during our time here. We are here today to honor and celebrate the life of Bruce Hill, to talk about our memories of him and the impact he had on each of us, the fingerprints he left on our lives. I have thought a lot about what it is I want to share about Bruce this afternoon, the way he specifically impacted my life and the way I think about things.

They say there is beauty in simplicity. I’m a believer in this and I think Bruce more than anyone proved this to be true. Bruce didn’t need fancy expensive material things to find the joy in life, the joy in each day, or the joy in each moment. Maybe this is why he stayed so positive throughout his illness, because he focused on the now, he relished in the moment at hand, he didn’t rush or wish life away.

He enjoyed that moment he was in when he was caring for his lawn, or washing his vehicles, or going on a long walk with a loving dog. Bruce knew that each moment was a gift and he had a love for things that we often take for granted. I worked for years close to Bruce’s childhood home town, so we often discussed the area and when we did boy did his face light up with delight. I would enjoy listening to the tales of his youth, but more so enjoyed watching Bruce open up about it. Bruce didn’t volunteer a lot of stories of his youth, nor did he discuss the future much, because, again, he was more concerned with the now. If you asked him about certain memories or a specific time, he of course would share those stories with you, but usually it was Bruce asking about you, “How are you? How’s the family? How’s my girl Piper?”

When you asked Bruce for help, he never hesitated, he simply said “Ok”. I remember the first time I brought Piper over to meet him, she was 12 weeks old and I think Bruce was 60. As she clumsily climbed up the stairs she was greeted by Bruce at the top of them. No, not standing there waiting for her, Bruce was instead down on the floor to greet her. He played with her, scratched her belly, let her climb all over him. I’m sure many of you have seen pictures of Bruce also down on the floor with his granddaughter Ella. That’s what Bruce did, he related to people, children, and animals in the most simple but beautiful way. Whether a child or a puppy, he came down to their level. If he passed by a neighbor he’d wave and say hello, cause in that moment, that’s what you do. It’s simple and it’s beautiful.

I’ll never forget the day Bruce was told his cancer was back, it was March 22, 2017. I remember this well because I was with Mrs. H. when she got the call from the doctor. The reason we were all together was because we were at the ICU in Dover as my Mom was in the final hours of her life. Mrs. H. told Bruce the news she received from the doctor, and in typical Bruce fashion he simply nodded his head and said “Ok” and immediately went back to focusing on my Mom. I wanted to share that because, again, I think it shows how much Bruce lived in the moment. Even after receiving devastating news he didn’t look back, he didn’t look ahead, he instead stayed with my family and focused on our needs in that difficult time. To Bruce that was simple, to me it was beautiful.

Now on a lighter note I wanted to share one of my favorite Bruce stories, which is when he was pulled over by the police. No Bruce wasn’t speeding, he didn’t do anything illegal, he was pulled over because the police officer saw his pet sitting advertisement, told Bruce he needed a good pet sitter and heard he had a good reputation. I wasn’t there, but I am sure Bruce response was probably “oh, Ok”

I will miss talking sports with Bruce, watching how excited he got to discuss a great game or a great play. Now I am a Mets fan and any of you who might be as well know that’s not an easy thing to be. But, I am going to hold on to some hope here. I know the Yanks were Bruce’s main baseball team, but in his final hours the hospice nurse asked him what his favorite team was and yes, Bruce said, and I quote, “The Mets.” So Bruce, with all the agony that comes with being a Mets fan I am going to forever hold on to the possibility that you entered heaven routing for the Mets.

Speaking of hospice, after Bruce had passed that night and Mrs. H., Chris, Doug and I were leaving the hospital, the staff greeted us on our way down the hall. They offered their condolences and one of the nurses who had just come on duty told Mrs. H. she was sorry. Mrs. H. said to her, “I wish you could have known him, he was one of a kind.” The nurse replied stating, “Oh I knew him well.” We all kind of looked at each other thinking maybe this is standard hospice code? Act as if you knew the patient well? Mrs. H. said to her, “Oh you did?” The nurse said, “Well yes, very well, he took care of my dogs for years.” I don’t know what it was, but it was exactly what we needed to hear in that moment of sadness, it was typical Bruce. We didn’t think of the sadness we just experienced, or the sadness that would be coming in the near future, it gave us a laugh and a smile in that moment. It was simple and it was beautiful.

Bruce had said to me in the hospital that when he got out he wanted to have a party, a party at St Jude’s with family and friends. Bruce, we hope you enjoy your party. We thank you for leaving your fingerprints on our lives, for showing us the beauty in simplicity, for showing us the importance and beauty of living in the moment, for showing us how to appreciate the small things. In Doug’s eulogy he mentioned three things Bruce always lived by: Be Good, Work Hard, Help Others. If I could add one more thing to that it would be: Take time to smell the roses. Bruce always did. So when you leave today and you think about Bruce, I encourage you to wave to your neighbors, get down on the floor with the children and pets in your lives, if someone asks for help and it’s within your means, say “OK”.  And everyday live in the moment, take time to smell the roses.

Now most of you know that Bruce was a phenomenal baseball player. If not for injury he probably would have had a nice professional career playing it. In baseball, fans honor a great performance by giving a standing ovation known as a curtain call. So I am going to ask you all to stand, put your hands together, and let’s give Bruce and his life a well-deserved curtain call!