BrooksBlog: Remembering Stuart Finnie
REMEMBERING STUART FINNIE
We lost Stuart Finnie early this morning, and it came as something of a surprise to me. It shouldn’t have; he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer well over five years ago. But the fact that he had lived for so long after being given only a few months lent him an aura of immortality I readily embraced in my hopes for a miracle recovery. Even in the worst of it, Stuart always seemed as if he were indestructible. I just wasn’t ready to accept the inevitable.
Stuart was diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer and made the brave choice not to undergo the disfiguring surgery that might – might – have saved him. Instead, he decided to live out his life as himself, emotionally and physically, to rely on diet and lifestyle and belief, to accept what treatments he thought he could tolerate, and to look to his higher power. We talked about it now and again, and he always seemed at peace with his decision.
Scotland was his home when I first met him more than fifteen years ago. I will never forget the circumstances. He showed up at a book event in Glasgow and introduced himself. We talked after the signing and I told him I would look forward to seeing him again soon. He smiled. Much sooner than you think, he said.
The next night he appeared in Bath, England, at my next event. He drove there from Glasgow that day. That’s a hell of a drive, if you haven’t looked at a map lately. Then he drove home the same night, but his car broke down and had to be towed. He never complained about it, even when I commiserated with him. He just shrugged it off. It was worth it, he said.
Stuart kept showing up at signings and events I was featured in all over the world and in the most unlikely places. How unlikely? Here’s an example. I was signing in Charlotte, North Carolina, in an independent bookstore event with Greg Keyes. There were maybe seventy or eighty people present. I gave my talk and took questions. One of the first was delivered in a Scottish brogue. Hard to mistake something so familiar, but still I couldn’t quite believe it.
“Stuart!” I called out to the audience. “Is that you?”
Sure enough. He smiled and nodded and waved to identify where he was sitting. He had flown over for the event and a dinner afterwards where we talked about books and reading and life, as always. At that time, he had not yet been diagnosed and I suspect neither of us thought once about the span of our lives.
As you can tell, if you didn’t know, Stuart was a fan and a collector of my works. His collection is the best of which I know. He had everything. He had things I had never seen – things from all over the world. Books, story collections, calendars, bookmarks, trading cards, comics, records (no, really), audio tapes – you name it.
But even without all that, I would have loved Stuart just for being who he was. Those who knew him all shared a similar feeling. He was just an all-around good guy. He was kind and helpful in ways he didn’t have to be. He was fascinating to talk to – he knew books and he treasured them. He always worked and near the end went back to school at the same time to get his college degree. He set goals for himself, including obtaining that degree, and in most cases he met those goals. He was strong in ways I am not sure I would be. He was always positive about his life.
At the end, he had his close friend Stephanie by his side, there as she had been for months. He had those of us who were his friends communicating with him and keeping watch over him from afar – as much as such a task can be undertaken.
I would go on, but I think I will just start repeating myself. I will miss Stuart terribly. We say that about people, but in his case I do not exaggerate. I will treasure our years and our friendship and our times together, and I will never forget him.
Stuart Finnie was simply the best.
Terry Brooks, November 28, 2016.