EGR man’s ‘no bit’ offers end of life celebration and lesson

Bob Eleveld
A photo shows the "no bit" for Bob Eleveld, published in the March 12, 2017 edition of the Grand Rapids Press.

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — We’ve all thought about it: how we’d like to be remembered as our lives end.

That’s the final question Bob Eleveld is answering now. The longtime Grand Rapids area lawyer and political activist is dying.

But before he goes, he wants to celebrate his life with family and friends. He sent out the invitation to that celebration in his own special way, with what his family has dubbed a “no bit.”

Bob Eleveld
A photo shows the “no bit” for Bob Eleveld, published in the March 12, 2017 edition of the Grand Rapids Press.

“As I write this notice, I’m still with you, although my doctors have informed me that this status will change in the near future,” reads the no bit, which appeared in the obituary section of Sunday’s Grand Rapids Press.

Date of birth: August 3, 1936. Date of death: not yet.

“And that’s just very much in his sense of humor,” said Eleveld’s daughter, Kerry.

She stepped in to do Thursday’s interview. The rare form of blood cancer doctors discovered just over two years ago has taken its toll on her father.

From his hospital bed in their East Grand Rapids condominium, his partner Michelle holds Bob’s hand as he looks out over Reeds Lake.

“He’s always said, ‘When I die, do not throw a funeral for me. Throw a party,” Kerry said with a laugh.

So with the help of family and friends, Bob will do just that.

Saturday, those whose lives he’s touched will gather at Thousand Oaks Golf Club to, in Bob’ words, “share a glass of red (wine) and a laugh.” In his no bit, Bob said he would plan on being there with them.

“My father’s really a creator of community, and it’s his last chance to really create community around this event,” explained Kerry.

The idea came after his cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2015.

“Not everybody has the good fortune to get a diagnosis and then have the sort of slow time to make peace with what’s happening,” explained Kerry. “There’s some grace in having the time. (For) so many people, something happens suddenly and you don’t have that kind of time.”

The difficulty is determining when to make peace with what’s happening.

“When his doctors a couple of weeks ago said he has four to six weeks to live, I mean that’s the point at which you pull out your phone, you look at your calendar and say we got to do it sooner than later,” said Kerry.

Bob is one of those people who lives by the motto, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

His kids will tell you when they call their dad with one of life’s little crises, he has a way of putting it in perspective. He calls them a peanut item — no big deal in the larger scheme of life.

And that’s how Bob, spelled out at the end of his no bit, looks at the end of his life.

“Please know that the end of my life is the ultimate ‘peanut item’ in comparison to how much I have enjoyed my life with all of you,” it reads.