Time is shorter than we think…

Our friend, Bruce

Our friend, Bruce

As I posted yesterday, my friend, Bruce died early yesterday morning. He was buried yesterday, too, in a natural cemetery in Penn Laird. It was a beautiful graveside service on a beautiful day at a beautiful place. He was honored by his family and a large throng of friends.

I didn’t know Bruce as long as virtually everyone else there. I’ve only known him since his illness. He was invited to our men’s group by his friend, Wayne, and he was quickly welcomed with open arms. He shared in that first meeting his diagnosis of stomach cancer and was ready to begin with the treatments. This was nearly two years ago.

In the journey he and his family have been on the past two-plus years, his steadfast faith and resolve were an inspiration to us all. His perspective was always eternal.

A group of us went to see him two weeks ago. He thought his time was short. He looked good when we saw him: good energy, good color to his skin and face, and he was alert and engaging as ever. That was the last time I saw him.

In the past two years, since his diagnosis, relationships became more and more important to Bruce. It seemed as if his marriage relationship drew even closer than before. His relationships with his children were even more important than before and he placed a special emphasis on getting to know his numerous grandchildren. He loved his friends, both the men in his churches (as Pastor Kerry Willis said, one church couldn’t hold Bruce) and those outside the church. Relationships were of the utmost importance to Bruce.

I regret not going to see him at some point in the past two weeks. He knew his time was short. I knew his time was short. Hospice had been called in to help. I just thought he had more time.

I say all this not to make you feel sorry for me, but to remind us all how important relationships are. They were of growing importance to Bruce as his time here grew shorter. They should be of growing importance to us as our days here grow shorter.

You’re still teaching me lessons, Bruce.

I may need a reference…

I don’t know if you’ve ever been at the side of someone who has drawn their last breath. I’ve had that privilege twice: once was at my mom’s bedside when she passed away in 1986. The other was in 2001 when I was at the bedside of Ruby Truslow, one of the matriarchs of Community Fellowship Church of the Nazarene. Each time, it truly was a privilege. I really can’t describe the sweetness of the final moments of those lives. In each case, though, there was a tremendous sense of peace, and I’ll say it again… a sweetness.

Last night, I was reminded of that sweetness as I had the privilege to fellowship with a few members of our men’s group at CFC. We hadn’t been together since I had left the church in August. The occasion, however, was bittersweet. We were visiting a man who’s been part of that group for the past two years, and togther, we’ve journeyed through his battle with stomach cancer. He’s experiemced quite a few ups and downs, and just received word that the cancer has spread to his bones. He has been an inspiration to us all with his steadfast faith and the delight he takes in being with his family and friends.

Our friend, Bruce

Our friend, Bruce

You might know Bruce Catlett. If you met him, it wouldn’t take you long to get to know him. With his wry sense of humor and quick wit, he’s easy to get to know and love. His faith is indeed steadfast and although his time left is short, his sense of humor, even in the face of death, is as sharp as ever.

My ears perked up last night when Bruce said, “It seems like life is sweeter – now that I’m closer to the end.” I asked him what he meant by that and he said that being surrounded by such great friends and having his family so close made the past few weeks so rich and so sweet. He said that he heard a pastor recently say, “So many of us are so busy living our lives that we don’t realize that we have a life to live.” In his last days, Bruce Catlett has never taken any of them for granted.

L to R: Brian, Wayne, me, Bruce, and Harold. Great friends.

L to R: Brian, Wayne, me, Bruce, and Harold. Great friends.

It was one of the sweetest, most blessed evenings in a long time. We laughed together, we shared our recent trials, but best of all, we prayed together for one another. After we took a group photo together he said, “I’m gonna take this photo to heaven and tell them that if any of the guys in the picture show up, call me for a reference.”

Indeed, Bruce.