|Bruce leading from the front, pulling the cart. A couple of years ago on the Trek.|
The following post is by Adam Roberts, my first guest blogger. Not quite a Mormon Aussie Bloke, we will call him a Kiwi Mormon Aussie Bloke, that'll do!
Murray has inspired me to put a few words to cyberspace. His invitation was to close friends and family which may result in a quite a few doing the same because Bruce made everyone feel like a close friend. He was the man who had a smile and a twinkle in his eye for everyone. When I think about Geelong Ward, Bruce Walshe is always the first person to come to mind. He was the Bishop when I first moved over from New Zealand with my family. Swept back silver hair almost like wings attached the side of his head, piercing blue eyes and a smile that that was always on the verge of a chuckle.
I wasn’t long in the ward when Bruce felt I needed a bit of coaching in the Bishopric. Murray “Muzz” Ceff was his other counsellor and I saw a love and respect between these two brethren that went far deeper than a life of church service together. They were soul surfing buddies. They had a level of communication that comes from sitting for hours together in the water between sets at the crack of dawn. Ever the diplomat, Bruce would acknowledge Muzz’s witty and sometimes cynical comments with a wink. He would tolerate my rash and over-the-top ideas and temper them with the wisdom of his many years of experience. It wasn’t until I was sitting in his desk a few months later as the new Bishop of the ward that I realised just how great a bishop Bruce was. As I tripped and stumbled through the problems that needed a Bishop’s attention, I often found myself thinking, how would Bruce handle this, and “What would Bruce do?” (funny to think that Murray proposed this as a title of another blog). He was and probably still is in my mind the ideal bishop. A man without guile, beaming with the Spirit, and with the compassion of the Savior.
Later we would serve together on the high council, and I would pick up Bruce on the way. I would have 40 minutes to pick his brain and get his sagely insight into problems we were seeing in the Stake. He never gave a quick answer, he was more thoughtful than that. In fact, he never gave advice without a pause to share an experience of a principle he had learned in the lessons of life. I remember one car trip, he broke the news that he was changing careers, leaving behind his design and advertising work to become a youth worker. He spoke of his experiences with hardened kids who had grown up without love or sometimes even in abusive situations. He would have to endure through violent outbursts, destructive behaviour and sometimes even have to lock himself in a safe room until the and angry teen had calmed down. I couldn’t think of a worse job. But Bruce loved it, I think, because he was able to love the unlovable kids. And he found a job where he was sorely needed. He had the perfect temperament for it, but even more so, he had the heart for it. One of my cherished memories of Bruce is a couple of Trek’s ago when he was a adult leader of a group of kids who really didn’t want to push the handcart. Against orders that leaders were not to push the handcart for the kids, Bruce tied a rope around the front handle, fashioned the end into a couple of shoulder straps and pulled it like an ox. You couldn’t wipe the smile of his face.
On Thursday, I got a phone call from our Stake President, Anthony Parton, who said he had some sad news. He often calls with harrowing news of members in our Stake needing help or suffering tragedies. But none of those previous calls compared to the stone I felt in my gut at the news that Bruce had been involved in a surfing accident. I hung up from that phone call in shock. I didn’t realise how much Bruce had meant to me until I found myself halfway between sighing and sobbing. As the story unravelled throughout the day, it became apparent that it wasn’t an accident. Something happened in the water that day that happened quickly and mercifully. In fact, I’m sure if you had asked Bruce how he would go if he had the choice, he would have probably said in between sets, on the back of his favourite board, made by one of his best mates, at his favourite beach. The fact that his usual surfing buddies were not with him that day was a perhaps tender mercy to his mates who would have felt even more devastated that they weren’t able to save him. I don’t think Bruce would have wanted them to suffer the trauma of trying to revive him.
I’ll miss him. I think we all will. There will be a great big empty hole where Bruce used to be. He was a such a good man and I doubt he had any regrets. And he left this life as gracefully as he lived it. There are things Bruce mastered and lived in his life that I’m sure will take me much longer to learn. Perhaps that’s why he was called home a bit earlier than most. Perhaps there is more important work on the other side that he is needed for. Perhaps the surf is better…