Friday, January 23, 2009

In Memory of Bruce Croker

So as you know Marc's step-dad Bruce passed away on January 3rd. Because his mom requested it we were on a plane on the 4th headed to Florida for the memorial and to be there for Donna.

Bob, Tom, and John, Marc's 3 step-brothers, and Jeff, his brother, along with their wives and children were all there. As well as Bruce's sister Diane and her husband. The amount of friends, family, and members of the community that came to the service was really touching. Bruce was a real character who liked to joke around and have fun, but was one of the hardest working men I knew. I had only known him for about 9 years and even though he was a tough old bird who often came across gruff, he always treated me like a daughter. I am honored to have had him in my life and I will miss him greatly.

Bob's wife, Bonnie and I spend the Monday after we arrived putting together picture collages out of the hundreds of photos that everyone brought of Bruce. It was really helpful for me and it seems to have been helpful to everyone who was at the house that day. People would wonder through the front room where we were working and pause for a moment to look at the table full of pictures. One would jump out at them and remind them of a story about Bruce. They would tear up, snicker, or roll their eyes and share that story with us. Often they would call to someone else nearby and share that story again showing them the picture that had reminded them of it. It was a very good thing.

So many things about the rememberance and grieving process of this trip stuck out for me as unique and remarkable. 1st, Marc's dad, Noble, officiated the service. In so many families I know, including my own, the divorced parents wouldn't be able to stand being in the same room let alone even show up at one or another's funeral. 2nd Bruce's ex-wife came to the memorial! Pat was there for Donna as well as to honor Bruce. I was like, "wow, this is unreal"! I was amazed. Also, the energy around the house wasn't grim and sad all the time. Oh the tears flowed to be sure, but so did the laughter. The kids (all 11 of them) played their hearts out while the adults chatted and shared so many wonderful stories about this man whom we had lost. My favorite is one my sister-in-law shared at the memorial itself. It seems she was dating Jeff back with Donna and Bruce were still raising cows on their farm. Every time Heather would come to visit, she would go out and feed the cows. It had been a few weeks between visits once, and it was dark when she arrived. With dinner already on the table, she decided to sit and eat before going out to say hello to the cows. After she had finished a most delicious steak that Bruce had grilled, he asked her how it tasted. She couldn't say anything but "Delicious!". It was at that point that Bruce told her that the steak she had just eaten had come from her favorite of the cows in the pasture. ROFL!! I laughed so hard! And that was the biggest difference in Bruce's memorial from the ones I have attended in the past. The laughter. The love of life and fun that Bruce personified had lived on in his stories and his family.

Bruce loved so many things. Animals, Travel, the ocean, the mountains (except when trying to drive his 5th Wheel RV over them), digging for gems, or panning for gold. All of it was a thrill to him. But he loved his family most of all. Especially his grandchildren. And something that made me love him so much was that even though our children were not his blood relatives, they were still HIS grandchildren. He was Pappa to them. They loved him and he was sooo good to them. On one of our camping trips (the last time they drove across the country from Florida with the RV) we were in Joseph, OR and it was really really hot. Bruce drove 30 minutes to the closest town with a decent sized store and bought the kids a blow up pool to play in that even had a sun shield so they could get cool without getting burned. One of his greatest wishes was to get ALL of his grandkids together so he could watch them play together and enjoy them all. Well, Bruce we are soo very sad that you couldn't be there in person to watch them, but we KNOW that you were watching as all 11 of your precious grandkids played their hearts out on your farm, in the tree house that you built, and making that wish come true made my heart very happy.
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