HOW OUR BLOG BEGAN, in AUGUST 2010: As many of you know, Phil has been struggling with a very complex series of neurological issues for about 5 years. This past spring, the issues became especially intense as a result of an unexpected cognitive decline and a fall on May 15th that resulted in a head injury and further decline. And then, on July 16th things catapulted to unbelievable, as Phil suffered from a severe "electrical storm" in his brain that essentially created a status of brain death for two full days. Inexplicably, the very morning that neurologists and other medical team members were planning removal of life support, Phil began breathing on his own and his brain waves returned to a stable, while still abnormal, level. Since then, each day has been a unique journey. And while he and his body continue to demonstrate a will and capacity to live, he continues to have severe deficits and it is quite uncertain as to the path he will take. As loved ones close in can attest to, it has been tricky to keep up emotionally with all of his changes, and provide the needed support. We can only imagine the hard work Phil has gone through as his brain has taken him through such roller coaster experiences. It is our goal here to keep family and close friends apprised of Phil's ongoing story, and to build connections that honor him.

AND THEN, SEPTEMBER 11, 2010....Dad's remarkable journey alongside us culminated in a gentle, generous death.

And so, my goal here now as his daughter is simply this: to record snippets...pieces of his life that my memory offers back to me, pieces of myself as I learn to live without a dad. I hope all who meander by find life, and hope, and peace.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

3 years, today

I'm glad to meet you here today but the time that I really wish I would have reached out to you was the night of Daniel and Jessica's wedding.

The day was amazing.  I'd like to tell you all about it, how precious the time together was, and how poignant our sense of loss to not be able to share it with you.  True to the Bruce way, we were not able any of us to be open with each other or the public about how much we missed having you in our midst.  Not with our words, anyway.  But at times I looked around and every moment seemed to be a silent testament to who you have been in each of our lives. Particular moments at the Vaughn's lovely farm when I looked around and just felt, how do i say it, an indescribable type of -- full.  I still see the crisp details in those moments but in time, they will fade to a sensation I will always carry with me.  I've only had a few of them in my life.  I'm glad this day created them, because every year your son and his wife celebrate their marriage, I'll be reminded to ponder these moments.

We're at the Vaughn's lovely farm. Country music floating in the air, Charlyn's famous barbeque served by the best caterer a lifetime of friendships can find.  The not-so-random random silverware gingerly washed, wrapped, and stacked. Abundance of wildflowers everywhere, lush green grass, moist air how is it not hot in Virginia in July?, constant summer sheen on my desert-adapted face.  The biggest picnic table, a relic of Georgia days lovingly re-purposed by David and Daniel just for this event.  Filled with the people who knew you, lived years on end with you as a part of each day, can't believe we're all here together and doing this thing without you here to substantiate it but sucking in the presence of kin.  Kids -- your grandkids, alongside Vince Baker's grandkids, can you imagine that! -- fishing off the pier and taking paddle boats around the lake.  Tables adorned with arrangements that your daughter, daughter-in-law, son-in-law (Darren with floral tape! I could not have been more proud), brother, brother-in-law, sister and sister-in-law created with precision and care (and speed!).  Amazing toasts by your sons (their voices project as well as yours!), dancing father daughter mother son, cake cut by your four foot sword, Daniel in your mess dress. photo of you centered amongst the story of your son.   Laughter, joy, swollen tears.  We would have spoken of you to strangers, but it would have been impossible to put you into words.  But you must know, Dad, that you were present in our every motion of love toward each other.  As family, we were Phil Bruce personified: humble and warm, optimistic and innocent, with more than a whisper of Grandpa's dignity and grace.

On to more mundane things.  There's a mouse in our house who won't die.  He actually escaped out of the trap a few nights ago, I kid you not.  He comes out at night to check out our latest fruit and crumb supply.  After escaping with the bait cheese in paw several nights in a row, we're laying in bed and the horrific SNAP sounds and immediately I feel sick. Tim goes to check on the situation, comes soberly in and says "it won't be long now"  (well felt like that -- I think it was more precisely "i'm going to wait about 15 minute before going back to get him" -- later he tells me his chest was still rising and falling underneath the bar!)  and a few more moments pass.  let me tell you how awful it feels for any little creature under your roof to be breathing his last! And then all of a sudden there is this HORRIFIC racket....I feel like I screamed but I hope I wasn't girly about it -- tim rushes out to see what happened and he sees the bugger scampering away and back up the wall and into his hole.  No kidding.  And according to Tim, he was walking with his head held high.  So go figure, I suppose it's time to hire an engineer to build a better mousetrap.

I only bring up the mouse in this moment because I just heard a small racket in the kitchen and I know too much.  No need to go check it out.  I refuse to get any more attached to this crazy creature.  My respect for his survival skills is already through the roof; I don't need to see how cute he is, to boot!  As it is, I refuse to let Tim try again until I am away for the weekend.

Back to my thoughts before the noise..The Vaughn Bruce nuptuals.  Well I know in five years I will wish I would have written down every last detail -- just like I already wish I had documented every word of the autopsy doctor's meeting with us -- but I think I've probably opened myself up as far as I can go in one night.  I hate to admit it, but it is still a bit painful to come here and talk directly to you.  I have to stop and be willing to open myself up to the pain of remembering, and then going to bed the next day to wake up and continue my efforts to live well, without you.  it feels like a release of control that's not in a good way.  Or at least it's in a way that feels confusing, and not possible to assure timely re-containment.  But it would be worse to believe that I didn't have the courage, or the heart.

But once I'm here and settled in, I love it.  I love having a place where I can go to give my heart that extra room to expand.  And I love that it brings me closer to my memories of you.  It reminds me of the times when I would have you all to myself for a few minutes as a kid, in the garage, on a bike with you running beside, or the couple of times we had a meal out just the two of us.  Where people are welcome to listen in to whatever lively conversation we're having, ponder the problems we're solving, but your attention is fully engaged in our dialog.  It was a wonderful way to grow up, to have parts of your dad that you didn't have to share with the Big People.

Much love always,
thank you for being my center.

your daughter

p.s. we love our new dogs.  they've breathed youth and vitality back to a house that had been ailing for awhile.  RIP dear Roxy and Dixie.  You did right by us for many years!!!!   xoxo

p.p.s.  i think i'm going to ask Daniel to help me switch up the photos here.  I'm done seeing you as you were in your final days.  perhaps that's what's causing some of the pain!  I'm ready to see the dad that i knew for the bulk of my life.  it's time to re-balance the scales and weight them as they existed in real time.  your amazing traits carried you through to the end and someday i will be ready to see images that take me back to those deep and precious times together. but for now....bring on the bikes and birthdays and sofa cozies while the books were being read! xoxoxox


  1. Mission accomplished, changed the layout of the photos. Thanks for posting and keeping up with your blogging, something I haven't done. I jumped on Blogger to see if my work was still here, if Google had deleted the blogger app yet, and saw your post ... inspiring to say the least.

    Happened to read my posts from three years ago, and they're kind of inspiring as well ... a lot has happened with all of us over the past years.

    Love you sis! You're an amazing writer!

  2. hey brother, how fun to catch each other here, by happenstance! as unfancy as blogspot feels, it sure is reliable. soo glad your writings still exist. i loved reading your musings. perhaps you have insights to share again now that you are exploring whole new realms of life.

    as totally happy as we are for you in all your new exploits....we sure miss having you around! but truly we have already packed in more sibling memories in these past six or seven years than most enjoy in a lifetime. i feel lucky.


  3. p.s. thanks for the photo edits! much cozier now. hey i may have some to replace. will let you know.