Bruce Lee Edwards, Jr.
5 September 1952 ~ 28 October 2015
On Wednesday, October 28, 2015, my best friend, Bruce Edwards, died while he and his wife were visiting friends in Houston, Texas. The shock and dismay caused by his death, sudden as it was, saddens my heart still these two weeks on. In time, the shock and dismay will lessen. Certainly this is the prayer and hope of his wife and children. More certain to last is the enduring memory of Bruce as a husband captivated by his wife, Joan; an affectionate father who lavished love and praise upon his children, their spouses; an unbashful, doting grandfather.
The last time I saw Bruce was December 2012. I drove him from Bowling Green, Ohio to Detroit Metro Airport. He boarded a plane that would take him to Alaska and his beloved Joan. On the way we talked about our continuing our friendship. We wept as we discussed our mutual love of Jesus and baseball. At the airport we cried like children leaving their mothers to endure their first day of school. We hugged each other. We said, “I love you,” (for background read the chapter on Phileo in C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves). We promised to visit. We promised to stay in touch. Texting was our primary means of communication. Most of our texts were exchanged while watching baseball in the summer and football in the fall. To the outsider most of what we said was coded silliness. For Bruce and me it was fellowship: a kinship grown deep despite the distance.
The last time I spoke with Bruce was October 19, 2015. Jill and I had just moved into our new home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We spoke for 53 minutes. We talked about transitioning to life on “the Cape.” We talked baseball. We talked football. He wished us well in our new church. We wept. We said, “I love.” Plans were made to visit him and Joan in Alaska next summer. When there, we would make plans for Bruce to come to the Cape in the Fall to lead a seminar on C.S. Lewis. We envisioned a future built on plans to visit and time spent together. A week later, Joan sent us a text, “Call me.” We did and then we learned the tragic news. Bruce had passed. Our friend, my best friend, my brother from another mother has passed from the Shadowlands into the Real World. He was gone from our presence. Jill and I wept bitter tears at the news.
In many ways, Bruce was closer to me than my own brother. My biggest regret is that twelve years is too short a time to have known him. And yet, in those twelve years, the Lord forged a bond of friendship between us so strong, not even death itself can sever it.
Bruce and I bonded over a common love of Jesus Christ. This common love of Jesus spilled over into love for our families. Bruce’s love of Jesus is evident through his love for Joan, for his children and his grandchildren. Here is a man unashamed and unapologetic to express his love and pride in his wife and family. Read his Facebook posts, his blog entries, listen to his podcasts and you will hear a man captivated by his wife, enthralled with his children and delighting in his grandchildren.
Bruce and I bonded over a mutual love of baseball. In some ways, loving – not merely liking baseball – was a litmus test for Bruce. To be an adherent of Reformed theology was good. To like C.S. Lewis was good. To enjoy a good craft beer was also good. And yet, for Bruce that list is not complete – you were not complete as a person, if not a Christian (forgive the hyperbole) – unless you possessed an ardent love of baseball. [Side note: Bruce, was born in Akron, Ohio. He was a lifelong, longsuffering Cleveland Indians fan. I am from Long Island, New York, and a lifelong New York Yankees fan. Despite this, we became fast friends!]
Bruce and I also bonded over words. Bruce was a superb writer. He loved to play with words – especially obscure words. The more obscure the better. He also liked using Latin phrases. The first memo he sent me after I became pastor of Covenant Church was entitled In Media Res. He would later translate this for me as In the Middle of Things. (Even now, this strikes me as appropriate. Bruce was always in media res.) Given his love of obscure words, Bruce would often dare me to use them in a sermon. In fact, as I wrote this, I could sense him saying, “I dare you to use in media res and hyperbole in your eulogy.” So there you are Bruce! As obsequious as it seems you are ubiquitous even in your absence.
Bruce also owned an impish sense of humor. Like Mal Reynolds, he aimed to misbehave. Never to be crass, nor be rebellious. It was Bruce’s way of prodding you to seeing things along the beam not merely at what the beam revealed. For example, Bruce led a brief series of monthly services titled, Phlashlight which he promoted as decidedly seeker un-friendly. (Why was it spelled with a Ph? Because according to Bruce, “The Goths and the post-moderns really dig that stuff.”) Bruce practiced a witty irreverence which he wasn’t afraid to use. He was mischievous anarchist against the status quo. This result of this irreverence formed the foundation of another bond: beer, and in particular obscure craft beer. I never knew anyone with such an avid interest in little known, obscure, craft beer. If you knew Bruce, you learned to appreciate, and imbibe beer. Never to excess, but always to enhance.
Finally, there is Bruce’s love of C.S. Lewis. A few years ago, Bruce – a renowned C.S. Lewis scholar was kind enough to ask me, an amateur Lewis fan, to contribute an article on The Four Loves to be included in a four-volume set he edited on Lewis’s life and legacy. It was not very good, but you would never know from Bruce. He always saw and always aimed to bring out the best in people, especially when it concerned C.S. Lewis. Without apology, Bruce was an evangelist for C.S. Lewis. The man’s car bore a license plate reading Narnia 1. His blog and an email handle are Aslandad. In fact, reading Bruce is a lot like reading Lewis. There is a connection there which is the fruit of a lifelong study of Lewis and his works. When I think of Bruce, I think of C.S. Lewis. And when I think of C.S. Lewis, I think of The Chronicles of Narnia.
At the end of The Last Battle, the last book in Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan informs Lucy, that she, her brother and her parents were all in a real railway accident: “Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
A few lines down, Lewis finishes with this: “All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (228)
With great sadness, I must reckon with the reality that my friend, Bruce, is – as we call it in the Shadowlands – dead. And I miss him – very much. I mourn his passing and grieve his absence. Even so, in this is comfort: for Bruce, the term is ended. The holidays have begun. He has begun Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.
Oh how I look forward to the day when we will read the Great Story together.