Past Times Present

It has been a year, and I am missing my friend Bruce La Rochelle. He died one year ago today of smoking related cancer. We never did say goodbye.

Bruce was the one who encouraged me to start this blog. I had been a somewhat regular contributor to his. He chose not to tell me of his illness, probably thinking I didn’t need to know since I was in Germany, not in Ottawa. That decision frustrated me, but I understand. I can’t see myself doing the same thing if circumstances were reversed, but I understand his decision.

Looking at his final blog posts I can see he was pondering his mortality. When I read them at the time it didn’t seem that unusual – he was always interested in legacy, always aware of the fragility of this life.

In a way I met Bruce thanks to my employer, Member of Parliament Peter Goldring. Bruce was my predecessor in the job, and on my first day of work when I fired up my computer I found that a good chunk of Bruce’s life was on that hard drive. There were pictures and personal correspondence mixed in with the business items. Looking at the material, I knew the only right thing to do was to get it to him.

Bruce had left the job abruptly. On a bad day Goldring had dismissed his entire staff. Bruce had not been given time to clean up his computer.

It is easy to find people on the Internet. I sent an email, arranged a time and dropped by his office with a CD of his personal files. We talked for an hour, maybe more. It was an instant friendship, and we would meet a few times a year for the next decade.

Bruce had no hard feelings over his dismissal. He knew the temperament of the man he was working for and took it in stride. He was a wealth of information, all of which he volunteered, which made my life easier for the next decade.

We discovered a share d love of music, especially some rather obscure Canadian music. He was a frequent contributor to Wikipedia, a member of CARAS, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. We went to concerts and films together, shared meals and talk a lot of politics.

He was a man of contrasts, obviously on the autistic spectrum, capable of fierce loyalty and utterly devoted to his family. He worked long hours and multiple jobs, wanting to leave a legacy for his handicapped daughters.

I’m told by a mutual friend that Bruce found out about three weeks before his death that he was terminally ill. If I had been in Ottawa I am sure he would have told me.

He and I had had long talks about faith and Jesus. A lapsed Catholic, Bruce was uncertain he could be good enough to be a Christian. My hope is that before the end he finally understood my point – none of us is good enough, and Jesus accepts us anyway.

I miss Bruce. I miss seeing his blog every day, even if at times I didn’t like his prose style and his penchant for posting YouTube videos without much commentary. (I rarely watch videos – it is a time thing. I never have any) I miss his frequent emails commenting on what you read here. He would agree, argue, suggest further avenues too explore.

When we get older it is more difficult to make good friends. Someone like Bruce was a treasure, and I wish I had told him that. It never occurred to me we wouldn’t have many more good times together.

I am grateful that I was able to call Bruce La Rochelle my friend.  I do miss him.

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