Serious Business

Tale of the Suit

Circa 1930/ Miami, FL

Richard Franklin Bruce has died of bronchiaxis in 1930. Only 42 years old, he leaves behind his pregnant wife Lelah, two daughters and a 6-year old son, William Michael.

Throughout his adolescence, the neighborhood women will tell the boy "No matter how smart (or good-looking, or clever) you get little Billy Bruce, you'll never be as smart (or good-looking or clever) as your Daddy was!"

The Wake for Richard is being held in the Bruce's simple home (as is customary in the era) near downtown Miami. With the casket present in the candlelit parlor, a family friend leans down and whispers to the boy "Billy, you have to become the man of the family you understand?"

The six year old boy goes into his father's room and returns to the parlor as quickly as he can. He's taken scissors to the pant legs of Richard's best suit of clothes, and cut them down to his length. Nearly tripping on the oversized pants as he walks, coattail dragging across the room, the small boy takes his first steps to become the Man of the Family.

Tale of the Stolen Bike

Circa Early 1930's/ Miami, FL

Billy loves his bike, and in this era of the Great Depression, they are prized possessions. He runs outside on an errand to find his bike is gone...Stolen! Stricken, the little boy searches high and low for his lost transportation. Spotting a slightly older, larger kid riding down the street, Billy recognizes his bike. He knows the neighborhood beat cop, alerts him, and the offending kid is arrested that day.

Time passes and Billy must attend a court hearing to testify in the case. He sees the thief and can't wait for justice to be served. The 'low-life' deserves whatever punishment he gets! After all, Billy, not yet a teenager, uses his bike to help his mother support the family by delivering newspapers and running grocery errands, and to get to and from school...Lock him up and throw away the key is Billy's attitude.

The defendant is called before the bench. He slowly tells the judge and courtroom about his life...his parents abandoned money...always in trouble...practically friends, no clothes, no schooling...and on and on...

By this time, Billy Bruce is almost in tears himself and thinks, "Holy smoke, just give the poor kid the bike and let him go...he needs it A LOT more than I do!"

Tale of the Empty Seat

Circa Late 1940's/ Post WWII

Bill Bruce has a private pilot's license and a date. He's going to demonstrate his aerial prowess to a cute young gal and maybe a little romantic prowess; the flight is a sunrise celebration.

In the still-dark morning, Bill goes through his pre-flight prep, his mind distracted with thoughts of the damsel. The sun arrives on time, but the object of Bill's affection does not.

Bill decides to take the two-seat plane up for a solo spin, to get in needed hours. He buckles himself in and launches into the morning light. He pulls back on the stick during take-off and gains elevation. As Bill reaches proper altitude, he pushes the stick forward to level off, but it doesn't budge. He pushes harder... he shoves it forcefully...damn it, it won't move forward! The plane is getting close to an engine stall as it stays in full-climb mode. Unless he can level off, a crash is certain. Within moments, Bill is drenched in sweat, trying to muscle the stick forward, but it won't relent.

Bill thinks, well, Thank You God, that the young lady isn't here for this; he glances over to her empty seat on his right.

Then he sees it. In a lax pre-flight preparation (never to be repeated, he would assure you), Bill forgot to unbuckle the passenger's seatbelt. It's always pre-positioned before flight wrapped around the co-pilot stick, to keep flaps down while parked on the runway. Now the safety belt itself is restraining the forward movement of his pilot's stick. Heck, if the gal had joined him, she would've prevented this by occupying the seat!

Bill yanks his pilot stick all the way back into his lap and with his right hand quickly unbuckles the adjacent belt. Finally able to jam the stick forward, he regains control of the plane just moments before a fatal engine stall.

Tale of the Unbeating Heart

Circa 1954/ Miami, FL

Thirty years old and married to Bonita, Bill has just undergone removal of most of his ulcerated stomach. The surgery is the first of its kind in Florida, and experimental. It means, if he survives, he'll have crippling digestive problems the rest of his life. His surgeon, Doctor Toth, advises the very athletic Bruce that after surgery he'll need to find a sedentary occupation for the balance of his life...maybe a watchmaker?

Post-surgery, a nurse monitors the unconscious patient's vitals, when Bill Bruce's heart stops beating, and the monitor goes into flat-line. She calls out in urgency, "Doctor...!" There's a rush of medical personnel entering the ICU room, to try and save the patient.

The next day, Bruce thanks the nurse for her quick thinking care, and saving his life. She says "You've been unconscious the whole time; you couldn't have known what we did!"

Bill then tells her what he's seen. When his heart stopped beating, he experienced a warm and comforting sense of peace, and he began floating above his body, up near the ceiling. He describes a light he was drawn to, and wondered what was all the fuss below...he was fine. Why was everyone so distraught over him? He then told her in great detail, "You were over there in that corner...Dr. Toth came in from the opposite door...the technicians stood assisted with that equipment..."

When Bill told the story to you, you couldn't doubt it. When asked about his faith years later, he said, "Well, let's put it this way...I never felt alone."

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