Nancy Bruce 1932 – 2007, at Stella Maris Church, Beaumaris,, 14 June 2007, Fr John Dupuche PP
We are all grieving. It seems impossible that Nancy should be dead. Her temperament seemed eternal. Yet now she has gone.
I first knew Nancy at Burwood, when Fr Barnett engaged her as a housekeeper. Together with Sister Pat De Coek we made a foursome and enjoyed the four or five years together immensely, for Nancy had the gift of making people feel comfortable.
When I was appointed to East Doncaster I asked her to come as housekeeper, which she did after a quick phone call to Tracey. She became a close friend of Olive who spent one year living in the presbytery till her new unit became available. It was at East Doncaster also that Nancy met Bev and Eileen, and what a trio they were, sparking off each other.
It was at East Doncaster that Nancy finally decided to request baptism, which I celebrated, plunging her head into the large earthenware pot three times then confirming her with the oil of chrism and sharing with her the Bread of Life. Nancy found consolation in her Christian faith.
There was a constant stream of visitors to see Nancy who sat in the kitchen and regaled people with her good nature. Humour is a sign of salvation; and leads to the perception of deeper things.
It was at East Doncaster also that Nancy began to become interested in the meeting of religious traditions. She had travelled often to the British Isles and to Scotland in particular where her late husband had family. In the early nineties she went on a parish pilgrimage, first to Calcutta then down in the south to the ashram at Shantivanam, then to Delhi, Agra and Varanasi. I remember vividly the occasion in Calcutta when we had taken the wrong train and found ourselves bound for Bangladesh. We got off the train. When I returned after finding out some information there was Nancy surround by a sea of dark faces and even darker hair. It was as though she had come from another planet. She regaled them with her words which no one understood. They laughed because she laughed. She was immensely happy to be with them in this most unusual situation.
She was a sort of mother figure and many parishioners came to her for words of wisdom and just to have someone to talk to. The various boarders in the house, Tony Duncan and my nephew Philip among others, had long chats with her.
She became involved in meditation and would tell me of her experiences which she noted down in a diary. She formed part of the East-West Meditation Foundation. Some of the members are here this morning: Charlotte Hain-Sharlow, Patricia Chaves and Gwenda Rait. We will spend a little time today in meditation in memory of her practice.
Nancy’s later years were dogged by illness. She damaged her leg in a car accident. The healing took a long time. She had retired to a unit in Elsternwick and was inevitably alone a lot of the time. In all the difficulties she never lost her equanimity and her sense of humour. She could say with St Paul, “I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists now, nothing still to come, not any power or height or depth … can every come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus.”
We are not here just to remember the good times. Nancy was capable of seeing the deeper side of things although she was not given to putting it into words. It is this deeper side of things that should be emphasised in particular.
Her death has come as a shock to us all and we feel lessened by it. This is the way she would have wanted to go. Apparently she did regain consciousness in the hospital and there were tears in her eyes. Were they tears of sorrow or tears of joy? Were they tears of sorrow at having to leave this life, which she enjoyed so much, or tears of joy at the sight of her children who were with her. We too feel a sorrow at her parting. We will miss her. Good bye Nancy. We shall see you gain, and then what stories we will tell. You can say those same words to us that Jesus said to his disciples when he was about to leave: “I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place I shall return to take you with me so that where I am you may be too.” Goodbye, till we meet again.