Bruce Rouse

Back from Austin, and two days with the Rouse family and all his friends. As I mentioned at the end of last month’s blog, Bruce’s family asked me to be a part of the leadership for his memorial service, something I considered a great, if unwanted, honor…

Logistically, it was a little bit difficult to get it all together, since there were three folk singers, and four speakers that had been asked to participate. The singers were three of folk’s greatest: Cate Campbell, Allan Shamblin, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Everyone was incredibly accomodatingwith their time, to make it all come together.

One speaker was a coworker of Bruce’s of 30 years, who talked about his worklife. Two more were house concert folks who have started their own series’ because of Bruce’s support and mentoring.
The last speaker was Nancy Hafner. Many folks probably don’t realize that the Hafer’s and the Rouse’s have known each other since their kids were born….they pretty much grew up theirfamilies together.

Several of you have asked about the two poems that I shared at the funeral. So, here they are. The first is by a woman named Joyce Grenfell. I don’t know anything about her, nor do I remember where I first found this poem:

“Life Goes On
If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower
Nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I am gone
Speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves
That I have known
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So …. sing as well
Joyce Grenfell 1910-1979″

The second poem was from Henry Scott Holland, who at one time was the Canon of St. Paul’s Catheral, over a hundred years ago now. Interestingly, Meg Hoke told me she has this poem up on the wall in her office.

“All Is Well
Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It it the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Henry Scott Holland”

After the service, everyone adjourned to Live Oak Unitarian Church, home of the Live Oak series. There dozens and dozens of songwriters performed through the evening. Bruce’s son-in-law, Lindsey Lee, mceed for the night. There was a documentary film that had been made about the Rouses’ last year which got shown. It was actually a little shocking to see Bruce’s face…but after the initial shock, it was nice to hear him talking about house concerts.

But most of all, the evening was filled with music. Musican after musicians got up to do a song. The gathering went on for hours, but no one really paid notice of the time. As Lindsey said, it was like one big, extended “Songwriter Breakfast.” I did my song “The Natural Thing,” and I was really pleased to have all 200 folks singing along with the chorus.

What EVERYONE kept remembering about Bruce, besides the fact that he was a world-class wonderful guy, was what great hugs he gave. And, as if on cue, about halfway through the night, Todd Hoke showed up with these buttons.

During the memorial service in the afternoon, I shared some of my memories of Bruce.
Here’s a summary of my what I said:

To say that Bruce was a fan of folk music doesn’t do it justice. Bruce was a lover, friend, and servant to the folk music community. By email this week, TR Richie called Bruce and Liz “a sparkplug in the funky old folk music engine.” The “Rouse House” concert series he and Liz created was one of the most successful series in the country. They did not INVENT house concerts, but it could be argued that POPULARIZED them. They did ten shows a year for fourteen years. Liz estimates they lost about $100 bucks a show. You do the math.

But, of course, it never mattered. Because they were doing it for the love of the music, and the love of the musicians and fans who became their friends. Bruce and Liz held the “Songwriter Breakfasts” at their camp at Kerrville. (Where I first met them, and where they always graciously invited me to play&hellipWinking They organized an area there for the New Folk Finalists. They were inseparable partners….they were two parts of a whole. They loved to travel in their camper.

And if you had been to a folk festival that they hadn’t heard of, they would make you sit down, tell them all about it, because that might be a place that they’d like to visit one day.

Bruce and Liz met while dancing, and they danced their whole lives. It’s hard to find a man who was as admired and loved by so many.

One of the most important things we take from the death of the friend like Bruce is a question. The question is: “What it is about their life we want to immulate, and that we want to become?”
For me, the answer is: a kind, loving, and welcoming spirit….
In a Austin Stateman story this week, Christine Albert talked about the Rouse House series, and said: “They had not just rearranged their living room, they’d rearrainged their lives to do something they absolutely loved.”

Rearainge your life to do something you love….
Isn’t that a goal we can all take from Bruce’s life?
Bruce was only a find parent to his two daughters, but Bruce was a surrogate parent and mentor to hundreds of musicians and friends. He rearrainged his life for people.

I remember Bruce best from those Kerrville songwriter breakfasts he and Liz threw.
As a songwriter myself, Bruce and Liz would always graciously insist that I come and play a song. And what I remember about Bruce from those groggy and very hazy
mornings, where nobody had slept more than about three or four hours (at best) is that Bruce was always chipper and happy. He listened to ALL the songwriters..the good, the bad, and the ugly. (And, as you know, there IS sometimes, the ugly&hellipWinking He’d be standing at the back, offering you a fresh cup of coffee, or a butter-up bagel. And he’d give you a big hug too.

Although I’ve been to Kerrville for several years, my wife was a first timer last May. Neither Dennise nor I was real sure whether she was going to like Kerrvile or not. I was a little afraid that, with all my raving about it, the reality would seem far less to her than what I’d built it up to be. Turns out, she loved it. That first weekend we were there, we stumbled into the Songwriter Breakfast, and I introduced Dennise to Bruce. And Bruce immediately threw his arms around her, and gave her a HUGE hug, as if Dennise was some long-lost friend that had been found. I thought a lot about that this week, after I heard Bruce had died.

You may not, but I happen to believe in life that never ends. I happen to believe in a resurrection, although I can’t tell you what it’s like, really. But I know that just as the bluebonnets will soon be blooming again, here in the Hill Country, life somehow always comes back around and never really ends. And if there IS a kingdom of heaven out there somewhere, I like to imagine that it’s a LOT like a Rouse House gathering….
….there’s music
….there’s smiles
….there’s love and support…

And when we get there someday, Bruce will be there, waiting with buttered bagels, fresh coffee, and the big bear hug to welcome us home.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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