By Greg Price
Taber lost a good man on Halloween as Bruce Webster eventually lost his battle to colon cancer.
It was a reminder for me, that even in illness and his years of battling his cancer, there is that assumption that there is always tomorrow.
Case in point: Bruce’s wife Karen calling me in distress about Bruce’s condition in which he was told he has weeks to live. I had known of Bruce’s struggles, but had no idea it had progressed to that. I had seen how Bruce’s cancer had taken a toll on his body as I saw him in public in southern Alberta, but he never let on how much it had truly progressed. That was Bruce, forever the optimist despite his love of politics, a world that can be drenched in cynicism. Karen asked if I could help craft his obituary with the help of family and Bruce himself if he had the strength.
Battling a slight case of the flu which had been making its rounds in Taber, it was agreed upon that I would wait a couple of days so as to not expose Bruce in his weakened state. A Sunday morning appointment was agreed upon in Bruce’s palliative care room at the Taber hospital.
I would not be able to fulfill that appointment as Bruce would pass away the previous day.
Reconnecting with his family that weekend over phone, I had no idea the impact I had on Bruce’s life in our brief time together, and going to his funeral, seeing how many lives he had touched.
But, maybe because it was Bruce’s unassuming, introverted nature — to a degree.
As is a quite regular portion of my life, I attend Wing Wednesday where in earlier years before Bruce’s battle with cancer, he would be there with beer in hand at the bar, keeping to himself in his quiet, reserved way. Purchasing a libation myself, I would at times sit next to him and wax sentimental about the political landscape be it local, provincial, national or international. While quite quiet before, a sly smile would emerge and a twinkle in his eye would become quite prevalent as we would talk about the ‘monkeyshines’ that were going on in the political arena.
Soon a couple of other regulars would saddle up to the bar and join in on the conversation.
As an avid reader of the local paper, Bruce would every once in awhile grace me with a phone call and inquire about some insights when some of your more ‘juicier’ stories would come up. Most recently in this calendar year was the controversial Community Standards bylaw when Bruce penned a quite eloquent Letter to the Editor back in March entitled ‘Taber isn’t Pyongyang East yet.’
The world of politics and his dry wit would seem to go hand in hand as our political conversations were never combative, despite being on the opposite end of issues at times. His analytical mind was a sharp one given his post secondary education at the University of Lethbridge, University of Alberta and Ajou University in South Korea. Bruce’s thirst for knowledge and enlightenment was so strong, even despite fighting his cancer, Bruce managed to receive a Bachelor of Applied International Business and Supply Chain Management Degree from Mount Royal University.
And maybe that is the case with more introverted people, if you take the time to unearth a couple of those top layers, you see something a little more rare than in your extroverts. I learned he called his grandson Monkeyshines affectionately. Using that term, you know he loved his grandson as much as he did his politics.
He took his democratic duty so seriously, he phoned me in lessened strength, complaining about how he was getting the run-around as he tried to vote in this past federal election from his hospital bed.
Webster would not be denied as the staunch Conservative supporter (that’s at least what his family told me, I will always talk politics, but prefer not to reveal exactly who I vote for and never expect anyone else to do the same), got his vote in.
His inspiration to democracy from his hospital bed rallied his daughter Danielle to vote for the very first time this year in her life as well, something that gave him strength in his final days.
But that’s what love and inspiration does, it moves you beyond things of the everyday.
Both in small and big ways, Bruce inspired those around him in his quiet and reserved ways, until he let loose with what he was truly passionate about, which added more strength in its delivery.
And maybe that is the connection Bruce felt to me that I did not know he had, where I was honoured to have his family request that I be a pall bearer.
In the end, all we have are the things we are passionate about, so you might as well chase those things with all your heart. It was quite evident Bruce’s family, his friends and his politics were close to his heart.
RIP Bruce, hopefully there is a Wing Wednesday up there in heaven and there’s someone you can talk to about the NDP provincial government, Liberal federal government, and their ‘monkeyshines.’