I was extremely honored to be asked to give Bruce Grice’s eulogy and make a tribute to him on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. This is the manuscript…
Good morning, everyone! Thank you again for being here. Your presence is a testimony to Bruce’s far reaching, kingdom impact. I know your presence means the world to the family. As a minister here at West Side it means a great deal to me to know that there are other churches in our city, in our state, and beyond that are bathing us in prayer. Thank you.
Where do you begin when you tell the life story of a truly great man? In Bruce’s case, I’d like to begin and end in the same place…the pages of Scripture. Not only has Bruce been teaching us God’s word for a long time, but he’s been living it out in front of us.
When I use the word great for Bruce, I mean it in the truest sense of the word. Often, greatness is applied to political leaders, athletes, entertainers, high achievers, movers and shakers, and other public figures. But, Bruce was great by Jesus’ standard of greatness. Listen to Jesus’ words from Matthew 23:1-12…
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
If the greatest among you is your servant as Jesus says, then we’ve all witnessed greatness in Bruce. He was the epitome of a servant. But, you had to be watching closely to catch true greatness because there’s not one ounce of pretentiousness, pomp, or circumstance in a person who is truly great like Bruce. That’s the essence of his greatness. You had to be watching closely to catch it. I consider it one of the greatest blessings of my life to have been able to watch him so closely. It is my honor to be able to share his life story with you.
Bruce died Sunday, June 29, 2014 at Arkansas Hospice River Valley Home in Russellville. The son of Don and Frances Doepel Grice, he was born April 27, 1963 in Temple, Texas.
During the past week I’ve been privileged to spend some time visiting with Mr. and Mrs. Grice. One of the most remarkable things Bruce’s dad told us what that he never heard Bruce say a word that dishonored God. Think about how incredible that statement is. If I didn’t know Bruce, it would be unbelievable. From encouraging his parents to realizing his desire to serve in ministry, Bruce showed amazing character from a young age.
He was a member of the Class of 1981 at McClellan High School in Little Rock, received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Bible in 1985 at Harding University in Searcy, graduating Summa Cum Laude, and his Masters of Divinity from the Harding Graduate School of Religion in 1989 where he received honorable mention for the Jack P Lewis Ministry of Study Award.
One of Bruce’s hallmark characteristics is his humility. Jim Bob Humphrey put it well on Sunday night when he said, “Bruce was so humble he didn’t even know he was humble.” The fact that he graduated from Harding Graduate School with an Mdiv, an 86 hour degree, with a 4.0, and received honorable mention for the Ministry of Study Award is remarkable. Even more remarkable is the fact that so few people know about this accomplishment because of his humility.
Bruce and Mary were married on June 29, 1991 in North Little Rock.
I loved seeing the picture of Bruce and Mary walking up the aisle at Somers Ave Church after saying their vows. I also love the way Mary speaks of Bruce with such fondness. That speaks volumes about the authenticity of his character. Many of us have grown accustomed to Mary referring to Bruce as “Brucey.”
I was privileged to witness a special moment on Sunday, Bruce and Mary’s wedding anniversary. During the night, one of the nurses trimmed Bruce’s beard. He wasn’t very responsive in his last few days but as Mary ran her hands across Bruce’s fresh shave, he looked her in the eyes and gave her a big smile. It was an incredible moment that said so much to me about their love, commitment, and faithfulness toward one another.
Bruce worked for the God of Heaven and Earth. He served as Youth Minister with Somers Avenue Church of Christ in North Little Rock from 1984-1994. In 1994, the family moved to Russellville where he began serving as Youth Minister with the West Side Church of Christ. Since beginning his work with West Side, Bruce has also served as associate minister, and most recently as pulpit minister beginning in 2010.
How could anyone begin to sum up everything Bruce has meant to us at West Side? He has comforted us, counseled us, taught us, and so much more. I realize that whatever I say about Bruce’s time at West Side, I won’t be doing it justice. But, the thing that comes to mind first for me is Bruce’s gift for comforting hurting people. I’ve said it before, and I believe it’s one of the highest compliments I can pay, but if I were in a crises there’s no one I’d rather have in the room than Bruce. Anyone here who was visited in the hospital, comforted after losing a loved one, or consoled during a personal or family crises by Bruce will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Bruce exuded compassion. A few years ago during a difficult season for our family, Katie told Mary that she loved one of Bruce’s sermons. When Mary told Bruce about Katie’s compliment he said something along the lines of, “I had them in mind as I was preparing that one.” I’m sure there are countless stories like this one that many of you have that illustrate the love and compassion with which Bruce did his work.
Bruce volunteered for The Center for the Arts at Russellville High School and he enjoyed golf and fishing.
Not included in the obituary is the fact that Bruce served as Santa Clause at the Pope County Library. A few years ago we took Eden to see Santa at the library and when we got in the car afterwards she said, “I knew it was Mr. Bruce the whole time.” This again captures the essence of Bruce’s greatness and Christ-likeness. He loved children and frequently found ways to serve them. When Bruce and Mary would come to our house or we would go to theirs, Bruce would end up sitting in the floor with Eden, on eye level with her, fulling engaged in whatever she wanted to play. In March Bruce and Mary took Eden on a day trip to the Little Rock Zoo. This was just another facet of his ministry to our family here at West Side. He was part children’s minister, part counselor, part preacher…you name it, he did it.
Bruce is survived by his wife of 23 years, Mary; 2 children, Erin and Brandon, both of Russellville; parents, Don and Frances Grice, of Fruitland Park, Florida; sister, Melissa Danford and her husband, Lonney, of Fruitland Park, Florida; 3 nephews, Joshua Danford, Jason Burt, Zac Smith; and 1 niece, Jenifer Burt.
During this incredibly sad time, the past week has been filled with tremendous blessings. On Tuesday, the ministers gathered with Bruce to pray, sing, and read Scripture. We went in hopes of blessing Bruce but it felt like we walked away with the blessing. Mary said he hadn’t been able to speak in complete sentences for several days leading up to last Tuesday. But, when we sang many of those songs, Bruce was singing with us. One moment was especially meaningful to me. We sang “He leadeth Me” and Bruce sang the line, “Even death’s cold wave I will not flee since God through Jordan leadeth me.” It was powerful. It occurred to me later that Bruce was still teaching us in his subtle, humble, yet great way. He was teaching us how to die…faithful to the end. He truly finished well and that’s something we all can aspire to.
One of the many things I learned from Bruce is the importance of saying “Thank you.” He was always quick to thank anyone who did something for him. I remember him thanking our shepherds on numerous occasions for serving in their roles and he frequently thanked them for their service, especially through difficult seasons of leadership.
With that in mind, I’ll take the liberty of speaking on Bruce’s behalf. I think it’s incredibly meaningful that our shepherds here at West Side are serving as pall bearers today. Whether you’re a part of our family at West Side or not, it’s important to me that you know what this says about our shepherds. Even to the very end they will love you and serve you. They have your best interest at heart. Today, they will carry Bruce’s body off the battlefield as one last act of love and service to our minister. If he could, I have no doubt, Bruce would say “thank you.” So, I’ll say it for him. Thank you for loving, serving, and leading.
I realize it may seem strange to end Bruce’s life story with a thank you for someone else. But, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute. Bruce epitomized service and humility. He would no doubt look on this scene and find a way to lift someone else up. That was the Bruce way. This is subtle so be careful not to miss it. That’s exactly what made him so great…because “the greatest among you will be your servant.”