Heaven is more than merely not being Hell. Heaven is our return to The Garden from whence we came. Our brother Keith, Cathedral Latin School Class 1970, has now crossed over the plain wooden bridge from the past to the perpetual present time.


The Cathedral Latin School, 1966-1970, home and Catholic seminary to myself, Keith C. Bruce and a few dozen other humble lads thinking then to wear God’s Cloth.  Keith has today gone home from this, our frenetic past, across the wooden bridge to perpetual present to be with God forever in His Garden.  Brother Keith, beyond dispute, is now at peace, as, in that Garden, there is only peace to be found.  Amen.  Requiescat in pace.

The Wanderer


Johnny Cash


I went out walking through streets paved with gold
Lifted some stones, saw the skin and bones
Of a city without a soul
I went out walking under an atomic sky
Where the ground won’t turn and the rain it burns
Like the tears when I said goodbye.

Yeah, I went with nothing, nothing but the thought of you.
I went wandering.

I went drifting through the capitals of tin
Where men can’t walk or freely talk
And sons turn their fathers in.
I stopped outside a church house
Where the citizens like to sit.
They say they want the kingdom
But they don’t want God in it.

I went out riding down that old eight-lane
I passed a thousand signs looking for my own name.
I went with nothing but the thought you’d be there too,
Looking for you.

I went out there in search of experience
To taste and to touch and to feel as much
As a man can before he repents.

I went out searching, looking for one good man
A spirit who would not bend or break
Who would sit at his father’s right hand.
I went out walking with a bible and a gun
The word of God lay heavy on my heart
I was sure I was the one.

Now Jesus, don’t you wait up, Jesus I’ll be home soon.
Yeah, I went out for the papers, told her I’d be back by noon.
Yeah, I left with nothing but the thought you’d be there too
Looking for you.

Yeah, I went with nothing, nothing but the thought of you.
I went wandering.



Today, in daydream, I returned to The Cathedral Latin School of 1966.  This dream, I am quite certain, occasioned in the unconscious by remembrance of a seminary classmate, Keith, who last night crossed his final wooden bridge in the transitory past of this life into the perpetual present of The Garden.

There are those, I think especially those who become, what is called sometimes today, accomplished at some level in life, who shed memories of their upbringing and schooling in their later years as a snake does his skin.  At Washington, this self-re-invention is the city’s principal pastime.  On the other hand, there are those, I think especially those who accomplish nothing in later life, who elevate their schooling and early upbringing to a level of sentimentalism and romance that it can’t possibly deserve.

I belong to that second set.

The Cathedral Latin School, viewed with an eye unclouded, was simply a school which, when I attended it appeared, to myself, my faculty, my contemporaries and my classmates, as holding no discernible interest or meaning to me at all. Now, in my gray years, my school has taken on the luster of the most important and formative time and memory of my life.

I have long thought that obituaries ought to be far longer than they are.  After all, they are the summing up of a life and are, usually, disrespectfully terse.  I can’t think why the news of Keith’s death made me reflect back to those much more simpler times.  Not, more innocent; simpler.  Perhaps the passage of years has made me more acute to the coming end of all of us.  It is far more likely that I am simply an old fool.  I suppose everyone remembers his formative years as having been somewhat important and looks back upon them in a manner sentimental.  I am perhaps more taken up by such sentimental memories of fresh-faced youth than are others of my class.  Or, then, maybe I am not.  Time plays clever tricks on us all.

Ours was a class of thirty boys of many sorts of backgrounds.  Some of us were orphan lads and charity cases made wards of the Church, others sons of policemen, postmen, government men of various levels, a few sons of lawyers and medical men, a fewer still of, comparatively rich, businessmen, all again of varying levels but set most in the middle social rankings.  In the main, we were of American middle class backgrounds of no particular consequence.

The concept of Cathedral Schools is an ancient and, arguably, antique, vanity of Mother Church. The great Cathedrals of Europe, and her later colonies, all had schools appending to train young lads to be priests for the Diocese.  Many still do.  In keeping with that practice, the idea and purpose of our Cathedral Latin School was to produce priests for the Archdiocese of Washington.

Our boys themselves grew up to become men of different lines, in the main like their fathers and, like those fathers, of little particular note in the sense that society makes note of men’s lives.  Some of us have remained remarkably close-knit, a rare occurrence today.  Rarer still, when one reflects on the accidental connections that threw us together in the first place in summer of 1966.  The world was all afire but of course none of us fully understood what that meant.  There was a war on; there were racialist demonstrations, hippies, bohemians and still odder sorts right in our laps.

Cathedral Latin was but a few blocks from DuPont Circle, then all ablaze with the cries of sundry revolutions.  We spent our summer of 1966 at Georgetown University reading Latin grammar in preparation for reading the very same thing, all over again, in the fall, in our first semester.   I remember this with alacrity because I was the only one to ever fail Latin grammar in both venues.

Keith, in contrast, was a stand-out student who was at, or near, the top of our class throughout our time at school.  I remember his being quiet, studious, friendly, devout and helpful.  And never, noticeably, mean.  In all such he was my antithesis.  I used to joke that we balanced one another out in some odd, moral ledger.

The first day of seminary we were informed that “there is no new sin, so put aside pretense of invention.”  All sin, we were told, is either direct or derivative of acts committed just outside the gates of The Garden from which man was unceremoniously booted for having displeased Our Father.  That is likely the most memorable academic  admonition I took from school, as I have lived my life trying so very hard to disprove this maxim.  I have failed.  There is no new sin. I’ve searched high and low for it.

As it was the singular lesson I took from my years at school, learned very first day, very first hour, the notion of sin and the notion of the deprivation of The Garden, has been the only persistent, lasting, intellectual interest of my life.

From that first lesson, I have taken simply this: all of what is called our temporal life, is a hurried past.  In that past, all our stumbling, rambling, strident searching for power, rapacious grasping for gold and glory are merely misguided, invariably errant, attempts to enter once again into The Garden.

Throughout our lives, we cross many bridges.  These lead us to those things we like to imagine will be The Garden, but of course they never are.  We are told when young “do not burn your bridges.”  But of course, we must burn them and I, having learned the only lesson of consequence my very first day at school, have deliberately set afire and burnt down every bridge I have walked across.  This I have done not simply to be naughty, but to remind myself and to caution my contemporaries that the bridges we cross in life, with their gaudy advertisements of fame, gold, power, social prestige and happiness, are all futile illusions.

After crossing over the bridges of temporal temptation which always leave us dissatisfied, we come in the end to a very simple, wooden bridge, devoid of gold and glitter and harmless of appearance.  This we walk across, quietly, without trumpets or illusion of any triumph or glory.  When we have crossed over this simple wooden bridge at the end of the turbulent past of our temporal life, we have entered The Garden and the perpetual present.  There awaits Our Father and His perfect peace.

It is over that simple wooden bridge from our earthly past to the perpetual present of life with Our Father in His Garden that our Brother Keith has now crossed.  We not only wish him well, we cannot but envy him his happiness in that perfect place.



2 thoughts on “Heaven is more than merely not being Hell. Heaven is our return to The Garden from whence we came. Our brother Keith, Cathedral Latin School Class 1970, has now crossed over the plain wooden bridge from the past to the perpetual present time.

    • thanks, dan–it is a hard time–and what hit me was that keith died after brain surgery–which i had in january–and it hit me just yesterday that i never once even entertained the possibility that i might die–strange because it certainly is a dangerous business–john

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