Bruce Conley and I played â€œTapsâ€ together for over 25 years on Memorial Day in Elburn. We rarely planned before the ceremony. We both just showed up and played our parts.
Bruce and I could usually see each other across the cemetery. We would simply nod at each other and begin. I would play first and then Bruce would play the haunting â€œecho.â€
The last year we played together, I didn’t see Bruce standing in his usual spot. I remember thinking to myself, â€œI wonder if Bruce is here?â€
I played the first three notes and waited. Sure enough, Bruce’s sparkling trumpet answered mine.
Bruce had decided to play from a concealed spot that year, but he didn’t bother to tell me in advance. Bruce’s â€œechoâ€ was hidden from the crowd, and the effect was mesmerizing.
It was also a moment of profound surprise and reassurance to me. I couldn’t see Bruce, but he still was there.
As I pen this now, I think Bruce had a greater plan in mind for me that day. He was preparing me for the time that he wouldn’t be there, and letting me know that I could always find him in the invisible.
I haven’t been playing my trumpet as much as I used to, but I treasure the memories of playing â€œTapsâ€ together with Bruce. And, I will always hear Bruce playing â€œechoâ€ in my mind.
Dr. Jim Willey