4:02 PM - MJ (1): Yesterday I received heart-shattering news. I learned that my first husband, Brian Rugh, passed away on Monday. Since then, I have thought of nothing else. At first, there were no words, just a deep, intense pain, and feelings of guilt – I could have done more. I should have done more. Why didn’t I do more?
4:02 PM - MJ (1): It’s been 24 hours now, and at last, the words have come. And there are so many. Where do I begin? I guess at the beginning. I met Brian when I was 19 years old, and he changed my life. I owe much of the person I am to him. I learned so much from Brian – so much that, even now, it’s hard to say what parts of my character remain untouched by him. But I think the greatest impact he had on me was to take my young, callow, sloppily-formed mind and teach it, develop it, and hone it. Brian John Rugh, you taught me how to think. You taught me to question everything, to accept no argument, no statement, without examining it first. You taught me to be suspicious of overly-emotional language, to hate the categorical, and to dig beneath the rhetoric to the true meaning. You taught me how to think, and by doing that, unlocked whole castles of understanding. Thank you.
4:02 PM - MJ (1): Those of you who knew him well knew that he had high, exacting standards of everyone, and not least himself. When you live with someone for so long, as I did, and love him, the way I did, you come to know them well. Very, very well. Brian and I were together for 10 years, married for 9 of them, and friends thereafter. Not a week went by after our divorce where we didn’t talk. Often about little things, but more about the big things we often discussed – politics, philosophy, literature, society, ideas. . . . One of Brian’s favorite quotes was from Eleanor Roosevelt (although he always attributed it to Einstein, whom he loved): “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” We always discussed the idea, the larger, driving force behind the events.
4:02 PM - MJ (1): What many probably do not know is that, because Brian had such high, exacting standards, he was filled with guilt, and shame. He believed he was capable of so much – and he was! – and that he was failing everyone, not the least himself, because he wasn’t achieving what he believed he should. Under that gentle, kind surface, was a deeply-introspective soul, one tortured by his perceived shortcomings. I have watched him throughout the years torment himself, and believe that he was a failure. He has lived in fear, his whole life, of not succeeding, not attaining the heights he believed he should.
4:02 PM - MJ (1): I loved him. I met Brian when I was a teenager, and I loved him more than I ever thought it possible to love someone. For years, the sun rose and set in Brian for me. I tried to make him see that the fear, the guilt, and the shame were unnecessary – that he was a wonderful person, a good man, with a good heart. It wasn’t enough.
4:02 PM - MJ (1): Everyone has described him as brilliant, and kind, and gentle, and quiet – and that was true. He was all those things. But he was more. He had subtly-wicked sense of humor, a sly thing that was never obvious, but always, when you saw the joke, hilarious. He was sensitive – so sensitive. He had so many tender ways about him, and loved the people in his life with great loyalty and intensity. If you were lucky enough to earn Brian’s love, you never lost it. He was passionate. So, so passionate – he believed the things he did with great depth and vehemence, and it was difficult to change his mind. He was thoughtful in the truest sense of the word – you could be certain that if Brian made a statement, he had thought it through as thoroughly as possible before speaking. He loved animals – our cats were as important to him as the people in his life. When Bun got sick, seven years ago, and the vets predicted that he had, at most, six months to live, Brian refused to accept that . . . and it is seven years later, and Bun is still alive. I never, never thought that our little warm, fuzzy bodies would outlive Brian.
4:02 PM - MJ (1): It is the cry of those left behind – why? What could we have done? How could you do this? Don’t you know that you were loved, that you were valued? Don’t you know that you were not as alone as you believed? Don’t you know that there is a hole in our lives that only you could ever fill, and that now that hole will always be there?
4:02 PM - MJ (1): I loved Brian. It didn’t matter that we were no longer married, and that we had fought, and that there were 3,000 miles between us. I loved him. And now he’s gone, and I don’t know what to do. The only thing I can think of is to cry for him, and to tell myself this: No more pain. No more fear. No more disappointment. No more anguish.
4:03 PM - MJ (1): Brian and I often talked of death, and of an afterlife. We even fashioned a meeting place in the afterlife. It’s the bubble tree. When we’re all gone, we’ll meet under the bubble tree, and everyone we love will be waiting for us there, to usher us into the afterlife. Everyone we’ve loved and lost will be there.
4:03 PM - MJ (1): So, Brian, I will see you under the bubble tree. And you had better be there, reading Schopenhauer or Aristotle or Vonnegut or even, God help me, George R.R. Martin, surrounded by Nard, Pea, Dax, George, Bun, and Princess. I will see you there, and we’ll pick up where we left off.
I love you.