I had no intention of going. I didn’t really know the man all that well. Yet a voice in my head urged me to go anyway. So I went. I arrived at the San Juan Community Theatre six minutes late – only a fraction of a second in “island time” – and there was standing room only. How had one man moved so many island residents enough that they would attend his memorial celebration?
On stage, friends and family shared stories, sang songs, read poems, and performed one of his monologues. At one point, the house lights were turned up so that those standing or sitting in the aisles could find the few remaining seats.
It was probably the most diverse house our Community Theatre has seen in its twenty-five years of existence. There were young and old, male and female, actors and writers, admirers of his playwriting and metallurgy skills, and miscellaneous others who had interacted with the man throughout his years.
The theme that appeared over and over again throughout all these stories and tributes was that this had been an authentic person. He was comfortable in his own skin, he shared with others straight from his heart, he knew how to hug, and he was also good at using his middle finger. Everyone there had been touched in some way by the wisdom, candor, and encouragement that often came from somewhere beneath his curmudgeonly persona.
At the end of almost two hours of celebrating the life of Ernest Pugh, complete with a standing ovation, the theatre’s Artistic Director summed things up nicely by asking, “Is there a dry eye in the house?” Then everyone adjourned to the theatre lobby to raise a toast.
I have my own memories of Ernest. We had many discussions about the joy of editing and honing written pieces after the first draft is done. He also built a platform glider overlooking a garden to greet his partner upon her return from a long trip. And he always danced with abandon to the music at the County Fair. It is good to be reminded.
• How do you want people to remember you?
• Do you live an authentic life?
• Are you aware of the ways you impact other lives?
• What will you do differently this week?