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Sylvia Bogsch Rucker, 1943-2023

My wife Sylvia died on January 6, 2023. We had a memorial service for her at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Los Gatos on February 4. It was a beautiful service. At Sylvia’s request we draped her quilts over the pews. We had a  big crowd, over 130 people in the little church, everyone brimming with kind words about Sylvia. I was proud of her.

Our minister, Ricardo Avila, delivered a lovely homily, and my old friend Roger Shatzkin read a eulogy that I wrote. I knew I couldn’t deliver it myself, because I’d choke up.  I’ll reprint my eulogy below.

Sylvia was warm and approachable. A good listener, and a good speaker. On the day before my eighteenth birthday, I managed to sit down next to her on a bus, and my life was never the same. She was so cute and lively, so quick on the uptake, so charming. Nobody ever understood me as well as Sylvia, and I loved understanding her. She was the smartest person I ever met.

Our attraction was physical as well. She smelled wonderful. How I miss cuddling with her, and how I miss her voice. My favorite thing about going to church with Sylvia was to hear her next to me, singing the hymns. She liked to sing anytime: around the house, in the car, at birthdays. She organized cozy holidays for the family, always thinking ahead, always keeping an eye out for gifts and greeting cards.

Sometimes I’d look at her hands and think what the hands did for us. Loving pats and caresses, our clothes washed and smoothed, the great cooking, the sewing and knitting. Sylvia made us sweaters, hats, shirts, and dresses. Her hands organized the house, tended flowers, and set festive tables. Festive was a favorite word, festive and cozy.

Always Sylvia listened and understood. She had huge achievements, but she didn’t brag about them. She let you talk. Above all she talked to the children and grandchildren, treating them as real people, and taking them seriously.

In her role as a professor, Sylvia was a master performer, using those hands to mime the subtleties of the French and the English languages. She taught thousands of students in her ESL classes over the years, bringing them into the American culture and society. And as the chair of her ESL department, she brought peace and order, no mean feat.

Sylvia was was a brilliant artist. In earlier years she made subtly simple paintings, like the self-portrait shown above. Kind and generous as she was, Sylvia was also a committed feminist, and never to be steam-rollered or shouted down.

In her final decades Sylvia focused on quilting. More play for her hands, and for her eyes. For her memorial service we draped some of her quilts on the church pews, as she’d wished. They looked spectacular.

Sylvia’s eyes slayed me: dark and luminous, and the way she might roll them to one side. I always liked the letter V in the middle of her name, and I would say she was vibrant, vivid, and vivacious. Not to mention va-va-voom. Sylvia liked to have a good time. She’d arrange big get-togethers with laughing and jokes and everyone telling tales. And with Sylvia’s lively hands gesturing, expanding on her spoken words.

Did I mention Sylvia’s smile? I lived for that smile, we all did. The smile was warm and broad and kind. Luminous and radiant.

Two of the children and I were with Sylvia at the end. She was on a bed in our living room, eyes closed, breathing heavily. She didn’t want us to hover over her, and we sat on a couch across the room, distractedly leafing through one of the many family photo albums she’d made.

And then she was still. She slipped away, with our voices in the background. The sun came out for the first time in a week, and shone on her peaceful face. Like a saint in a stained glass window.

A beautiful life, a beautiful death.

Father Ricardo visited just then. And our third child arrived as well, with Sylvia’s spirit still in the room. Ricardo led us in a ceremony for the time of death.

Elegant and uplifting words, a well-worn rite for a huge upheaval. Religion helps.

After Ricardo left, the kids and I played Sylvia’s favorite music, swaying to the rhythms. “Graceland” and Mozart’s clarinet concerto. We sat with her all the afternoon. Ranged round her bed, we were the spokes, and she was, as always, the hub.

Later we went out to Sylvia’s favorite restaurant. Festive and cozy. But suffused with grief. No more mother, no more wife. It’s still sinking in.

Sylvia loved travel and excursions. And in her last weeks, on our outings, she kept saying the same thing. “The world is beautiful. The world is so beautiful.

And her very last words? “I love you.”

21 Responses to “Sylvia Bogsch Rucker, 1943-2023”

  1. Karen Barrett Says:

    Amazing and beautiful eulogy…my own words cannot do it justice…the last words I heard from the love of my life — I love you….will always be with me. KB in central Florida.

  2. Brian Eisley Says:

    A truly beautiful story. I’ve met you twice, and the first time was with her, at your art show years ago in SF. It was a pleasure. The two of you were (and remain) a lovely couple. My deepest condolences.

  3. David Hungerford Says:

    We must all leave. Along with sorrow let us celebrate her.

  4. Robert Silverberg Says:

    A beautiful eulogy. But unbearably sad.

  5. Paul Reiners Says:

    I never met your wife, although I did meet you briefly at a book signing.

    From the eulogy, I can see that you were truly blessed to have such a lovely wife.

  6. Jeanne VanBuren Says:

    Rudy, I’m tearfully sorry for your loss of this remarkably beautiful woman, your wife. Yours is a true love story.
    May Sylvia’s memory be for a blessing.

  7. Barry & Maureen Smythe Says:

    Beautiful words for a beautiful lady.
    Sincere condolences to you Rudy and your family at this sad time.
    May your wonderful memories of Sylvia sustain and comfort you.

    Barry & Maureen Smythe

  8. Sandra M.P. Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss., Rudy. This is a beautiful text, a celebration of a beautiful soul. It’s comforting to see what you were for each other.

  9. Anne Lutkus Says:

    Wow. Beautifully done. What a life. What a love.

  10. paradoctor Says:

    Thank you for posting this eulogy.

  11. Rob Lewine Says:

    A beautiful remembrance, Rudy.

  12. Vibhu Pratap Says:

    Twitter sent me here to read a heartfelt eulogy about a wonderful person who lived a fulfilling life. I hope you and your family find peace soon.

  13. Edie Streams Says:

    Such a beautiful eulogy. May the memories of your great love help sustain you in the years to come.

  14. Giulio Prisco Says:

    Dear Rudy, I’m so very sorry to read this. After reading about Sylvia in your posts and books, I feel I knew her and I feel a good friend is missing. She was a beautiful soul, and I hope the winds of whatever comes after this will be fair to her.

  15. Farideh Dormishian Says:

    Dear Professor Rucker,

    My condolences to you and your family. I remember how proud you were about your wife. You always mentioned her in class and we all knew how much you loved her. It was indeed a beautiful life and an exceptional eulogy. God give you and your family patient, strength, and courage to move forward and cope with this loss. God bless her beautiful soul.

  16. Richard Taylor Says:

    Dear Rudy,
    Thank you for sharing this and the pictures. I’ve only met you once, at a book signing, but I’ve been a fan of you and your books since Software.
    How sweet that your best friend left with those final words of, “I love you.”
    I, a child of 1943, lost my best friend who smiled as she went.

  17. Eileen Gunn Says:

    That is a simple and beautiful celebration of Sylvia, Rudy. Simple in its complexity and its directness. I’m sure she would have loved it, and would have smiled her glorious smile, like sunshine in June. Photographs of Sylvia always make me happy. ––Eileen

  18. Diane Johansen Says:

    Hi Rudy,
    I loved Sylvia. She was always so warm and welcoming whenever I ran into you two on your walks. I was lucky to be in your home and see her artistic touch on everything in it. I loved her quilts too. May she rest in Peace.

  19. Chad William Irvine Says:

    Beautifully Written with such heart, soul, tenderness, and LOVE. My deepest condolences to you and your family. I wish you peace, comfort, bravery, and plenty of love in this time of sadness.

    (I am a High School friend of your daughter Isabel)

  20. Andrew U Baker Says:

    I never got to meet her, but through your writing I almost feel like I have met her. We are all distributed life boxes.

  21. Mike Travers Says:

    Rudy, what a beautiful eulogy. I think I met Sylvia exactly once, at the PKD conference ten years ago, but I remember her warmth. May she and your love live on in memory.

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