Bruce Ellavsky was my father in law. I say that with a lot of pride. I was writing this piece on Jan. 3rd, a few days ago. But, frankly could not finish writing that day. My sister in law had sent us an email about what that day had meant to her and I ached all over again for her and my husband.
January 3rd marked 5 years since my Father in Law's passing of stomach cancer. It all happened so fast. He was so young and so vibrant. Hard to believe that he is gone.
I cannot imagine how my husband or sister in law felt and still feel after losing a parent. I mean, we talk about it...but, I know how close I am to my parents...I just can't imagine.
Bruce had the same sense of humor that I really understood and got. He was a prankster. I remember his jokes so clearly. We didn't find it funny at the time. But, it is now. Bruce would call at the crack of dawn at our house and sounded the horn in the phone (not the real horn, but, his voice sounded like it!) and say "Time to get up you sleepy heads!!!" Sometimes, pots and pans would go with it. It scared the mess out of me every time that I picked up the phone. Because when I am asleep and the phone rings, I grab it so fast...so, I was usually the first one to get his lovely melody and then I would hand Blake the phone and we would both grumble like teenagers. You would think after every Saturday there was, I would learn not to pick up the phone. But, every Saturday, somehow...I would have amnesia and pick up the phone. Now, I wished that call still came every Saturday.
He did all sorts of pranks and stuff. The best one he did on me was when I was dating Blake and it was the first time meeting his Dad. I was so nervous, I almost threw up. We made it to their house above Boston and he had a big smile and greeted me into his home and I felt so comfortable. His soon to be wife was there and she was so friendly. I thought "hey...this is going to be easy". We stood around the kitchen and talked for a while and then we moved into the living area where the couches were. As I was walking to take my seat..I look down and see 2 FBI files on his coffee table. Both had my name on it. No one saw me noticing it yet. But, I instantly went red and I got nauseous and then he asked me to sit down. Everyone was so serious. He looked at me with a stone cold face and looked at the files on the table....he pointed at them, in fact poking them and said " I want you to tell me about these before we go any further". Did I forget to mention that Bruce was an FBI Special Agent... yea, I thought I left that part out.
I started to stutter and said "Sir, I don't know what you mean". He picked up one of the files and read off everywhere that I had gone to school and places I worked. In my head, I was looking around for the nearest exit and going home! :) I also was going through the index in my brain of all that I had done in my life. I mean, I know I was a wild child at times, but, I couldn't figure out what I did that could be on one of these files. I did not want to find out either :)
He pushed the folder back to me and told me to read the other file for myself. By this time, there is no color in my face and I wanted to punch Blake for not warning me. Everyone is still staring at me with hardcore faces. I opened up the next file and the top of the paper said "Wanted..Caroline Johnson for violation of (some code)." I looked at him again and said that I had no idea what was happening. He told me to turn the page. It was a picture of me from 4th or 5th grade with my bowl hair-do, my coke bottle glasses. And at the bottom of the page, it read "Caroline Johnson is in Violation of Code such and such" which meant "in possession of the largest eye glasses known to man. Capture her at will". I let out a large sigh and they all got up and hugged me and laughed...Bruce said "Gotcha!!" I needed a drink.
He was the life of the party. He never knew a stranger. Bruce could walk into a room and the place would light up and everyone would flock to him. I know that everyone knew him differently....as a father, friend or husband. But, I knew him as a kid, so much fun, loved life, and accepted me as just me. I grew to love that man and felt like he was a second father to me. He was an amazing grandfather to Sophia, and Maya even though that was brief. He was there when we went through everything with Maya. Meredith(Sister in Law) was pregnant with the first boy grand baby. She was able to tell him that before he passed.
November 2002, Blake got a call and it was his father. I never have seen Blake cry before. So, as he hung up the phone...I ran to him asking him what was wrong. I will never forget him telling me "He has Cancer"
December 2003, my sister in law called to ask us to come up early for Christmas because she didn't think their dad was going to make it much longer. We all went up and sat by his bedside at home. It was snowing and his whole family was there. Each day, one of us would sit with him.
At this point, he could still recognize people. When it was my turn, he sat up in bed and gave me a big bear hug. Then, he immediately put his head down and went to sleep. I sat next to him holding his hand and looking out the window and I saw the snow falling over this amazing lake. I told him how much he had meant to me and that he touched my life as well as our children. I told him thank you for having a son like Blake because he was the best thing that ever happened to me. I told him thank you too for the best Sister in Law anyone could have. I let him know that I was blessed to be in his life and that when he was ready...he could let go.
On January 3rd, 2004 Blake and I came into his room to tell him that we had to catch our flight at a certain time, but, promised to be back soon. We laid baby Maya next to him and she was in his arms asleep and Sophia was dancing around the downstairs. Everyone came in the room and told him that it was ok...he could let go and we loved him.
About an hour before we were to leave for the airport, Blake and I were both holding his hand, and Maya was still asleep in his arms. Sophia was downstairs. His breath started to become labored and we called for everyone to come in. He had his mother, his children, his wife and Matt and I (his son in law and me, his daughter in law). There was Sarah Mclachlan playing in the background ever so softly, the candle was shining bright in the window facing the lake. Snow fell so perfectly. We all huddled around him and hugged him as his breathing got more and more shallow. We all said we loved him and it was time for him to go home now. He sat straight up in bed and took a very deep breath. He laid his head back on the pillow. He was gone.
I can truly say that was the most peaceful experience that I had ever had. He left this earth with loved ones all around, music playing gently with the view of the snow and this gorgeous body of water that they lived across from. My husband and I looked at each other with our arms across him and Blake told me "He is with his dad now". The tears never stopped flowing.
The funeral service was packed from wall to wall and upstairs. So many of the FBI came, and all of his friends and family. I was in awe of how many people he touched.
He was a beautiful man. I was so sad that he never got to meet the rest of his grandchildren. But, I know he is watching over my niece and nephews and our little ones. He was way too young to leave..He was only 57.
Bruce did a lot in his career and frankly was so humble, you never would have known the things he accomplished. He was an artist, a writer (not many people knew that). He was an agent through and through. That was so much of his life and he was so loyal. I made a promise that I will tell his story of what he did in the 70's. He never would have told you this, because to him it was his job. But, Bruce and his partner were one of the first few to go undercover as an FBI agent against the Mafia. He had to live two identities during that period. That of a loving husband and father (the kids never knew what his job really was) and the false persona of a porn distributor. Because during that time, that is how the Mob made their money by funneling it through the porn industry and they owned the market. It made them money to get to where the real dirt was and that was money laundering, murder, massive ammunition...the list goes on. He busted a child pornography ring. He had no fear. No one knew what he had to go through...the subject was always about his partner who went "rogue".
I have been working on this screenplay for a while with all of his files and tapes from the investigation that went on for years. I will finish it and pray that it gets optioned. It will be dedicated to Bruce Ellavsky. And in my lifetime, I will have a foundation in his honor for FBI families and all they have to go through.
Bruce, thank you....for everything.