The following was written by Will McDougal, who is Harriet's son and Robert Jordan's step-son. He was kind enough to share these experiences with us.
Thank you for all your support. James Oliver Rigney was a remarkable man. I am proud to have known him, to have been raised by him and to know him as a father.
I wrote the following 2 days after he passed away. It seemed to me that some readers might like to know some of the following. Thanks again for your support.
The death of Jim is undeniable. His absence is undeniable.
His presence is absent from my life like a mountain might be over time, but with Jim, it was in three hours.
I arrived 10am, my cousin Mary somehow pulled strings at airport. She was able to park Jim's car at the curb of the terminal building and then get to the gate to meet me so that we could get to the hospital as quickly as possible.
I took turns with others and sat with him on and off for 4 or 5 hours. He was incapable of speech. Somehow he had developed a fever but it was unclear what the reason was. They gave him every test to determine the reason. Tom Jones called. I put him on speakerfone and held the phone to Jim's ear. TJ told him that he loved him and wished he was there. Jim definitely responded as though he recognized Tom's voice. He smiled and closed his eyes, and I think he felt Tom's love.
This fever, on top of myriad critical breakdowns, was killing him. Occasionally, he trembled as though extremely alarmed. I think he was having nightmares.
I kept wiping his forehead with a damp cool towel. I held his hand. I encouraged him to rest easy. I told him I loved him.
In a little while his breathing began to slow.
There were many of us there, his family. Only two people were allowed at a time as visitors to see him. Will [Wilson] and my mother were with Jim - I had been asleep in the waiting room. They woke and got me. He had died.
His breathing had kept slowing. He had begun to die and he did die very peacefully. His breathing simply stopped.
It was obvious when I saw his body. He was gone. This tremendous man had moved on. I knew that this body on the bed had been Jim. I knew that the fire which moved him, which was Jim, was no longer in that body.
I knew that the loss of the fire of his life was who I mourned. His presence. His force.
What a wild ! and ferocious spirit. What a fire.
James Oliver Rigney was a great man of mind and heart. He loved learning and he loved spinning yarns. He was extremely playful and would become a cast of different characters. He occasionally became the character of the drunken Irish butler who was contractually bound to live under the stairs. The one who had to confess he had been watering the whisky, but only moderately, and never on the Sabbath. He had an immaculate Irish accent. His singing voice was beautiful. He loved to sing sea-chantys and anything else. He sang loud and strong and clear. On holidays and dinner parties he would sing for hours.
He was a very funny man. And what I think I loved most about his sense of humor was how funny He thought his jokes were. Not that he was a bad joke teller! He could spin some of the most absurd stories, which might begin quite casually and matter-of-factly. Upon delivery of the punch line or if he realized that my adolescent gullibility had waned, sometimes his face would turn bright red and he would laugh intensely, and silently, as though the mirth in it, if given voice, would knock out the walls of the house. His belly bouncing.
He would tell me the sad stories of the Nauga. I was 11 or 12. He spoke about "the huge numbers of those doomed rodents – all slaughtered to make so many couches and chairs." That was a perennial favorite of his. Explaining where naugahyde came from. That, and his suggestions that the "barrel-method" was optimal for rearing children. "It's quite simple, you see. You deposit the child in the barrel when he remains, if a boy, until his 35th birthday." She-children, of course, released upon their 18th birthday. He used to smoke a custom blend of tobacco in a pipe, one of hundreds of pipes he had collected. He was clear with his strategy for health as a result of smoking. "You see," he began, "I intend to become as though a creosote log, coated in tar and hence impregnable to nature's wear and tear." In short he would finish that of this he "was certain." Under the brim of his dark fedora I could see the light in his eye and it was a playful light. I can see him now. I love you Jim.