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Opinion | My Unlikely Friendship With Ruth Bader Ginsburg

She was a friend in all seasons, and I would forget who she was, because she would remind me that friendship mattered most. When she first met my fiancée, after knowing me as a single person for 15 years, she looked at me and said, “It’s about time!”

When the pandemic forced a postponement of the wedding where she was to be a reader, she offered to marry us quietly in her apartment so that we could get on with our lives and celebrate later. She even shared with us a draft of how she planned to personalize the civil service of union. After we had quarantined ourselves for a month, the quiet ceremony was scheduled for last Friday. But two days earlier we had learned that she needed to reschedule.

We clung to the hope that someday soon Justice Ginsburg would be able to unite us in matrimony. Needless to say, the news of her death, on the very day of the planned ceremony, devastated us. To have a Supreme Court justice marry you is one thing, but to lose a friend is everything. Later that night, I made reference in my diary to what Wordsworth refers to as “Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”

People often asked both of us how we became friends. Last December, at dinner one evening she succinctly replied: “A common love for ideas, for music. It was really the Goldberg Variations that brought us together.”

When I listen to Bach’s marvelous, deeply stirring music, I am reminded that in all of these variations — all this flux of life, especially in the inner ups and downs — there is an exquisite order I can actually experience, which is so beautiful that it must be real. In that one piece of music, so beautiful and complex, both she and I discovered that these Variations had become a fixture in our lives.

On the night of her death, like thousands of others, my fiancée, Hannah, and I visited the Supreme Court. We climbed those marbled steps of majesty, and at the great bronze doors we left a single white rose. As I held Hannah’s hand, I remembered the love of Marty and Ruth and imagined my new beginning with Hannah. Then we came home and put on the Goldberg Variations.

Eric L. Motley is the executive vice president of the Aspen Institute.

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