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Her husband died in a tragic accident. Today, she met the woman who received his gift of life.

Published: May. 20, 2021 at 11:36 PM HST|Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 11:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - On May 20, 2018, Brian Bugge ― a Navy officer, husband, father and avid scuba diver ― died in a tragic accident at Kewalo Basin.

He forgot to turn on his oxygen tank, lost consciousness and died.

His widow, Ashley, wrote a book about their love and her loss. She also created a blog about the challenges she’s faced, raising their three young children alone while trying to keep his memory alive.

“I want to still talk about Brian. I still want to talk about the man that he was and what he contributed to this world, and how much the world is at a loss because he’s not here anymore,” she said.

Ashley is a also a certified scuba diver. On the anniversary of her husband’s death, she dives on the living reef memorial that holds his ashes. That’s where she feels closest to him.

“It’s very near the place where he took his last breath,” she said. “It’s a place that he and I learned to dive, where we first dove together. So it’s very special.”

Also special was the fact that Brian was an organ donor. A few months after his accident, Alissa Evans, a marathon runner and a single mom herself suffered a serious knee injury.

Brian’s tissue donation enabled her to run again.

“I will never take for granted what he gave to me,” she said.

Through Legacy of Life Hawaii, the women exchanged letters and grew to know each other from a distance ― Ashley in Oregon and Alissa in Nebraska.

Ashley recalls getting that first letter and seeing the handwritten line, “From Your Grateful Recipient.”

“To have a tangible representation of my husband now in my hands, meaning that he had gone on to help somebody else, was just unreal,” she said.

Through their letter exchanges, Alissa learned about Brian.

“I found out then that he climbed mountains, and he ran, and he was a scuba diver, and he was an avid adventurous person. Both of our world’s collided,” she said.

On Thursday, the women met for the first time face-to-face at Kewalo Basin. They hugged and cried and talked about how Brian touched both of them.

“It’s been three years today and I still get so emotional thinking about him,” Ashley said, choking back tears.

Alissa wanted to do something special for Ashley. She received her scuba certification so she could accompany her to Brian’s memorial and say thank you.

“I’m so grateful that I get to do this for her,” she said.

Ashley said as much as it hurts to say it, her husband is gone. But because he chose to be an organ donor, a part of him lives on in Alissa.

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