I have a lot of things to do around here to help out in the aftermath of Ruthie’s passing, so blogging will have to be light for the next day or so. Here is something I found on my old Beliefnet blog archives, posted less than a week after Ruthie’s diagnosis. Old readers may recall it, but I have lots of new readers now. I hope it’s profitable to you.
In February of last year, a week after my sister was diagnosed with lung cancer, a reader of one of my blog posts about it left this comment:
Dear Ruthie and Mr Mike, I was your nurse for only 12 hours. I had six other patients that night, but you were the only one who smiled through tears after having received the worst news. I googled your name in hopes to find your address so that I could write you and I happened upon this site. I can see now that its not just my life you that you have touched in just a few short hours. I have been a nurse for more than two years and I have to say I have seen some things. Good and bad. You and your story will be one that will not be forgotten. I will always keep you and your outlook close to my heart. I kept asking myself that night Why God? Why does the worst always have to happen to those who are truly good?
I’ve always questioned God’s intentions and my faith, especially in my line of work…and here you are asking your daughters not to be angry at Him. You’re an amazing woman. You’ll never know how deep that question has struck the chords of my own heart. Ruthie, meeting you and seeing your heart was the miracle I needed to remember to trust God and live life instead of being bitter. You reminded me that God is like the wind. You cannot see it but you can feel it and you know He is there. I do not have the right words, I do not know the best doctor or the right treatment….this is the part of my job that frustrates me…all options are exhausted and I feel my hands are tied. All i can do is pray and I will pray for you and family. I only pray that the Lord God will give you the miracle you need. -crystal renfroe
I asked my readers to:
please keep praying for Ruthie Leming and her family, and please, please, please, on this day — do not wait — be reconciled to your God and to your neighbor. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. Be good. We don’t know, and we can never really know, how much a single act of bravery, of kindness, of mercy, can do for others in need. We who know Ruthie are now seeing the truth of what St. Seraphim of Sarov once advised: “Acquire the Holy Spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.”
Today, in the aftermath of Ruthie’s death and burial, this counsel seems even more sound than it did then. Along with my family, I’ve spent the last few days hearing from hundreds of people who have told us what a difference Ruthie’s goodness made in their lives. Going back through my writing from early in Ruthie’s cancer fight, I found an anecdote Ruthie told me back then. Her husband Mike had run into a man in the post office in town. The man told Mike how sorry he was for Ruthie’s cancer, but that reading about her heroic response to the news, he did something he hadn’t been able to do in years.
Ruthie died last week at home, from what her doctors believe was a pulmonary embolism. It was violent, but mercifully quick. It was the only episode during this entire ordeal in which her peaceful spirit was unable to overcome the violence being done to her body by cancer. Nevertheless, the legacy of Ruthie’s witness brings to mind these words of St. Therese of Lisieux, who became one of the greatest saints of all time by living simply and purely for Christ and others. This benediction of the Little Flower’s could have been written by Ruthie, of her own experience:
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
This is the testimony of Ruthie’s life, and this is the testimony of her death. This is her gift to me, to all who knew her, and to all who have learned about her. The peace she had is there for each and every one of us, if only we have the faith to let it settle into our bones.