I just returned from the bank. Why the bank, on a Sunday? Because people have been asking us to set up an account for Ruthie’s three children, and a dear family friend who works at the bank insisted on coming in on Sunday afternoon to set it up, so folks coming to the visitation tonight can know about it.

Can you believe how kind people are? Anyway, the account is set up now. If you wish to donate, please write to:

Leming Children’s Fund

c/o Bank of St. Francisville

5700 Commerce St.

St. Francisville, LA 70775

This morning I dashed down to St. Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Church in Baton Rouge for liturgy. Father Mark Christian announced that Ruthie Leming, who had been on their prayer list for the last year and a half, had just reposed. They sang “Memory Eternal” for Ruthie, whom none of them had ever met (Fr. Mark came to the hospital the day after Ruthie was diagnosed, after I called him, but when he got there, doctors had taken her away to start immediate radiation therapy for lesions on her brain). I was not expecting that this morning, and had to fight back tears.

My mother received a phone call yesterday from a young man in Houston. “You don’t know me, Mrs. Dreher, but Ruthie was my sixth grade teacher,” he began. As Mama related the story, I remembered well this child. Ten or 15 years ago, Ruthie told me she had a brilliant little boy in her class, but he was picked on all the time for this and that thing. She could tell he was hurting, and she was determined to help him. She asked me for some advice. I never did hear how it turned out.

Now I know. This young man told my mother that he’s doing very well for himself. “Everything I am today, I owe it all to Mrs. Leming,” he said.

Yesterday my mom’s friend took her out for a ride, to get away from the hubbub around here. They stopped at the Sonic Drive-In for a Coke. The girl who brought their drinks to the car said, “Are you Mrs. Leming’s mom?” — and then started talking about how Ruthie had been her teacher, and all the wonderful things Ruthie had done for her. A man sitting in his car next to theirs, eating his burger, overheard this and said, “You’re Ruthie Leming’s mother? She taught my children.” And off he went, talking about what a difference Ruthie made in his children’s lives.

This keeps happening. This morning, I was talking on Mike and Ruthie’s front porch with one of our Texas family members. We were talking about how Ruthie had this uncanny ability to be patient with people. J. said that once he was talking with Ruthie about a problem he was having with a difficult person, and she counseled him to be kind. “She said, ‘You just don’t know the circumstances they’re in,'” said J.

Judge not, lest ye be judged. I believe I’ve heard that somewhere before.

It occurs to me as I think about the things I’ve been writing about Ruthie that she must sound like some sort of plaster saint. Not so. She was good, but she was not goody-goody. She was so modest and unshowy in her love for others that it was easy to overlook. And there was nothing prissy about her. They’re over at Mike’s place now trying to find one of his favorite pictures of her, taken a few years ago, in which she’s standing inside the barn wearing an LSU sweatshirt, barefoot and covered in blood, skinning a buck Mike had killed. Ruthie was country, for sure. She was the homecoming queen and the valedictorian of her class, but she also liked to come home from school, put on camouflage, and go sit in the tree stand at the back of our place, with her shotgun.

We were laughing over how once, in high school, she went to a Hank Williams Jr. concert in Baton Rouge — she was a big Bocephus fan — took off her bra and threw it onto the stage. Hank hung it from his guitar neck. I don’t know how that got back to Mama and Daddy, but they weren’t pleased. That was Ruthie, though. I imagine we’ll be listening to a lot of Hank, Jr., at the post-burial gathering at Mel Percy’s house. Dare I say it? It’s a family tradition.

Remember, West Feliciana folks: Visitation tonight at the Methodist Church from 5 till 8, followed by all-night vigil. Visitation resumes at 10 in the morning, with funeral at 1pm. Burial in Starhill Cemetery, followed by a party to celebrate Ruthie’s life at Mel and Tori Percy’s place on Audubon Lane.

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