A couple of years ago, at the first Walker Percy Weekend, Tracie Barnard and her husband came down from Tennessee for the event. They were fans of The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. I invited them to come over for a gumbo lunch at my house on that Saturday. They sat on the same front porch on the book’s cover with my folks, Mam and Paw, and talked. Tracie recalls that day in a very moving blog post paying tribute to my dad, who died last month. (See the post I wrote about the day of his death here). Excerpt from Tracie’s entry:
Paw was especially proud of Hannah, Ruthie and Mike’s eldest daughter, who was then backpacking through Europe. He told me I should look up her blog! He relaxed in his easy chair, reclined back. You could tell he had once been an invincible man of the land. Ruthie’s journey had taken its toll on him. His eyes were bright–but you could see his broken heart in them. He spoke sweetly, gently, of his girl. He said that he had read the book–Mam hadn’t made her way through as yet. What struck me is that some of the stories she told of Ruthie–her fishing excursion after her diagnosis, “the halo picture” (those of you have read the book know precisely of what I speak), Rod had shared in “The Little Way”. I listened, often laughing through teary-eyes. Mam, my friends, is a vibrant woman, full of fun and mischief. My kind of woman.
We shared bowls of gumbo, styrofoam cups of hospitality, and a heap of gratitude. We found the chance to tell them just how much this book had meant to us, to the cadre of friends with whom we had shared it (some of whom received it as a graduation gift!), and the impact of Ruthie’s life, her Way, had made on folks she never met. I could barely get the words out–and my dearest Philosopher paused, gathering himself, as he expressed his appreciation. As Rod helped his daddy out to the front porch (for his “smokes”), Mam said quietly, “Ray isn’t meant for this world much longer. A part of him died with Ruthie. I just pray that the Lord takes him quickly.”
We decided to take our leave, thanking our gracious hosts along the way. Rod hugged us and thanked us for spending time with his folks. Absolutely no thanks were necessary. My goodness. I was full–of nourishment undefinable. I asked Mam if we could take a picture on the rocking chair. And, she said, “Of course, Honey.” She sat, I knelt down beside her, both of us smiling–and “glistening” in the heat of the day. We hugged, I planted a little smooch on Paw’s rugged cheek, squeezed his hand, and thanked him quietly. So much like my Pop-Pop, ever the gentleman, he thanked us again for coming. And waved from his spot on the porch.
Oh my heart.
Read the whole thing. It got to me, I’ll tell you that. Thank you, Tracie. See you next week in Tennessee.