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The last conversation

The last time I talked to my sister was Monday night. We discussed a problem she was having with a businessman who was supposed to perform a service for her, but who was reneging on the deal. He never finished the job, and was not overeager to come finish the work. It had become a big issue. There she was, dying a little bit more each day, and they couldn’t get this jackass to do what he was contracted to do, to bring her a little bit of comfort in her final days.

I told her I wanted to get involved on her behalf, and suggested some ways I could force this cretin to honor his obligations.

“No, don’t do that,” she said. “That wouldn’t be the Christian way to handle it.”

“But he’s cheating you!” I said.

“I’ll figure it out. Just don’t do that.”

So that’s why I’m not going to post the name of this jerk: because she  more or less asked me not to.

I bring this up, though, because it illuminates something about my sister. She was so willing to accept hardship, even injustice, without complaining. That was her way. Me, I’d be raising hell about that guy — and I’m sure Ruthie’s husband wanted to, but she stayed his hand, I’m betting. It wasn’t that she feared making a scene. It was that she didn’t see the point in it.

For that matter, I’d have been raging inside over the fact that I was dying with cancer at age 42. Not her. She told me on Monday that she was “feeling pretty good.” That wasn’t true. Mom told me she was in a lot of pain these last few days, and trying hard not to show it. She didn’t want people to know how much she was suffering, because that would be burdensome for them. That was Ruthie: chin up, never complain, refuse anger, always forgive, be grateful for everything, try to ease the burden of others.

She thought I was rash, and too quick to anger, and too easily upset by the ways of the world. And she was right.

I’m telling you, if that girl’s not in paradise now, nobody is.

Over the course of her cancer journey, there were times I would say to my mother or my father, “Why is she that way? I don’t get it.” And I didn’t. It made no sense to me that she told her oncologist at the outset not to give her detailed information about her cancer, just to tell her what to do and she’d do it. Why wouldn’t you want to know what was happening to you? I asked Ruthie that. Her answer was that having that information didn’t make her any more likely to live longer, and if anything would only make her worry and undermine her will to resist. She had complete faith in her doctors, and in the will of God. She thought she would get better, but she was perfectly prepared for this not to be true. Ruthie believed God had a plan for her, and though it might not be the plan she wanted, it was not to her to question, but rather to continue being kind and faithful and hopeful no matter what.

This was her hope: first, that she would beat this cancer, but if that wasn’t to be — and I believe she knew that the odds for surviving lung cancer are very long — that her life and death will have had meaning.

Anyway, look: if you have an obligation to somebody else, through your business, or among friends and family, and you’ve been putting it off, please just do the right thing and take care of it. You never know.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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