Have you ever known a person who meant a lot to you, but you really didn’t realize how much until they were no longer there?
I’m sure it’s that way with most of us. It’s human nature to take people and things for granted. We have this idea that they’ll always be there.
Her name was Ruth. I always called her Sister Ruth though since in my church we call each other “Brother” and “Sister” since we consider ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ. As a child, I was actually rather scared of Sister Ruth. She came across as rather stern to me. I found out as I grew older that behind what seemed like a stern exterior was a very caring and sweet heart.
She was quite a storyteller too. She told us several stories about her parents and her grandparents who had farms on the plains of West Texas. She talked about her family and was just talented in sucking you into her story and making you laugh or think how interesting it was. I really wish we had written down the stories she told us sitting at the table at church or when we went to visit her. The phrase that peppered these stories and every conversation we had with her was “and everything”. When there was a lull in conversation or just to end a sentence, you would hear Sister Ruth’s “and everything”. Mom used to give us stern looks when as children we’d start to get tickled at a string of several “and everything’s” in one sentence.
“If I call you ‘kid’, it means I like you.”
This was addressed to one of my brothers at church one day and made both of us laugh. She had worked for years and years in the cafeteria of the local school district, so she had been around a lot of kids during those years. This term of endearment was used with my brothers and me and later my nieces and nephews. “Hey, Kid, what do you know this week?” she asked my little nephew a few months ago which was answered with a mischievous grin from my nephew. Yes, he probably knew plenty he wasn’t going to tell her.
She was an amazing cook too. She found out very quickly my love for fried okra and black-eyed peas. When she could, she’d bring both to church and tell me to take all the leftovers home to eat on that week. In fact, the Sunday before I left for my first semester long adventure in France, she made me swear over my okra that I wasn’t going to bring back a Frenchman. Yes, she made suggestions in this area of my life too though never in a matchmaking sense. She simply told me to get my education first. When I came close to graduating with my B.A., she then gave me permission to begin looking although she did qualify who I was to be looking for: “Now, remember, he has to be from Texas and not just any part of Texas. He needs to be from West Texas.” We all laughed about this.
There was more to Sister Ruth though than just being a good cook and a good storyteller. She had a heart. I was told by others about how she helped them so much in dire need and would hardly accept a thank you or any sort of monetary compensation. She saw a need and she helped. She didn’t see a need for recognition or for a thanks. She worked hard all her life and helped where she could. Actually, if she had known I was going to write this, she probably would have tanned my hide so to speak or have threatened to never make fried okra again.
There is a hole at church now. I no longer hear her singing to herself as she does the dishes to help clean up. I no longer go up teasingly and ask to borrow some of her dishwater to wipe down tables. She no longer sits in her usual chair at the table. Her pew is empty. Her voice and her laugh are gone.
I know she’s gone. I saw her briefly a few days before the Lord took her home. She was in a lot pain and quite miserable. However, now she has victory. Her soul is at peace with our Heavenly Father.
Another dear saint said to me the day before she passed away earlier this year “I’ll see you at Jesus’ feet.” I feel the same way about Sister Ruth. I’ll see her again at Jesus’ feet, and what a day that will be!