On Monday night February 4th at 10:15 PM, my sister Ruth took her last breath on earth. A moment later she took her first breath of heaven. Paul wrote, “Absent from the body; present with the Lord.”
My four sisters and I had the privilege of having Ruth as the oldest of the Anderson children. Ruth was a superstar. It will be impossible to replace her. She lived with many trials, but she had unwavering faith. Karen agrees that she treated all of our children like they were champions. In fact, she was the champion. And it never seemed like she was pouring it on for any selfish reason. It was genuine and strong, yet without hype. We will miss the kind of encouragement that we were all used to getting from Ruth when she was well enough to give it. It also happened with almost every phone call. She was an expert at focusing upon other people. Though she struggled with many hardships, she lived an unselfish life. What a great older sister. Life could easily have been about Ruth and her woes. Once she was able to deal emotionally with a divorce that she didn’t plan or vote for, she chose to be a victor rather than a victim.
SHE TAUGHT US HOW TO SUFFERING.
We would visit Ruth, all twisted up in her body, but with a mind and heart still able to focus on others. Victims rehearse their life situation and feel compelled to tell you how bad the marriage is, the job, the church, the health. Ruth managed to focus on others in the midst of her pain.
Some people give those who make their life more difficult the power to make them miserable. We should never surrender that right to anyone. Sadly, people hate in order to get even, and it gives them stomach ulcers or migraines. Not Ruth. She knew how to live in a holy and healthy way, even with a debilitated body.
Victims feel entitled to a better life. Ruth wished for a better life, but she didn’t talk about it. Somewhere during every visit we would end up laughing. And Ruth had a great laugh. She could have been bitter; she was beautiful instead. She glorified God in the midst of her pain.
SHE TAUGHT US HOW TO DIE.
Jesus died forgiving his assailants. That was his first order of business from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When I came back to direct Lutheran Renewal, I started a prayer movement. Someone who had hurt Ruth deeply wanted to be involved. I chose to speak with Ruth about it first. I explained what I was preparing to do and asked if she felt okay with it. Here’s what she said: “Everyone is entitled to a second chance.” I marveled at her gracious response. She wasn’t holding onto bitterness. She lived well, loved well, and died to herself.
On one occasion as I was visiting Ruth, I rehearsed some of the hardships she had encountered. Then I asked her, “How do you deal with them all as you look back?” I was shocked at her answer–and deeply blessed. She said, “I don’t look back.” Thank you, Ruth, for teaching us how to live. We will see you soon!