I’ve found that sometimes, it’s easier to find the ‘right words’ when you’re writing rather than when you are speaking, and today, that’s me. People grieve in a variety of different ways, and though I am thankful to have had a certain degree of closure when I was able to say goodbye to Ruth before she passed away yesterday, I think it is okay to admit that grieving is still something I am doing, and I’m grateful that writing can be a way for me to do that, & process the loss of somebody as special to me as Ruth. Now that both Ruth and Gordon have left this temporary home on earth to go be with Jesus in heaven forever, I am finding myself grieving both the recent passing of Ruth, as well as no longer having Ruth or Gordon here with me, selfish as that may be. So in attempt to release some of the loss I am feeling, here below is just a small piece written about the huge impact that church grandparents, Gordon & Ruth, have had on my life forever.
I met Ruth and Gordon about 5 years ago one Sunday in church at Aldersgate. I was amazed & inspired by the both of them almost instantly, we quickly established quite a special relationship & it was not long at all before they began referring to me as their ‘church granddaughter,’ and them as my ‘church grandparents.’ I would sit with them each Sunday that we both could be there and we would plop ourselves down on either the far left of the sanctuary or towards the back in the center pews. Every Sunday I would see them coming out of the elevator and walking through the sanctuary doors and it would instantly bring a beaming smile to my face. Always in their Sunday best, they often (adorably) did their best to color coordinate their outfits so that they were matching to a certain extent. Ruth absolutely loved purple, and she loved wearing her hats & bonnets of all kinds & colors, so, you’d often find her sporting a purple dress or skirt and Gordon with a purple tie. They also had this great red, white, and black combo of outfits that they’d wear together, too. Man, they were so in love with one another, and oh how clear it was that this beautiful love came straight from God. Knowing them was a joy because the joy they carried in their hearts was more contagious than the flu, you all. They loved the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, & strength more so than anyone I have ever met before in my life. They both were in their 90s when they passed away, and all of those years were spent faithfully serving the Jesus Christ whom they are now rejoicing with in heaven. They could never not talk about the Lord and his goodness. His praise was always on their lips.
Ruth and I were frequent pen pals while I was away in college. She loved to write, and she sure was great at it (and yes, she was a published author!) She would always end her letters with one or two Bible verses that were always so fitting to either one or both of our situations. No matter what was going on, she would always end on such a positive note. We talked on the phone frequently as well; whenever I needed wisdom or encouragement, I’d find my little fingers scrolling to her name in my phone contacts — she was my go-to gal, and it will definitely be weird not having that anymore. When we did talk on the phone, we would never hang up without first praying. She typically would say the prayer, but once health issues began plaguing her, she would ask me to say the prayer, which I happily did. I think it takes courage to ask somebody to pray with/for you, and she eagerly asked when she needed prayer, which I admire immensely. Ruth and Gordon also never missed me preach, and if for whatever reason, they were unable to be there, they would hear it on recording, get a hold of the DVD, or get me to print them a copy of my sermon. I can’t begin to express in a blog post how much it meant to me to have their support & love during all my ministry endeavors, but it sure meant the world to me and then some, and gosh, I hope they knew that.
I remember sitting beside Ruth in the hospital after she had her first stroke — the stroke that basically marked the beginning of her health roller coaster. The doctor who had performed the operation on her after this stroke had come into her hospital room to talk to her about the procedure. The doctor told Ruth that the majority of people who have a stroke like the one she did, don’t survive. And Ruth’s response to that?
“Well, God isn’t done with me yet.”
Well, Ruth passed away yesterday and Gordon has been in heaven for over a year now and still, I do not think God is done with either of them. The impact that she and Gordon had on the lives of many, many people including myself still is very much alive. I will never forget it — any of it, even the parts that are difficult to remember & think of now that they are gone & I am missing them, because still, the impact is so great. They’re my role models, people I aspire to be like, my rocks. They were so very generous in sharing their wisdom, their time, their money, their love, their knowledge.
3 weeks ago, I visited Ruth in her home. During this visit, we chatted about life, about ministry, about my upcoming mission trip, about all kinds of things. She was weak, but she was responsive, and listened well, as I tried to do the same. This past Friday, I got home after a week out of town serving at a camp, and I received word that Ruth’s health had significantly declined and hospice predicted that her date to go be with the Lord would be probably 3 more days. So this past Saturday — 3 days before she passed away — I was able to visit her once more and say my “goodbyes” or rather, my “see you laters.” She was unresponsive at that point, but I like to think she knew I was there. My dad and I went together, and Ruth’s daughter was there, as was the angel of a woman who had taken such amazing care of both Ruth and Gordon during their health declines. During this last visit with Ruth, we sang some of her favorite hymns, and we talked to her and around her, acknowledging that she could hear us, or at least sense our presence there with her.
Yesterday afternoon we received the call that Ruth had gone to heaven to be with Jesus earlier that morning. When we got this call, my family had just finished packing up our car after a day at the beach. This news immediately sent me into tears I think because you can try to plan & prepare yourself for a loved ones death, but when you actually lose them, you find that it is a feeling nothing can truly prepare you for. But on my family’s drive back to the house after this, we saw a rainbow up in the sky, which we thought was our sweet Ruth saying to us, “I’m okay!!”
Ruth and Gordon always made sure to remind me that they loved me, that God loved me, and that they were proud of me. And I pray I never stop making them proud. We may not have been related by blood, but they most certainly were my family. They were my grandparents. Losing both of them within the span of just over a year shatters me as does thinking about never having another conversation with either of them again, but what gives me peace & comfort is knowing that right now, they’re rejoicing in heaven with the Savior they faithfully loved, served, & preached about all the days of their lives. They deserve nothing but joy, and I can think of no greater joy than standing in the presence of Jesus up in heaven — where pain is no more, and joy is unending. They were good and faithful servants, indeed.
Hey God, take good care of them.
Ruth & Gordon, I love you both with my whole entire heart. & I’ll see you again someday.