Visiting with Ruth is more inspiring than sad. I weep often, but more from being touched by her faith and her spirit than from sadness.
She says she thinks she’s figured out why she’s still here, when two months ago the doctor said she had only weeks, not months. As people come to visit her, she asks each person to tell how they came to faith in Jesus. They get to rehearse telling their story so they can then tell it to others.
Also, she gets to match people to needs. Norma Jean has been wanting an in-depth, one-on-one Bible study; Marcia, an excellent Bible student, has been praying for someone with whom to study the Bible. Barb, the hospice chaplain, stays well past her “brief stop.” Her well is being filled by Ruth’s faith and wisdom.
Barb asks Ruth her favorite Bible verse. Ruth says she loves all of Philippians, and Barb and I agree. Ruth is on morphine for the first time, and thinking seems to come more slowly. I say, “Long ago you said your favorite verse was from the situation where the father asked Jesus to heal his son. Jesus asked, ‘Do you believe?’ and the father answered, ‘I believe! Help thou my unbelief!’”
Ruth’s eyes lit up and she smiled. “That’s it!” she said, triumphantly. “That’s the one I was trying to remember. And the King James is the version I learned it in.”
We talk about heaven and its mysteries. We can read Revelation and John 14 and other passages about heaven, but the concept is beyond human understanding. Barb says one of her favorite passages is II Corinthians 4:17-18. She reads it to us: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Ruth talks about Bob’s cooking her breakfast each day and learning his way around the kitchen “because he’ll need to know that kind of thing.”
She gets calls from old friends and from a granddaughter in Alaska. She jots down notes of ideas to remember and to share with other visitors. She is excited that her visitors can be connected through her in order to grow in faith.
She is also tiring rapidly. Barb leaves and Ruth and I pray together. I think of all the times we met for breakfast over the years, sharing concerns and praying together. I remember the first time I asked her to have breakfast or lunch with me—probably 20 years ago. During our meal conversation, she said, “This is wonderful! I’m always asking people to lunch, but no one ever asks me.” Even then I knew it was because she was such a strong woman that no one thought of her needing female companionship too.
So now I think—who shall I start taking to breakfast or lunch? Is there a mentor who is in need of encouragement herself? Or what younger women shall I mentor as Ruth has me? I can best honor her friendship by passing it on—by having important spiritual conversations.
My friend Laura’s uncle, Chip Jordan, would only see her for brief periods of time when he visited her college town. He would take her to lunch and always ask, “How is your spiritual life?” Surely she is one of the most spiritually strong women I know, and some of that comes from being asked that important question during her formative years. I need to do that for someone. I need to know that person well enough, and that person must be assured that I love them, before I can ask such a probing question. But I can do that. I can be Uncle Chip or Ruth or Miss Eurie—with God’s help.