To family we are born.
It is a magical thing when a life is born in to a family, the love so unconditional from the very start. What may be even more remarkable? When one is chosen and woven in to a family, flaws and all, over many, many years, spanning decades of joys and trials.
It is this weaving of two large families, the Ringlers and the Sutherlands, not by blood nor by marriage, but by happy choice, that has brought such love in to our lives.
Ruth and Cortland Brooks Ringler were chosen grandparents to my children and loved whole-heartedly, providing sage, salt-of-the-earth, old-worldly wisdom. Brooks lost his life-long sweetheart and farm partner on his birthday, and what an enormous loss. I sense Ruth’s way of winking as she let go on Brooks’s birthday was her way of saying, “we will share one more date….” as there now will appear on their monument a common date.
When I first came to know Ruth, I saw her as a magical Mary Poppins, appearing whenever and where ever needed. It seemed to defy reality, the amount of work and fun this woman could accomplish in one day – and in the process manage to do it all with a smile, seemingly so effortlessly. Long days at the Sugar Camp, closing out the demanding season with a fun taffy pull for anyone who wanted to come, is just one way in which Ruth included the whole community in good-natured fun.
Ruth appreciated the awe of children, and she inspired them toward gratitude. When they were little, she taught my children to celebrate even the most obvious of God’s gifts. One day my daughter said, “Today Gramma Ruth and I had a tea party to celebrate zebras — the way they look all black and white and stripey ALL the time!”
To have enjoyed Ruth’s hospitality and amazing food and graciousness was beyond compare. Extra people? “Here honey, just help me peel an extra potato or two and we will have fun doing it!” She would manage to teach us a thing or two while stirring up a new dish. Food for Ruth was her ministry. She couldn’t bear the thought of anyone going hungry, in any sense of the word.
Some say when Life gives you lemons, make lemonade; my son once said when life gave Ruth lemons, she somehow managed to make steak, potatoes AND pie!!!!
She was forever optimistic even in the face of extreme challenges. While hers was not a glamorous lifestyle, and though she had known her share of heartache, Ruth always had a smile, was always looking up. When someone baffled her, Ruth could say, “Well, God love ya!” and her wonderful laughter would pour over the moment.
Ruth created delicious and healthy food and awesome beauty from dirt and seeds like no one else. She willingly shared her bounty of foods and flowers while also sharing natural remedies and proven old-world tricks and tips, saying God’s farm land deserved our respect and gratitude. Though Ruth knew pain, she seemed only concerned about the pain of others, and worked tirelessly to help those who suffered in any way. When Ruth inquired “how are you?” it was a genuine, caring, desire to know. She listened with her whole being.
Ruth loved her Lord, and made talking to Jesus a natural part of a day. “Well, we will just have to pray a little bit more on that,” Ruth would say with a smile when something proved challenging.
Ruth thoroughly enjoyed a good road trip, and was known to pack a picnic for an extended journey in the blink of an eye. “We took off for Florida one early morning because no one talked us out of it!” Ruth once told me. “As long as Brooks and I agree on which direction we turn out of the driveway, I figure we are all set!”
Ruth loved to decorate, to entertain, to celebrate, and if anyone else needed help throwing a good party, she was right there to lend a hand. There were times it simply seemed there was no stopping this kind woman who was a friend to all, who in every way exemplified the commandment “love one another.”
Ruth helped make each of us who knew her a better person in so many immeasurable ways. Being in her sparkling presence brought an inspiration that defies description. We all are richer for her presence in our lives.
This and so much more is what makes saying good-bye so difficult. Heaven and the boundless universe is filled with God’s angels, but of this there is no doubt – Heaven is now enriched by the presence of one of the most special angels of our time.