Gramma Ruth left this Earth 9 years ago today. This past April, I wrote this story for Ruthie Lou, the first of many stories that I had planned on writing for her to read as she got older. I find it only fitting to share it with her, with you, with the world today, a day that honors our sweet Gramma Ruth whose family loved her so much, who loved her family so much.
RUTHIE LOU'S NAMESAKE
Once upon a time, there were two little girls who needed a dad. One day, their mother met a wonderful man with a son of his own and the 5 of them became a family. In this dad’s family there was a wonderful, kind and sweet grandmother with many young grandchildren. When this grandmother met these two little girls, she made them part of the family and never looked back.
Gramma was a jolly, plump woman with short white curly hair and hot pink lipstick. She loved her family more than anything. She welcomed everyone into her family, her home and especially her heart. On any given day, Gramma could be found watching a soap opera or game show, with some Crème Puffs or something similar, not too far from her on the couch. She kept a well stocked kitchen full of goodies including EL Fudge cookies, wafer bars, Diet Caffeine Free Soda and she always had crispy chow mein noodles stashed in her kitchen cabinet, perfect for rummaging grandchildren.
Every holiday the family would gather, kids would play outside and large tables of food would be spread for dinner. No holiday would be complete without honey ham, some ambrosia or jello fruit salad and pumpkin pies for dessert! For Christmas, every girl in the family would be gifted matching outfits, we would change into our new clothes immediately and take a large group photo! Gramma loved family photos and would make us pose forever until SHE was happy she got the perfect family portrait. And finally, in our stockings we would always receive a navel orange because somewhere, someplace far away, this was a family tradition for our grandparents.
Summers were full of kids swimming in the pool or playing together in the mini golf course in the backyard. Gramma would be in the water alongside the kids on her floatie but would never be found swimming because she said, “My bottom floats better than the rest of me and I would sink!” We would beg our parents for sleepovers at gramma and grandpas house and would spend the evenings playing dress up in gramma’s closet and rehearsing skits or musicals to perform for our parents.
One day, when the grandkids were all grown up and having families of their own, Gramma fell ill. Her heart had filled with so much love, it stopped working as well as it did when she was young. We loved her so much we would take turns “gramma sitting” and spend afternoons with her laying on her bed, painting her nails, looking at jewelry, watching soaps on TV and hearing stories about the “old days” and how she fell in love with Grandpa.
Then finally, the day had come. We all gathered around and took some time to say our final goodbyes to gramma. As I sat next to her on the bed and cried, I told her thank you for making me part of her family and that I loved her so much. She grabbed my hand and held it tightly and said, “You have always been my granddaughter.” I gave her a big squeeze and kissed her one last time knowing that this was the end of her life. When everyone had had their turn and cried their tears we prepared for her to rest peacefully as she passed away. We waited…and waited…and waited, but nothing happened. We were so grateful to have her a little bit longer!
We continued gramma sitting and enjoying our time with her until again we got the call that this time was the end. So once again, we said our final goodbyes, cried our tears and prepared for her to leave this life. We waited…and waited…and waited, but nothing!
Now let me tell you: Gramma was what we called in our family, a "HAM", always loving attention! At this point we figured gramma really just wanted her family gathering around her so that’s just what we did. We would have dinners, order food, spend weekends at grammas and be the large family we once were when we were young.
And one normal day of family gathering and gramma sitting, the house became quiet. The grandchildren were off, preparing for our gathering of that evening and only the aunts and uncles were at the house with gramma, otherwise the house was quiet…and that was it. Gramma’s heart was so full of love, her family had gathered and loved her as much as we could and she took her final breath. By the time the grandkids returned, gramma had passed and we joined together as a family and celebrated how lucky we were to have such a wonderful gramma in our life.
Dear Ruthie Lou, I love your grandpa Kevin and your great-gramma Ruth so much that I wanted to share that love with you. Love is the most important thing in our life. Sweet girl, we are so blessed to have an amazing family...an amazing family that CHOSE us. ...And here we are nearly 6 months later learning the same lesson I had planned on teaching little miss Ruthie Lou but she in fact taught me, taught us. Love IS the most important thing in our life...and gramma Ruth, along with Ruthie Lou has made that abundantly clear.
Here's to love, peace and lots of joy with the "Ruthie's" being celebrated in LOVE today and everyday. Wishing YOU great love always.
Its been nearly a week since Ruthie Lou's celebration and it is still on my mind. What a beautiful way to celebrate the most beautiful girl in the world, and yes, I am entirely biased. But whenever I think of her or look at her picture or a memory enters my mind, I cannot help but smile, she is the best thing that has ever happened to me, the best thing I have ever experienced in my life.
The celebration was a huge collaborative effort that Chris and I could never have done by ourselves and for that we are so grateful for the people who stepped in and made it amazing. Your support in every way has been and continues to be so appreciated and needed. Everything from the rentals, the equipment, the ladybugs, the stickers (from my students) the food, the arbor, the stage set-up that emulated ladybugs (did you notice that?!), the beautiful plants, the table decor, the ladybug mementos that my friends made with me and those made on their own and the speeches who even though their voice shook, their words were strong...every single thing was thought of and every part was perfect, just like Ruthie Lou.
"Thank you" sounds so trivial when it cannot begin to encompass the gratitude in our hearts, but we thank you from the bottom of our hearts because standing with us, stepping in for us, making decisions for us and doing the hard work for us, heals us. We know there is not much you can do to heal our hearts but you have stepped in where you could and we will never forget that...you along with Ruthie Lou are teaching us, THIS is what friends do, this is what friends are for. Thank you for loving us...large or small, EVERY contribution has been appreciated, noticed and will not be forgotten.
The celebration day itself was amazing, beautiful, magical, just like Ruthie Lou. I awoke to rainstorms, grey skies and frantic messages from friends about the potentials of being "rained out" of our outdoor celebration and even Chris wanted to move locations. But I know Ruthie Lou better than anyone and she was reminding me of the largest lesson she taught, "imperfections are what make us perfect", the mantra I repeated to her everyday, the lesson her life taught me. I felt full of faith and calm that thru the rain, the earth was being blessed as she had blessed us and that the clouds would part for us....and they did. A beautiful day is great but the clouds parting to reveal blue skies after a great rain is amazing, and that was her day, amazing. At one point, my girlfriend and I were practicing our song with the rain pouring down on us, with hoodies on our heads and we were laughing...along with Ruthie Lou, I am sure.
In the end, the clouds parted as I knew they would and it was a imperfectly perfect day! I sang with all my heart, spoke truths from within and loved all the hugs and love for our little girl. For those of you unable to make it, be it from distance, illness, work or obligations, we felt your presence that day. It was a day full of remembrance and celebration, one that words will do no justice, so instead of writing about each speech, each warm hug that hugged our hearts, we want you to feel it for yourself and we will be posting the video online so that you can also feel the energy from Ruthie Lou's special day.
As you could imagine, and as we predicted, the last days since then have been challenging, to say the least. No more preparing for a big celebration, no more "arts and crafts day" at the house, no more timeline of getting things done, no more phone calls of checking in to help. THIS was the "hard part" that I referred to many weeks ago. It wasn't the day we found out her prognosis, it wasn't the day her soul left her body, as hard and heart wrenching as those moments were, those were only MOMENTS but now the moments that we wake up and remember that this wasn't a nightmare, getting out of bed and knowing Ruthie Lou is still not here, these are the hard parts, THIS is the rest of our life, the new real world. Living each day that her body is gone, THAT is the hard part.
Sitting alone with all my thoughts while the world continues on and mine is stand ing still, that is the hard part. I cant move on, not right now, probably not ever. What was normal is not anymore and somehow my brain, my body has to assimilate this new life, this new "normal". I am doing all the things that would help me, help us, try to figure out this new life. I would want to write about all the things that WE are doing to take care of ourself but as you already know, Chris and I are so very different. What works for him, doesn't work for me and vice versa. So instead, I can only speak for myself as I write this because my rules don't apply to him. Right now, as I write, he is heading out the door to the gym because that works for him, he returned weeks ago and I am still too nervous to face the other gym members, the ones who watched me in the pool and doing yoga as my belly got into it's 37th week of pregnancy. I am not ready to answer the questions without breaking down or to see the looks of sadness on their faces.
So instead, I am surrounding myself with loving friends and with a lot of nature, many beautiful hikes with Chris and with friends, that's where I feel Ruthie Lou the most and it brings me great joy. Sometimes I don't make it further than my back porch, an thats ok too, it's so serene in my yard, I don't need to go anywhere else, some days that is an accomplishment in and of itself. But other times when I find it too hard to even get out of bed, it's the phone call, text or email that gives meaning to this new life. The relationships that are solidifying and forming right now as I walk this new path is something to be grateful for and I trust that because of Ruthie Lou, my life is now changing in beautiful ways as I maneuver through this pain.
The nights are beautiful as the season is changing, I love fall. I love the colors, the smells, the early sunsets and the snuggles that the crisp air brings. And although our pain is unlike anything I hope you ever have to endure, I love that Ruthie Lou has made the simple things in life worth appreciating. I remind myself of her lessons each moment, as I hope you do, too. Every night before bed I would tell Ruthie Lou her list of "I love you's" and so with that, "I love you more than all the stars in the sky, to the moon and back. I love you more than anything in the world, more than anyone in the world. I love, love, love you Ruthie Lou."
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.