I met Ruth in Grade 8 at St. Hugh’s High School here in Kingston. She was already part of a group that included my childhood friend, Toni. Ruth was tall and skinny, with a huge head of curly hair and even bigger glasses. Ruth made friends easily and was effortlessly bright, excelling, if I remember correctly, at Math and the other science subjects. Ruth was artistic too, right? (Toni: please correct me if I am wrong) I seem to remember her drawing and painting… This girl was always, always, ALWAYS smiling…smiling and talking. Ruth was a talker JShe always had an opinion, a story or a joke that she shared willingly and easily.
At the end of Grade 11, when most of us from our lunch group went on automatically to 6th form, Ruth decided to go to Austria for a year as part of a student exchange programme. Brave girl! She voluntarily deviated from the prescribed track that we all followed without question (graduate 5th form, on to 6th form, and then right after 6th form, university…right?!) From all accounts Ruth had a stellar year in Europe! She came back having made new friends, having done well in school IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE and with a bag of memories to last a lifetime.
Another thing that was different about Ruth was the fact that she had a boyfriend waaay before any of us! Hell, I never even had my first kiss until after high school! Ruth left school in lower 6th to marry her boyfriend and start their family. I had the pleasure of being at her wedding. Toni was part of her wedding party if I again remember correctly. Ruth was an active member of her church, and her wedding was a celebration that included a few of us from school, her family and her extended family from church. I remember Mrs. P (Ruth’s mom) and Aunty B (Toni’s mom) fussing around to ensure that the bride was as beautiful as she could be. Mrs. P treated Ruth’s friends as if they were her own children, and we were always welcome to the Stanton Terrace home.
And life went on. I lost touch with Ruth but knew when Daughter 1 was born, saw a few pics (what a baby did favour her daddy!) and I knew when Daughter 2 was born, a replica of her Ma. Toni kept close to Ruth. I found out that she migrated. Years later, when I was a post graduate at UWI Mona, I saw Ruth again when she and Toni came to a fete at the Student’s Union. Ruth had gained weight in all the right places and was a gorgeous as ever.
Okay. So far I’ve recounted mere facts about Ruth as I have remembered them. It is at this reunion years after school, that I came face to face with the persona of Ruthie that I had, up until now, only had glimpses of. Here’s the thing: Ruth shared with me (remember she is a talker, right?) some of her experiences as a mother. She shared about her marriage. She was frank in her accounting, not glossing over stuff, not leaving out stuff…just sharing. What struck me was her honesty and her humour and the absence of bitterness in her recounting stuff that she had gone through. And listen: Ruth was not pretending. That is who she was. You KNOW when someone is fronting or pretending . I know that Ruth was doing none of the above. That’s how she lived her life: never allowing regret or bitterness or anger to hold her down or back. Ruthie joked and laughed and spoke honestly and was constantly moving forward.
So while we went on to university and completed at least one degree before we were 22, Ruthie was being a wife and mom. Toni can better fill in the chronological order here, but before her transition yesterday, Ruth had completed her first degree, and two post graduate degrees. While raising her daughters and living her life, she moved (again if I remember correctly) to Colorado, back to Boston and finally to Florida. I never knew her to be afraid. I always knew her to be making new friends. I will forever remember Ruth living with a smile.
I never knew her daughters (I may have met Daughter 1 once when she was little one), but kept up with their progress through Toni Updates and pics on Facebook. Ruthie did good. They seem to be accomplished, traveled, talented, gorgeous like dem Mummy, properly educated women. May God comfort you at this time, Girls. Your Mom was loved and admired and will continue to be loved and admired as long as we live.
Then when Toni told me of Ruth’s diagnosis back in 2011, I was floored. I asked Toni if she thought it would be ok for me to reach out to Ruth. Ever the Best Friend, Toni consulted with Ruth, and in standard Ruthie fashion, I got the green light.
“Ruthie: Toni told me of the latest developments with your health. Sending a whole heap of positive energy your way. You name Ruth…survivor of a whole heap of stuff. We’ll talk I am sure. Love, K.”
“Hi Kelly: Yes, it sucks and it is going to suck. But I’ll get thru it just fine, I’m sure of it. Thanks for the positive vibes! Ruth”
Again, Ruth’s modus operandi with respect to how she lived her light was clear: she would fight this thing. She would fight it with science and with humour. Ruth never paraded her illness around. She was never a martyr seeking sympathy. She did what she had to do and lived while doing it. Ruthie lived for Fridays and for soca (I won’t hold that against her, or Toni or Jackie Wilcott J).
|Ruth and Toni doing what they love: Carnival!|
|Ruth and Jackie doing what they love: more soca!|
I saw her once in Jamaica after her diagnosis. She was the picture of good health: glowing and beautiful, laughing and of course, talking about everything. Toni opened her house to a couple of us one night and we finished a few bottles of wine and filled our bellies with food and laughter.
There was one particular Facebook post back in May of this year that forced me to confront the fact that Ruth was really sick. She posted: “Thank God for pain medication”. I had just finished my morning workout and meditation and was checking my various social media updates J and was floored when I saw it. I remember waking up H and saying: “Ruth is sick and she’s in pain.” I cried. I prayed. I loved her for her courage and for her uncomplaining soul! Even in the middle of her pain, her acknowledgement of her pain was a actually a prayer of thanksgiving. I inboxed her once I had composed myself and she replied with her usual forthrightness and humour.
“How you do? The pain must be hot, don’t… Wish I could take it all away, Ruthie. you’re in my thoughts and prayers. You are a champion. Love you!”
“Thanks Kelly! Yes, last night was certainly rough. I had to triple up on meds to get it to stop. It did hat mi sah! Woiiii…and to add to it this morning one of my big toe’s nail came completely off, another wonderful side effeck…..cho……..thanks for the prayers…..I am hanging in there jokified and with positive thoughts!”
“Love you, Girlie”
“Love you too! Nuff hugs!”
That was May 30. I never spoke with Ruth again.
Toni told me when the meds stopped working a few weeks ago. Toni then told me that things had taken a turn for the worst. She flew up to be with her Bestie. Toni kept me posted though the difficult last days. Toni did what many of wished we could do and was with our friend when she transitioned. Thank you, Miss T for your love and courage. I know it has been difficult for you. May God Bless you.
Ruth made her peace with God and was with her friends, daughters, mother and sister Fern as the Lord freed her from her pain. In attempting to cope with Ruth’s passing, a friend of mine encouraged me to look at it as a transition of her soul. She is not dead. She is no longer here with us, and that makes us sad. We miss her. But she has transitioned to eternity and lives on in heaven.
Toni summed it up best with this final post on Facebook:
“Fly my Friend. Soar!”
Pics Courtesy of Toni and Jackie