"Hold a true friend with both of your hands." - Nigerian Proverb
I am writing this column as Evie and I are on the US Airways Flight #1578 going from Charlotte, N.C. to Philadelphia, Pa. The purpose of our short trip was to attend the funeral service for Ruth Marie Storms, who at 78 years of age entered heaven a few days ago.
Don and Ruth Storms have been special friends to Evie and me since we first came to VFCC in 1997. Because they are alumni, Class of 1955, their roots go deep on the VFCC family.
Their help to the mission and ministries of VFCC has been profound and the Storms Research Center is the tangible evidence of their passion for their alma mater. But this column is not about their generosity or their legacy to the college. Rather, it is about the lives they lived together and, especially, the life of Ruth.
In previous columns I have mentioned the value of attending funerals. There is nothing that helps bring life's priorities into better focus than to join the family and friends of a loved one whose earthly journey has ended.
Don and Ruth were married 58 years. From age 16 there was no one else she ever loved. And to see them together and the way they looked at each other left no doubt that their love only increased over the years. Most of us referred to them as if their names were one word: DonandRuth.
We arrived at their church where we joined more than a thousand people to honor a life well-lived. The service was filled with lifelong musings of lives that had been changed by Ruth's influence. The music ministered deeply to all of us of our hope beyond the grave.
"You need to be the best you YOU can be," was one of the "Ruthisms" that was cited. A son remembered receiving a "C" grade and, after throwing himself on the bed like a little girl as he was overcome with grief for his low grade. Ruth, his mother, came into the room, saw his report card and her son flung on the bed, and she simply said, "Oh, you need to get a life."
Here are some of the other memorable comments which were shared:
~ Son-in-law: My wife learned what it meant to be a wife by the way her mother could always "stand by her man."
~ Son-in-law: I was a gypsy but Ruth totally accepted me. She was always everything you needed her to be; not always what you wanted her to be.
~ Friend: As George Washington said, "True friendship is a plant of slow growth." We met for the first time 45 years ago. And because my father abandoned me at age four, I learned forgiveness from Ruth.
~ Friend: I've kept every note and letter she ever wrote to me over the last 36 years. They are all full of Ruthisms. I will miss her for the rest of my life.
~ Son: Although my parents have had extraordinary success and they have also experienced extraordinary loss including some dear friends, at the end of the day the real Ruth Storms was rarely rattled.
~ Pastor: We can do this (reminisce together) because friends can do this. I've know the family for 30 years. We have been through all kinds of times together. Ruth was regal with a lot and she was regal with a little. Her favorable nods during my sermons helped alleviate my greatest anxieties when I thought I might be out on a limb. I almost feel as though we should give her an applause for a life well lived.
As our plane lands I am reminded of the poet's words, "Death is not extinguishing the light. It is turning out the lamp because the dawn has come." Yes, for Ruth Storms, "the dawn has indeed now come."
Think about it.