We attended a memorial service today for a lady who attended our church. She died on Christmas Day. She was 65. I didn’t know Ruth well.
“I love her teddy bear!”
She had to say it a couple of times because my mind was elsewhere. I turned around. A lady with kind brown eyes, hair held back in a clip, was talking to me. I looked at Ruby’s bear. The bear sat snuggled in her arms, ragged red bow around its neck. Poor thing went with her everywhere. It was the flavor of the week. Next week, she might tag a stuffed duck as companion.
“Oh, thanks,” I said. “She has a million stuffed animals.”
“I collect teddy bears,” she said, eyes shining. “I have over 1500. I have big ones and little ones, all different sizes.”
That’s how our acquaintance began.
We talked off an on over the years. She sat in the back because sometimes our music got too loud for her, and she had to leave. I found out more about her as I stopped to chat with her. Her persona radiated innocence, but not ignorance. Ruth had never married nor had children. She took care of her mother and lived here in town. And she loved kids.
Ruth also loved to craft. I found this out when I taught the K-5 class the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Anticipating the apocalypse that is the last thing on the agenda before a vacation day, I prepped the lesson. My phone buzzed.
“Hey, Ruth is going to do crafts in your class tonight,” my brother, head of all things kid-related at church, texted me.
Great! I thought. But we have mostly boys in that age group now. Will they do crafts? I considered alternatives should that plan backfire. Laps in the classroom? Jello shots?
Ruth showed up and set up at the far end of the table. She put out paper plates. She pulled magazines out of a capacious tote with a green lid. She placed a case with glue sticks on the table, and another one holding colored pens. Safety scissors came next.
I watched in awe. She chatted as she laid out her wares.
“I want them to cut out things they like to eat at Thanksgiving and paste them onto the plates,” she told me.
The kids plowed into the room, digging through name tags, grabbing chairs from the stack. Then they saw the table. Her quiet and gentle nature drew the kids to her. Intrigued, they sat right down at her table of delights. They dug in. Any disputes over pens or scissors she quickly dispelled. I almost didn’t need to be there.
The glossy home magazines enticed me. Who doesn’t start salivating thinking about their favorite foods that time of year? Even I wanted to do this craft. That’s how good she was.So I pulled up a chair and started cutting.
I thought about all this during her service today. I admit I’ve often thought that people who don’t marry or have children miss out on some of the best things in life. But as person after person stood up and told of her loving ways and her life experiences, I changed my mind. Every life has a great story, especially if you know Jesus.
At her death, they found boxes and boxes of these tiny presents. Most sit grouped in stacks, held together with decorative ribbon.
Each one incorporates different wrapping paper. Some have themes, like Thanksgiving or St. Patrick’s Day, shamrocks aplenty. Some just have pretty color combinations. There must be thousands of these mini gift clusters. Countless hours went into crafting each unique offering. They added pizazz to the memorial service, arranged on the tables. Our pastors encouraged us to take some home for ourselves. Even after her death, Ruth continued to give. Thank you, Ruth, for your loving example of a life well lived. See you on the other side.