Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This Little Light of Mine

A few weeks ago I stopped at Fisher's Housewares in Georgetown to pick something up when this miniature oil lamp stopped me in my tracks. Before the tears starting flowing I grabbed it off the shelf and took it to the register to pay. The lamp looked exactly like one that Ruth had burning that Friday night we had no electric - her last night on earth and I got to spend it with her.

I had never spent the night at the Leatherman's before. Girls love slumber parties, but once you get married and start having babies, it's just not practical anymore. But God wanted me there that night and looking back He went to great lengths to ensure my presence at Ruth's house that weekend.

These past few weeks so many things have gone wrong or unexpected. But God's timing and plans are perfect - not mine. I guess you could say it all started with Daniel. My third son was due to be born on October 29th. I'm still certain that my due date was accurate, but he arrived Friday, October 12th instead. I didn't know it at the time, but God was up to something by blessing us early.

Ruth wasted no time coming over to visit me. She sat in my living room Monday night asking what I needed for the baby because she was going shopping. While there she told me that she would be back on Thursday morning around 9:00 to kidnap my boys for a few hours. She was so thoughtful! Just as she promised she was there that morning, not only to pick up the boys, but their bikes. Before going out my door she left a beautiful gift bag with socks and an outfit for Daniel. Ruth spoiled me to say the least!

Soon after they left I went down to my basement and found myself with wet socks. Water was everywhere! My husband Jeremy had just picked up "new" furniture from Craig's List the night before - Panic! Our new loveseat was fine, but the hot water heater was another story. I spent the morning Shop-Vaccing the basement. Ruth was disappointed that I didn't get to rest as planned. My husband Jeremy fixed our hot water problem that night, but hot water heaters have a mind of their own.

Friday came and Daniel was already one week old. Because he was born when my husband was scheduled to serve for the Air Force Reserves, Jeremy was now going to be away the weekend of October 20th. My mother in-law had offered to take my sons Jonathan & Jason, so Jeremy dropped them off at her house on his way to the Air Force Base that Friday afternoon. I didn't get to say goodbye before they all left because the week had really caught up with me - instead I took a nice long nap.

I woke to the sound of a quiet house and looked forward to some quality time with just me and my new baby. Jeremy had left a note on the kitchen table - No hot water again :( Oh well. I would spend the weekend using paper plates and just shower at my in-laws when I picked up my boys. The evening was spent enjoying a meal brought by a friend and blogging on my first week with Daniel. No sooner had I published my latest thoughts when the electric went out. My quiet evening got too quiet and oh sooo dark. I looked out the window and it seemed that no one had electric for miles! Call it emotions, hormones or just being a scardy cat - but I did not like being in a dark house alone with a newborn. I was certain that someone was going to jump out of nowhere and get me!

Ruth called at 9:17 pm. It was so good to hear her voice. She had just returned from grocery shopping and found that she too was out of power. She asked if I knew what was going on. I had just gotten off the phone with our electric supplier and they were estimating power to be on again by 10:30. "I don't like being here by myself" I told Ruth. Without hesitation she invited me to come down to her house until the lights came back on. I grabbed my baby and diaper bag and quickly headed out the door.

Ruth greeted me at my car with a flashlight and took Daniel out of the backseat for me. "Wow! I forgot how light these car seats are with a newborn." She told me. We went inside leaving the noise of neighborhood generators behind us. Her house was dimly lit with some candles and oil lamps. Her and Mark were working on some flashlights at the kitchen table. Plastic bags of groceries lay on the floor from the shopping trip she had just returned from. Little Baby Ruby sat nestled amongst them all having a glorious time playing with them and making all kinds of noise. Mark soon went to bed since he had to work the next day while Ruth and I sat in the Living Room waiting for the electric.

Had I known this was going to be my very last time with Ruth I would have told her how much she had meant to me these past five years. The circumstances surrounding our move to Christiana were very difficult, but our instant friendship with The Leatherman Family just made us feel at home.

I was expecting my second child when we moved in just down the road. One day Ruth found a sitter for little Baby Esther and walked right up to my house with a paint brush to help me get the baby's room ready. The green paint could really use a fresh coat these days, but knowing it was Ruth who helped me, I think I'll let it go for awhile.

My 30th Birthday was just a few weeks
after my husband left for boot camp. 
Ruth threw a surprise celebration for me.
When my husband was away for nine months with the Air Force...well I don't think I would have made it without Mark & Ruth down the road. No sooner had my husband left and our truck wouldn't start, Mark was there within minutes to help. That summer he pulled leaves out of the gas tank of our lawn mower that wouldn't start (yes my kids put leaves in the gas tank, they thought they were helping). Ruth faithfully had us over to dinner to give me a break from cooking and get me out of the house.   

I went right to Ruth’s house the morning I found out my Mom had cancer. Crying in her driveway didn't change the situation, but it made me feel better knowing that Ruth was going to be in prayer for her. Ruth always asked about my Mom and if I had talked to her lately, in fact she asked about her that candlelit Friday night.

Some have asked what we talked about that evening. I've done my best to write down everything that I can remember, but I'm sure I'll leave something out. But I can say for sure that she was happy that night. Ruth complained of nothing and was content with life.

Before we settled down in the living room Ruth, as always, asked if I wanted tea - Mother's Milk Tea to be exact. I declined, knowing that I had plenty of milk for my little guy. "Maybe next time" I told her. That's when she told me how much she had been enjoying the Teavana® Loose Leaf Teas. The regular tea bags no longer tasted that good to her. She knew that they were more expensive, but Mark had his Starbucks, so she could have her tea.

She then picked up Ruby and we sat across from each other nursing our babies. Ruby was really active that night and didn't nurse for very long. "I forgot how long it takes to feed infants" Ruth told me. Then she said how Ruby was mad at her a few days prior while nursing. If you're a Mom, you know that's a bad combination.

Ruth always had the scoop on local happenings since her parents work at a local fire company. She had just found out there had been tornadoes in the area and that is why we had lost electric. A pavilion had collapsed at Paradise Park, but fortunately no one was killed.

That's when we started talking about the three television sets that her brother Amos had lost since he and his new bride Valerie moved in down the road. All of them had been fried from the electric and we chuckled because we figured #4 was toasting as we spoke with the power problems.  She knew that Val & Amos were at a wedding that night.   Since they were celebrating in a barn, Amos didn't think it was safe to stay with the storm, so they were leaving.

We talked about homeschooling and it was going well for both of us.

"Do you think you'll have more kids?" she asked. And we both said we wanted more.

Ruth talked about maybe getting a trampoline for Esther. I told her about a set up I had seen on Pinterest where you dig a hole to put the trampoline in so that it is level with the ground. She thought that was a neat idea.

I told her that I had planned on having combination birthday parties for my sons Jonathan & Daniel since their birthdays are only five days apart. Ruth said that she was definitely going to combine Ruby's birthday celebration with New Year's in just a few short months.

I asked Ruth about our friend Amanda as I often do. She had watched her son Jackson that day so Amanda and her husband could go to C.H.O.P. (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) to get more information about their unborn child. Ruth didn't know how the appointment went yet, but was curious to find out. Ruth loved Amanda dearly and wanted so bad to take her burdens away for her.

While talking about life it suddenly occurred to Ruth that she forgot to buy a tomato for Mark's sandwich for his lunch the next day. I always admired how Ruth supported Mark. When I thought about complaining about my husband's many hours away from home I remembered that Ruth was right down the road being supportive of Mark's long and sometimes unpredictable schedule.

10:30 had come and gone. I called PP&L several times for an update on the power outage without success. Ruth called as well and the recording now said that the power would be restored at 1:00 am. "Why don't you spend the night?" Ruth asked. When I agreed she also said that I was more than welcome to use their shower when the power returned. Not wanting to impose I didn't give her a straight answer about it. She showed me down the hall where Daniel and I would share a room with her children Esther and Isaac who slept on the floor.

We said goodnight to each other.

I had just fallen asleep  when a fan came on in the bedroom. Later Ruth quietly came into the room to put out the small oil lamp that burned on the dresser.

After I fed Daniel that morning at 5:30 he needed a diaper change, which meant lots of screaming! So I thought it would be best to head home. I was ready to start the day anyhow and I knew Ruth liked to sleep in. After Daniel was snug in his car seat I found a notepad and left a message for Ruth on the kitchen table.

I'll take you up on that shower. Give me a call when you wake up.

I didn’t expect to hear from Ruth until 9:00 or 9:30 so I spent the morning working on birth announcements and catching up on laundry.  It was such a beautiful morning and as time went on I thought how Ruth was really missing out on it by sleeping in.  It was 10:00 when I gave her a call to see if I could come down for a shower.  No answer, but she called right back, only it was Esther on the line, not Ruth.  We chatted for two minutes, about what I can’t remember.  I asked if I could talk to her Mommy.  “Mommy is still sleeping and I can’t wake her up.  You can call back later.”  Esther sounded like her normal happy self, so I didn’t think anything was wrong. 

Not wanting to disturb Ruth’s Saturday of sleeping in, I decided to boil some water to take a bath.  After Daniel had another nap and feeding I called Ruth’s cell phone again – no answer.  Perhaps she didn’t see my note?  So it was a little after noon that I put Daniel in the car and my cell phone in my back pocket to go check on Ruth really quick. 

No answer at the door.  Her neighbor was out washing his camper, “Hey John, have you seen Ruth?”  He hadn’t, but was pretty sure he had heard the kids out back.  He stopped what he was doing and we went over to where Esther and Isaac were playing with the chickens.  It was chilly outside, but Isaac was wearing shorts and flip-flops.  So I asked Esther where her Mommy was.  “Still sleeping” she said.  So I told Esther to show me where her Mommy was and as we walked back to the house John told me to let him know if I needed anything.

The moment I walked in the house I could hear Ruby screaming.  Something was wrong.  She was sitting on top of the nightstand next to her Mommy who was peacefully lying in bed. 


It still amazes me how I was able to hold it together enough to communicate with the 9-1-1 operator.  God gave me strength for the moment.  There is no other explanation.  Knowing how physically and mentally incapable I was of performing CPR I ran up the stairs past Esther and out the door to scream for John.  I think we both knew she was gone but we had to try, we had to do something.  John’s wife Jill came over right away to tend to the children.  I reluctantly called Mark and told him to head home right away with little explanation.

It seemed like such a long time, but the ambulance came in just five minutes.  No sooner had they arrived when Amanda rushed through the door.  Just one week before Amanda and I clung to each other as new life entered into this world.  Now we didn’t even have the strength to stand as the medic came up the steps and told us that there was nothing they could do, Ruth had passed.  It was incomprehensible.  My mind instantly went back to that 10:00 am phone call I had with Esther.  Why didn’t I come sooner?  It was little comfort, but we were told that she had been gone several hours.

The rest of the day was a haze of grief that I can only remember bits and pieces of.  Ruth’s glasses sat on top of the piano.  The milk was on the kitchen table because the children had gotten their own breakfast.  Next to it was the note I had left for Ruth the night before, scribbled upon by one of the kids.  The neighbors just asked where my diaper bag was and took care of my baby for the entire day as I wept and tried to take in all that had happened. 

I struggled with a lot those next few days.  Ruth had done so much for me over the years but when she needed me most I couldn’t do anything to help her.  I should have stayed that morning, I should have come sooner.  Unnecessary regrets flooded my mind.    

The mind is a battlefield that Satan tries to claim ground in.  I try to focus on what is true and not the lies that the devil would have me to believe.  Ruth had an unknown heart defect that quietly took her life.  There is nothing that anyone could have done. 

To this day friends continue to reach out to me with words of encouragement and acts of kindness.  I am so grateful for it all, especially the prayer.  Yes, I have been on a “roller coaster” as so many have put it.  But God strapped me in tight and sat next to me for all the ups and downs.  I had such peace in the days that followed in regard to my part in all that had taken place.

“...My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made
perfect in weakness.
Therefore I will boast all the
more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

It is pretty safe to save that a woman is perhaps at her weakest moment in life just after the birth of a child – both physically and emotionally.  Shortly after Daniel was born my husband went out the door for a quick errand, he was gone maybe an hour.  I cried for the first 30 minutes.  So, why in the world did God choose me, someone with an eight day old baby to carry such a heavy load that weekend?

“But God chose the foolish things
of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things
of the world to shame the strong.
1 Corinthians 1:27

It has been an entire month without my dear friend just down the road. As I watch the news these days I can’t help but think that Ruth just went a little ahead of us because Christ will soon be returning. Perhaps she is on the Pearly Gate Welcoming Committee or planting flowers amongst the mansions. Silly thoughts I know, but they get me through the day.
The past month has been even harder on Ruth’s family.  Her husband Mark is without his bride.  Esther, Isaac and Ruby are without their Mommy.  Thanksgiving and Christmas will be void of the laughter Ruth always brought to the table.  If you feel led to help, Mark’s employer and our church have set up The Leatherman Family Fund to help them out during this difficult time.  Tax deductable donations can be sent to:
Calvary Monument Bible Church
1660 Mine Road
Paradise, PA. 17562


  1. Thank you for sharing these precious memories, Dawn. Love you!

  2. Thank you for sharing that. It was so nice to put a personality with the neighbor who stayed at Mark and Ruth's house on the night of her death. We are friends of theirs through Transport For Christ.
    Cerwin and Doris High

  3. very nicely written---Blessings to you and your family in the months and years to come...

  4. Thanks for sharing, Dawn! We'll continue to pray for you too!

  5. Dawn, tears are streaming as I read. Thank you so much for sharing these precious last moments that you had with Ruth. What a gift her friendship was to so many people! And I can't even tell you how much it means to me that you went and checked on her that Saturday. I've felt so much for you since then, with such a great loss and such a young baby, and pray for God's strength to be poured out on you. Thank you for the testimony of your faith! And yes, imagining Ruth in Heaven brings me such comfort as well.
    Love to you!

    1. Ruth was a gift! I was looking forward to many more years of friendship with her, especially doing some homeschooling activities together. But we must focus on what He gave, not what He took away (easier said than done). Thank you for your prayers. I look forward to seeing you again at Hannah's next week.

  6. Thank you Dawn I'm still at a loss for words. I just miss her so much.

    1. I miss her too and it is still so hard to believe that she is not with you and the kids anymore. We pray for the Leathermans every day, specifically that God would keep you all healthy and free of sickness over the long winter ahead.

  7. Hi, Dawn. Ruth and I were friends as teenagers, we did Children's Institutes together, and through that our families became friends. We live in Alaska now, and as a breast cancer survivor, I have often wondered how our little family would go on without a Mommy. Ruth's death has been a great sorrow to me, and yet I have joy as I realize that Ruth was still living the lovely dreams we had as girls to serve God, our families, and live with His kingdom above all in our lives. I rejoice in her life well lived, and the hope of eternity. I've grieved alone on this, because no one here knows her, and this is a little too close to home to talk about with my husband (because of my cancer.) You sharing this story, and the details, means so much to me. I'm not even sure why exactly... I just want to thank you for your vulnerability. How precious heaven grows as the shadows deepen here! May God bless and comfort you! Carlee Hobbs

    1. My husband Jeremy has known Ruth much longer than me because he and his family attended the Basic Life Seminar/Children's Institutes in Philadelphia. He is from a family of 8 children, his older sisters are Melissa & April Oatman. I don't know if you would remember them?
      It is sooo hard to grieve alone and/or feel detached from a situation. I hope that this post will get everyone on the same page about what happend that day. Yes, for some reason, knowing the details helps.
      Thank you for your comments. This was difficult to write, so I am glad that it has been a blessing to others.
      May God Bless your health and give you many years with your family.

  8. These memories shared are simply priceless. I hung on your every word. I am a Mom who lost a teenage son very suddenly, and although I too know the precious time he is spending now in heaven, I long to know every detail in the hours/minutes before and after he died. So your written account will be a comfort to friends and family now and in time to come. Just something that is written down and can be referred back to is a precious gift from you. Thank you for your bravery in sharing...I am sure it was hard to relive those moments. She sounds like a wonderful friend. May you find God to be faithful to you as you adjust to life without your precious neighbor and friend.

  9. I am a friend of Ruth's husbands sister, Rebecca. We both attend Calvary in Souderton and I've had the opportunity of getting to know her and her husband and boys through the Childrens ministry there.. I've been in touch with Rebecca and sending continued prayers her way having heard bits and pieces of this story through Bible Study, our church bulletin and prayer requests, but it was so touching to read about it through your blog. I had heard a neighbor had found her, but you were so much more than a neighbor, you were a dear friend. Thank you for sharing such a difficult experience with us. Many of us are praying for the Leathermans and all of their extended families and friends. That they get through this holiday season with oodles of love and support showered on them, and that they have a peace that passeth all understanding as to why this had to happen to their wife, Mommy, neighbor, sister-in-law, best friend. Praying for you and your family now as well, as you too have suffered great loss. Thanks again for sharing.

  10. Beautifully written and obviously from your heart. I never knew Ruth, after reading this I know that she had a heart for our great God and for serving others. Her friendship was a blessing to you and many others, a precious gift. Thank you for sharing this Dawn, I will be praying for her family and for you as well. I pray that you feel the arms of our Heavenly Father wrapping you in comfort and peace~Marijaye