Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ruth's Garden

It has been said that "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger".  But I think it would be more accurate to say that "what doesn't kill you will make you numb, weak or broken".  It's been 365 days since that autumn afternoon when I discovered that three Littles didn't have a Mommy anymore.  It's been 52 weeks since I stood there helpless telling the 911 operator that I didn't think my friend was alive.  I've had 12 months to take it all in and become stronger because of it.  But 1 year later I still fight tears during the Sunday worship service, become panicky  when my husband goes away for the weekend and I just become unglued when a thunderstorm rolls in on a Friday night and the electric starts to blink.  It doesn't take much to trigger emotions these days. 

I am not stronger, I am broken. 

I miss my friend.     
What was it about Ruth Leatherman that had such a deep impact upon me?  It wasn't her death, it was her life.  For five years she shared her life with me - her ups, her downs and everything in between.  She was genuine without complaining.  She accepted difficulties as a season in life that soon would pass.  I loved our talks.  I'm not a talkative person but the two of us always managed to keep quite the conversation going. 
With Daniel in my arms on Friday night I told Ruth of my bizarre experience just moments after his birth.  I was exhausted, I was delirious and for a moment I saw Ruth standing in the doorway.    I knew she was camping that weekend, but she was in the room with me.  Ruth had been on my mind.  She had called me while I was in labor but things were too intense for a conversation.  Jeremy spoke with her briefly to update her on my status.  Ruth liked to know what was going on.  In realty the person standing in the doorway was my Doula, Mary Ann - a distant cousin of Ruth. 
"Have you ever met her Ruth?"  I asked. 
She said she had not, so I quickly offered to invite them both over one day to meet. 
Then Ruth told of her experience after the birth of each of her children.  She was overwhelmed by it all and the joy of seeing her baby brought her to tears every time.  She told how she just cried and cried after each birth.  She was so happy to bring a life into the world to love and care for.
Two Bible verses come to mind when I think about Ruth:
"...your care for others
is the measure of your greatness." 
Luke 9:48 (TLB)
"...through love be servants one to another."
Galatians 5:13 (ASV)  
Ruth was a servant.  She wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty or be inconvenienced.  Her example has inspired me to reach out to others more in the past year.  I sent care packages when I didn't have the time, took meals when I didn't have the energy and made connections with people during their time of need.
 Ruth did a lot of planting in her 31 years.  She always had a vegetable garden in the back yard.  It was hard work but she enjoyed it.  In an effort to minimize the impact of her loss, Ruth's mother Sarah planted and tended Ruth's garden this past summer. To see the children running through the rows brought such joy.   
Just weeks before Ruth went to heaven she purchased some chicks that now provide eggs for the family.  The kids really enjoy them - but those poor chickens!  On several occasions my Jason and Esther locked themselves in the hen house to play Doctor with the chickens - that's what they said.  Like I said, those poor chickens! 
But the planting didn't stop there...
Ruth planted a lot of fruit in her garden -a different garden with eternal value.  She planted the Fruits of the Spirit - Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.  This garden has blossomed with surreal beauty since last October. Because Ruth gave so much of herself while here on this earth an army of people have given of their time, resources and prayers for the Leatherman family. 
Within minutes (yes minutes) of the sad news that Ruth was gone, a neighbor offered some breast milk for Ruby that was in his freezer.  I was still in a state of shock so I don't remember the man's name or why he had breast milk in his freezer but that was just the beginning...breast milk was provided for baby Ruby from three different sources for the next several months.
Within a few hours the food started pouring in.  It started with trays of sandwiches and bottles of water.  Before long the refrigerator was overflowing and stayed that way for months.  God's people really stepped up and took care of the physical needs of the Leatherman family.
Without hesitation Ruth's sister in-law volunteered to homeschool the children for the remainder of the school year.  No easy task, believe me I know. 
Ruth's young neighbor felt led by God to put school on hold for a while and offered to fill in as a Nanny for the children.  She displayed such maturity in the most difficult of circumstances.
The grandmothers went above and beyond this past year.  Nanna and Mom-Mom wiped many tears while drying their own.  The strength of Sarah and Carol could only have come from God.  They selflessly served Mark in his distress.  They reached out to me numerous times and have become close friends.  It is no wonder why Ruth regularly displayed servanthood in her life -she had some great examples.
Before Ruth was taken from her home I asked to see her one last time.  I knelt down on the floor beside her, gently kissed her forehead and said "We'll take care of your babies."  As a mother it was all I could think about and I mourn Ruth's loss of not seeing her children grow.  It was a tremendous effort to fill the huge void that this wife and mother left behind.  If Ruth could see all that has taken place in the past year she would be so grateful to the countless people who held her family together when they felt so broken. 

I read an old devotional book called Streams in the Desert 
that belonged to my Grandmother.  God knows what we
need when we need it.  This is what I meditated on just a
few days ago.  May it bring comfort to all who are broken.


October 15
"By reason of breakings they purify themselves" (Job 41:25).
God uses most for His glory those people and things which are most perfectly broken. The sacrifices He accepts are broken and contrite hearts. It was the breaking down of Jacob's natural strength at Peniel that got him where God could clothe him with spiritual power. It was breaking the surface of the rock at Horeb, by the stroke of Moses' rod that let out the cool waters to thirsty people.
It was when the 300 elect soldiers under Gideon broke their pitchers, a type of breaking themselves, that the hidden lights shone forth to the consternation of their adversaries. It was when the poor widow broke the seal of the little pot of oil, and poured it forth, that God multiplied it to pay her debts and supply means of support.
It was when Esther risked her life and broke through the rigid etiquette of a heathen court, that she obtained favor to rescue her people from death. It was when Jesus took the five loaves and broke them, that the bread was multiplied in the very act of breaking, sufficient to feed five thousand. It was when Mary broke her beautiful alabaster box, rendering it henceforth useless, that the pent-up perfume filled the house. It was when Jesus allowed His precious body to be broken to pieces by thorns and nails and spear, that His inner life was poured out, like a crystal ocean, for thirsty sinners to drink and live.
It is when a beautiful grain of corn is broken up in the earth by DEATH, that its inner heart sprouts forth and bears hundreds of other grains. And thus, on and on, through all history, and all biography, and all vegetation, and all spiritual life, God must have BROKEN THINGS.
Those who are broken in wealth, and broken in self-will, and broken in their ambitions, and broken in their beautiful ideals, and broken in worldly reputation, and broken in their affections, and broken ofttimes in health; those who are despised and seem utterly forlorn and helpless, the Holy Ghost is seizing upon, and using for God's glory. "The lame take the prey," Isaiah tells us.
O break my heart; but break it as a field
Is by the plough up-broken for the corn;
O break it as the buds, by green leaf seated,
Are, to unloose the golden blossom, torn;
Love would I offer unto Love's great Master,
Set free the odor, break the alabaster.
O break my heart; break it victorious God,
That life's eternal well may flash abroad;
O let it break as when the captive trees,
Breaking cold bonds, regain their liberties;
And as thought's sacred grove to life is springing,
Be joys, like birds, their hope, Thy victory singing.
-Thomas Toke Bunch


  1. Dawn, you have a beautiful way of weaving your thoughts and memories and hurt and truth into a sweet honor of Ruth and her Lord and a gift to the rest of us. I love how you said it's her LIFE that has impacted you even more than her death. So true!! I can't even describe all the little memories and ways about her that filter into my days and have influenced me for the better. How I will always miss her. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. It blows my mind how one person had such an impact on me in such a short time and to my shame I didn't realize it until she was gone. I too have been influenced for the better when serving my own family. Thank you for your friendship Shelly.

  2. Dawn, your gift of writing blessed me incredibly this morning. I read this while tears were streaming down my cheeks. I love how you mourn her death and yet celebrate her life, and how she lives on through you. What a legacy, and a precious gift her life was to us and to so many other people! I've thought of you so much this week, and the way your life was impacted so deeply that day, one year ago. Thank you for helping to care for Ruth's children.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Clarita. It has been good to connect with you and other friends of Ruth that were strangers just a year ago. How wonderful Heaven will be for us all one day when we're not separated by miles, time and sin. Blessings to you.

  3. Thank you Dawn for sharing your thoughts. You've been such a blessing to me. Thanks for your gifts of time and love for us.

    1. You are welcome Mark. You and your family mean a lot to Jeremy and I and we cherish your friendship.

  4. Dawn, thanks for sharing these thoughts with me. You express your thoughts very well. You not only have honored Ruth but our Lord. I hope you know God has blessed you and you have blessed others.