Tomorrow is my best friend's birthday. It's been over 10 years since I've sent her a birthday card, but I still wish her a "Happy Birthday" from my heart. I miss her presence in my life so much that sometimes it brings me to tears, but the fact remains, I will never see her again.
Ruth was a prim and proper minister's daughter. I met her in my freshman year at college when I asked if I could borrow a pen from her. We started talking, and we found we shared many interests even though we were the direct opposites of each other. She was quiet, and I was a bit brassy at that age. She would laugh at my somewhat ribald jokes with a bit of a shocked look on her face. But we both shared a deep love of God, and we spent hours talking about what God had in store for us in the future.
Eventually, we moved away and got married and started our families. Through it all, we kept in touch - phone calls, letters, and sometimes a quick visit. We were so "in tune" with each other that we could virtually pick up where we left off without missing a beat.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986. She successfully completed her chemotherapy, but she was left with the unshakable fear that her life would be cut short, and her kids would be without a mom. When I became a mom for the first time in 1988, she lovingly made a beautiful patchwork quilt for TP. Over the next few years, as her health stabilized, Ruth became more confident that she had a long life ahead of her.
I didn't hear from her at Christmastime in 1995. I knew she was busy, as was I, so I thought I'd just give her a call on her birthday in February. When I called her home, her daughter answered and said that Ruth was taking a nap and would call me back later. I had a strange feeling about that answer, but I dismissed it.
I got the phone call from Ruth's husband at the end of April. Ruth had died the week before of cancer. It had spread to the liver, and by the time they found out about it in March, it was too late to do anything. Her husband said he had been going through her things, and he found her address book, and he noticed that my birthday was coming up. So he was calling to let me know the news, because he knew I would want to know. I was in shock as I hung up the phone. TP saw the look on my face and asked me what was wrong. I told her as gently as I could about Ruth, and TP ran to get the blanket which had been made by Ruth eight years before. TP handed the blanket to me (her most prized possession), and said "Here, mom, you can have this now to keep Ruth's love warm in your heart". You can imagine what those words did to me.
Why Ruth never called me to let me know she was so ill, I will never know. That is not important. What is important is that her love helped me through some of the toughest times of my life. Her love is still the guiding force in her family. Her spirit is still alive today in many ways. When I look at that quilt she made 18 years ago for TP, I smile and remember her laugh.
Happy Birthday, Ruth. You are missed. You are loved. And thank you again for being my best friend.