I received word from my wife just a few minutes ago that my mother-in-law has passed away. (My wife spent last night with her mother in the hospital, and was planning to do so again tonight.)
Ruth had been fighting Alzheimer’s, or something like it, for probably about ten years, but her physical health seemed excellent until early this week, and, frankly, we had expected her to be around for quite a bit longer. This has been a surprise. She went into a coma and steadily declined.
She visited me and my wife in Cairo, and she was with us in the hospital room in Santa Monica when our middle son was born. She and her husband visited with our family later, while I was teaching in Jerusalem. She played the organ in the Denver Temple, served as a Relief Society president, supported her husband while he served as a bishop and in a stake presidency, fed us all while we were on the family houseboat down at Lake Powell, talked jazz with my jazz-afficionado middle son, and was the matriarch of a very close-knit though now geographically dispersed family. Always interested in the arts, she and her husband went with us to the Utah Shakespearean Festival every summer for many years, even as recently as August of 2012. Attending the plays there this summer will be a very, very different experience for us now.
Last night, I was privileged to participate, with two of her sons and one of my own sons, as her husband pronounced a tender priesthood blessing upon her, thanking her for her life of service and, effectively, bidding her goodbye.
I’ve always loved Karen Lynn Davidson’s lyrics, set to music by A. Laurence Lyon:
Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.
What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know,
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.
When such a friend from us departs,
We hold forever in our hearts
A sweet and hallowed memory,
Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.
For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
Devotion to the Savior’s name,
Who bless our days with peace and love,
We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.
In a very real way, the grave marker depicted in one of my most recent blog entries captures my response to Ruth’s passing. In fact, I was thinking about her when I posted it. I’ve missed her, really, for years. She is now free. She is whole again, clear once more, and, I believe, very, very happy.