Of the many hats I wear, one is as facilitator of a weekly group on “Reminiscences & Life Lessons” at a senior living community. I absolutely adore silver-haired, wrinkled folk and their long-winded sagas. But the downside of the job is the heartbreak I suffer every time I lose a dear friend.
Ruthie and I “clicked” the day she moved into an apartment at the community. Short and squat with a crown of stringy salt-and-pepper, Ruthie always had a twinkle in her eye. Brimming with stories that were unique to her–she spent some of her youth working as a barmaid–she was a dear old eighty-something who was always ready to pull a joke out of her bag.
Ruthie’s specialty was naughty jokes. I’ve been around plenty of octagenarians, but I’m yet to meet an eighty-something who gets that wicked look in her eye when a colorful joke is coming. Being in your eighth decade of life and being funny is a tough balancing act, but Ruthie pulled it off. Most of her peers in the retirement community loved Ruthie, but there were the odd old-fashioned prudes who steered clear of her.
Ruthie was a loyal member of my group. When she went missing a couple of weeks, I learned that she’d been in hospital and then rehab. She did return saying all was well. So when she didn’t show up a week later, I put it down to her legs causing her more trouble. Next Monday, I walked into the building and the group told me that Ruthie had passed over the weekend. Stunned, I just sat there, unable to understand. How could someone with Ruthie’s sense of vitality and fun be gone!?
As the day wore on and the week, it began to sink in, images of our times together flashing before my eyes every so often. And then life took over as it predictably does. But my days were layered with an undercurrent of sadness. My mind whispered Ruthie, Rutie, Ruthie. On my To-Do list was a trip to the library to return a bunch of books. I hadn’t planned on checking anything out, but I did. An unusual title was among my picks–Deepak Chopra’s Why Is God Laughing? The Path to Joy and Spirital Optimism. I turned the pages and was soon engrossed in the story. It was so entertaining and had so many aha’s that I finished it in record time. When I was done, I turned the book over…and that’s when it struck me.
The regulars to this blog know I believe we never stop communicating with those who have crossed over. We need to stay present and pay attention to the signs, though. They send us messages any way they can get our attention, from blinking lights to song lyrics and license plates to books that fall off shelves.
I knew in my gut that this book was Ruthie’s way of reaching out and letting me know that she was okay. The realization had me chuckling in no time. Of course God would be laughing, with Ruthie in His space! The book was chock full of jokes, some of them naughty, some of them smart, some, witty and some, tart. I knew in that moment: this was a special gift to me from my dear friend.
What did I hear her say to me? Here I am, and God is splitting his sides. She was also reminding me to keep laughing. There’s always a joke round the corner.
You’re unstoppable, Ruthie. Having crossed over, you still manage to make me laugh.
“Understanding Death: 10 Ways to Inner Peace for the Grieving” by Uma Girish now available on www.amazon.com