Welcome to Stuff I Learned Yesterday. My name is Ruthie Rink, and I also took the ACT when I was in the 7th grade…that’s right, Darrell, they were doing that kind of thing back in “our day” here in Oklahoma, and I believe that if you aren’t learning, you aren’t living. In today’s episode of Stuff I Learned Yesterday I share a lesson I learned from my friend Ruth.
While Ruthie is my given name, not a nickname, it’s close enough to the name Ruth for horseshoes and hand grenades, so, today’s fun facts are all about the name Ruth. I have never actually met anyone with the exact same name as me, and only one person named Ruth. To find these fun facts, I visited a few different websites.
- RUTH is the 138th most popular name in the USA. One in every 554 Americans is named RUTH and popularity of the name RUTH is 1.8 people per thousand.
- If we compare the popularity statistics of RUTH to population statistics, we can estimate that there are 589,334 people named as RUTH in the United States and the number is increasing by 4,742 people every year.
- Of uncertain etymology, most believe Ruth to be derived from the Hebrew word meaning companion or friend. The name is borne in the Bible by a Moabite woman who was devoted to her mother-in-law. Her story is told in the Book of Ruth. Ruth is also only one of two women to have a book in the Bible. (that last part was from me!)
- As a Christian name, Ruth has been in use since the Protestant Reformation. It became very popular in America following the birth of “Baby” Ruth Cleveland (1891-1904), the daughter of President Grover Cleveland.
And now for some famous people with the first name of Ruth:
- Ruth Negga, who played Raina in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Ruth Wilson, who played Margaret Goff in Saving Mr. Banks
- Ruth Pointer, the eldest member of the Pointer Sisters
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, second female justice to sit on the US Supreme Court
- Dr. Ruth Westheimer, best known as Dr. Ruth, and if you don’t know who she is, ask your parents,
- And finally, this last one surprised me when I found it: Ruth Elizabeth Davis, better known as actress and classic pin-up girl, Bette Davis
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Gardening Your Friendships
I tried to tell this story two years ago, but I couldn’t do it without crying. Now, I feel more confident in my abilities, but to be on the safe side, I have my Kleenex right here. But let me go back a little further into the history of this story. My story begins on October 25, 1977 when Ruth Anna Bonge was born to loving parents in Norman…wait, that was probably too far back. Let’s get to the good stuff. In January of 2003 I met Ruth at a Tae Kwon Do class taught by master instructor Ed Rugh of the Rugh Institute. I remember that when I started the class a few months before, I was a little unsure because I didn’t know anyone and I had never done anything like this before. When she showed up in class, I was just getting my bearings. Have you ever heard of friendship at first sight? If you’re comparing it to love at first sight, but with friends, then you get the idea. I knew that Ruth and I would be friends the instant we met, and thus the “Hi Ruth it’s Ruthie” and vice versa was born. That was sort of our running joke, since our names were so similar. Every time we left a voicemail for each other, that was how it started.
Ruth fast became one of my most favorite people on the whole planet. She was always cheery and full of love, and always ready to be there when or if you needed her. At the time, she had no children, but was married to a guy named Brian Graham. They had been married for a little under three years, and sometimes we would hang out with him, too. Sometimes we would hang out with people from Tae Kwon Do, but a lot of the time, we would just hang out and do stuff we liked to do. She was the kind of person who could make friends with everyone, but somehow, no one ever felt left out or cheated or like they were less important. I was in school at the time, but she was already done with it and worked as a nanny for a family she had known for a very long time. We both liked the show Alias and it became our thing to talk about Sydney Bristow and her adventures, and what the heck is going on here? But we also liked to cook and drink tea and in general, just hang out. She always seemed to have time for everyone.
When I went to France a few months later to do a study abroad, she managed to catch up and surpass me in the ten months I was gone from Tae Kwon Do, but it wasn’t enough to really make a difference, and certainly our relationship was never one of competition. It was more both of us lifting each other up and doing the best we could. Even though Tae Kwon Do was the foundation of our relationship, it wasn’t the end all be all, and so when I had to take a step back because school got crazy right before I finished, we were still friends. She had her first baby, Ethan, a few months after I graduated from college, and a few months later, I got a job in Albuquerque and had to move away. But Ruth was one of those friends where no matter the time or distance that passes between you, you can pick up right where you left off. She came to Albuquerque to visit other friends, and made sure I got my fair share of time. Living in Albuquerque was a hard two years of my life, but that’s another story. Since I didn’t get many visitors from home, I was really excited to get to see one of my most favorite people on the planet, who also reminded me of home.
After my stint in Albuquerque, I moved back to Oklahoma and Ruth and I caught up with each other again. Everyone should have a friend like Ruth. The saying “true friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s being separated and nothing changes” was probably written about her. She had had another baby while I was in Albuquerque, and Brian and Ruth had finally decided it was time to buy a bigger house. The one they found was in a different city, and although it seemed like it was really far away, it really wasn’t. I visited her as much as I could, but since she wasn’t as free as she once was, it wasn’t as easy as in the past. I was trying to make it through grad school (which turned out to be a mistake). Then I got a job at a bank, she had a third child, and as sometimes happens, life gets in the way. Before I knew it, a couple of years had passed and I realized I hadn’t spent as much time as I should with my friend.
On December 10, 2012, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post by Ruth. In her post, she talked about the results of another test on her heart, and that they still didn’t know what was causing her fainting spells She was in good spirits and she was cracking jokes about it, in fact. My first reaction was guilt. How could so much time have passed that I had no idea there was even anything wrong with her?? That multiple tests and doctors had been done and seen?! My second reaction was that I should definitely call her to check in and see how she was doing. Well, when you fall out of habit of gardening your friendships, you don’t always call right away. I thought “I’ll call her tomorrow” and then tomorrow became the next day. Then, suddenly, there was no next day. Two years ago today, I woke up after falling asleep in my living room. It was late and I started to sift through facebook again when I received the shock of my life (so far). At the young age of 37, my beautiful sweet friend had unexpectedly passed away that morning. I could not believe what I was reading. “But she was fine!” I thought, “she said so herself!” How could this be? I then thought back to the numerous promptings I had received and ignored to call her in those last few days of her life. It might not have made any difference to her if I had called or not, but it certainly would have been a comfort to me to hear her voice one last time before I would never be able to say to her, “Hi Ruth, it’s Ruthie!” again.
Here’s what I learned.
I realize now, looking back that I had missed an opportunity because I thought I was busy, or simply didn’t have time to get into a long conversation just then. I had mistakenly thought, oh this can wait, I can just do it later. To me, she was one of those people who would always be there. But now she is gone. A few days later I went to her funeral and was simply overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance. You would have thought she had been alive for twice as long based on how full the chapel was. To me, that was just one more example of how awesome she was and what an impact she made on people’s lives. I am not really much of a crier, but I did some ugly crying for a good portion of that week, and especially at her funeral. I hope this hasn’t depressed you too much, but instead has reminded you of the important things in life.
I will always cherish my friendship with Ruth, and that I got to be a part of her life, and she a part of mine, and I will always regret brushing off the opportunity to talk to her when I had it. You can insert all the clichés here about not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today, but sometimes they really are true, and if you are like me, you need to be reminded more than once. There is light at the end of this tunnel, however. While I didn’t hang out with Brian too much (because after all, he was just my friend Ruth’s husband), I can say now that I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have had to be his friend. And of course, to get to spend time with their beautiful children Ethan, Katherine, and Jonathan. So don’t ignore that still small voice when it prompts you to call your loved ones. Take the opportunity this holiday season to call the important people in your life and tell them how much they mean to you, because you may not get another chance to do so. Take the time to Garden Your Friendships.
I’m Ruthie Rink and this has been Stuff I Learned Yesterday.
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