I apologize for the fact that my most recent posts here haven't been particularly uplifting. This, I'm afraid, will be more of the same. I wish it didn't have to be. But unfortunately, I woke up to some sad news today. One of the altos from my church choir died sometime yesterday. It wasn't really surprising—she had been suffering from heart problems for years, and they'd gotten worse in the past year, even leading up to a lengthy hospital stay not long before our church choir's trip to Scotland and Ireland this August—but it was unwelcome news nonetheless.
I first remember meeting Ruth about ten years ago, when she joined my community choir for the first of our two trips to England. I was nineteen at the time, and at that point my spiritual life was as Pagan as it could possibly be, considering that I had only graduated from my Catholic high school at the end of the previous school year, and I don't think that I had fully realized yet the real meaning of preparing Anglican church music to sing in a very large, very old Anglican church that used to be a very large, very old Catholic church. Because she sings alto, and I'm a soprano, we didn't really speak much before the trip; it's not that there's any kind of snobbery inherent in that statement, but my community choir is fairly large, and even at the time there were close to fifty singers, especially since we had several people who our director had asked to join us for the trip. There wasn't much of a chance for us all to socialize with each other at rehearsal, either. But then, when the trip itself got underway in August 2002, Ruth and I did end up talking several times. Over the years, as another trip to England took place and I joined the church choir, I gradually came to think of her as a friend, though not a close one.
Ruth was raised Baptist, though she eventually converted to Anglicanism. In the time that I knew her, her faith and her belief in God were absolutely unshakeable. They were her favourite topic of conversation, in fact; rarely would a chat with her not end up touching on at least one or two theological points. She didn't get preachy, exactly, or particularly self-righteous; it was more that her faith was the most important thing in her life, and she gave it a lot of credit for sustaining her in some of her most difficult times, both in her personal life and with her health. Suffice it to say that she and I didn't always see eye-to-eye. But anyone could see the tremendous love that she had for other people as well as for God; for as long as I knew her, she was never one to act as if her faith made her better than anyone who didn't believe as she did, and her kindness and generosity were always freely given.
She did have a tendency to speak about non-Christians as if they were slightly recalcitrant but still somewhat amusing children who would come to their senses eventually. It wasn't out of malice, so I never took offense as I might have if almost anyone else had expressed those sentiments; rather, she believed that it was just common sense to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that it was more than a little silly to ignore the God whose presence she felt so strongly in her life. In fact, at a time in my life when I was more than a little lost in regards to what to do about my spirituality, she gave me some very valuable advice. Though I know that it led me down a path that she wouldn't really have approved of, I have never regretted listening. And I know she was happy when she found out that I had joined the church choir three years ago.
Speaking of the choir, her dedication was admirable; she rarely missed a regular service, or an extra one, for that matter, unless she genuinely couldn't help it. We will miss the strength of her voice as much as we will miss the woman herself.
She went into the hospital for the last time a few weeks ago, and then checked herself out against medical advice as soon as she was strong enough to do so. I couldn't say for sure, but I think she knew this time that she was on her way out. I'm thankful to have known her, and I'm glad that she was able to go on to whatever comes next in the comfortable surroundings of her own home, a place I know that she loved.
May she rest in peace.