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There are times when words evade me, and there are other times when writing is healing and therapeutic.
It’s been 18 days since a phone call that changed my life forever,
that my dear friend Ruth Glick Leatherman woke up in Heaven.
For her, it is joy unspeakable. For her family and those who loved her, it is an ache so deep.
This is a tribute to her, and the beautiful legacy she left us.
// photo courtesy of the Glick family //
“O love of God! How rich and pure, how measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure, the saints and angels song!”
This was the quote you wrote on your blog after the death of your first baby in your womb. This was the heartbeat by which you lived – to know and proclaim the love of God. This is what we remember you as, a lover of God, first of all.
It’s been a little over two weeks since I got the phone call from your sister with a choked voice, “She didn’t wake up this morning.”
I can’t even describe what went through me when I heard those words. Complete shock. Disbelief. “It can’t possibly be true!” Hoping against hope that I could just pick up the phone and talk to you and dismiss this nightmare I had just entered. Instead I began mourning from somewhere so deep inside that I didn’t even know existed. But it still seems like you can’t be gone.
How could this happen? I was just with you 2 1/2 weeks before. You ran a 10K just two weeks before. You ran a marathon last spring. I called you when Ruby was 2 or 3 weeks old and Mark answered, “She’s out running.” When I got a hold of you the next time I gave you a hard time for running far before doctor’s okay, both teasing you and yet with great admiration. You were the picture of health and determination. I am sure that even you had no idea of the mitral valve prolapse that caused your heart to stop that morning.
// brunch that Ruth hosted for my sisters, Liz, and me, just 2.5 weeks prior.
never in a million years would’ve i known this was the last time together. //
There are few people I’ve met that have been more ALIVE than you. You simply radiated life and vitality of body, and you are one of the most vivacious and fun-loving people I know. How you must have been absolutely delighted as you awoke in Heaven, and I know you are are now experiencing Life more fully than ever before. I can picture you now, head thrown back, laughing contagiously. Or speaking earnestly with wide expressive eyes as you talk with Corrie ten Boom, or scooping up little Emma, the little baby who died in your womb, and just delighting over her as you walk through Heaven. I can imagine you immersed in music, thrilling in something you deeply wanted to pursue while you were here.
What Joy you must know. And how it makes those of us left behind long to experience what you already know.
It makes Heaven seem all the more real; not a mystical idea of someday, but Real, right now.
At this very moment you are more Alive than you ever were on earth.
How homesick I am for that Real home, for that Reality that is far bigger than this earthly reality.
There are so many people who speak of you since you’re gone, how you were so alive, so passionate for God, such a great mother, a faithful loving wife, a friend who treasured the people around her, how you took meals to people, the gifts you gave, and on and on and on. And it’s true. It’s all true. Sometimes people say things to try to make the people left behind feel better, and other times people say things because they can’t help it, because of the impact someone made. And the latter is true. No, we don’t idolize you, but we remember your life and the incredible woman of God that you were, and we can’t help but talk about that. I’m in awe of what an impact one life has made on so many. Your one life.
There are reminders of you everywhere. Even though we lived nearly a thousand miles apart, you are still all over my home. In my living room grows the “friendship plant” you gave me, divided from your own plant, when I moved to Georgia six year ago. I walk in my closet, and there hangs a skirt you gave me for my birthday. In my drawer are the pajamas you gave. On my kitchen window sill sits the hand cream you made last fall. In my purse is your homemade lip balm. On my desk is the Willow Tree friendship plaque you gave before we moved away, because we were forever friends, you and I. In my cupboard is the bottle of vanilla extract, the make-it-yourself kind that you were so excited about. Hudson’s pacifiers and ribbon holders – you gave them. The tea kettle on my stove is from you and Aliza.
And then there are the matching things we had, shamelessly bought so we’d have one like each other. A skirt and pajamas that you gave and bought the same for yourself. I saw your navy and white striped shoes with the red bow and just had to buy some like it. We bought matching black trench coats at Gap years ago and still wear them. You saw my diaper bag from Pottery Barn Kids and loved it and bought one for your baby, and a matching fleece blanket from Baby Gap. And all these name-brand things we bought for a song – we loved quality but we were always hunting a bargain. We had the tradition for years of going shopping together the day after Christmas, and when I pull out my Christmas decor this year it’ll all be things I bought when with you.
I loved how we’d go to each other’s houses, and were as comfortable as family. “Do you have anything to eat?” you’d ask as you’d raid my refrigerator, and we’d both laugh. Or we’d go looking through each other’s closets and exclaim over clothing and wonder where the other bought it so that we could buy one too.
// Mark & Ruth
Esther, Isaac, Ruby //
// both pictures courtesy of Hannah Martin, sister to Ruth //
I always had a running list of things to talk about with you, and when we lived close by we’d talk non-stop when we were together. When we lived far apart we talked on the phone but our conversations were never finished – it was always “it was sooo fun to catch up, but next time we’ll talk more!” And I find myself, almost daily, thinking of things I still want to tell you.
You were the friend that called and left the best, longest voice mails.
Even my husband would know it was you calling because
1) the voice mails were so long, and 2) I’d always laugh when I’d listen to them.
I remember when we first met, I was 14 and you were 15. I thought you were so fun and popular and life-of-the-party and thought it impossible to ever be friends with someone so cool. You and Bek still ribbed me years later about that bright pink dress with the puffed sleeves that I wore that first Sunday to visit your church, and we would just howl with laughter. You were the one with the infectious laugh, and if people didn’t know what you were laughing about they’d feel like they were missing out. That’s the kind of person you were. You were the friend that knew me better than anyone else outside of my family, and somehow, you still liked me.
// in the beginning. goodness, how time has changed us! //
My growing up years have you all over them. Some hard times, but mostly good times, and the good times made better for working through the hard. You became like a sister to me, and you knew as much about my family as my family did. J The old Bronco you used to drive, the beautiful farm where you grew up, my parents’ house – so many precious memories are there. We laughed until we cried many times. We taught Sunday School together to a little kids’ class and you were the one with the great ideas and I was the one that said, “Oh yeah! That’s awesome!” and I’d just help.
We talked about our futures together, and wondered who in the world we’d marry,
and we prayed together about that.
You went to Russia for a year and I missed you terribly.
We met wonderful godly men and fell in love. We were passionate about God and purity and making the right decision in marriage, and were jealous over each other. We were in each other’s weddings and rejoiced in the other’s love, and stood by each other in the marriage we made until ‘death do us part.’ We talked about hard times in our marriages and felt for each other, but always always pressed each other to Jesus, and to our spouse. It was never just about us; it was about the forever covenant we made to our marriages and about helping each other stand strong in that commitment. And not just honoring the covenant, but about making our marriages the best that they could be. We weren’t satisfied with just mediocre; we wanted the fullest measure we could give them.
// my wedding //
// part of the small group we were in together
me, Ruth, Bek, Aliza //
// one of the best summers ever, involving lots of time together.
we both lived in Pennsylvania at the same time for a year after we were married. //
You called me one day with tears in your voice and told me you lost the baby you were carrying, and I cried with you. And then we carried three babies full term, pregnant together all three times, and loved to talk pregnancy and aches and pains and thrills of new life forming. We talked of our precious children and swapped stories and laughed at each other’s kids and asked advice and treasured the days when our children were old enough to play together. We hoped our children would become good friends too, the way we were, and we thought there was a good chance because you and I were going to be little old ladies together, loving God and life and being crazy together.
You were such a fun mom, and you so adored your children. And you were so intentional about being a mother. You weren’t satisfied to simply raise children – you wanted to raise children who feared the Lord, who were taught of Jesus, who learned to love the Savior that you did. You didn’t want behavior modification; you wanted their hearts to experience Christ. And so you taught them about Jesus.
Since you’re gone I once helped tuck your precious kids in bed and I listened to them sing the songs you taught them. Esther said, “I know a song! I want to sing it by myself!” And the evening of the calling hours she sang this song, “Savior, You can move the mountains… My God is mighty to save… Forever, Author of Salvation…He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave…” They know, Ruth. They know you loved them. They know that Jesus loves them. They know that God is a Big God. You and Mark taught them.
// pregnant with our oldest children, due within two weeks of each other //
// Shelly Nissley, Ruth, and myself. We’ve been pregnant together three times. //
You pressed me to God in beautiful ways. We could talk about anything under the sun, vent to each other when we needed to, cry about hard things in our lives, laugh about inside jokes, and every single time I’d come away I was inspired to more of Jesus. We told each other we’d pray for each other, and we did. Our talks could be fun or serious, but they would always press to Jesus whether in words or simply the spirit of your life. You were so hungry for God, always wanting more of Jesus, and that was our deepest bond. That was the foundation of who you were.
But suddenly, you’re gone. And what I feel is a strange combination of trust and agony. Agony because I do not know how to do life without you here. How can life ever be sweet again? How can it hurt so badly that you’re not here? Sometimes the tears fall like rain. Sometimes it seems the tears can’t be found. But the ache is always there. It hurts so deeply because what we had was so so precious. And I’m not even your husband, your children, your sisters and brothers and mom and dad… I’m just a friend, one of many of your friends, and it hurts so much. I can’t even imagine what they must feel, how much they must miss you.
And yet I do not doubt God’s ways, and I believe with all my heart that He makes no mistakes. I don’t understand at all, but I do trust. I believe that He IS Big Enough to care for your husband and your precious precious children even with you gone, even though it breaks my heart that you’re not in their home anymore. It is because of Him that we enjoyed such a close, precious friendship for so many years. Without Jesus those friendships and relationships don’t happen. It is to Him that you surrendered your life many years ago, and the fruit you bore was of the rarest beauty.
It was the Jesus in you that impacted so many people, and often without you trying or even realizing how impacting it was. It was the Jesus in you that gave you such a great attitude about life and other people, and rarely can I remember you down in the dumps. It was the Jesus in you that loved so well – loved your Mark, your three beautiful children, your sisters and brothers and parents and family, your friends, the people you met. It was the Jesus in you that gave you such a soft heart toward the things of God, that instilled in your children the love of God.
And it is to Jesus that we owe the assurance – not just the hope, but assurance – that this is only the Beginning for you. For us, as your sister Liz said, our time remaining is only a dot in the line of eternity. Yes, we hurt, we hurt terribly. But in light of eternity we will be with you soon. And this is not the end for us, although it sure can feel that way some days. Somehow you still live on, in your husband and beautiful children, in your beautiful sisters and family, even in the friendship you formed. We are better people, I am a better person, for knowing you.
Late in July of this year you wrote, “Pondering the thought that we are not made for this world of heart ache and pain.
It’s one of those moments when I wonder how long must we wait for the return of our Savior?“
And I know again that you are so happy, you are in a world that knows no heart ache, no pain.
You didn’t need to wait long, dear Ruth.
You gave me the words of this song after I lost my grandfather and aunt within a short time, and tears rose when I found them again now:
You’re in a better place, I’ve heard a thousand times. And at least a thousand times I’ve rejoiced for you.
But the reason why I’m broken the reason why I cry. Is how long must I wait to be with you.
I close my eyes and I see your face. If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place.
Lord won’t you give me strength to make it through somehow. I’ve never been more homesick than now.
Help me Lord because I don’t understand your ways. The reason why I wonder if I’ll ever know.
But even if You showed me the hurt would be the same. Because Im still here so far away from home.
In Christ there are no goodbyes. In Christ there is no end. So I’ll hold onto Jesus with all that I have. To see you again.
Words and Music by: Bart Millard
Sung by: MercyMe
And it’s not goodbye. It’s just a see-you-later. Because this isn’t the end.
This is only the Beginning.
All my love,
p.s. I hope our houses are next door in Heaven. We’ll have so much to catch up on.
// my sister Claudia and Ruth this summer.
they are so much alike, and being with these two at the same time was unforgettable. //
// pregnant with our 3rd babies. you at 40 weeks, me at 20 //
// forever friends //
edited to add:
Besides prayers and intercession for the precious Leatherman and Glick families,
which are invaluable in themselves,
this is another way you are able to help:
Calvary Monument Bible Church, and Marks employer , Earl R Martin, Inc.
have created a fund for the Leatherman family
so that Mark is able spend more time with his children, which is his great concern.
Please direct your tax deductible gifts of love to
Calvary Monument Bible Church
1660 Mine Road
Paradise, PA 17562
Please earmark ‘Leatherman Family Fund’