The Wake We Leave Behind

Ruth came to our congregation late in life. She didn’t like to give her age, but she must have been in her 80s. Her joy and love for God found expression in prayer and above all in song.

For a while her joy was dented as her sight began to fail and she was told that there was no solution. However, she never missed our weekly service, though she often came wearing odd shoes. We gave her the hymns in large print so she could still join in the singing. When she could no longer see well enough to read those, someone would sit beside her and quickly say the words of the next line of each hymn in her ear.

Ruth lived in an apartment block near the sea. It overlooked a marina crowded with yachts and high-powered cruisers. When visiting Ruth, I noticed that when boats leave the marina too fast, their wake slams the nearby boats around on their moorings and sometimes throws them against the quay, damaging them. The marina puts up prominent warnings: “You are responsible for your wake.”

The time came when Ruth could no longer manage living on her own. She had to move to a care home near to a relative, but too far from our church for her to attend. But we could not forget this dear lady. She never preached a sermon, led services, made the tea and coffee, arranged the flowers or any of the other tasks that we may think contribute to the life of a congregation.

Ruth’s calming wake served to inspire our collective worship. I wish there were a few more like her.

But Ruth was a vital part of that life. From the second row where she always sat, her determination to join in with heartfelt worship was a visible weekly inspiration for all of us. Her worship lifted us. If we were feeling tired or dispirited or were distracted with the problems of the past week, we only had to look at Ruth. We could follow in her gentle, yet spiritually powerful wake.

As Paul explained to the Corinthian church, there are many ways to serve, each according to his or her spiritual gifts. These gifts are not given for personal benefit or individual aggrandizement. The Holy Spirit displays God’s gracious power through each member as a means of helping the entire church (1 Corinthians 12:1-7).

So it was that Ruth’s calming wake served to inspire our collective worship. I wish there were a few more like her, gently chugging into our lives, making her presence with humble and persistent dedication. Ruth is no longer with us, but what she gave to us lives on. She was one of those parts of the body that seem to be weaker, but which are indispensable (1 Corinthians 12:22).

Hilary Buck, 2011

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