A year ago I was 27 weeks pregnant and spent a lot of my time barefoot in a kitchen. I had been vacationing with Ben in St. John as somewhat of a baby-moon when my momma called and said she was heading to Florida and thought I might do the same. My grandmother, who we affectionately call Rufus, was fighting lung cancer and had quickly become much worse. That side of my family has always done that - it’s just what they do - if someone is in need they drop everything, re-arrange work, schedules, travel and show up at their front door with a one-way ticket.
And so within 24 hours of receiving the results from the Mayo Clinic, Rufus moved into my aunt’s house -- my little cousin’s school room becoming a hospice room -- followed by my mother and then me. Guests came from all over; my sister and her fiance soon arrived. It was a beautiful thing to listen as friends and family genuinely expressed to Rufus what an example and inspiration she had been in their lives. We enjoyed several good days which seemed to defy any negative test results but soon it was obvious that Rufus wasn’t at her best. My little baby seemed to be growing at the exact same rate that my sweet grandma was passing. I’d watch my mother and her sister count to three, brace themselves and take much of Rufus’ weight as she lost the ability to move in and out of a chair by herself and I’d silently pray that I would love this baby as well and as deeply as Rufus had loved her children. I watched my mother live out the role that I was about to take on : this weird in-between of daughter and mother at the same time, taking care of and being taken care of.
I was in Florida a total of 3 weeks last April during which I made (and consumed a large portion of), six pound cakes. (We won’t talk about the dr.’s appointment after my return home in which I was told it would be fine if I didn’t gain any more weight, three months before I was due...) There was lifting and cleaning and pushing and pulling to be done and everyone watched out for me and baby -- even Rufus. She’d be the first to snap at me if she thought I was overextending myself. And so, I kept myself busy in the kitchen trying to have food ready for Rufus’ hardworking children that might otherwise forget to eat as can happen when you’re caring so much for someone else. It’s hard to live life together at such a fragile time and in tight quarters but I don’t think any of us would go back and change it. We’d all take turns kissing Rufus goodnight and often she would hold my hands tight and pull my face to hers and whisper a prayer for Ben, for me and for our new baby.
My favorite moments occurred around the kitchen table, like most of my fondest memories with Rufus. A visit to Florida is synonymous with homemade brunswick stew, cornbread, seven-layer salad and of course, a pound cake. And we would linger over every meal -- there was no agenda, no rush. Just a time to eat good food (on the fiestaware that my grandma snatched up through an ad in the paper as a frugal newlywed), and be in good company. This visit, Rufus and I operated on similar schedules -- up several times a night to use the restroom and at least once for a mid-night snack. I would waddle into the kitchen and she’d convince one of her daughters to wheel her in behind me. So we’d sit, in our matching silk polka dot pajamas (Rufus’ pink), and enjoy a slice of pound cake and warm milk, everyone of us exhausted but not about to trade sleep for these precious moments. I’d listen as they all shared stories about motherhood and I’d grab Rufus’ hand to lay on my belly as baby kicked its way around and my heart was content to know that these two could feel each other, would know each other at least in this way. I got to tell Rufus that if baby Glass were a girl, we wanted to name her Ruth. She just held my hand and cried.
I came back to Ohio, my momma and her sister caring for their momma for three more weeks until she peacefully passed on April 30th. We flew back down for a beautiful memorial and it was just like any other gathering our family has had -- genuine and heartfelt but not consumed by the sadness, rather ultimately joyful because of the Hope we profess. And we celebrated the beautiful spirit of Ruth Whitworth Barrett -- the kind of spirit that is so contagious and lovely you find yourself able to laugh and find peace even in the midst of such loss. The love that finds you surrounded by your family at the beach to watch the sunrise together before heading our separate ways.
Fast forward three months to the day after Rufus passed and I meet my Ruth Frances for the first time and I’m immediately in awe and overwhelmed with the desire to protect her and call her darlin’ and teach her to be loving and strong and to wear polka dots and classy shoes like her great-grandma. And at that moment my momma becomes a grandma and I know that she will be for Ruth the priceless example of a godly woman that Rufus was for me. And my friend tells me that Ruth has my eyes and I cry because I’m told I have Rufus’ eyes and I think that would be just lovely. And this new life doesn’t replace her’s but helps to complete a beautiful cycle of growth and family and I’m so grateful for the time that my baby and my grandma overlapped. I can’t wait for the day when Ruth asks where she got her name and I have the opportunity to share this beautiful legacy with her.
ben recorded our facetime pregnancy announcement with rufus back in 2011. xo