Saturday would have been our daughter Ruth’s eighteenth birthday. Instead, it marks the ten years she’s been gone. What more is there to say? Except that I am still unable to comprehend her absence. Not a day goes by that I don’t imagine how she might look, what hurdles she might have overcome, what goals she might have held for her future.
As a young person, I read the Bible because I was taught to. Certain passages I loved, like the Apostle Paul’s treatise on love, King David’s Shepherd Psalm, and especially the King James Version of a verse in Job confirming the existence of unicorns. Unicorns! Then my mother explained that later translators understood the animal to be an ox.
It is hard to reconcile the terrible things that happen to us with God’s great love for us. Yet, those who I admire most have found a way to keep loving and trusting God anyway while working to lessen the suffering of others.
My mother’s journals sat in a box in my garage. They covered 40 years – from soon after she chose to follow Jesus, on our Oregon farm, to living in Israel, Russia and Azerbaijan, working as a linguist and Bible translator. And before she died, she’d asked me to destroy them. “But Mom,” I’d protested, driving her home from one of her many doctor’s appointments during her final months with cancer. “Those are the stories of your life. They are a treasure.”
I was feeling unusually down this week, more than even dreary skies and freezing drizzle could account for. Tuesday, I didn’t want to go out. But needing to do errands, I zipped my rain jacket, buckled my kids in the van, and drove to Bath anyway.
“What’s the date?” I asked my 15-year-old daughter, Lydia, pulling up to the bank.
“April 17th,” she said.
“Oh.” I sighed. Suddenly my heavy mood made sense. “Ruth’s birthday.”