The book of Ruth tells the story of how Ruth makes a sacrifice to family. In the process of her selfless decision to leave her own life and land behind and care for her mother-in-law, Ruth is rewarded with a new family. The book of Ruth is a love story—a familial one. The underlying theme to the book of Ruth is the responsibility one has to protect the weak and unprotected. That community is more important than individualism. That love sometimes requires unselfish sacrifice.
Was she happy with the sacrifice she made? The biblical version says so. I don’t care about the religion part, I admit; I only want to know how it all turned out in her heart of hearts.
I dial the number that connects me to the ranch-style house in Arlington, Texas, where Ruth Virginia Brent Snellings McCown lives with her husband Frank, along with all the critters who show up on her doorstep for the food she leaves out.
“Mother,” I ask, “Are you happy with your choice? Did you do the right thing?”
When I was a bitty girl, Ruth came into my life. My Ruth reassured three small children, a sister and her brothers, who were about to be scattered like seeds in the wind to other relatives when she said, “I will never leave you.”
You want to hear of heroes? Heroes do the hard thing. Heroes do what needs to be done; even when they are afraid, even when they know their life will forever change—and the change’s results are at that moment unknown, the good or bad or indifferent that comes from their action is a mystery. Yet, they move toward the fear instead of away from it.
Ruth looked at those three small children and she made a decision. She had only just married my father. Her young face smooth and unworried, but her hands were rough and work-steady from the farm fields she worked growing up in Arkansas. Those hands reached out to my brothers and me, touched the tops of our heads, placed a palm there, and steadied the circling fearful thoughts of, “What will happen to us?” Our biological mom gave us to this young bride named Ruth, and said, “Take good care of my babies.”
A hero plunges ahead again and again until the job is done, until the task is complete, until the lost is found, weak is strong—until everyone is safe. That day Ruth met me, little pig-tailed chubby-cheeked girl, she wanted me. She wanted my brothers. Her own mother warned her of taking on another man’s children, for who knew what could happen? I can imagine young Ruth standing wide-eyed, afraid to take on a ready-made family, but with the image of those three children branded behind her eyelids each night before sleep. Her heart beat against her chest with the fury of a thousand stomping feet as she went to her little country church, and down upon thin little knees she asked her God, “Am I doing the right thing?” No matter the answer, Ruth rose to her feet, held out her arms to us, and said, “My home is your home.”
Ruth adopted us. She birthed from her small but strong body two boys to add to our family. She moved from city to city with her five children and my restless father. She went to work each day in clothes she made herself. She stretched a dollar so wide it wrapped around our house and kept it warm in the winter. Her daddy died. She and my father divorced after I had already left home. She lost my brother, born from her own body, to a heart-attack when he was only thirty-two. Her momma died. She almost lost my youngest brother born from her own body to a heart attack. And now, every morning, Ruth, grown older but heart never weaker, gets out of bed and makes the quilts and blankets she gives to charities and families and friends. Every evening, Ruth climbs late into bed after making sure everyone else is taken care of. What does she dream?
I ask her, “What do you dream, Mother?”
She answers, “Sometimes about your brother.” A pause. “I wish I could dream about David every night. But maybe that would be too sad.”
I answer, “Maybe it would be.”
She says, “But I have you all, my children.”
I said, “You never did leave us. No matter what. Thank you, Mom.”
You want to talk of heroes? In the face of fear and warnings and a mysterious as the moon future, my Ruth did what had to be done. Her wild heart beating, her rough hands reaching, her soft green-blue eyes flashing, her mouth saying, “This is my family. We stick together. I am a mother. I am Ruth.”
I ask her, “Are you happy with your choice? Did you do the right thing?”
She answers a firm, “Yes.”
A hero never looks back with regret. A hero moves forward. A hero gives life. A hero gives back a life. A hero never expects the gratitude given, and when it is not given, a hero does not demand it. A hero can live among us and no one will ever know the heroic deed she has done.
Now you know about my Ruth.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom & and to all Mothers Everywhere