They say that a person is like a diamond: their light shining from the many facets or roles they undertake in their life that make up the whole.
I had the privilege of knowing Ruth in a number of roles: as wife to Neville, as mother to Genevievre and Marguerite, as a Social Work colleague and as a friend. However, a particularly memorable role for me of Ruth was her role as the rescuer of a very small, frightened and exceedingly grubby kitten.
Ruth, Neville and their daughters Genevievre and Marguerite were living at Fairfield at the time and Ruth had been recently diagnosed with a Stage IV malignant brain tumour with a life expectancy measured in months.
Ruth wanted to prolong her life as long as possible to see her daughters grow up and underwent invasive brain surgery, followed by a gruelling regime of radium, chemotherapy and rehabilitation therapy as an inpatient and finally an endless round of hospital appointments as an outpatient. Neville was always there, supportive of Ruth and doing his best for Ruth and their daughters in a situation that was – to say the least – extremely difficult.
Upon finally getting home from hospital and facing a very different lifestyle and still with the grim reality of a much shortened life span, Ruth became aware that hiding in her garden was an abandoned kitten. Even in the midst of her own serious health issues, Ruth’s compassion and love of animals came to the fore. Ruth approached the local animal rescue group for assistance but they were inundated and unable to help. While I had worked with Ruth in a professional capacity, Ruth knew that I was also a volunteer at Little Paws Kitten Rescue, a cat and kitten rescue group. At Ruth’s request, I approached Little Paws Kitten Rescue and it was agreed they would assist this kitten and my family and I would provide the foster care. Thus began the process of rescuing this kitten who Ruth named Tabitha.
Initially Ruth tried to entice Tabitha into her home with food, but Tabitha was terrified of people and showed signs of having been badly abused. Ruth persisted in her efforts and finally, Tabitha did enter the house long enough for Ruth (despite her own significantly reduced mobility) to trap her in the bathroom. Tabitha was collected and, still terrified of people, came to our home for foster care with the goal of eventual adoption to a suitable member of the public.
Tabitha then began a long process of rehabilitation both physically and psychologically. Ruth was always keen to receive updates on Tabitha’s progress and shared stories of her own beloved cats and their latest antics. Ruth and Neville would also visit Tabitha (and us!) at intervals in our home and saw her slowly gain confidence, put on weight and regain her health. We could not heal Tabitha’s inherited skeletal deformity but in every other way she blossomed.
In due course, Tabitha was put up for adoption through the Little Paws Kitten Rescue and Petrescue websites. Despite over 700 views, no-one suitable was found to adopt Tabitha with her special needs.
Tabitha remains with us still today: some eight years after Ruth rescued her and is now a treasured (and permanent) member of our family. I feel that perhaps this was the way it was meant to be. Tabitha is a living testament to Ruth’s ability to rise above her own troubles to help others.
* * * * *
Like so many people, as you slowly accept that their physical presence is no longer with you, memories and images of their lives, their achievements and what made them uniquely who they were come to mind. And so it has been with Ruth.
“You have gone, and I shall miss you
Yet I can rejoice, for your touch remains in everything that you have loved.
And I can remember that from the beginning of time to the end,
Life is one and continuous, a stream which ever moves through all,
And is never lost when the form drops away”.
~ Author Unknown ~
When I look at Tabitha today, reclining on her cushion and enjoying the sun streaming through the window onto her now glossy coat, I often think of Ruth. A touch of Ruth remains with Tabitha and with us in our memories of Ruth’s compassion – even in the midst of her own troubles – for that small and very frightened kitten all those years ago.
Ruth touched the lives of so many, both in her professional role as Social Worker and in her private life. She demonstrated an enduring compassion for others’ troubles even within her own severe trials. Ruth always asked after the wellbeing of myself and my family regardless of what was happening for her. It was a gift she had: an ability to move beyond her own suffering to help another in need – whether a person or a helpless kitten. Perhaps there is a lesson in that for all of us. A final gift from someone who gave so much to others.
Ruth gave us all many memories to treasure and this is my special memory of Ruth.
Rest in Peace Ruth my friend. You have earned your wings.
Margaret Warnick, 19 May 2017