Memory Eternal

Ruthie Lehming, beloved sister of Rod Dreher fell asleep in the Lord yesterday. Please keep Rod and his extended family –and of course, Ruthie–in your prayers. Rod wrote this beautiful reflection a few days ago.

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Source: The American Conservative | Rod Dreher

Back when I was doing my Beliefnet blog, I wrote often about my sister Ruthie Leming, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 40. She was healthy, had never smoked, and had none of the risk factors. Yet, there she was, with a husband, three children, and a terminal diagnosis.

I wrote about her a lot, not only because I love her, but because the way she handled her diagnosis was absolutely extraordinary, and so full of grace. In one post I turned into a magazine article, I touched on this:

Local folks who came to see Ruthie would tell our family about things she had done for them that won their hearts. People began posting comments on my blog about ordinary kindnesses that, in retrospect, meant so much. A colleague of Ruthie’s remembered the time they were running in a race, and she fell; Ruthie stopped, picked her up, and hung back with her until the finish. Several recalled mercies she’d bestowed upon their difficult children as their teacher, out of her boundless patience. Ruthie’s class this school year has a reputation for bad behavior, and her teacher friends had asked her once how she could put up with the little terrors. She said to them, “Because I love them, and they might change.”

By week’s end, I could see that the fearlessness, the tranquility, and the big-heartedness with which my sister accepted her grim cancer diagnosis didn’t come from nowhere. She could be so marvelously brave in the face of her own mortality because she had lived her life by virtue. Virtue can be such a prissy word (ironic, that, given its roots in the Latin word for “manliness”), and Ruthie would no doubt roll her eyes at its being applied to her. But the quiet, modest life she’s lived at home illustrates Aristotle’s idea that virtue is a habit of the heart. That is, by “doing the right thing,” as she would put it, day in and day out, by persevering in charity and patience, and by rejecting anger, over time Ruthie became a woman of deep virtue, the greatness of which became fully apparent only in this crisis, not only in the measured fortitude with which she’s accepted this severe blow, but also in the way her friends and neighbors have responded.

That, by the way, has taught me something about the virtue of living in a real community. The outpouring – an eruption, really – of goodness and charity from the people of our town toward Ruthie and her family has been quite simply stunning. Folks tend to respond kindly when others get their ox in a ditch, as they say back home. But in Ruthie’s case, what’s happened here, and is happening every day, is a revelation. The acts of aid and comfort have been ceaseless, often reducing our parents to tears of shock and awe that the love of others could be so intense. Even two of Ruthie’s oncologists wept over her, one confiding to a colleague that he’d “fallen in love with that little family, and I’m going to give them my very best.” As a teacher told me, “Ruthie’s earned this. She’s drawing this out of people because of the way she’s lived her life, and the way she’s always treated others.”

I talked to her the other day, and knew from what my folks had been telling me that she was in steep decline. Losing weight, on oxygen again, in lots of pain. But if it hadn’t been for Mama and Daddy, who live next door to her, telling me these things, I would never have known. She never, ever complains. She mentioned to me that she had been dreaming lately of family members who had died. Our grandfather Dede. Our grandmother Mullay. Our Aunt Julia. She said they appeared to her in different dreams.


Read the whole article on the The American Conservative website.


  1. Condolences Rod on the loss of your sister. May her memory be eternal. ES+

  2. Memory eternal!

  3. Memory eternal

  4. V.Rev.Andrei Alexiev says

    My condolences,Rod! God grant her eternal rest!

    • CodeNameYvette says

      May her memory be eternal and may her family find the presence of God to sustain them in their loss.

  5. Cathryn Tatusko says

    So sorry to hear of your loss, Rod. May the Lord comfort you and all of Ruthie’s family in this heart-breaking time. Would that we could all meet death with the same grace, faith, and courage with which your sister did.

    Grant rest, O Lord, to the soul of thy servant, and make her memory to be eternal!

    In Christ,
    Cathy Tatusko