When I arrived to work this morning, the newspapers were stacked in neat piles on the round student tables in my classroom. For everyone else, this was a morning like any other. One student sipped coffee and perused the morning headlines while another pair of students compared math problems. But for me, the daily obituaries confirmed the passing of a friend, as if seeing the print made her death more painful and real. Her smiling face looked back from the page and tears sprang to my eyes.
I first met Ruth when I was a senior in high school and when I still attended the old Sixteenth Ward of the LDS Church. During that phase of my life, I was an awkward, lonely kid with almost no close friends. Ruth's family welcomed me into their home and loved me unconditionally. They gave me the gift of acceptance.
Maybe we were both awkward and misplaced, each in our own way, but that didn't seem to keep Ruth from always holding an open, trusting heart toward others. She had a quirky, infectious laugh that I will always remember and cherish. She was also a tender spirit - always sensitive and sincere.
We grew apart in recent years. I would like to say we had good reasons, but I'm not sure it would be the truth. Perhaps we had obligations or life circumstances that called us in different directions, but as I remember her sincerity, I can't help but feel a sense of regret. Is there ever a good reason to misplace friendship? At times like this, my heart is always a little more open to the truth of our existence: there is nothing greater than kindness and love. Maybe it sounds trite or cliche, but only because we sometimes find ourselves jaded by our daily routines. But in my experience, when I finally break away the hardened edges of my heart, the feeling returns.
Ruth's passing is a reminder of this simple truth.