Wear the Purple! … and other lessons learned

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The first time I saw her, she was wearing a complete outfit of crochet, purple and white, her wavy salt and pepper hair peaking out from under a purple beret. I thought, “this is someone I want to know.”

Ruth always wore purple. Over the six years or so that I knew her, I had never seen her wear anything else. She was a consistent student in my meditation group, that is until I went online during the pandemic. One time, after meditation, she needed the batteries in her smoke detector changed, so I followed her to her house. I called my husband to let him know I’d be late, and I told him I wondered if her house was all purple. She did not disappoint.

Ruth would often come early to meditation and share stories of her life, or stay late to chat. I learned much from these sessions, about a life well lived. Recently, I heard from a mutual friend that Ruth was sick and she knew that I’d want to know. I hadn’t seen Ruth much since the pandemic hit, so I was thankful that someone thought to contact me. But, I didn’t respond quickly enough and so, didn’t get to tell Ruth goodbye. When I finally called, I was told she had died two days prior.

Ruth was a friend to many. When I contacted her caregiver Helen, she asked me to be sure to pass the word about her Celebration of Life because Ruth had so many friends she couldn’t contact them all. She was definitely one of a kind and someone you never forget. So today, I want to share with you the lessons I learned from Ruth Rosenthal.

My beautiful friend Ruth

Find your voice
Ruth had been in an accident when she was a small child, in fact if I remember right, it was a tricycle accident. It damaged her vocal cords and she had a tremor to her voice. Embarrassed by it, she quit talking much. Later, well into adulthood, she found she had much to say. Ruth, an author and a poet, could often be found at local open mic nights sharing her musings.

Never give up on love
When I met Ruth, she was a widow. As a young women, she married Bob, but as often happens, they divorced eight years later. In Ruth’s words: “In the next sixteen years we did the work it took to grow – separately.” When they remarried, they both felt a deep sense of appreciation for the other and when Bob died twenty years later, Ruth’s grief came out in her poems.

Embrace your weirdness
Okay, so wearing purple every day while living in a purple house is a little weird, right? Did that matter to Ruth? Obviously not. I regret never asking her: why purple?

Never stop learning
In her 80s, Ruth enrolled in my meditation class and made every session. At the time, I was also administering the learning center of my church, and there were many other courses Ruth signed up for.

Love fiercely
A few years ago, Ruth’s beloved cat died. Because she lived alone, I encouraged her to get another cat to keep her company and to care for. She was pretty insistent that she didn’t want another cat. And then one night, before meditation, she confided in my that she had cancer. She was afraid she was going to die and didn’t want to leave a cat alone. But, I encouraged her, and then a cat showed up in her life. That cat was so well loved, she dedicated an entire CD of poetry to her called “Koz and Affects.”

Be generous with your appreciation
When Ruth went in for cancer surgery, I recorded a meditation that she could listen to, to help with any pre-surgery anxiety. She listened to it the night before, and I received the most beautiful (and long) text message from her to tell me how much it helped. There were other times, Ruth was just like that.

Be a friend
Ruth was one of those people that everyone thought was their good friend. She had a way of making you feel special.

Ruth in Spring Purple

Be adventurous
During our time together, I heard many tales of her travels and adventures. The time she spent in Mexico, travelling around California, and many others I have forgotten. We even both attended, albeit at different times, a 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreat.

See the “special” in yourself and others
In my meditation group, we had several chairs and a futon sofa. Two of the chairs were cushy easy chairs, very comfortable. One of them was Ruth’s chair, and if she got there late, I made sure it was still waiting for her. Perhaps it was a little too comfy, if her snoring was any indication!

There are many whose lives were touched by Ruth Rosenthal. Her twinkling eyes and beautiful smile, her poems and prose, her mere presence left a mark on this world. She’s always been a bright shining star, and for evermore, when I look up in the night sky, I’ll be looking for that one purple star that I’m sure is Ruth. My regrets if some of these details about Ruth’s life are inaccurate, but I have only my memories to refer to. Be in peace Ruth, until we meet again.

Special thanks to my talented friend, Jennifer Moss, for the beautiful images of Ruth in all her spring purple. Jennifer, you captured the pure essence of Ruth, and I thank you for sharing.

“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”

  1. Jennie Flaherty

    Thank you Susan & Jennifer for the lovely, wonderful memories of Ruth. Your so right, she made everyone feel special.
    Yesterday, I was in a local Fresno thrift store with my sister & it seemed that purple articles of clothing were everywhere. Of course, I
    thought of Ruth & smiled. The angels of light surrounding her will certainly have purple auras.

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