She always put people before things


This is part two of a series about Ruth who was ninety when she enrolled in our hospice program. Her late husband, Loren, was the love of her life and she was his leading lady. They attended the same church for almost sixty years and actively engaged in various ministries, but they had a special place in their hearts for young people.

Ruth reminisced about co-leading an Explorers Post with Loren, “We had the group for about thirteen years. It was a co-ed scouting group so you had to have both a male and a female leader. We had bake sales and car washes and did anything we could to raise money to take the kids to Colorado. And a fellow came to teach them to repel. I repelled once! I did it, but I was scared!”

Ruth’s daughter Becky shared, “Mom was always a champion of people. She was like a mother to so many people. Mom had a ‘Mary spirit’, not a ‘Martha Spirit’ She always put people before things. She may not like me saying this, and it’s not like she didn’t keep a tidy house, but mom didn’t put housework before people. To mom, people were always first…That’s what I mean by a “Mary spirit”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the biblical story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10: 38-41), here’s my paraphrased version. Martha and Mary were sisters and close friends of Jesus. When Jesus came to their town, Martha welcomed Him into her home. Martha anxiously prepared and became “distracted with much serving”. But Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his words”. Martha being upset with her sister asked Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Then Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” You see, Mary, like Ruth didn’t put things or work before people.

Ruth’s son, Bruce, shared: “Earlier this summer Mary (his wife) and I had the opportunity to take her to church, the Wheelersburg United Methodist where she and Dad have attended since around 1954. As we were leaving on that rainy Sunday I was holding the umbrella over her while she talked with another worshiper about someone that was in need of prayer. I was able to look around and notice the parking lot was empty as well as was the one across the street. As they conversed I was able to reflect about how many times throughout my life this same scene had played out…Mom would always engage with someone about their or a family member’s needs long after others had left. Why, because people knew she would talk to them or do something to help them when they needed it. My Mother had a heart for everyone…”

And Ruth’s son, Scott, shared: “When I think of my mom I think of kind, caring, spiritual, and hard working. Mom is concerned about how everyone is doing. Certainly I don’t know other people’s daily habits, but I believe mom is one of the most spiritual people I know. Both when I was growing up and now; she continues to spend significant time praying and reading her bible. She has always been very accepting of people. I haven’t heard her say anything negative about anyone. I owe a lot to the environment she and our dad put in place. I saw them work hard and be frugal with their resources…She is a kind, gentle woman who has touched many lives.”

And Ruth’s son, Jeff, emailed me a seventeen minute video he took during Ruth’s ninety-first birthday party. Jeff asked each friend there to share who and what Ruth had been to them. The video concluded with a tribute from Patty, who had been a member of Ruth and Loren’s Explorer’s Post some forty years earlier. Here are excerpts from Patty’s response: “… Your mom and dad had spent four years raising us in the Explorer Post; you know we were together all the time doing everything…So I really feel like your parents raised me…in 1977 when my mother died she was there for me. And if I needed to know how to cook something, or clean something or whatever, she knew how to do it… She is always so happy to see me and she never fusses if it’s been too long in between. Whenever I stop she makes me feel like I am absolutely the queen of the world; because she’s so thrilled to see me. And we always have the best visits. And she never fuses about me talking too much or too long.”

Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his words”. She treated Jesus like he was the King of the world. Ruth sat and heard Patty’s words and made her feel like the queen. So what do you say? The next time someone shows up, when possible, let’s put down what we are doing and give them our full undivided attention. Like Ruth, let’s always put people before things.

“Every single person in the choir is more important than the music” (author unknown)

Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at or at 740-356-2525