Sunday, January 8, 2017

Pep Talk: "Go Make Cookies"

It was billed as a celebration of life. Event organizers, in remembering Ruth Perry, gave the audience quite a show.

The Nebraska native’s roots sprouted in Wyoming but are burrowed deep in rural Baldwin City, Kansas, just south of Lawrence. She was being laid to rest. As your knucklehead scribe shared in last week’s blog, “An Unsinkable Spirit,” the mentor to many (including me) passed just a few weeks shy of 105. An incredible life.

Pastor Don Scott officiated. In describing Ruth’s childhood years on a Wyoming ranch near Devil’s Thumb, he wondered, “Who lives out here and what do they do?” Well, Ruth Hahn Perry began teaching school at 18 years old in a one-room schoolhouse. To and fro, she rode eight miles on horseback. Really.

My sister Debbie was greatly influenced by our step grandma and the Perry clan. It was cool to witness an older sibling deliver a terrific eulogy and declare afterward, “I didn’t realize how respected she was in the teaching community.” Yep. A career educator didn’t receive a bachelor’s degree until 50 but was a Hall of Fame influencer of children’s lives. A former principal and superior (Ruth taught sixth grade) told a hilarious story. Long ago, the mother of three and stepmom to two, refused to teach a district-mandated “Youth and Sexual Development” class. The principal was in a pinch. An outstanding faculty member was drawing a line in the sand. “We came up with a deal. I taught the class and she played principal. We did that for ten years.”

Grandkids saluted their “Mar Mar” and the influence the Scrabble-lover had on them and her children, their parents. We cried, laughed and applauded. A construction owner told the story of building Ruth her final home. “Many people thought, why in the world is a 96-year-old woman building a new home?” cracked the bespectacled fan. “Ruth would always say, Why not?” The loving testimonies went on an hour for a woman who defined her dash with an infectious zest for learning, loving and living.

Love was abundant. One disciple who spoke bore a striking resemblance to my darling wife. After the celebration officially ended, everybody spilled into the chapel foray. Little did I know, this woman had ended up right beside me. After ending greetings with someone else, I turned in her direction. From behind, she looked just like my beautiful bride. I was reaching to give the kind of embrace a man might offer an adored spouse at such a loving moment when it was realized, “That’s not my wife!” She wasn’t offended by the offense. We chuckled. The women’s boyfriend said, “You must have a good-looking wife.” I do.

The best line - there were many - came from Pastor Don. After hearing all the praise he offered: “Go make some cookies.” Ruth always made chocolate chips cookies for others. As a child, I ate a ton of them, the cookie dough too. Pastor Don was spot on with, “It was Ruth’s way of saying ‘I’m thinking of you.’” 

This week, figuratively, go make cookies. Trust me, it will wonderfully impact others and inspire them to speak highly of you in the future!

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