The following is the eulogy that was written for Grandma Ruth, who is the paternal grandmother of my children. It was brilliantly written and delivered by her grandson, Jeff. I want to make sure that my children will always have this, plus the writing is so good, so point on, that it is completely blog worthy.
Eulogy for Ruth
St. Dominic Catholic Church
Monday, November 29th 2010
Ruth Ellen played many roles in her 82 years- daughter, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, niece, friend, neighbor, colleague, parishioner, camper and dozens of others. Our attendance here this morning is testament to the skill and love that she poured into each of our relationships with her.
But there is one role in which Ruth excelled beyond all others; a relationship that defined almost her entire life. Ruth was the leading lady in what I have always called The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Her love affair with Albert spanned 8 decades, 13 US presidents, almost a dozen dogs and several continents. If you have met Ruth at any point since she was a third grader at St. Bonaventure, your individual story with Ruth is inextricably linked with her relationship with Albert.
Like all great stories Ruth’s story has moments of heartbreak and pain, triumph and despair. She was born in the summer of 1928, the third child of Alfred and Sophia. The Breuwer’s lived in The Bottoms area of Cincinnati until they were forced out by the Great Flood of 1937 and washed up on Esmonde Street, sharing a backyard fence with the Harnists.
Ruth and Al’s mothers quickly became best friends. As the children grew during America’s Great Depression, their love grew into that special spark of first love.
One innocent afternoon Al Senior made a decision that would affect the lives of everyone in our story: he allowed Al Junior to convince him to replace the derelict outhouse in their backyard with a nice fence and swinging gate so that Helen and Sophia could more easily chat. But the squeaky gate also allowed Bud and Ruthie to occasionally steal a kiss; a behavior that would continue for seventy years.
Bud insisted that I point this out- She did date other people for a while. And as you would expect from an adolescent Ruth, she was not shy in expressing her opinion. This is another behavior that wouldn’t change in seventy years. When a suitor discussed a future life of farming, she voted with her feet and after extracting a solemn promise from Albert that he would never become a farmer, the pair were inseparable.
Alfred Bruewer passed when Ruth was a junior at Woodward Commercial High School. She sacrificed her own ambitions by dropping out of school to work and provide for her family. This willingness to self-sacrifice for family would prove to be another of her defining traits.
At 21 years of age, Ruth and Al were married on the 17th of September 1949, one of the last times that Ruth would not be pregnant for a while. My mother, Ellen was born while they lived at 650 Neave Street, on a third floor with a shared toilet and very Germanic matron. Debbie and Greg were born while the young family lived at 1553 Knox Street. Doug, Kenny and Jenny followed at Plumridge Drive, their home for over 50 years. Ruth’s 13 grandchildren will remember that home as where they celebrated Christmas. Her 6 great-grandchildren are being nourished on the love and warmth that emanated from that house. A majority of our great love story, Ruth’s story, took place in and around the home that she created and nurtured.
And the outward expression of Ruth’s love was laughter fuelled by music, beer and the constant presence of children of all ages. Fittingly, when RUTH chose to work, it was in our schools.
Ruth was an exemplary Catholic from birth until her last breath. When the German theologian Albert Schweizer said that “One doesn’t have to be an angel to be a saint” he could have been thinking of her. Several times the last few days our own Albert has said that Ruth is a saint for tolerating his antics over the decades. Perhaps they’re both right. If there is a heaven, then we are assured that Ruth is there now, most likely with her sister Mary and friend Rita, drinking beer and playing cards, looking forward to bowling again on Thursday.
The current chapter of Ruth’s amazing story centers on her heroic battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. The untiring and devoted care of her loving husband, her family, and finally, the professional staff at Bayley Place, ensured that Ruth fought this battle both valiantly and with dignity. The generous memorial donations you have made to the Alzheimer’s Association will work to ensure that future generations are spared from the disease altogether.
But the final chapter of the Greatest Love Story Ever Told is yet to be written, and those of us here today will be the authors. For the epic love that Ruth brought into the world is not extinguished, it continues to live on in us, a final gift.