May 16, 2008
I know horrific stories about mother-in-laws that are told in jest or in truth, but none of them ring true with my mother-in-law, Ruth Austerman.
As I write she is laying on a hospital bed in her living room as a patient of in-house hospice care, dying of bone cancer. Three weeks ago she was ambulatory, able to go out to eat breakfast with Aaron, our third son, and to see his new apartment in LA. Now she is bed ridden, not able to eat, and barely able to receive water on a sponge. The cancer is taking over and the morphine for the pain is the only possible treatment. My wife, Barbie, remains at her side with the family and loved ones comforting her in these last days. Stanley, her husband (my father-in-law), struggles with no solutions to help her condition.
Ruth grew up the eleventh child of twelve in the hills of Kentucky. She weighed over twelve pounds at birth, but as an adult barely weighed 100 at 4'11". Her parents were godly people. Five of their boys went into the ministry. Her mother was always partial to "men," and as a female, Ruth felt underappreciated. But her faith has walked with her in ways that superseded her brothers.
She always had people over for meals. She always volunteered to house missionaries and visitors from foreign lands when they came to church. Her correspondence still comes from around the globe from those she ministered to in her own quiet way. She remained faithful to Bible studies, meals at church events, worship attendance, and the needs of others. Many of her close friends have died before her and those who remain are ill or unable to care for themselves.
Until December Ruth walked 2-3 miles outside (you can do that in southern California). Then her back began to hurt after Christmas. The doctors treated her for unspecified back troubles, thinking it was a pinched nerve or slipped disk or something.
Soon she will slip off to see her Lord. Her faith remains strong; she only regrets that her husband does not have the same faith and peace. In her last days she has displayed how classy she is, even dying well and pointing others to Jesus.
Even though 36 years ago we started out on the wrong foot when I tried to demonstrate the proper way to vacuum, our relationship has been the best possible son-in-law/mother-in-law relationship. I have always appreciated her support to my ministries, to Barbie, to our children and grandchildren. I have thanked her many times for her prayers.
Ruth will be missed. I miss her already. "May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord shine his face upon you and be gracious to you . . .
Good bye, Ruth. I love you, best mother-in-law.