The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
by Rod Dreher
A message from Rod Dreher:
My new book, The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, is about the life, the death, and the afterlife of my sister, who died of lung cancer in 2011. She was only 42, and had never smoked. Ruthie left behind a husband and three daughters, and a generation of students she had taught in her middle-school classroom. Almost nobody beyond the borders of rural West Feliciana Parish knew who she was.
Yet her ordinary life was absolutely extraordinary, as I only came to see by the way my little sister met her death. Ruthie was a country girl who, unlike her citified brother, stayed behind in our tiny Louisiana hometown to teach school and raise her family. When she received the shocking cancer diagnosis, she reacted not with anger and despair, but with calm, hope, and trust in God. Ruthie’s faith was simple but profound. She believed that God loved her, and would not abandon her, no matter what.
She lived for 19 months past diagnosis, and became the embodiment of the Scriptural teaching, “Perfect love casts out fear.” What we saw was the fruit of the quiet life of faith and service Ruthie led all those years. We – or at least, I – saw the virtues of the humble little town I had left decades ago to seek my fortune. What I saw changed my heart, healed some deep childhood wounds, and helped me find my way back home. What I saw also upended the modern American ideal the “good life.” I had always known Ruthie was good; I did not know until she died that she was also great.
The greatness she achieved through everyday acts of love and faith is a greatness open to us all, as long as we are willing to follow the “little way” of humility, gentleness, and trust in God. Ruthie was a Christian, so I wasn’t surprised (though I was grateful) to read early praise for my book from prominent Christian writers Anne Voskamp, Eric Metaxas, and Wm. Paul Young. I was especially pleased, though, to read that Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame also loved Little Way. That tells me that Ruthie’s message of love, surrender, sacrifice, forgiveness, and family has universal appeal.
It’s my hope that Ruthie, the modest country schoolteacher who taught us how to die and therefore taught us how to live, will change your life as much as she did mine. I offer here an excerpt from Little Way, detailing the day Ruthie found out she had cancer. This was the first time that the family and friends gathered around her glimpsed the true nature of the spiritual strength inside Ruthie’s soul. As you’ll see, while everything and everyone around her was falling apart, Ruthie took control, and affirmed the sovereignty of the all-good God.
This true, powerful, deeply-moving, and masterfully-told story is nothing less than a gift. And yes, indeed: it will change lives.
-- Eric Metaxas, New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
If you are not prepared to cry, to learn, and to have your heart cracked open even a little bit by a true story of love, surrender, sacrifice, and family, then please do not read this book. Otherwise, do your soul a favor, and listen carefully to the unforgettable lessons of Ruthie Leming.
-- Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
This is an authentic and deeply touching memoir, which honestly asks many of the best questions about the things that matter. Interacting with this story will change you!
-- Wm. Paul Young, author of The Shack and Cross Roads
This book will make you feel hunger pangs for what you didn't know you even missed. And then it will feed you, line upon line, soul bread.
--Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are