“The only measure of your worth and your deeds
will be the love you leave behind you when you’re gone.”
You didn’t realize, when I was in labor that morning before my Scotty was born, how you taught me about courage when you said, “No matter how much it hurts, you just keep telling yourself ‘I can take it as long as it doesn’t get any worse.'”
Since then, my life has been filled with many opportunities to remember how important it is to never, never, never give up. No kidding! No matter what!
In my childhood, I was imprinted with the belief that men are strong and capable while women and children are dependent and vulnerable. You shattered those beliefs as I observed your unique strength; your ability to challenge the established way. In my eyes, you bridged the gap between Minnie Mouse and Wonder Woman!
I first met you when I was about 14 years old. As I observed you interacting with your children, I was unaware of the lasting impact you would have on my life.
I didn’t’ have the skills to tell you then all that I was learning from you. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to do that now.
You are the champion of children. You are never too preoccupied to be tender with a child. You are uncompromising with any adult who would exploit them. Whether it was your children, my children, or the children of the world, it made no difference.
You taught me about loving children, honoring children, protecting children, and teaching children. You speak up for the children and, most importantly, you listen to the children.
You see children as priceless treasures and the hope for the future. In the last year of your life, you exhausted your strength taking advantage of the opportunity to be tested for the “long QT gene” in the hope your efforts would somehow benefit your descendants.
You reminded me, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear, and when the teacher is ready, the student will appear.” You were not always a gentle teacher, but you were an effective teacher! You taught me about the power of speaking up and the wisdom of shutting up. You loved me enough to teach me the hard lessons. Your love for me was far greater than your concern about whether I was comfortable or even liked you.
You understand the law of the harvest and that the growing season is very short. In my own stubbornness, I often refused to learn from anything less than “in my face” lessons. Thank you for getting in my face!
Many of the lessons had to ripen from the bitter to the sweet before I fully understood them. I am quite certain there are great lessons that are still ripening. There are lessons still under the surface of my awareness that I will grow to fully appreciate long into the eternities. You are that kind of teacher.
You taught me how to live: to be curious, resilient, and courageous. From you I learned to challenge flawed assumptions, to discover new depths of understanding. I learned about setting personal boundaries and claiming my own power as I watched the way you claimed yours.
You also taught me how to die; how to simply let go of the unrelenting pain of mortal experience with a heart full of gratitude for the rich and abundant gifts of life.
You taught me to be curious and not take myself too seriously. You showed me how to open to the awareness of not only the obvious lessons, but also the unspoken truths residing just beneath the surface of life. Not only to see what was there, but to wonder about what I didn’t see.
You taught me to question my assumptions and to develop my own critical thinking skills. Our conversations encouraged me to look for the deeper meaning in relationships with family and friends and, most particularly, in my relationship with God.
From you I learned to break the conspiracy of silence and say “No!” when mean-spirited people with few life skills tromped on the unsuspecting and vulnerable around them. Together we learned about forgiveness, recognizing that unskilled people often know not what they do.
Because of you I found the courage to break the chain of abuse so that the river of life could flow pure once again in our family. I have learned skills that will help my children and grandchildren overcome the effects of abuse in all its crippling forms.
You gently planted in me the seeds of understanding that the worth of every soul is great! I learned the priceless gift of balancing what my head thinks with what my heart feels and the wisdom that is born in the blending of these two powerful forces.
Whenever I discover a newfound truth, it is you with whom I want to share it, because I know you care.
I am convinced that the Lord gives us enough time to learn what we are willing to learn. I learned to be gentle with myself and others, as we wobbled like newborn colts through years of experiential learning.
I’ve heard it said, “A mind expanded by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions.” You are unique in that you never cease challenging me intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
In 2001, at Paul Brown’s funeral when I hugged you and said “I love you and I’ve missed you,” you hugged me warmly and said “I love you too.” Then you pulled back and looked in my eyes and asked, “Who are you?” When I told you, you pulled me back into your embrace. From that moment, our hearts have been united.
We’ve spent hours in conversation, remembering, sharing insights, exploring new possibilities of learning and teaching. I remember how we laughed about the quote, “You cannot enlighten the unconscious.”
You reach out to me with your comforting presence as I share with you my joys, sorrows, regrets, and vulnerabilities. I always know the tender feelings of my heart are safe with you and you know yours are safe with me. We have truly been sisters since before time began. I have no doubt you will be close to me always.
The last Christmas gift you sent me were the little bottles of face powder that you know I love. Each day when I put on my makeup, I always finish up by brushing on my “Ruby Dust.” By my calculations, the powder will last me for the next 20 years or so. By then, hopefully I’ll be able to greet you the way I did when I called you on the phone: “Can you come out and play now?”
When I was going through my coaching certification, you were with me as I struggled to complete my assignment to write not only words, but also the tune of a new song. You are my most loyal fan — you love to hear me sing.
You possess the capacity for unconditional positive regard for others. You are firm in your own deeply held values and beliefs. You also honor the rights of others to hold deeply to their values and beliefs, even when they differ from your own.
As I remember these words from my song, I think of you…
“I would not interfere with any creed of yours;
Nor wish it to appear that I have all the cures.
There is so much to know, so many things are true.
The way my feet must go may not be best for you.
I offer you this spark of what is light to me,
To guide you through the dark,
Not to tell you what to see.”
Thank you for being in my life.
Thank you for receiving the gift of me.
Thank you for revealing to me who you really are.
I thank God for you — the wind beneath my wings.
God be with you ‘til we meet again.
Every time I see the sparkle of mischief in someone’s eye, accompanied by gales of laughter,
Every time I extend unconditional positive regard to another human,
Every time I listen to and comfort a child,
Every time I see the beauty of the world around me,
Every time I begin a new adventure of learning…
Every time I champion the underdog and challenge injustice,
I’ll be remembering Ruby Colleen.
I love you.
Sonja Lorrigan Hopkins
April 16, 2006
Sonja lives with her husband, Dale, on Anderson Island, Washington. She and her husband are Church Service Missionaries serving in the Addiction Recovery Program, focusing on pornography and sex addiction. She is also a certified life coach and teaches "Life Skills for Emotional Self-Mastery" in her stake twice a month. She does not teach you only to process something traumatic done to you in the past; rather, she helps you learn to feel it, heal it, and LET GO of whatever you still do to yourself and to others in order to cope with what was done to you in the past.