When I first met her, she struck me as a worthwhile person to get to be friends with. That’s not always an easy find in prison. She was fairly new to the unit and immediately on the hunt for something to make her life more full of progress and hope. People like her stand out in amazing ways because of this brand of hunger. As time went on, I invited her into my own personal life, my travels, my deeply emotional struggles. She gave good advice and helped me see beyond the pain I was in, the trauma I had trouble managing.
She did such a good job at simply listening, I was able to find empathy for my own situations. Again, that’s a hard find in prison. Most will commiserate, but in the process, they feed the negativity. They will encourage you to be angry, anxious, maybe even vengeful for the circumstance. But not her. She became my wholly positive sounding board, a professional life observer. In turn, I saw just how perfectly imperfect she was and why she saw the world through such distinguished eyes. I marveled in her drive to correct her flaws. I found her limitless humanity within the flaws themselves.
Before long, I was invited into her own family. Not just the ones she calls family among her community in prison, but the one outside that you only trust with people who will treat them gently and with kindness. The lifelong family that holds a person’s heart forever and always. It’s not only a humbling honor, but it’s an important responsibility. In some ways, she trusted me with an unspoken stewardship to be in contact with the most important person to her. I took this responsibility seriously and this loving family gave me a voice. For the first time in much of my life, she and her family gave me a place to free the tragedies I harbored deep inside. For the first time in almost a decade, this wonderful friendship created something I longed to have in my daily sphere… the love of family. She… became… family.
She’s become family to so many in here. She’s been a champion of causes, a life strategist, a pillar of our community, a confident advisor. This woman I love like family celebrates her last birthday this year in the far off land of prison. The most striking elements of who she is grew when she left her freedoms behind and each year draws her closer to flawlessness. She found herself and takes time each day to help someone else find a little more inside themselves. But, she’s been gone a long time, growing and changing. Her mother lost a someone, but gained an independent daughter and I know she must be proud to get her back.
Everyone that knows Ruth is proud. Proud of her, proud to know her, proud to mature with her help in a land of devastating outcomes. My life has been blessed by Ruth and as I get ready to say goodbye this year and we in prison hand her back to a world waiting for her redefined beauty, we do so knowing she has done everything right. She’s empowered, intelligent, resilient. She’ll be missed, but never forgotten. This will be only a temporary distance though, because one day, on the other side of this confinement, we’ll catch up for the holidays or on her many future birthdays. After all, that’s what you do with the ones you love and she’s a woman I call “Family”…
by Rory Andes
Happy Birthday, Ruth. The world is waiting for you…
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Rory Andes 367649
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272