Ruth is already sorely missed by the members of the Friends Meeting, as well as the Yearly Meeting, by her colleagues at the university where she was employed, at the American Friends Service Committee, by her family and friends, and by her many friends from the Middle East. There is no one who could fulfill the many roles that she did. And even if there were, it is even less likely that they could do so with such unfailing helpfulness, good cheer, or so much thoughtful insight.
I was at a memorial service earlier today... for a woman from the local Quaker meeting who had a lot of first-hand and encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle East. She died at the end of November, shortly after giving three talks during the weekly "Meeting for Learning" ... the first on religion, the second on oil, and the third on water. I really wish I had been there to hear her. I know I would have learned something valuable from her, and now it's too late. We always think we have more time.
I learned some things, though, just by attending the service. Another woman who had just met her at a luncheon in the fall recounted something she told the rest of the women at that meal. She held up her hand with the palm out, and said that to an Iraqi, this gesture does NOT mean stop. It means come along ahead, or something like that. She made another gesture, with a closed hand drawing toward the chest, and said that means stop.
All those news reports about the Iraqis not understanding our troops, and it appears that our troops didn't understand what they were themselves communicating. Not their fault, either... but the Fearless Leaders who were in charge. Ai yai yaiiiiiiiiiii....
One man who spoke up near the end of the service (Quaker memorial services allow/permit/expect that people will stand up and say something if so moved)... was so stricken. His "sharing" was like a wail. He may have been Iraqi or Palestinian or something... I don't know. He questioned God, asking why he had taken this woman, and who would do the things she had done or would come when she had. It was loud and mournful and he was sitting right next to me. He really expressed what so many others were feeling, but who were unable to be that expressive, and instead told touching stories and anecdotes of their own about how they knew Ruth.
I only wish that we could have a similar reaction to the loss of any one member of GWB's maladministration.