I think most people, when they settle down to have a family, find some friends who are also forming a family, and unite, meeting often for many social occasions. The children of the two families grow up as close as cousins if not closer. They become, in fact, more than friends, but part of a family that goes beyond simple genetics.
Ruth and Paul Gillespie were that family for my parents, and I grew up with their daughter Michelle and their son Justin as special playmates that I trekked to Mississauga for. Ruth and Paul had emigrated from Ireland a few years before I was born and became friends with my parents after Paul and Eric met at the civil service office that Eric worked at. As I learned from Paul and Ruth, and as I learned from gaining Irish-American in-laws, when you are befriended by an Irish person, you gain a friend for life, fiercely loyal and enthusiastic. There are few better gifts.
Paul and Ruth were, in many ways, yings to my parents yang. They were exuberant where we were soft spoken. They were passionate where we were thoughtful. And it worked. The two sides meshed well. And in many ways, I think Ruth and Paul had a similar ying and yang relationship. They had different styles and different ways of thinking that complemented and completed each other.
I was sorry to learn, some months ago, that Ruth had become ill, but she didn’t let that slow her down. I remember seeing her at my mother’s funeral, having travelled some distance with Paul to get there. It brought back memories of dinner parties, birthday celebrations, going to see Irish Football at the Skydome, them showing up at my first Communionand more. Despite the sombre occasion, she smiled, as one should, to have all of those memories.
Ruth passed away on April 21st and the memorial service is today in Milton, Ontario. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Ruth’s name to the charity Development and Peace’s Share Lent, Women at the Heart of Change Campaign. She will be sorely missed.