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Everyone else knows her as Barbie, but my mother called her Ruth, so we do, too. She is my late mother’s older sister, and she will be 96 on April 15th, God willing.

Up until Tuesday, she lived alone in her own little house, trusting in the support of those who love her–including friends and neighbors–to look out for her if she needed help. At 3 am on Tuesday morning, she woke up and knew that something was terribly wrong. She called her friend, Randy, able to utter only one word: “Come”. And come he did. He called the ambulance, and waited with her while he held her hand, his face only a few inches from hers, speaking quietly to her.

If we have angels on earth, then he is one.

She had had a stroke. My sister and I made an emergency trip to upstate New York to see her. We kissed her, and held her hand, and prayed with her, and told her we love her.

“How did I get to be so old?” she asked me. Her speech is thick from the stroke, and it is difficult to understand everything.

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Ethel and Barbara Ruth, ages 18 and 21

I leaned in close to gather her words.”But inside, you feel the same as when you were 6,” I said.

She nodded. “Just the same.”

She is speaking better, and has agreed to go into rehab so she can go back to her little house. When I kissed her good bye, she was returning to her feisty self. I think you kind of have to be feisty to live to be 95.

It gives me hope.