Ruth: Such Joy and Such Sadness

On May 28th, my dear Ruth died. We were betrothed to be married June 23rd, 2018. This is the first I have been able to write about it and am doing so from Tofino where I have come away on a retreat with my fiend Wayman.


I had just landed in Sacramento CA for a meeting when my phone rang and I was told that Ruth was in the hospital and they have identified cancer in her ribs, back, hip, lungs and liver. There was no treatment plan possible and Ruth was being put directly into palliative care.  This was just one month and two days before we were to be wed in a beautiful service we planned on Keats Island surrounded by our family and a few close friends.

As God would have it Cam Roxborough, a long-time friend, happened to be right there, at that time, in the same airport and he asked me if everything was okay? With tears I said “No” and told him of Ruth’s diagnosis. We stood praying together by the baggage carousels and that began a new journey for me, but one I was all too familiar with because of walking with my wife Brenda just years earlier.

The blog I wrote just prior to this one is called “Beautiful Story.” Ruth and I used this as a means of announcing our relationship. Inspired by the song of the same title written by Mia Fieldes, it proclaimed how God was in the background of our lives orchestrating every detail and customizing it for our lives.

This seemed so true for Ruth and I for in very different ways we needed each other, and it was perfect. Our love had made us like giddy teenagers yet we were inspired by a maturity in our faith that filled us with dreams of how God was going to use us together for his Kingdom.

Little did I consider, if at all, that now I would have to accept that God had been in the background orchestrating a story that did not end as we had presumed. At one-point Ruth was alone with me in the hospital room and tears were rolling down from her beautiful eyes. She asked me, “What is happening?”

“Dear, your body is shutting down” I shared as tenderly as I could amidst my own tears.

“I know that” she replied, “I just thought that we would have much more time together.”

“Me too, me too” I said with my head resting on the side of her bed.

Irish Literature

Irish literature is well known for its disproportionate number of dark tales involving personal struggles and the supernatural. Perhaps because of my background I feel trapped in this presently. We tend to like stories with happy endings – this is not one for me.

Many people around me keep saying that this just isn’t fair! Ruth’s death is not fair!

I get this feeling and it flits by in my thoughts but has not really landed. I wonder, why when our relationship was so perfect would she die before our dreams had really begun? With Ruth dying just three weeks before we were to be wed I feel personally slighted. I feel like a young child who has just been grounded saying “That’s not fair!”

You and I live in a society that is obsessed with ‘fairness’ but the application of fairness is actually quite subjective. The shadow side of ‘fairness’ and that is ‘selfishness’. In Matthew 20:10-12 Jesus shares a story of farmers who felt unfairly treated by the landowner. But Jesus in his narrative later says “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?”

In my living room there is a copy of Rembrandt’s painting “The Prodigal”. As I look at it today I feel like I am the older brother standing in judgement over the father who is being entirely unfair in welcoming back the prodigal without as much as a penalty. What is ‘fair’ about that? Nothing. But it is an expression of God’s grace.

Just five days after Ruth’s death I sat around a fire with my sons and Martin Sanders from New York asking questions.

“Why would God allow love to form in me again only to have it separated by death?”

“If God desires that we flourish, where do I find that in this situation?

“If God is kind, where is kindness in this?”

“With all that we know about God, how does one make sense of Ruth’s death?”

God’s knows things that we do not. That is the only place I can land these questions. His sense of what is fair, and what is not fair, is beyond human understanding. While intellectually and in faith I can say this, it is not very satisfying in my grief. It has caused for me a serious reconsideration of what I consider to be fair.


Grace is the only thing that is giving me perspective on all this. As I shared at Ruth’s service, despite the tragedy of this seeming to destroy a beautiful story, we can experience a constant dripping of God’s grace into our lives just like the IV bag was dripping fluids into Ruth in her last days.

If God were ‘fair’ with us then he would not have Jesus die on the cross in payment for our sin. He would not be here walking with me every day helping me get through this and bringing whatever strength I have. He would not have provided me with family and friends who have surrounded me with love and call to check on my well-being or ask hard questions about whether I am feeling suicidal in any way (a question we should be more open to asking those close to us who are hurting).

God’s grace transcends fairness. Grace extends a hand of forgiveness to me every time I mess up and offers his Spirit as a tender comforter to me amidst the stinging heart ache that I suffer.

The pain for me is still severe, but there are some blessings I am beginning to count as I seek beyond my own selfishness. I have a new extended family. Despite not being married, I have become family to Ruth’s children and family and we can walk together through this time of grief.

My own children and grandchildren have gone through much and experienced significant loss in their lives. Yet I see a maturity in them that inspires me. They cling to each other, and to God, and offer themselves to serve others who are experiencing pain and loss.

Even being able to identify some blessings is a part of God’s grace. I recall anew Brenda’s expressed desire for me to continue sharing the gospel of grace after she was to pass, so consider this a little drip of grace for you. I will write more as I process and when I can.

Today I began a new season of mourning. I know the importance of this from our families grief journey over Brenda’s death. We need to mourn for a season. If we don’t mourn it is too easy to stay stuck in anger, pain, numbness and resentment.

There is a black band around my wrist as a marker of this season of mourning. Each time I glance at it I am reminded of my loss.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.


30 thoughts on “Ruth: Such Joy and Such Sadness

  1. Hi Carson. I’m so very sorry to hear of Ruth’s passing!! I had no idea you were going through this and I am so sorry for your great loss. 😦 Thanks for your words on grieving. I’ve found them helpful and so true. I’ve had a hard 4 years with Mom’s passing and I have found I can relate very much to what you have said in your blog & your interview on 100 Huntley Street. Take care and I’m praying for you.

  2. Carson, bless you, even in your time of unimaginable grief, for giving words of encouragement and dripping grace into our hearts as you journey through this time of mourning. Our prayers, which have no expired date, are with you and Ruth’s family.

  3. Dear Carson, may God continue to ‘drip’ His grace and comfort into your life. No answers for ‘why’ can satisfy, only believing God is still there for you and yours. May you feel His embrace and that of all who hold you in prayer and love. Love in our LORD, Nada

  4. Just wanted to say I am thinking of you and so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing. With prayers,

  5. U. Carson, this is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing and in turn helping others with their grief too. These are such hard questions to answer and especially write about. God is good and yet when things are dark it can be difficult to express why He is still good. Your faith is inspiring and hopeful. So much love to you. Praying for you today. Love Christy

  6. Dear Carson, In these past few weeks, I have held you close in my heart. Your loss affected me deeply and that first weekend, when I was alone, I sat at the piano and sang ,”It is well with my soul”, just trying to imagine the depth of your sorrow.
    Now I have read this profound mediation of yours and I am so moved by the humility of seeing blessing and grace when you must feel like you deserve to shake your fist in frustration and grief. God is being honoured in incredible and powerful ways. You have blessed me beyond imagining and I feel encouraged that the army of those of us praying for you and all those affected by this tragedy are making a difference in your life.
    Bless you, my friend.

  7. I’m up at 4am reading this over again and again. I too look at this from all perspectives { humanly speaking} and come up empty. There is no sense or any hint of “fairness” anywhere in this chapter of your life story. I continue to ask God why are you allowing this monumental pain and anguish to be heaped on my friend and brother in Christ? If anyone loved you on this earth it is he. His life’s path has Jesus written all over it.. Until I stand before our Lord, will any of this make sense, Scripture reveals that many whom God chose and called out, suffered greatly. I count it an honour and privilege to have such a friend in my life, someone whom God has called out of millions, to walk a path of such great sorrow and grief. The crown that awaits you will be very special, one that very few will wear. Lord we continue to lift our brother Carson to you. Hear our groaning oh Lord. We are frail, you are our help in times of trouble and anguish and sorrow. Comfort your servant this day. We plead with you in the name of Jesus, the name above all names. Build him up father, we ask in your precious name 🙏🏼

  8. Well written doc,may you continue to be comforted by the holy spirit who knows and feels your heart goes out to you at the time thanks for the encouraging words…..

  9. Thank you Carson, for your vulnerability and honest thoughts. You put into words an answer that I have thought but not voiced on the “fairness” of a loving Father. I pray for you and all of yours and Ruth’s at this time, to rest in His Grace when making sense doesn’t come easily.

  10. Beautifully spoken and delivered bravely ! You are strong and brave Carson ! I know and fully understand you have and have had moments of fear and possibly an overwhelming sense of weakness , but you have expressed here where you are landing ( sort of speak) and it’s marvelous that you share this place of sorrow and grief, questions and revelation in such a beautiful way and from such a strong place grace and trust
    Thank you for allowing us in and know that I pray for you on a regular basis. As He places you on my heart.
    Much love

  11. Dear Carson and Family:

    Thank you for sharing your deep sorrow and heart with your far-flung family.

    This devastating news breaks our hearts. Not so long ago, we had been celebrating the fact that you and Ruth were planning to enter another chapter in your lives.

    Our prayer is that God will feel very near to you right now and bring peace in the midst of all of these unanswerable “Whys?” and, in time, mend your broken hearts and fill you with renewed hope.

    Love, Linda and Craig

  12. Carson, I’m so sorry for your loss. What a difficult time this must be for you and so many close to you. You are in my thoughts. Jill xo

  13. Drips of grace. Such an apt description, Carson. May grace flow ever more freely as time passes and your capacity grows. We embrace you in our love and prayers.

  14. carson…a very welcome update on your journey as well as the journey of you family and ruth’s family. are you familiar with Brahm’s requiem? i kept hearing parts of it as i read your letter. it might be a good addition to your mourning. very real, very hopeful, very mournful, very biblical. maybe you should pack it on your phone. get the english translation edition recording by a good orchestra and choir. you are loved by us, so many in your world and most importantly, your good shepherd.

  15. Well….you big beautiful brave Soul squeezed into a personality called Carson for a life here on earth working on behalf of the Divine…..and dang that is a tall order! The course of events, the grief, etc. are all crazy and not fair from the personality’s perspective…..but the Soul is rejoicing with the Divine plan of helping thousands of people with their own grief by sharing yours. Only the brave Souls choose the big projects….just remember you are not alone…the Divine support for you comes through many…sending you a great BIG HUG filled with loving support

  16. Great writing Carson, a grief observed & then some. I can’t imagine a loss this wide, nor have experienced on that level. Truly vocabulary is inadequate to make sense of what we presently know about God and how that intersects with all too felt circumstances.
    I was just leaving Barnabas on the very day the news came to you at the airport, and although I barely knew Ruth, I am linked to your story.
    Keep writing about your journey, a needed voice through travail. With prayers,
    hope & blessing Michael Hart

  17. Oh Carson, my heart is hurting for you. Two losses in such a short time …
    Please be assured of my prayers for you and Ruth’s family.
    May the comfort and peace that only our Saviour can give be with you every moment of every day as you continue on this grief journey.

  18. Dear Pooh

    Thank you for posting this. It is a powerful and tender expression of your heart Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your heart & soul.

    I hope you had a restorative time in Tofino. Can’t wait to see you

    Love Tigg

    David C. Bentall

  19. Thank you, Carson, for these beautiful words from your heart. I have prayed often for you through tears over the past few weeks, I too have said that what happened was not fair. I was so happy for you and Ruth. Your engagement news was awesome! The last conversation I had with Kathy Bentall when we were at Barnabas in May was about where on the property your wedding was going to be, I thought it was wonderful that it would be at the Pavilion, so near the ocean.

    As we learned in GriefShare, grief is an unwelcome “guest”. It returned too soon in our limited view of things. God had a reason. All I can think of is that He knew you were the one to be by Ruth’s side in her final months and days on this earth, to bring her joy and then comfort. He couldn’t have chosen a better, more loving man.
    Continuing to pray for you. I hope the audio and the workbook will still be a helpful resource for you. You will get to the other side …from mourning to joy.

  20. Hey Bro,
    Thanks for this. I am looking forward to chatting with you again soon. Let me know when’s a good time to call.

  21. Carson,

    Thank you for sharing this… we are praying for you and all the other people that Ruth loved and impacted during her life… your rawness and authenticity are so refreshing in such a season of pain and mourning…

    Much love,

    Josh Keller

  22. I grieve with you at the loss of Ruth. I ask myself the same questions but can only go back to God as my gracious and loving Father who knows everything. Upholding you in prayer!

  23. Your comments Carson help me in some way to think and process things that don’t make sense. Thank you for sharing these with us. I’d like to connect with you for coffee at Porters.

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