The Long-Ago Vow

know thyself, SpiritRuth was a strange child. Her parents knew within weeks of her birth that she had neither David’s ginger hair nor Martha’s sassy smile. Instead, Ruth – named after David’s beloved great-grandmother, Ruby Ruth Ambrose –  was taciturn and calm.

But all the same, Ruth was the favorite of her dad’s, even though parents aren’t supposed to feel more love for one child over another. Ruth’s older brother Robert was bright, cheerful, and even-tempered. A joy to have around the house.

But Ruth. David felt such a connection to his wide-eyed quiet daughter that he wondered if she had a spark of his great-grandma within her. (A New Realm)

So he was less surprised than his wife when, at 20, Ruth declared, “I’m leaving for a journey.”

“You have six more months of college, then you find a job, like the rest of ….everyone else,” Martha declared, not even asking where the “journey” would lead her daughter.

Ruth only gazed at her mother with affection. Martha and Ruth had as much in common as a chimpanzee and a chipmunk. Martha didn’t understand Ruth’s propensity to be alone, to think. To dream. Even at the age of 8, then 13, and 20, Ruth only smiled at her mother, explaining: awakening, spiritual healing, the vow, Pixabay

“I can’t be other than what I am.”

Ruth never told her parents of her dreams of hilly lands full of deep caves and a woman who visited her, sighing two names “Ruby. Trudy.” Were these the ancestors she never met? The connection within the dream was strong and enticing. She began to sleep longer hours as she flew through a dreamscape full of colors and laughter and a woman’s face, blurry and yet familiar.

College studies couldn’t compete with the joy of these dream visitations. Ruth would rather sleep than study.

Until one early spring night, when Ruth awoke with a start, heart hammering from the admonition delivered by another dream voice, this one stern and strong.

“You are here and for a purpose;

Not a ghost and no longer dust.

Give up the past; become what IS.

Search and find, like a life’s quiz,

But live for the moment, live for NOW.

Follow the bliss and your long-ago vow.”

Ruth’s parents were amazed at the difference in their daughter, seemingly overnight. She finished college, continued with a graduate degree in physics with a minor in metaphysics. She had to fight for that minor from MIT, but finally, a few years later, a Ph.D. Meta became a valued endorsement.

When Martha and David introduce their daughter to friends now, their faces beam when they declare: “Ruth is visiting us this weekend. She’s a spiritual healer with a full practice in Cambridge, and she teaches metaphysics at Harvard. It’s their most popular class.”

“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” ~Rumi
Ruth asks her class this question in the beginning of every semester: What is your heart-filled life’s work?
How would you answer this question?

94 thoughts on “The Long-Ago Vow

    • Yes, Jill. And I think Ruby and Ruth share their stories so we all learn to listen to those voices that urge us to learn who we are, and where our life’s path can lead us. A little whoo whoo, but really, I think there’s a lot of whoo whoo around us. 🙂 xo

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  1. A fascinating tie-in to last week’s story, Pam. I’m really intrigued. I’m wondering if we’re going to hear more about Ruby, Trudy, and Ruth.

    As for the question, I know what I’m here for. It’s the doing that’s challenging, but I work at it every day.

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  2. A lovely story. We are all individuals and have to follow our own hearts in order to be satisfied. It is great that Ruth´s ancestors helped her along. When I met Jane Goodall, she signed her book to me and wrote, “Follow your bliss.” I never forgot that. She is a great example of someone who went where her heart took her and has made a huge difference.

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  3. I thought your last question was a good one, Pamela. First off. I enjoyed the story. Second (off?) My heart’s filled life’s work has to be renamed my heatt filled rest of life work and that is writing. I did all the right things for my first 70 years being college, job, kids, kids college, retirement savings. Now I’m free to handle the heart filled work. Super post. 😊

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  4. Ah. So lovely, Pam. I completely agree with Rumi. There’s a need for meaning and purpose in each of us and that “work” feeds us as much as it feeds those around us. A lovely story about Ruby’s journey, and a a wonderful conclusion to A New Realm. 🙂

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  5. “I can’t be other than what I am.” Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve always been baffled at people who can become chameleons, changing their color depending on the company they are in. I don’t know how to be anything other than me.

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  6. What a thought provoking story, Pam. I do believe we come here for a purpose and sometimes we got lost from it. Writing has always been a way for me to reconnect to it. Nice follow up of the first story!

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  7. Ah! I wish more people could understand what lies in the heart of their children and more children care to share it. All dreams don’t see the light of the day. I like how realism merges into your earlier story. Well-done Pam.
    I’ve always followed my heart but only when I was away from compulsions and pressures of people around me.

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  8. A fascinating continuation of the story Pam. I wonder how many people find their heart-filled life’s work. Throughout my nursing career, and now with aging family and friends, my truest work has revolved around assisting the dying through their final chapter here on earth. I can imagine for many that would seem odd, yet it has been such a privilege to be present with these travelers.

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    • Wow Sue, I cannot think of any life‘s work more worthwhile or fulfilling than being with others as they pause and rest and go to their next chapter. Have you read Jodi Picoult’s latest book called the book of two ways? It’s not her best book and has way too much detail in it but her main character is a death doula and helps people as they pass to the next destination, closing the book of their life here as they journey on. As you say-what a privilege to be part of that journey. 💜

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      • I have not read it Pam but will add it to the list. I have heard of death doulas. I’m not sure I could emotionally manage to do it as a full time career however what a gift it has been to journey with those leaving this world.

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  9. My heart-filled life’s work has been writing my blog. I know that sounds corny but of all the things I’ve done, it’s the one thing that I feel has added the most value to this world. Not to sound arrogant, but I was meant to be a blogger long before such a thing existed.

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    • Goosebumps! I read and reread your comment. Not corn-y in the slightest – not even spinach or broccoli. It is chock-full of wonder and light and I certainly am happy that you and I are fellow bloggers and searchers for the storied truth. 🙏 👏

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  10. Ruth’s temperament reminds me about the saying ‘watch out for the quiet ones.’ This story also reminds me about a past comment, where we possibly have a little of ourselves in the characters. A thought-provoking story about dreams in general…old souls….and life’s work….I do believe I know my answer, although, too multi-layered and complex in a comment. It has been the thread woven throughout my life. I will continue to mull on this great story, Pam 🙂

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  11. I have asked Ruth’s question many times in the last few years. I keep coming back to the same place. I think I’m right where I’m meant to be. Having retired three years earlier than I expected due to health reasons, I feel like I still feel like I have unfinished business, especially with children. When I decided to write, it is with kids in mind to teach some lessons without preaching. Once a teacher, always a teacher.

    I think we all have a responsibility to contribute something positive to the world. I can only control my choices, but I hope others see the big picture too. Life will go on without us, but have we made the world a better place by being part of it?

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    • I think people like you and me – and it seems like everyone who shares blogs here with each other-worry about how we fit in the world. How we make a difference. And the fact is the longer I am adventuring on this earth, the more I’m learning that just Being and feeling a true essence of love and sharing joy and wonder with others… Is giving a lot. And that way, whatever profession we choose to delve into, we are giving. I am so glad that through your retirement you have discovered blogging and writing your stories, Pete.

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  12. I like Mary Oliver’s instructions for living a life, “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” When I was a child, all my heart ever longed for was motherhood and a connection to my ancestors. Now that my children are grown I guess my life’s work is still centered around my ancestors. And paying attention to the simple joys of life itself.

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  13. I read your post and most of the comments. One comment, from YOU, that especially resonated is this: If we aren’t challenged, the journey we’re on probably isn’t the right one.” I just wrote a story about living in a 25-foot travel trailer with 2 babies for a year and half with a husband (Yes, the same one!) who was doing art and music performances and wanted our family to stay together as we gallivanted all over the Southeast. It was HARD, but the point is that the hard stuff usually provides a bridge to the next step.

    Now, I can look back through the 20/20 telescope of time and recognize that all the challenges provided bridges to the next step in my journey, always discovering more of who I was meant to be. Now, my job is to cheer on my grandchildren as they discover their best lives.

    You are a genius at intriguing stories and the questions they provoke. Brava, Pam!

    P. S. I like the word play in the names, connecting them to a previous story: Ruby and Trudy (TRUE-dy)!

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    • Ahhhh- True-dy! That is so cool. As a writer you know how wonderful it is when readers catch diamonds in our writing-rough. Thank you for doing that. And I think when I wrote that comment- and actually when I write in general – that is when I discover these truths. 💖
      And now isn’t it difficult to watch our grandchildren go through their challenges, even though we know they must go through them to find their truths.

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  14. Good story, Pam.

    My heart-filled purpose has changed over time as the path unfolded before me.

    At present, my purpose is to stay resolved to each breath, each act, and each moment being enjoyed . . . and to give thanks regardless of any setbacks.

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  15. Ruth and her wisdom resonate throughout the story and I love the mystical element within. A mysterious past that nearly consumes her present until the powerful dream. If only we were guided with such force, to live the life we want without the diversions along the way! A terrific short story that touches the core of our existence, our choices. Pam, you’ve left us all exploring the answer to your question: ‘What is your heart-filled life’s work?’ Xx

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  16. So important! And I’ll have to think about my answer…although, I’ve always cared deeply about animals, writing, family, and children. And although my professional career has been remarkably unimpressive, I did stay home to raise our two children, I’ve published one book and blogged for six years, and I volunteer at an animal shelter, so who knows? Maybe in my own muddled way, I am following my heart’s desire.

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  17. This is a very enjoyable story, Pam. I don’t know what my life’s purpose is yet. I have a secret hope it will be to write an enduring novel like All Quiet on the Western Front or A Gentleman in Moscow, but who knows what is yet to come in life.

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  18. My heart filled work is aiding and assisting individuals become aware of themselves as it relates to them gaining insight to what , how and who they hold in thought or keep thought of. It’s the thought of, that holds individuals back from moving into their heart fill work.

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  19. Pam love those ah ha moments when path becomes prologue and previously unconnected dots form a string of pearls that lead to the finally so obvious moment of ah ha, yes this is my heart filled life’s work. Peta and I had it as a kind of simultaneous combustion around the imperative of doing whatever we could on the climate change continuum from climate mitigation to climate adaption. And so since then (around the time when the Al Gore movie “An Inconvenient Truth” came out), we have tried to shape our life trajectory around seizing opportunities to have meaningful impact. What comes to mind is a trip we took to Haiti carrying 100 tiny bamboo seedlings which today hopefully have grown into a mature forest.

    Thought provoking story.

    Ben

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    • Ah! I just wrote over at your Empty Nesters site and then see, here you are. Delightful wonderful inspiring response to The Long Ago Vow, Ben. I think more of us should look deep inside and see what our passion is, what we need to do to inspire ourselves and to be fully realized. You and Peta most certainly have done that. ❤

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