Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Remembering Ruthanne

I can see her bouncing into my office and telling me in great detail all about that terrible morning.  One of her cute knit caps would be tilted to one side, and in a “can you believe this happened to me” way, she would tell the story as only she could tell a story.

Only this did happen to her and she will never tell me or anyone else about the day she opened her front door and was gunned down.

Ruthanne Lodato died just more than a year ago. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday—still raw and fresh.  I cannot always get my heart to accept what my brain knows.

Ruthanne was a bubbly, tiny woman who loved her knit hats and would fidget her small hands around while she told a story, almost as if she were acting it out. She was a loyal friend and devoted to her extended family, but especially to her daughters, her now 90-year-old mom and her beloved Normie.

Besides her family, music was her passion. She played in churches and taught piano for years, but she seemed to really light up when teaching the very youngest to love music too. Ruthanne brought music to Alexandria, VA’s youngest set nearly 20 years ago when she started a Music Together business in Del Ray United Methodist Church. Infants through 5-year olds would sway, clap, dance and sing with glee at the classes she taught three times a day, most days.

When I started working at Del Ray Church some seven years ago, I was lucky enough to meet the energetic music teacher. Always friendly to everyone, she would pop into my office to say hello before teaching each day. Soon we couldn’t get all our storytelling done in 15 minutes and started meeting for lunches and then spending her rare weekdays off going to movies or having adventures. 

Ruthanne  enjoying a boat ride on Lake Monticello.

One of our "play" dates.

Ruthanne loved to amuse her students on Halloween.
I loved the time we went to a Spanish movie with English subtitles only to have to watch over the sound of toddlers laughing and running around the theater—apparently the movie was a favorite for several nannies. Or when we were flea marketing our way home from Lake Monticello and found a whole set of furniture for Ruthanne’s oldest daughter’s porch.  We could hardly see, breathe or move after we crammed my 15-year-old minivan to the brim with the furniture and even had to return for more. Or just days before she died,  when Ruthanne took my dad to her favorite Italian Market only to find it closed on Mondays and she and my dad pressed their faces to the locked glass door and willed the place to open (it didn’t work).

At a memorial window dedication in Ruthanne’s honor last week, the assembled wee ones sang “How Can I keep From Singing” with their wonderful Music Together teachers who have continued Ruthanne’s great work.  It was a moving and fitting tribute to a woman, who even in death brings us together to laugh, dance and make music. She would have loved to tell that story.                                                           

 Music Together teachers dancing in celebration of Ruthanne.
Ruthanne's family rocking out.

Some of the wee musicians.
But Wait, There’s More….

Being at a loss for words is usually not a problem for me.  But this story is different. There is no happy ending or funny punchline.  But despite that, there are blessings even in the sadness. I am honored to have gotten to know Ruthanne’s amazing family and some of her many friends. Even in death, Ruthanne has brought light to my life. She has also reminded me that there are no promises of tomorrow and I need to live each day as the gift it is.  Miss you, sweet friend.


  1. Beautifully told. That song, "How Can I Keep From Singing", has been in my funeral file for years now. Yes, I have a file containing the songs I want sung at my funeral....which might seem odd, but not to a music teacher.

  2. Ah, that broke my heart all over again - so senselessly tragic, and a lovely tribute.

    1. Thank you, Terri. I wrote that at your dining room table. xoxo