“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world, remains and is immortal”. ~ Albert Pine

When I heard those words, I immediately thought about my sister. Sandra was a school teacher. She taught school for well over 30 years. She was passionate about her work, her students. The last 10 years of her life, she taught special needs students.

Sandra was a kind, caring, a very compassionate woman. Just over two years ago, when she died, I remember hearing people talk about the things she did for others. The night of her visitation, I listened to so many people tell me what she had done for them and for their children. It made me smile.

One story remains in my memory, perhaps more vivid than other stories. On that visitation night, a man approached me. He asked me if Sandra was my sister. I smiled and said yes, she is. He told me he was a janitor at the school where Sandra taught. He said that she did something for me that will never be forgotten.

I listened intensely as he told me the story. The janitor said he had worked hard and saved enough money to become an American citizen. He took the required citizenship classes, studied hard and attended the ceremony where he was pronounced an American citizen. I could see the pride in him as he spoke.

He then went on to tell me that the day after he became a citizen, he went to work. Before classes started for the day he was in his janitor office doing some paperwork. He heard some commotion and looked up. There was Sandra, carrying a homemade apple pie with an American flag stuck in the top. She also carried a sash that said American Citizen across it. She was followed by several other teachers.

As she walked through the door way of his office, he stood up. She set the pie on his desk, put the sash over his head and shoulder and turned to the other teachers and nodded. She then led the teachers in singing, “God Bless America.” The janitor beamed, with tears in his eyes, as he told me the story. I beamed with tears in my eyes also. I hugged the janitor and thanked him for sharing that wonderful memory with me. He said, “My family and I will never forget your sister and her kindness.”

I think about that story. That story represents who my sister was. She celebrated life every day. She acknowledged other people’s accomplishments with kindness and celebration. She was known for baking her apple pies for random occasions.

When I heard that Albert Pine quote, I immediately thought of this story and realized my sister will remain immortal to so many people. Knowing that comforts me. Knowing she was loved and is truly missed by so many other people helps me feel so much less alone. Since her death, I try to be a kinder, more compassionate person. I want that part of her to live on through me. I reach out to those traveling the journey, similar to mine. I can only hope a part of me will, too, remain immortal.

Shirley Wiles-Dickinson 2011

Shirley Wiles-Dickinson

Shirley Wiles-Dickinson

Shirley Wiles-Dickinson is the youngest of four girls in a Midwestern family. In 2009, her sister was brutally murdered. She writes about her experience following this loss.

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