Snapshots by Gloria Freeland -- Nov. 2, 2007

"Make Life Worthwhile"

As I watched the woman in the slide show, it was almost like seeing pictures of me passing through the various phases of life.

In one of the first pictures, she was in an Easter outfit - or at least a fancy going-to-church outfit. She was probably about 8 or 10 and she was decked out in a dress, hat, ruffled socks and shoes and she was carrying a purse. They were similar to ones I wore when I was a girl. In a later photo, probably from late high school or early college, she had long hair, just as I had at that stage.

In another, she was with her son when he was a baby. I'm sure she, too, had recently looked at her son and wondered what had become of that little boy just as I occasionally wonder how daughters Mariya and Katie could have grown up so quickly.

In recent photos, she had short salt-and-pepper hair, similar to the hairstyle I've had for about a decade.

Of course, it isn't really very strange that the pictures seemed so much like the ones that have been taken of me because the woman and I were born about the same time and we women do tend to change our hair and clothing to match the current style.

But there won't be any future comparisons because I won't see Sheila again. My friend from my Sertoma (Service to Mankind) club, died two weeks ago at the age of 57. Diagnosed with a fast-growing brain cancer in May, she underwent surgery and radiation treatments in an attempt to slow its growth. Although we tried to be optimistic, we knew the prognosis wasn't good. She was realistic, too, making plans while she was still able - getting her house ready for sale, tying up loose ends, deciding what she wanted her son to have.

After her surgery, she left a message on my answering machine. Her voice was cheerful, upbeat. She thanked me for what I had done for her. I kept that message on the machine for months and listened to it occasionally, wanting to remember that positive Sheila.

But she was angry, too - angry that the cancer wasn't diagnosed sooner, that she didn't have the strength to do what she wanted to do, that the disease had taken away her ability to think clearly, that she had to depend on others when she was accustomed to being independent.

I'm certain each of us watching the photos at the remembrance service has our favorite memories of independent, energetic Sheila. I always admired her ability to take the ball and run with it, no matter what the ball was. Sheila loved to cook and this love translated into dinners for friends, meals for the Manhattan Emergency Shelter and efforts for our Sertoma club's benefit breakfasts and tamale dinners. Sheila was also our club's Secret Santa and she loved to shop for the families we adopted during the holidays and for residents of a local senior community. She truly lived the Sertoma slogan - "Make Life Worthwhile."

Sheila was also the force behind many of our successful fund-raising efforts. She ordered the food and usually cooked it, too. Because she was short, she had to stand on a stepladder to reach the bottom of the deep pots we used to heat the sausage gravy. Under her direction, the biscuits came out of the oven, perfectly browned and melt-in-your-mouth tasty.

Life will go on -- as it must, as it should. This Saturday morning, when our club has its annual benefit breakfast and rummage sale in Pottorf Hall, Sheila will not be with us, but we will be thinking of her and what she meant to our club.

"We have to do a good job at our breakfast this year," one Sertoman said at a recent meeting. "After all, we'll have someone looking down on us to make sure we do."

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