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On the far right, that’s my sister Ruthie at her friend Abby Temple’s (far left) ex-bachelorette party — the one Abby’s pals threw to help her wash right out of her hair the man who broke off their engagement just before the wedding. Ruthie did a lot with those girls, who were her fellow teachers and best friends. Here, from The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, is how they marked Ruthie’s first birthday after her September 2011 death:

If you had driven past the Starhill Cemetery late one hot night in May, you might have seen strange shadows lingering around a grave in the bottom under the hill. After a year-end meeting at school, Abby Temple, Ashley Harvey, Karen Barron, Jennifer Bickham, Tori Percy, and Rae Lynne Thomas came to be with Ruthie on her birthday. They called Mike, who met them there. They opened a bottle of wine, poured six glasses, and drank to the memory of their brown-eyed girl. There, where all the dead of Starhill are gathered round, they laughed and told stories, and remembered the good times. Had you been there on that night under the live oaks and the crape myrtles, you would have seen that even from the grave, Ruthie Leming bestows life on those who are willing to receive it.

Late this afternoon, May 15 — Ruthie’s birthday — I drove past the Starhill Cemetery on the way out to drop off something at my mom and dad’s house, and there were several cars parked on the side of the road next to the cemetery. There, sitting in lawn chairs and on the ground around Ruthie’s grave, was a group of women — some of the same ones from that first year — were there again, glasses of wine in hand, remembering Ruthie.

Some things never change. Good.

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