Yesterday, as you may recall, would have been my sister’s 43rd birthday, had she survived cancer. It was the first May 15 without Ruthie, and by happenstance, it was also the day the monument company delivered and set her tombstone.

Last night, Ruthie’s best friends, all schoolteachers, drove out to the Starhill Cemetery carrying bottles of Ruthie’s favorite wine, and a lemon cake, which she loved. They sat next to her grave and drank toasts to her, and ate cake. Ruthie’s husband Mike joined them. It was, I am told, a wonderful time. These were the same friends who sat up all night long in the church with Ruthie’s body, the night before her funeral, singing and laughing and telling stories about her.

Five minutes ago, I got off a phone call with a young woman from this town who had been a student of Ruthie’s. I didn’t know of her until she wrote me this morning. She drove all day and most of the night to get down here from the upper Midwest, for Ruthie’s funeral. Seeing that funeral, and especially hearing about the wake those teachers held for Ruthie, made her understand what she had here in her hometown. She moved back too, because of Ruthie.

I interviewed her for the book, telling her story. It’s a kind of magic, these tales. They sound like something you’d only see in the movies. But they’re true. I hope and pray that this book does justice to Ruthie’s story, and the story of these wonderful people who loved her so much.