My sister-in-law, Sheri, died on this day eleven years ago. It really is incredible to think that much time has passed. So much has changed since she left this world. But a lot changed while she was still alive too. And a lot of that change was because of Sheri.
Shortly after Betsy and I were married we were all gathered together for a mini-family reunion. One of the afternoons it was decided that we would take a field trip to a local used bookstore. Amongst Sheri’s many qualities, she was exceedingly generous so before we entered, Sheri handed everyone a five dollar bill. Sheri was also always on the lookout for a great deal and I think she was excited to see what hidden treasures each of us might unearth in the stacks of used books.
I picked up two or three books that day. But the one that I will always remember was a big, green cookbook. That’s right, a cookbook. It was an odd selection, because at the time I didn’t cook. Gender roles in my family growing up were pretty traditional. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But it did mean that I was used to the women doing the cooking. The only real reason I ever ventured into the kitchen was to try and steal cookie dough while my sisters were baking! In any case, the title caught my eye: The Art of South American Cooking. I picked it up and started paging through it. It contained recipes for some very familiar dishes as well as some I’d never heard of but sounded tasty.
I found a couple of other books and went to pay for them. All three books and I had change left over – a great deal! Sheri was interested to see what I had picked out. As I recall her exact words were, “I’ll look forward to you cooking something for us!”. I didn’t want to burst her bubble. She’d obviously not understood that I was really buying the book for Betsy.
That reunion weekend was pretty much the last of the summer fun. Upon returning, Betsy started her second year of teaching and I was started work on my master’s degree in Economics. Curiously, I seemed to have a lot of time on my hands. I remember one day feeling oddly guilty when Betsy arrived home, exhausted after working a full day teaching the youth of America and still had to fix dinner. I think my accomplishments that same day had included reading a couple journal articles, going for a run, and watching two UEFA Champions League soccer games.
So the next day I got out my green cookbook and decided I would give cooking a try. I decided to go with something that I’d never tried before – pollo al palillo. Basically chicken with yucca root in a fluorescent yellow colored sauce made of lime juice, tumeric, and cumin. And it even turned out to be edible! I was probably more pleased with myself than I should have been. Betsy was very appreciate of my efforts and made it clear that from now on, I was welcome to share the cooking responsibilities. What had I gotten myself into?
Now, I love to cook! I love to prepare meals for Betsy and Lucas. I love to have people over for dinner. My cooking has been largely influenced by the semester abroad I spent in Spain. Some of my favorite dishes to prepare include: estofado de buey, tortilla de patatas, pollo al chilindrón, empanadillas de carne, lentejas. Mmmmm. I never got a chance to cook that meal for Sheri but I think she would be proud of my culinary skills. I think she would be even more proud that I learned something new, something that, over the years, has helped me to take care of her little sister.
I’ve accumulated lots of other cookbooks over the years but that first, big, green cookbook will always have a place on our shelf. It reminds me of Sheri. It reminds me that, through the small gesture of buying me a book, she helped me to become the person I am today. And I think that’s probably true of everyone that came to know Sheri. And while we miss her greatly, we are constantly reminded that we have been changed by her example of love, kindness, faith, perserverance, and joy.
Changed for the better.
We miss you, Sheri.