Tribute to Sandy


We begin with an excerpt from the Velveteen Rabbit:

“What is REAL?”  asked the Rabbit one day, “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Sandy became.  She was in every essence of the word; “Real”.  She had people who loved her for a long, long time, she didn’t break easily and had no sharp edges.  She had her hair, but the color had been loved out.

She was loved.

She met her best friend Hurman while in college.  They married and because of Hurman’s first assignment to a base, moved to Michigan.  They have two wonderfully creative daughters, Amber and Amy.

She was well loved.

For those of us in education we often personally identify with that aspect of our life.  We refer to how many years we’ve taught or what grade or in what curriculum area.  Sandy was a Kindergarten teacher and later a library/ computer/ art teacher.  She retired after 35 years of teaching.

She was loved. 

But there was so much more to this gracious and creative person than the label “classroom teacher”.  While teaching is how I met Sandy I soon realized that classroom curriculum, state and local standards and test scores did not define her.  She truly believed childhood is a journey to be enjoyed.

She made me laugh with her extensive projects she would start with her students and then realize that finishing was the big hurdle.  She didn’t care if she had orange paint streaks on her cheek, if her fingers were stained from the latest lesson in colors or if she had Elmer’s Glue stuck in her hair.

Paperwork was a thing to be tolerated at best and certainly should wait until the crisis hour.

I always looked forward to seeing what T-shirt she would be wearing because they reflected her personality or sometimes her mood.

Sandy once told me of a teacher workshop she participated in.   During a demonstration of how to deal with the differences in the development of children, teachers were given statements to determine if they were right brained or left brained.  She learned she was the most “right brained”  person in the room.  She stood in the corner alone far away from everyone else.  Well, I could have told her that! 

The ironic thing is how such a right brained person became so involved in such “left winged” activities joining the Iosco Democratic Party.

I think it had something to do with the cross brained thing they talk about.

She was well loved.

On a more personal level, Sandy rescued me.  She believed in me and in turn I believed in her.  She helped me through some confidence shaking times in my life.  I know some days I couldn’t have made it without her encouragement.   I would like to think I was the exception but after speaking with several people, I find she was really good at this rescue business.  Like the Skin Horse, she could make you feel how special you were just for being.

A mutual rescued friend of ours offered this poem;

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.

There is not one person in Oscoda who has not benefited from Sandy’s legacy of artwork.  She left our town a bit better. 

She was well loved.

It was later that I understood just how much her art meant to her.  She would try to explain what the Beauty and the Beast fandom meant to her.  She had always been artistic.  But by her own admission the B and B family was the biggest influence on her life with their encouragement.  While reading the tributes to Chan from members of the fandom, I came to realize just how much she meant to them as well.

From Hawaii, California, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, New Jersey, Utah, throughout the rest of the USA.  From Vicky in Paraguay to Claire and Annik in France, Jodie in Australia and Luna in Germany.  All relayed their stories of love, kindness and creativity.  They light candles and remember how she made them laugh and how she shared her artwork with all of them to enjoy.

And Marcus, her “son she never had” says…  I can honestly say that she is the reason that I am still here and everything I am today, I owe to her.  Her kindness, her caring, her compassion, her understanding, and her love.  I think of all the things she gave to me; all the things she gave up for me and realize how very lucky I am. 

And she was really well loved.

Sandy was quoted in her B and B 2006 interview saying;

“Thank you for being there for me all these years with your friendships and your encouragement.  It’s been a wild ride.  You are an impressive group of people”. 

Well, Sandy, thank you.  Thank you for becoming, thank you for being real, thank you for being our Velveteen Rabbit.  You are REALLY well loved.