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A Tosa State of Mind

Alderman Dennis McBride represents Wauwatosa's 4th District. An attorney and graduate of Wauwatosa East High School, Ald. McBride strives to be an effective, thoughtful, and nonpartisan representative for his constituents and for his hometown.

Will you remember me?

On Monday, June 27, 2011, doctors told Sarah Pease she only had a short time to live.  The next morning a close friend of the Pease family gave me the sad news.

I asked how Sarah was reacting.  “She is sorting through her things to decide who will get what,” he said.  “She’s also asking whether her friends will remember her.”


From time to time we all wonder whether we'll be remembered after we’re gone.  This question must have been a burning one for Sarah, who was with us for only 16 years.


But if anyone will be remembered by her friends, classmates, and community, it will be Sarah.  She was a straight-A student, a rugby player, a percussionist in the Wauwatosa East High School marching band, and a pretty and determined young woman whose goal was to enter the U.S. Military Academy in 2013.  


If anyone will be remembered, it will be the tough-minded girl who has been known as “Sarah Strong” ever since she was diagnosed with leukemia last December.  


If anyone will be remembered, it will be the girl for whom the Tosa East basketball players wore “Sarah Strong” t-shirts before their games last season.  It will be the girl whose classmates wore “Sarah Strong” bracelets to raise money for leukemia research.  It will be the girl who received a letter from West Point on July 2, the day before she died, informing her that she had been named an honorary member of the West Point Class of 2016.  It will be the girl whose band mates marched in “Sarah Strong” t-shirts in the July 4th parade, the day after she slipped peacefully into eternity.


My daughter, who has known Sarah since third grade and was a band mate and her chemistry lab partner, will remember.  Like her friends, she cried hard tears when she learned of Sarah’s prognosis and again when Sarah died.  For her friends and classmates, Sarah’s passing may be their first encounter with mortality.  From Sarah, they learned how to fight disease with courage and how to die with dignity.


Several hours after her death on July 3, I walked into the far corner of my backyard garden, thinking of Sarah and her question – “will they remember me?” – when a white butterfly flitted by.  Some people believe that finding a penny on the ground or seeing a butterfly is a sign that the departed are with us.  I don’t know.  I do know that the spirit of someone who has inspired us stays with us always, and that every time I see a white butterfly in my garden, I’ll think of her. 


If anyone will be remembered it will be Sarah, courageous and strong until the end.  We won’t forget.

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