For years, I couldn’t remember her name. I don’t know why, but it’s just one of those things that went away, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t recall it. It always bugged me, because for about a month she was the most important person in my life. Even now, she remains one of the most important pieces of my life story. The fact that I couldn’t even remember her name made me feel deeply ashamed. I promised myself that I would never forget her, and even though I remembered her part in my story, I completely forgot her name. Until last week.
Dorothy. Her name was Dorothy.
Dorothy was in her late sixties, and was a rabid Chicago white Sox fan. She watched every game she could on television, and when she couldn’t watch them, she listened on the radio. She knew all the players, all the coaches, and all the stats by heart. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Chicago White Sox dating back over 50 years. Her most prized possession was a White Sox bobblehead she had picked up in a random store several years ago.
Even though Dorothy had lived in Chicago her whole life, she had never been able to attend a White Sox game in person. Dorothy didn’t get out much, because she was developmentally disabled, and she lived in a nursing home. When she entered my life, she was dying of a terminal illness. She had less than six months to live.
I was working for a non-profit that granted end-of-life wishes to adults facing terminal illness. I was the communications director, and as such, I had almost no contact with most of the wish recipients. However, one of the unspoken rules of the organization was that everyone had to grant one wish. I was given Dorothy’s file.
Dorothy’s wish was simple, and you’ve probably already guessed it. She wanted to attend a White Sox game in person. So simple, but so beautiful and meaningful for her.
I made all the arrangements, and put everything together for her. A limo company donated a free ride to and from the game. The White Sox donated tickets for Dorothy, her boyfriend, and their two caretakers. They got to eat dinner with the wives of the players, and they got to meet the players themselves before the game. Dorothy got a ton of memorabilia, and even got most of it signed by many of the players. She was treated like royalty, and given extra-special treatment that really went above and beyond the call of duty. The White Sox treated her like gold, and made her night really, truly special. Everyone at the nursing home said that she beamed uncontrollably for days afterwards, and that she was far happier than she had ever been before.
Dorothy died a week after receiving her wish. Even though I never met her or even talked to her (all of my work was coordinated through her caregiver), I felt like I had lost one of my closest friends. I cried like a baby.
When people find out that I spent most of my career working in non-profits, they always ask me what I did that made me feel most proud. Granting Dorothy’s last wish was definitely that thing. Nothing else I’ve done comes close.
Dorothy didn’t have any family, and the only friends she had were other developmentally disabled adults in her nursing home. She had no money, and no real possessions. She wasn’t famous or glamorous, but for one night, she was a superstar. She won the hearts of the entire White Sox organization, she won my heart, and now, hopefully, she has won yours, too. If she didn’t win you over completely, maybe she has at least touched your heart. If you ever doubt the ripple effect, remember Dorothy, and how she continues to touch the heart of strangers…fifteen years after her death.
Rest in Peace, Dorothy. I love you.