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Oddchester: Sister-in-law touched others with power of positivity

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the death of my sister-in-law, Tammi. Here is a tribute to her from last year, because, well, her story should be remembered.

My sister-in-law, Tammi, died this past Mother's Day, two days after her 51st birthday and nearly four years into putting up one of the bravest fights that any brain tumor has ever faced.

You didn't know her. I wish you could have.

There is a study, currently being championed by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Amit Sood, that focuses on the neuroscience of happiness. This research shows how one person, through simple acts of kindness, can cause a positive physical reaction in the brains of others.

Here's one of those acts that, according to the study, can make a difference: For the first five minutes after you get home from work or wherever, treat your loved ones like you haven't seen them in a month. Just five minutes of positivity — without walking in and questioning why the car is parked crooked in the driveway or the bike was left in the yard.


The research suggests that one person's positivity can cause a chain reaction in those around them.

Tammi was a pioneer in the field.

No one could make you feel better about yourself. No one took more pleasure in the happiness of others.

Whether it was scoping out Black Friday deals, or decorating the house for Christmas (in October), or her terribly inappropriate April Fools Day jokes, it was rarely if ever about Tammi.

It was about making the rest of us feel better.

Even during the last days of her hospice stay, there was Tammi, asking visitors if THEY needed anything.

Tammi was the one who pulled bottles of wine and extra sweatshirts from her Hermione Granger-like purse. Who showed up on late nights with popsicles and, for no apparent reason, bags of Taco Bell. Who, at the school where she worked, hand-crafted class Valentine cards for the kid who didn't bring any.

She was the mom who loved waking up to see a dozen kids sleeping over on the living room floor. The aunt who would swoop in and re-do someone's hair for a high school dance.


The daughter and sister and friend who — no matter what we told her we were going to name our kid or what color we said we were going to paint our kitchen — would say "Oh, that sounds so neat!"

The wife who came downstairs and started to do a seductive dance for her husband, Dave, late at night in a darkened living room. Then realized it was in fact my friend and me sitting on the couch as we waited for Dave to come home.

She retold that story to everyone who would find it funny.

It never mattered what weird friends or girlfriends or boyfriends we brought to Lange family gatherings, Tammi was the one we could count on to seek that person out and make them feel welcome.

She offered so much and expected so little.

There are a lot of smart people in our family. But when it came to making others feel good about themselves, when it came to the neuroscience of happiness, Tammi was always the smartest person in the room.

She'll be missed by many.

There's a cashier at McDonald's wondering when Tammi will be in to buy her next iced tea. A phone operator at QVC. One of the cops she cried to in order to get out of a speeding ticket.


Tammi leaves behind a long line of family and friends. She and Dave raised four of the coolest kids you'll ever meet.

And there's no doubt about how much she loved my brother. If you need proof of that, just imagine the number of nights that she sat there, smiling and nodding, as Dave, an engineer, went on and on about the friction coefficients and tensile strength of ballscrews.

We were honored with the opportunity to have known Tammi. Her death should serve as a wake-up call, for all of us, to carry on her legacy.

To take that time to make others feel good about themselves. To wonder if anyone needs anything.

And, for those first five minutes after the next time you walk in the door, to act like you haven't seen your loved ones in a month.

Gifts for the Tammi Lange Memorial Fund- — which works to give "discrete gifts (like gym shoes and Valentines) to K-5th graders in need" — may be mailed to Chief Financial Officer, Bangor Township Schools, 3359 E. Midland Road, Bay City, MI, 48706.

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