Legacy is defined in the American College Dictionary as "something handed down from an ancestor or predecessor from the past."
In her 10 short years, Annie Schiller, of Affton, left a legacy of life and fun for her family and friends to follow. Author and Affton area resident Sally Rains has put this legacy to paper in her book, "Get Going, Girl! Lessons Learned From a Fourth Grader."
"Her spirit is the whole reason I wrote the book," Rains said. "I felt her writing it through my hands. I have learned so much from Annie, her sisters, and, especially, from her mother Barb, my sister, who has been an amazing inspiration to me."
In 1999, Annie, daughter of Barbara Jochens of Affton, and Bill Schiller of Shrewsbury, was six years old and a student in Mesnier Elementary School when she came down with "flu-like" symptoms. The physician, noting a possible problem with her eyes, ordered at CAT scan
The results showed that she had a brain tumor. Surgery, plus an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy and radiation caused the tumor to go into remission.
"It was a miraculous recovery," Rains said. "And we always thought it was the positive thoughts and prayers that contributed to it."
Unfortunately, four years later, Annie began seeing double. Tests showed that the tumor had returned with a vengeance. On April 15, 2003, Annie died, leaving her family and friends richer for having had her in their lives.
"This book is about lessons learned from a fourth grader," Rains said. "Why stop being a kid because we hit a certain age? How much better our life would be if we would have those child-like qualities?"
Many positives came from Annie's life. One was the Rainbow For Kids, an organization that Annie's family and friends started when Annie was having radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Rains' husband, sportswriter Rob Rains, would invite celebrities to come and visit with the kids.
"Many people would be waiting for their child to have treatment, and we would sit for this long time," Rains said. "We just wanted to raise the spirits for the kids."
Jochens said Annie insisted on helping with the parties.
"When she got better, she would show up at all these parties saying these guys need something to do. I'll be in charge of games! And she was only seven or eight at the time," Rains said.
"She was such a funny little person," Jochens recalled, "but she was like an 'old soul.' She could have felt sorry for herself and never did.
"She was in afternoon kindergarten, and she would have her treatments in the morning. I would ask her if she wanted to go to lunch, but she would say, 'Oh no, I want to go back to school because I'm going to graduate!'" Rains said.
"Even when her face was puffy from steroids, she never thought she was ugly," Jochens said. "She would think 'I rock! I'm a cool kid!' Then came the day when she got sick and didn't want to go to school. She said, 'I'm done, let's go have fun,' so I knew it wasn't much longer."
Jochens invited a group of family and friends to join her and Annie in Florida.
Annie died two months later.
"Annie sang, danced and played games right up to the end," Rains said. "She touched so many people's lives and made them better people."
Among those who Annie touched were St. Louis Rams Football player Adam Timmerman and former Ram Grant Wistrom.
"They became very good friends with Annie. When she went out of remission, they would call her up and arrange to meet her," Rains said.
Annie's penchant for "over accessorizing" provided another reason for the book.
"Annie loved tons of jewelry, lots of bracelets, and she jingled!" Rains said. "About a week after she died, my sister was wearing a charm bracelet and shook it. She said, 'I guess we'll have to jingle the rest of our lives.'"
Thus the "Jingle Belles" were born.
"Once a month," Rains said, "We get together and do fun things. The book tells how to be a 'Jingle Belle.' We've had swimming parties, pottery parties, movie reviews, we're even contemplating a sleepover!"
She described the club as similar to what you might have done with your girl friends in high school.
"Then you get married, get busy in your everyday life and, suddenly, you realize how time is flying," Rains said. "I remember what we did when our kids were little and how much fun it was. Then they grew up and we stopped doing those fun things.
"Annie taught us how to have fun again," Rains said. "When her hair fell out, instead of getting worked up over it, she would just put in little clippies on what hair she had. One of the best lessons I learned from her was to work with what you have, not with what you don't have."
The book describes how to keep fun in your life with activities such as playing games, planting a garden, and giving theme dinner parties (suggestions provided.) It also contains motivational quotations, stories, poetry, and information for putting fun into everyday life.
Annie left two older sisters, Ruth, 16, and Joan, 14, who attend Affton High School.
"They are beyond great," Jochens said. "I'm the luckiest mom. But Annie was my co-pilot. We'd go places together, and I still reach across my car seat - but she's not there."
"It's a big circle that goes together," Rains said. "Annie inspired us and made us better people. She helped us find our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and that is to live every day to the fullest. Her spirit lives on, encouraging us to reach out to others."
"Get Going Girl! Lessons Learned From A Fourth Grader" is available at the Crestwood and Florissant Barnes and Noble stores. Rains will be signing books Saturday, June 25, 1 to 3 p.m., at Sappington International Farmer's Market, 8400 Watson Road. For more information, visit www.AllStarideas.com.