The tears on Sherrie Reimherr’s face faded as a smile crept across her cheeks.
Out of a family tragedy, a rare gift entered her life. Or rather, 23 gifts.
The Forsyth County woman and her sister from Sugar Hill attended part one of the final Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things show, in which the popular talk show host gave away several presents.
Reimherr said the sisters left with prizes totaling more than $21,000, many of which are in boxes on her dining room table.
More gifts are expected to arrive soon.
A cashmere sweater and white sapphire earrings, among other items, have brought Reimherr and her sister, Shawn Long, some happiness in a time of family pain and turmoil.
In May, Reimherr lost her 24-year-old niece to a domestic violence tragedy in Suwanee.
She was shot by an ex-boyfriend, who then turned the gun on himself, Reimherr said.
The woman’s two daughters, ages 1 and 5, were left without a parent. Long, their grandmother, took them in.
Reimherr was amazed with her sister’s ability to step up and once again become a parent after losing a child.
“I have a son, and if something happened to him, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed,” she said. “To see her every day be able to get up and take care of those girls ... it’s just something that I really admire.”
Reimherr shared those thoughts on the Oprah Web site a few months ago, when she saw the TV show was seeking stories about heroes who have given back.
Though she has watched the show for years, Reimherr said it was the first time she had visited the Web site, and didn’t know what led her to do so that day.
At the time, she was volunteering at her church, Browns Bridge Community.
“I really think it was divine intervention,” Reimherr said.
Her e-mail earned Reimherr and her sister an invitation to attend a taping earlier this month. They believed the show would be an opportunity to share their story.
It wasn’t until filming began that the sisters found out the actual premise.
Oprah came out and told the audience from a plain stage that the show would be about heroes and that she thought meditation was one of the best ways to get through the difficult things they had experienced.
“Then there were these big gong sounds and we’re all like ‘Meditation? We’re here for meditation?’” Reimherr said. “Then Oprah says, ‘You know, one of my ways of meditating ... is by giving you my favorite things.’
“We went berserk. The stage opened up and it was all decorated for Christmas and there were all these boxes wrapped. It was just amazing.”
For the well-known give-away episode of the popular talk show, Oprah was expected to go all-out since this is her final season.
It was the final gift given that day that was Long’s favorite — a seven-day Caribbean cruise.
“I have always wanted to go on a cruise,” she said, “and we would never, ever be able to go on a cruise of this magnitude, especially with having the girls now.”
Like her sister, Long had a moment she felt was divine intervention when Oprah welcomed singing group the Black Eyed Peas, her daughter’s favorite, to perform during the show.
“I just felt like God blessed me with a special moment,” she said. “I felt like she was right there with me the whole entire time.”
The family gathered together to watch the episode, which aired Nov. 19. When Long’s 5-year-old granddaughter saw the group perform, she was also reminded of her mother.
Long shared how the child said the group was her mother’s favorite, adding, “I bet she was so excited up in heaven.”
“It was so cute,” Long said. “We sat there and started crying even more than we were already crying.”
Both sisters said the experience brought them a little joy in a time that has been otherwise marked by sadness.
“Just going on that show has made me feel so good about life and so open-minded about good things happening and not always bad things,” Reimherr said. “I hate to say it, and it sounds cheesy, but it has been a life-changer.”
The gifts are displayed on the family’s dining room table, leading her husband to joke that Christmas came early.
Some of the other prizes included a Nikon digital camera, 52-inch Bravia Sony 3-D television, and a limited edition Oprah 25th anniversary diamond watch.
With Oprah paying for all the taxes and the shipping, the gifts came to the audience members at no cost.
Reimherr and Long each said they didn’t ask for anything for Christmas this year and they plan to share the gifts with friends and family for the holiday.
“I’ve never won a thing,” Reimherr said. “For us to get something like this is just amazing.”