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2 sisters get to know the man who is keeping their brother's name alive

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Today, a story about keeping a name alive. We'll hear from two sisters from Cameroon. They spent four decades grieving their brother, Acha Mbiwan. He died in a car accident in the 1980s. Then in 2012, they discovered a man in America who had their unique last name.

EGBE MONJIMBO: Hello, Mr. Atiba Mbiwan. The reason I was calling is because my sisters and I actually read about you, and we have a strong feeling you may have known our brother, who passed away.

MARTÍNEZ: Atiba Mbiwan went to college with their brother, Acha. After Acha died, Atiba changed his last name in honor of his friend. All three live in the U.S. now, and they sat down together for StoryCorps.

ATIBA MBIWAN: How did you feel about me taking on your family's name, Mbiwan?

DIDI NDANDO: Oh, everybody was elated.

MONJIMBO: Not just our family - our friends.

NDANDO: Everyone - our friends, everybody, because to know that someone had taken on our family name - it feels like a gift.

MBIWAN: I have to say that in my wildest dreams, I never, ever thought I would ever meet Acha's family.

NDANDO: We met up, and he was great.

MONJIMBO: It just clicked - instant click.

MBIWAN: You know, in my birth family, I'm the oldest. So Acha was like my big brother. And through my experience as a college student, he added such a different flavor of life for me. Our conversations were just rich, loving exchanges. I miss that. You know, we did talk about the fact that I would one day visit Cameroon.

NDANDO: So we ended up making the trip together.

MBIWAN: That was just surreal for me, you know, to be there.

NDANDO: This was a whole overnight trip in that van.

MBIWAN: Bumpity (ph), bumpity, bumpity.

MONJIMBO: Exactly. Talk about bonding in a little tiny space there with all that dust.

NDANDO: I mean, it was kind of a fun ride, really. You fell asleep on somebody that fell asleep on you.

MONJIMBO: That's one of the happiest experiences of my entire life.

MBIWAN: That was my best Christmas. Yeah. So I was just wondering, what do y'all think about when you think about Acha's legacy?

NDANDO: You. You're very much a part of that. I mean, he was such a bright young man, and him passing away so early - that was part of the tragedy, is the regret and the feeling that he could have contributed so much to this life, to this world. And then to learn that in the short time that he lived, that there was someone like you - that made us feel like, OK, his impact lives on.

MBIWAN: We now are part of a family.

NDANDO: Mbiwan family - absolutely.

MONJIMBO: Very much so. Our own brother would be just elated.

NDANDO: And in a way, we feel like he came back through you because now we have a brother again.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: That's Didi Ndando and Egbe Mbiwan Monjimbo, along with Atiba Mbiwan. There's more to their story, and you can hear it on the StoryCorps podcast. Get it at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.