God made us Sisters

Hearts made us friends – as the little saying goes.

My sister is almost nine years older than me. Have you ever heard that song Heros, by Mariah Carey? When I hear that song, I always think of her. From taking care of three younger siblings, to leaving home at eighteen, to marriage and college, to having two children in her early twenties, then later having two infant sons that made their way to heaven way, way too soon.

Not letting that beat her and sap the life from her, she battled the pains with nursing school while working as an aide in the ER at Houston Childrens hospital until she graduated with her RN license. Today, she cares for children with more compassion and love than any nurse I’ve ever known. Why? Because that was her calling and she listened. It took her 15 hard years to get there.

My dearest friend, that I am so blessed to have related to me. May I offer this tribute to you to acknowledge your touching grace upon my life.

I am so proud to call you my sister. Every picture I have, you are holding me. Every one.

What I remember most about growing up with you is the nights when we lived in Pickett. The rut town off a two-lane Oklahoma highway, in the middle of nowhere. Our house at the end of the road, located next to the woods, and in front of a big field terrified you. A secluded place filled with shadows. I have a feeling Ghost Hunters would have recorded some data. Eeek!

You would drag me stumbling from my brass twin bed to sleep with you in your room, in your bed – every night. You put up with a six-year old having restless leg syndrome when you hated feet on you. I guess little kid feet on your head seemed preferable to being haunted. Worse than that were my nightly accidents in the wee form. Oops.

It was your room I began to read novels from your desk shelf. My first book, Little Women, then Island of the Blue Dolphins. I can honestly say, reading in your room ignited the treasure trove of stories that call to my heart.

The other great love, your big doll house. Oh I coveted it. I wanted it for my own, I’ll admit. It was a dream when I got to play with it. The magnificent colonial house with real furniture, a velvet clad staircase, and an attic that opened up. A child’s dream home.

Listening to Barry Manilow crone from the record player in your room, or maybe it was Neil Diamond, John Denver, or all the above. They just don’t sound the same anywhere else. And why you put up with a little brat always around asking questions when you were surely a busy teenager, I’ll never know. You probably don’t either, except to say it was a long eight years of wishing for me. I treasure those days in your room.

Taking me to your Cougann practice when they had the mini camp. Being your side kick (or lo-kick), in your big drill team performance during the Friday night High School football game. What an exciting adventure. Such a privilege for a little sister who wanted to be just like you.

My big sister.

My friend.

My hero.

I watched you hold Baby Will in your arms, desperate to keep him, his loss the greatest our family has ever known, such a precious soul. Seven days of sweet song touching his fingers, kissing his head. Nothing was more heartbreaking.

Then, for that pain to pale in comparison to the sacrifices made for Baby Cody. Born after Will, strong, yet still fragile. The 24/7 quest to eradicate germs as much as possible with a toddler in tow, and another child in public school. Four and half years doing things no mother could comprehend with tubes, wires, medicines and shots only to lose him anyway. I think I would have lost my faith. No, I would have, but not you.

Instead of cowering in grief you firmly stood up for all mothers of exceptionally essential children that lived most of their life from a hospital bed. You spoke in front of hundreds of mothers, doctors, and nurses – despite your fear of public speaking – so they could better serve families of children like Will and like Cody. So they could make compassion and service a first for families of the chronically ill. A place of warmth and care for their long stays. A place for direction when they did go home armed with the confidence to care for them. All because of you giving yourself to the cause and sharing your sad story. People listened. People learned. People cared.

Your selfless service to the needy is astounding. Next, you will marry a man who has an exceptionally essential daughter. Beautiful Chelsea, a hospital bed buddy to Cody. A miracle that lived long past what the experts predicted. She will walk down the aisle, unable to speak clearly due to her trach opening, unable to walk steady with her weakened muscles. Her twisted hands will hold a bouquet of flowers while her princess dress billows around her. She will have a big smile lighting up her face. It will be as if it’s her wedding. A forever child unable to experience one of her own. It’s only through your desire, that she will. She will feel just as loved, and just as honored as any bride would be.

You amaze me.

May the love you pour out, always return to you. Thank you for being the best big sister a little girl could ever have.

Happy Birthday my friend!

What’s in a day to you?

Tell me. What does your calendar look like? Do you mark the days off as they pass? Do you write in your appointments? Your milestones? Your due bills? Anniversaries? Birthdays?

Do you days pass by without meaning? Just an X in another day.

A reminder of when school is out. A holiday cue. A time change. A weekend. Another page to turn. Another month goes by until you have a full year. Then you begin anew. Another calendar. Another day. Another month. Another year.

Some days are like that for me. I just get through them and mark them as done.

But what if your calendar were your memories? What if they were your most precious moments? What if your desk was FULL of these memories and these years? That very thing was revealed at my Dads house. We discovered an overflow of keepsakes on his calendar and in his desk. Memories.

Over TWENTY years of calendar pages, pictures, cards, post cards, letters, and notes. Twenty years. All at his fingertips to browse the pages of his history. To remember, to know, and to live through each day in the simplest way.

Pictures of us small. Pictures of us big.  Pictures of the grand kids and girlfriends past. Pictures of his mom and dad. A Methodist dedication certificate as a baby (which we had no idea about). Newspaper articles. Birthday cards and Father’s Day cards. Every nook and cranny stuffed with something important to him. The main event – the calendar that dominated his desktop written on each day.

I was stunned. My heart moved. The smallest details meant so much to him. Everything. Our visits. When he got a letter in the mail or a card. A phone call. Some small bit of news. A beautiful day. A rainy day. When he went to the park. The list goes on and on. Every day he wrote something to mark his path.

I’m not going to lie. To see these notes, cards, and letters, to know what it meant to him just to hear from us – it punched a hole in my gut. The guilt. Why didn’t I know? Why didn’t I visit more? Send mail more? Email more? Why? How do we get so busy to forget the little things?

I myself am a calendar saver. I, too, make notes on them. And sometimes, it’s nice to look back at my days just like he did. It makes me smile to reminiscence or feel proud to see last year’s achievement. I had no idea he did a similar thing, day in and day out, but I should have. He was a simple man, one of presence, who enjoyed what each day brought.

Uncovering the many tokens touched us deeply. We glimpsed these pieces of his life over the many years. It was almost as if he was still there. Smiling through the pictures. Laughing from an audio tape. Singing while playing guitar. Writing. His hand holding the pen pressed to the paper etching his every day movements. It was how my brother discovered he was in the hospital. When he went by to check on him – his calendar note read – bad sick.

It wasn’t easy to read some of them. Especially the months that went by with no visit, or correspondence from me. It was difficult to realize, I wasn’t there for him as much as I wish I had been. It was hard knowing how disappointed he must have been when he didn’t hear from me. I had to keep in mind what joy it brought him when he did.

I have to admit, ever since we found those in his desk, I don’t look at calendar days the same way. I see an empty space to make an entry. I see what is possible to sum up a day. I see such a simple act that brings life to treasure and love to always remember.

Today, make your day count. More than that, make someone elses day count. Be the entry on their calendar. Be on their record of purpose.

Be there, before their calendar days end.