God knew I would need a sister and so He gave me one. Today, although she is two thousand and forty five point six miles away, I honor my sister and celebrate her birthday.
My “little” sister was born when I was just 18 months old. The day my parents brought her home from the hospital I announced that she was “my baby”. And we have been close companions, comrades, and confidantes ever since.
We have shared bedrooms, toys, and friends. We have shared adventures and misadventures, joy and grief, success and failure. We have traveled the world together, been the new kids at school together, and got caught up in mischief together. We have protected one another from teasing and tattling and comforted one another when protection wasn’t enough.
As children we played board games for hours; Clue, Sorry, and Monopoly marathons occupied our time on rainy Sunday afternoons. We created intricate scenarios for our Barbie dolls, and watched Saturday morning cartoons, sharing Pop Tarts and Cap’n Crunch.
We danced in the living room to Simon and Garfunkel and later to Foreigner and Motown. Together we learned to swim, our years on the swim team favorite memories that began lessons in strength and endurance and forged lifetime friendships. Together we learned to play the piano, sharing duets, suffering through one another’s wrong notes and missed chords, and practicing the increasingly complicated sonatas, concertos, and occasional jazz. Together we galloped bareback through the orchards, clinging to each other, and giggling as we pulled one another from our horse’s broad back, the tall grasses softening our fall and muffling our laughter. In our head-to-toe matching outfits, together we learned to navigate the ski slopes, a skill that she took to an even greater level, never shying away from the challenge of a mogul field or backcountry skiing. As we grew older we joined the high school track and cross country teams, our much admired coach inspiring further strength and endurance that we believe serve in my cancer fight today. We tossed rifles, spun flags, and danced on the drill team together, attracted by the sequined outfits, way-cool white boots, and the cute drummers in the marching band. Later still we lived together in college, joining the same sorority, sharing our secret handshake, songs, and rituals, as well as a larger band of sisterhood that would someday also be a source of inspiration. We spent summers together in the humidity of the Deep South and the midnight sun of the Alaskan Interior, working, exploring, and maturing those many miles from home.
We have shared secrets and jokes, laughing until we cried over silly things that only sisters could understand. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, she gave me an incredible brother-in-law who understands and supports our sister bond.
She proposed that I compete in my first triathlon—and then joined me and led the way. She has scouted quilting shops for me, encouraging my new found hobby. She shares her writing with me, often before an editor sees her work for the first time. She rocked my first baby so that I could sleep. She stood beside me when I married and was beside me when my marriage failed. She provided a name for my second daughter, her namesake. She is the godmother of my three daughters. She is the executor of my estate. I miss her when we are apart. She is the person I trust most in the world.
I can’t imagine my life without my sister, my constant companion, my greatest cheerleader. And for the past 8 years, as I’ve faced my life’s biggest challenge, it is largely my sister that keeps me going. She has traveled this country with me in search of treatment, she has celebrated treatment success and grieved treatment failure. She has spent long days at hospital bedsides, driven me to and from chemo and radiation, waited for a surgeon’s news, and attended appointments so that I need not face the unknown alone. She has turned her life upside down to be with my children when I couldn’t be. She has stayed with me so that my household could function even when I could not. When I am down and feeling hopeless, she encourages me, logically and calmly reminding me that my fight is not finished. She has put her own needs and desires on hold. All for me.
I would like to think that all siblings enjoy this degree of love and commitment from one another. But I realize how very blessed I am. Heck, with all of those gifts you would think it’s my birthday, rather than hers, that I celebrate today. Luckily for me, and for the many people who know and love my sister, it is her birthday. I hope that as a sister I provide to her even a small amount of what she does for me and every day I thank God for giving me the sister He knew I would need. And now I really should finish the quilt I’ve started for her! Happy birthday, Erin!