Sweet is the voice of a sister in the season of sorrow, and wise is the counsel of those who love us.
When Mama found out she was pregnant with me, she and Daddy already had three children... Buster, 11; Brenda, 7; and Donnie, 4.
Brenda, sandwiched between those two rowdy boys, told Mama, "If that's another boy, I'll just scream!" and Mama said "I'll join you!" Mama loved to tell me that story, and I loved to hear it!
God, in his infinite mercy, sent them a baby girl (me!), but he also had mercy on me by sending me to them. I believe God, knowing what is to come in our lives, gives us whatever we need to get over the bumps, and for me, that started with my family, including - and maybe, especially - my sister, Brenda.
"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
~ Philippians 4:19
From my first breath, she has been there for me, right next to my mother and father, loving me with that same unconditional love that now causes her to relate stories of my brattiness - like hitting a friend of hers with a baton when I was three and they were eleven because they wouldn't let me play Monopoly - as if that was the cutest thing in the world!
Monopoly-exclusion aside, for the most part she always made me feel like a peer, letting me tag along with her and her boyfriends, or even just doing things with me, like going to the movies or the beach or on road trips to visit our grandparents.
But I've never been more grateful to God for my big sister than this past year when she joined me to stand vigil by Mama's side in the hospital as we said goodbye.
Brenda worried she would just be more trouble for me, or get in my way, because her Parkinson's makes it difficult for her to walk. And that first night was difficult, because my house is such a physical challenge. For one thing, there's a 30 to 40 foot inclined stone path leading to our front door. It's beautiful, and I love it, but it's even difficult for me to get up and down it sometimes.
So we opted to stay in a hotel close to the hospital the rest of the time she was here. Much easier on both of us. And the memories of us grabbing something to eat, then watching HGTV together in our hotel room while sipping on tiny bottles of Cabernet, will forever soften the overall heartache of my mother's passing.
Brenda's presence recharged me... helped me recognize the grace and love surrounding us... and gave me the strength and clarity I needed to let go.
I realize God put me in my sister's life for a reason, too, and I only hope that she feels I've been as much of a gift and blessing as she's been to me all of my life.
Today is her birthday. To celebrate, she traveled to Louisiana yesterday for a night of gambling, and I'm happy to report she won; she's a craps and blackjack queen. I'm grateful she's surrounded by friends who love her, since I'm hours away, to be sure she receives even a portion of the love and laughter she gives to others.
A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.
Happy birthday to my beautiful big sister, Brenda! I love you!