today (april 7th) my lovely younger sister turned 26. most of my memories of her as a child concern sunshine, and smiles and a lot of brightness. she always seemed to reflect light into every place she went, at least in my recollection. of course, i’m learning how flawed my own remembrance can be, with so many years of darkness to skew my perception of light. while i struggled in the dark, she fought a different sort of battle. perhaps not the exact same, but she’s wrestled with the same darkness and came out the victor a lot sooner than i did. i do know this, as sure as i’m breathing and drinking earl grey tea on this warm spring night – marlene has always been a light in dark places.
my little sister has cystic fibrosis. if you’re not familiar with this terrible and hidden disease, please take a moment to check out the very quick overview that the CF foundation offers here – about CF. i call it hidden, because for many years, no one could tell anything was wrong. she was bright, spunky (okay, she still is) and fully participatory in so many activities and hobbies. but CF takes it’s toll, and while i left and got married, and sunk into a deep valley, she started paying the price in her body. and i was unaware, and incapable of even conceiving what she dealt with and still deals with on a daily basis.
i have had opportunities for 6 years to talk about her sunny disposition, her never failing encouragement, her constant ability to know what a word in due season is, and yet i haven’t. mostly because of shame. it’s sad to think about my fantastic baby sister ever battling anything painful, and so i didn’t. think about it, that is. and in the process, distanced myself from the only sister i’ll ever have. the only sister who can tease me about the terrible mullet pictures taken when we were kids. the only one who knows how her obsession with sound of music in elementary school sparked a not so secret love of musicals. the only sister who introduced me to frank capra’s other films, and broadened my horizons by never stopping her concentrated reaching in. she never stopped believing in me, and believing my life had value and hope.
so here i am, realizing i’ve lost a lot of time to depression. my counselor told me there would be a reckoning at some point – that i would grieve the lost time. i think i’m starting that – trying not to get lost in regret, in shame. in loss. because i lost time and precious time at that, with one of the most unflaggingly encouraging people i know. she continues to astonish me with her depth of compassion, her understanding, and her joy. she is joy, and hope and so much of the reflection of the Lord. the day she was born was a bright day, and every day has been brighter with her in it.
it has been a hard fought light, and a hard fought fight. i’m so proud to call her my sister – she causes me to desire more out of my life, my relationships, my hopes, because she embodies hope to me. she continues to fight a physical fight that seems overwhelming to me. the amount of treatments, the medications, the physical pain, the hurts, the sleepless nights, the limitations. and yet none of those things limit her. she continues to speak life to everyone she meets, to shine a light in every place she walks, to minister the Gospel at every opportunity. she’s never bitter, never angry, never hopeless – or at least not that i’ve ever witnessed.
so today, sister that i love so very dearly, sister that should be receiving late birthday cards from me (this happens every year if i send them at all), sister that didn’t receive the loud and obnoxious phone call we wanted to make (their phones were down), sister that never fails to encourage me, to expand me, to challenge me, today know you are so loved. sure, this post is late – yay me! but know that i’ve been thinking about what to say all day, and when i didn’t get to call you, i knew i needed to get it out somehow. you are and have been sunshine in my life, a joyful voice speaking life to me, my friend, one of my favorite people, and thankfully, my sister. i love you.
i’ll be posting about this very soon, but i’m forming a team for the great strides walk at the georgia botanical garden in october. more details coming soon, but i thought it might be appropriate to mention this in conjunction with the very reason i would participate – miss sunshine herself.