Today is the one-year anniversary of the death of my sister, Barbara.
When we say, “Memory eternal!” we of course mean, “May God remember her forever in His kingdom.” But I have some different sorts of memories I am going to spend today pondering.
I’m remembering how she and Wendy and I used to play Catch the Wave in the ocean. You stand at about neck deep in the water, or just a bit deeper, and wait for the next wave. You take turns calling out how everybody is to meet that wave. You shout, “Duck!” or “Jump!” or “Feet first!” which means you float on your back facing the wave. The bigger the waves, the more fun. Once we played this a couple of days after a hurricane had blown through, and the waves were terrific! So was the seaweed; the ocean seemed clogged with it. We put it in our hair and said we were mermaids. Or sea monsters. That seaweed left red welts on us, too. (Do not picture little girls here, but middle-aged women.)
I’m remembering our Great Needle Swap. We met for a weekend at Mom and Dad’s house and each brought all our knitting supplies, plus projects. Barbara and I sorted everything, made sure each of us, including Mom, had whatever needles and other supplies she wanted, and organized our knitting totes. And knitted, of course. It was such fun.
Barbara sitting on the Floor, Sorting Knitting Needles
I’m remembering the night I stayed up with her when she was in the Intensive Care Unit. I copied a Sudoku puzzle from a book onto the white board in front of her bed, and we worked it together.
I’m remembering a night I called her at the nursing home and asked her how she was. She said, “I’m all ready to go to sleep. I’m in my jammies, I have my warm milk and Oreo cookies, and it’s time for my bedtime story.”
“Warm milk and Oreos!”
“Well, that part is imaginary, of course.”
But we decided the part about a bedtime story shouldn’t be, so I read her one. I think it was a Winnie-the-Pooh story. And from then on, I would call her every night at 8:00 and read her a bedtime story, until she became too weak to hold the telephone. She requested the Uncle Remus stories, which Dad used to read to us when we were small. (Those are the stories upon which is based the Disney movie, “Song of the South”.)
I’m remembering how, as a lonely nine-year-old, I longed and prayed for a baby sister. Well, I already had a wonderful sister, Wendy, but she and Mike, being only 13 months apart in age, might as well have been twins. I was the odd man out. So every day I prayed for a baby sister. One day it occurred to me that my petition ought to be addressed to my mother as well as to God. Mom said, “We already have three children, and we think that’s enough.”
But I kept praying and one day she called me into her room and said, “Put your hand right here,” so I laid it on her “stomach” and felt something move. “What’s that?” I asked, startled.
“That’s a baby inside me.”
I burst into joyous, grateful tears and went running into my room. Mom came running after me, calling, “What’s wrong, what's wrong? I thought you’d be happy!”
“Oh, I am, I am!”
It was going to be a boy. His name was going to be Christopher Robin, as in Pooh’s friend. I said it was not a boy; it was my sister. Still, we didn’t have a girl name picked out. So when she was born, Mom named her after herself, Barbara.
Can you imagine the effect all this had upon a (by then) ten-year-old soul?
I remember the day I realized that what God had given to me, I must offer back to Him, with sorrow, yes, but still with gratitude, too, and faith that He knows and does best.
And I shall always remember the grace and dignity with which she bore all her many sufferings, and I shall say to myself, if my baby sister could get through these, and do it so well, perhaps I can, too, because she has shown it to be doable. Do come with the angels to receive me, dear Barbara, when my turn comes!