In my life, no day has ever been darker than January 27th of 1985. That day, my big sister, whom I dearly loved, never woke up from her sleep.
Marianne and I were living in Rhode Island with our 10 month-old daughter, Rachel, when the awful news came. Grief-stricken, we immediately drove to Massachusetts to be with my anguished mother. Then, later that day – the details are forever fuzzy – my mother and I boarded a plane to Florida to be with my sister’s husband, Jimmy, and their three children. It was a very long flight!
Christine was five years older than I, and I grew up under her tutelage. Occasionally, she’d play a funny trick on her gullible little brother, but never with a hint of malice. In fact, her natural goodness was unmistakable, and I always felt safe in her presence.
My sister taught me a great deal about kindness and selflessness through the example of her life. And, even in death, she had one more lesson to share.
When we arrived in Florida, and especially when we walked through Christine’s front door, the pain of her absence was suffocating. Her inscape was everywhere, but she was gone. We embraced Jimmy and the children and collectively ached and wept!
Only a few weeks prior, Marianne, Rachel, and I had come for a surprise visit over Christmas. I was an impoverished graduate student at the time, and my brother-in-law had paid for our airfare as a combined Christmas/birthday gift for his bride, who shared a birthday with Jesus. We had arrived on December 21st, 1984. (Keep that in mind.)
Jimmy picked us up at the airport and drove us to their home. We entered quietly through the garage and sneaked up on Christine in her kitchen. When she turned and saw us, her face lit up and her first words were: “Give me that baby!” She had not yet met Rachel. We stayed with Christine and her family until January 2nd, and it was a thoroughly joyous time. A blessed time!
I believe that much can be known about a person by observing her/his treasures. A verse from the Sermon on the Mount comes to mind.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mt 6:21)
While in Florida that terrible second time, I found one of my sister’s treasures and gazed, just once more, into her wonderful heart.
Jimmy, knowing my sentimental side, invited me to go through some of Christine’s things and told me that I could keep anything I found that had special meaning for me. His was a generous offer!
As I searched, I came upon her wallet. Tucked inside were her license, some credit cards, family pictures, a few dollar bills, and a small folded piece of paper. Curious, I pulled out the paper and unfolded it. It was a simple sales receipt from a local store dated December 21st, 1984. Christine had written on that receipt: “This is the day that Steve, Marianne, and the baby came for a surprise visit.”
How I loved – and still love – my sister!