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Siblings Are Forever

To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. - Clara Ortega

A lovely spring morning shattered by a single phone call. A Dodge Ram had slammed into my little sister as she traversed the crosswalk on her way into work that morning in May. 

Of my seven siblings, she is closest in age to me, only two years younger.  Of course I hadn’t called her my little sister in years.  But with siblings, we are cast back into childhood roles in an instant: the compromiser, the avoider, the overachiever, the opinionated one, the baby.  She was the baby.

I rushed to the emergency room and asked about her location. The receptionist politely directed me to the SICU waiting area.  The pained look on her face spoke volumes, and I realized that she must know my sister who had worked at this hospital for 35 years. 

I found another sibling and a niece in the waiting area, and they took turns filling me in on some of the details.  My sister’s son, just arrived from Atlanta, was with her.

“She tried to get up,” they told me.  “She managed to turn herself over.”

I heard nothing else after that.  I covered my face in an attempt to stop the sobs that threatened to surface.  Our parents, who came of age during the Great Depression, passed along an indomitable spirit that is part of the genetic makeup of all my siblings. I am grateful for that gift, but I wished I could have been there with my sister as she lay on the pavement to tell her that it was okay, this time, to yield.

I asked my niece to repeat the list of injuries. Fractured clavicle, crushed pelvis, broken ribs, possible spleen damage.  But the primary concern was the head injury. We soon learned from the doctors that she would heal physically, but her broken bones could not be the focus until the brain bleed was under control.

Though we’ve been in regular contact with each other through the years, we haven’t really been close since we left home to make our own way in the world. Sibling relationships often take second chair when we become adults and our energy is focused on our work and raising our own kids. But sibling relationships are constant and cycle in and out with varying degrees of closeness and distance, but always with shared memories and humor.

Just recently, my siblings and I have started to reconnect, to form a new extended family as our children move on to start careers and families of their own.  We find ourselves turning, once again, to each other more and more.  We gather for breakfast one Saturday each month. The previous weekend my sister and I’d met for a belated birthday movie, and now I’m doubly thankful that I didn’t put it off one more time due to my busy schedule. 

For now we sit together in the SICU waiting area, drawing strength from each other, waiting for news. To say that my sister is in a great deal of pain is an understatement. The brain injury is still the main concern, but she is aware of her surroundings and that is good news. She isn’t saying much yet, but on the morning of her accident, she mentioned to her son that she wouldn’t be able to attend the hospital’s awards luncheon. He accepted the 35 Year Award on her behalf.

She has blocked the memory of being hit, but during one of the short scheduled visits to her bedside she asked our brother to describe what happened. After he told her, she opened her eyes briefly to whisper, “Guess I lost that one.”

No, sweetie; you didn’t lose a thing. The truck, with an inattentive driver at the wheel, knocked you down, but it won’t keep you down.  Your siblings are here to help you up.

One of God’s great gifts are brothers and sisters. We make our initial forays into the world surrounded by our siblings if we’re part of the 80% of Americans lucky enough to have them. Together we fight, we laugh, we cry, and we love, creating a collage of memories and forming an emotional bond that lasts a lifetime. Sibling relationships are for keeps, unlike many marriages. They survive the death of parents and keep on going through spats that would end many friendships. They are worth nurturing.

Editor's Note:  Candyce shares with us that her sister is indeed healing, though it will take time. We wish her a speedy recovery!

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