On Friday, our family and friends sat in a crowded dark living room on the West side of Cleveland and quietly waited for my sister to walk through the door. Jessica turned 28 on October 28th and we had been planning a surprise “Golden Birthday” (a special birthday that celebrates turning the age of the day you were born) for weeks. The planning process was pretty easy as she proved to be the most gullible person on this planet and believed she was recruited to feed her friend’s cat while they were out of town that night. Upon entering the house, a loud “SURPRISE” and cheering, she was shaking and speechless for minutes (something she usually is not) and blown away by the decorations, Jessica-style food, and guests in attendance.
Jessica is three years older than me, the middle child in our sibling trio, and a truly special sister. As I have aged, I have become increasingly aware that it must have been difficult for her to have a sibling with a chronic illness all these years. The reality is as a child and even as an adult, I require extra physical attention and mental focus from our mother. My needs are sometimes considered the immediate priority, I am often rewarded for doctor visits and hospital stays, and for years, I absorbed a large portion of our family’s income with medical bills and medications. It would have been easy for Jessica to compare our lives and be resentful or jealous in those situations. Honestly, I wouldn’t have blamed her. Instead, Jessica has always chosen to be a gracious, helpful and supportive sister. She is internally good even when she had a right to be withdrawn. I have seen her continually practice patience, empathy, tolerance and love towards me and the people around her.
Jessica has always unknowingly acted as a pseudo-parent to me along side my widowed mom. Her servant’s heart allowed her to welcome early responsibility at a young age. She taught me to drive illegally when I was 14 in school parking lots and to tie my shoes and cartwheel, both left-handed even though I am right-handed. She gave me lunch money to buy extra cookies in school simply because I wanted them. She taught me the importance of using my leadership abilities to make the most of my high school and college experience. She showed me by example how to just say “no” to influences that wouldn’t benefit my soul in the long run and to be proud of that decision. And while I will always be the wild one and she will be the sound one, I look up to her as a godly, successful, and caring woman. In the midst of the party, she looked at me while I hooked myself up to IVs and asked how I was doing and if I needed anything. Her continuous investment in my life reminds me why I love her so much. Jessica is a special sister to me and I know I am so blessed to call her that.
I am thankful for her guidance in my life, her constant accountability and her goodness. I am thankful for her example and the tiny path she leaves so that I can follow easily. She deserved to be celebrated, loved, and appreciated on Friday (she deserves to be celebrated everyday) and I am glad I could try to repay an ounce of her positive influence on my life with a big surprise, gold, glitter, and donuts.
I love you, Chessy!