I can remember the day my sister arrived into the world. My father swooped me up into his arms and said I had a new sister. We drove to the hospital and I stared out the window as trees blurred fast realizing I was no longer the only baby.
We arrived and dad carried me through a white light hallway to a window. Babies nestled in their blankets like little cocoon wonders lined up row by row. He pointed at one that was crying and the nurse lifted a red faced bushy haired infant to comfort the baby. “That’s your sister,” he told me smiling.
“She looks like a baby baboon,” I said not smiling. In fact, I was a little mad.
Why did mommy and daddy need another baby? I was plenty. I felt a tinge of heat inside. I was only 18 months old but I remember every thing as if it were yesterday.
The competition began young between my sister and I. I tested every strength and each weakness. I started off small by drinking her bottle when she wasn’t looking. Then, moved up to coloring her papers and when we were getting along, I would “let” her do my chores and eat her chocolate candies.
Despite our intense sibling rivalry, my sister loved me. She wanted to be my friend, and have a relationship with me. But no way, she was a sister I didn’t ask for. She was given to me but I had hoped she would go away.
Years past and strife built but still dedication remained. Then, as adults we found ourselves again sharing attention. “I’m pregnant,” I told her one day over the phone. She replied, “That’s funny. I was going to tell you that I’m pregnant too.”
For the first time I looked forward to sharing the attention of being sisters and both of us expecting. My pregnancies, always difficult proved to still indicate the future. I was sick. I was tired. And of course, I was huge.
She beamed. She glowed. She was tiny and still fit into her jeans–for a few months. Of course, I was jealous.
Then, one day she didn’t look “normal” to me. I got nervous and took it to prayer before saying anything to her.
“I give and I take away,” was the soft word I heard. Unsure of what that meant, I told my sister what I had heard when praying for her. She silently nodded her head and smiled.
The next day, she phoned. “I’m bleeding. I am going to have to go see my OB.”
We found out she miscarried. Again, all attention on me, I was the only pregnant sibling. Still she helped me and showed no resentment. I took the help and we both focused on me.
My time to deliver arrived, she was there. But she still didn’t look her best. Something about her “glow” was gone and I still didn’t understand. So, I prayed again. Again, I heard the same whisper, “I give and I take away.”
In the hospital helping me she said, “I’m bleeding again but this time it’s really making me weak.” The doctors had told her she had an iron problem, and so we all expected weakness. My mother, a nurse decided more testing was needed. A different doctor was consulted.
She had lost her baby. She had gotten leukemia.
As a new born baby came into the family. A new word entered our daily vocabulary. This time I was not jealous. Instead, I prayed to not take her away. Please God, let her stay.
Fortunately, the whisper and promise to give and take away stayed true. A perfect match was found and my sister who was given leukemia by her body had it taken away by her God.
Today, I see her still struggle sometimes. Her health has never been the same but she hasn’t either. She is even more gentler, and giving and committed to the life that she has, to her children and her family.
I watch her and then the next thing I know is I no longer feel that sense of rivalry. Instead it gets replaced daily with gratitude and respect…and love.
I never wanted her to suffer, but through the sting of birth and the sting of death, I have learned so much about family and unconditional love and to be healed from sibling jealousy.
It’s good to know that He gives and He takes away.