The night after my father’s funeral visitation I was still wearing my Sunday best. She wore a black dress with lace collar.

She was small enough to fit in your pocket. Blonde hair. Big eyes. Button nose. On the day she was born, I was a child—still wearing cowboy hats and cap guns.

My mother handed her to me and said, “This is your sister. Be careful with her.”

I had never seen anything so pretty.

A few years later, we were at my aunt’s house. A big barbecue. I was eight, eating dangerous amounts of pulled pork.

I remember my father, standing near the grill. My mother was beside him. I was supposed to be watching the girl, but pulled pork has bewitching powers over my delicate mind.

There was a pool at the neighbor’s house. The girl wandered off to look at it, but I was too busy smearing pork all over my face to notice.

By pure chance, I spotted her from across the yard. But I was one moment too late.

She was staring downward into the pool. She fell in. Nobody saw it happen but me.

I dropped my paper plate. I ran so hard my legs burned and my lungs hurt. I jumped in. She had already sunk by the time I reached her.

I placed her tiny body on the grass. She coughed up mouthfuls of water. The adults came running. Lots of hollering.

The girl looked at me with weary eyes. “Let’s do that again!” she said.

When she turned five, our world turned sour.

The night after my father’s funeral visitation I was still wearing my Sunday best. She wore a black dress with lace collar.

A crowd was in our den, eating funeral food, saying things to each other like, “He was a good man.”

She was outside, knees against her chest. Numb. I sat beside her.

We spent the rest of the night, sitting in a walk-in closet, playing Candyland by flashlight. I slept on the floor beside her bed for ten years.

On her sweet sixteenth birthday, she was long hair, and tall. Same button nose, same kiddish face, trapped in an adult shell.

She worked at Chick-fil-A with my mother. I visited them at work one day. We ate together in the dining room.

My mother and I sang “Happy Birthday.” The folks nearby thought we’d lost our minds.

I gave her a set of Nissan keys.

“What’re these?” the girl asked.

“She burns a little oil,” I said. “But she’s all yours now, and she’ll take care of you if you take care of her.”

She hugged me. I was a two-hundred-foot tall and Kevlar.

Her wedding was a courthouse affair. I arrived in the parking lot during my lunch break. There was a lump in my chest.

“Who gives this woman away?” the man with the Bible asked.

Woman.

The world got quiet. It was an odd word, “woman.” I couldn’t seem to get a response from my throat. She had always been a girl to me.

She was the girl who sang “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” during long car rides. She was a button nose and sun-bleached summer hair.

She was swim team practices, youth group trips, late night ice cream.

She was the photograph in the hallway we showed to company. She was proof that pretty things come from ugly childhoods.

She is the joy of my mother, the glory of my father.

And she makes me so proud it hurts.

Happy birthday, Sarah.

37 comments

  1. Sandi in FL - January 26, 2018 7:44 am

    Any girl would be delighted to have a devoted brother like you, Sean. What a loving tribute to your sister on any day, and best wishes on her special day. Happiest birthday, Sarah.

    Reply
  2. Brenda - January 26, 2018 8:14 am

    Oh, to have had a brother like you!! I had 3 brothers……2 of them have died…..both way too young. I still have one brother. January 25 is my birthday, also. I turned 63. I didn’t hear from him. Sarah is blessed.

    Reply
    • Sandi in FL - January 26, 2018 8:17 am

      Happy belated birthday to you, Brenda.

      Reply
      • Judy Tayloe - January 26, 2018 12:51 pm

        Happy Birthday, Brenda!

        Reply
  3. Thomas in the Everglades - January 26, 2018 10:21 am

    Beautiful sir. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. agracefilledhome77 - January 26, 2018 11:40 am

    This is so sweet and beautiful. Sarah is a blessing. I never knew about the pool, but praising God you were there.

    Reply
  5. Mary Lee - January 26, 2018 12:17 pm

    I had four brothers like you and three sisters like you. What a blessing and I still thank God every night in my prayers for such a gift. Y’all are a rare find. Love your work.

    Reply
  6. janiesjottings - January 26, 2018 12:44 pm

    I have three brothers and not one of them has ever felt about me the way you feel about your sister. How absolutely beautiful. Happy Birthday Sarah!

    Reply
  7. Kathy - January 26, 2018 12:45 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  8. Pat Durmon - January 26, 2018 12:45 pm

    Good one!

    Reply
  9. Beth - January 26, 2018 1:00 pm

    So wonderful.

    Reply
  10. Jo Ann - January 26, 2018 1:07 pm

    Happy Birthday, Sarah!!

    Reply
  11. Marilyn - January 26, 2018 1:08 pm

    Having been blessed with three “bothers” who somewhere along the way became brothers, have been a great blessing. Happy belated birthday Sarah!

    Reply
  12. Lois M Cockerill - January 26, 2018 1:19 pm

    You are no less the brother than we ever could imagine. Your mother was one of those angel women who produced great sons and beautiful daughters, gifts from God. Happy Birthday Sarah.

    Reply
  13. Connie - January 26, 2018 2:31 pm

    Happy birthday Sarah. Our siblings become part of who we grow up to be. I am the oldest of 8, so I know a little about that bond.

    Reply
  14. Summer Hartzog - January 26, 2018 2:37 pm

    Happy birthday to Sarah!

    Reply
  15. Jo Anne Sharlach - January 26, 2018 3:46 pm

    We all should have a big brother such as you!

    Reply
  16. Jack Darnell - January 26, 2018 3:55 pm

    Thanks, I just forwarded this to Sisters I am proud of. Good stuff. My favorite daily visit!

    Reply
  17. Sandra - January 26, 2018 4:31 pm

    I always wanted an older brother like you! You are so blessed to have each other! Happy Birthday Sarah!!

    Reply
  18. Pat Byers - January 26, 2018 4:34 pm

    Happy Birthday Sarah. from one of your brothers followers and admirer-ers. your brother has watched over you for years, it seems. it may not have seemed like it at times., but you are very lucky.

    Reply
  19. Jack Quanstrum - January 26, 2018 4:48 pm

    Beautiful story!

    Reply
  20. Helen - January 26, 2018 5:05 pm

    I would give just about anything – If that was how it was with my brother and myself. GINFWMY

    Reply
  21. Susan Hammett Poole - January 26, 2018 5:06 pm

    Such a beautiful tribute to your precious sister☆HAPPY BIRTHDAY☆to Sarah.

    Reply
  22. Pamela McEachern - January 26, 2018 5:45 pm

    Sarah this is your day and I am sending wishes for a very happy day. Your brother shares you with us sometimes and it is obivious you are adored. Happy Birthday Dear Sarah

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  23. Linda Chipman - January 26, 2018 5:49 pm

    Happy Birthday Sarah!

    Reply
  24. Marty from Alabama - January 26, 2018 8:21 pm

    Siblings are the best. Remember that because tomorrow they just might be gone.

    Reply
  25. April - January 26, 2018 8:48 pm

    What a wonderful sister she must be! Such an endearing tribute to someone who is obviously loved very much….

    Reply
  26. Mary Anne - January 26, 2018 9:07 pm

    Sean, what a great big brother you are. Happy Birthday, Sarah. You are blessed. Thank you for sharing your big brother with all of his readers each day, because we all are blessed by him as well.

    Cancer took my oldest brother from us 18 years ago. His 69th birthday would have been in just a few days from now. But, he lives on in the hearts of his family and in the faces of his sons and grandsons.

    Reply
  27. Charlotte Hollis - January 26, 2018 10:08 pm

    To have a brother say those things about his sister must be heaven…..I know she loves you BIG!!

    Reply
  28. Joan Raines - January 26, 2018 10:10 pm

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  29. Larry Popwell - January 26, 2018 11:23 pm

    Sean,
    My remaining sister is 89 years, and she loves me at 68 as if I were her child. Very little touches me as your words.
    Larry Popwell

    Reply
  30. Debbie Lyons-Moody - January 26, 2018 11:29 pm

    I can’t help but feel the love over flowing. You are blessed to have each other. I am once again moved to tears.

    Reply
  31. steve norman - January 27, 2018 2:51 am

    Wow, such lucky siblings.

    Reply
  32. Lucretia - January 27, 2018 8:16 am

    What an absolutely beautiful big brother/surrogate father tribute to your sister, Sean.

    Reply
  33. Phyllis Hamilton - January 27, 2018 3:31 pm

    Your stories always make my day. My son and daughter do not speak to one another. It is a heartbreaking experience.

    Reply
  34. Letha - January 28, 2018 3:45 am

    Your sister is so fortunate to have you … and you , her. This would have been the best birthday present ever ..a wonderful tribute to her.
    I cried … again.

    Reply
  35. Katherine Kemp - January 29, 2018 2:57 am

    Such sweet words about your sister:)

    Reply

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