My sister is a wife and a mother of two, but when I look at her I still see pigtails.

New Year’s Eve—Sacred Heart Hospital, the pediatric unit.

Tonight the whole world is celebrating. I can already hear firecrackers in the distance. But on the third floor, the women in my life are gathered around a sick baby.

My sister’s daughter, Lucy, was born ten days ago. She was dainty, tranquil, and she smelled like all babies do. But last night, she was admitted into the hospital with viral meningitis.

Doctors fitted her with an IV in her scalp, an oxygen nose piece, and they’re monitoring her heart.

So, while a big ball drops in Times Square, my sister holds Lucy.

My sister has cried a lot today. And I wish there were something I could do to make her feel better, but I‘m just a big brother. Big brothers can’t do much but ask the lady in the cafeteria, “More fries, please?”

A gentle knock on the door.

The nurse enters. She’s got a sunny personality. She checks monitors, administers a blood gas, she is smiling a lot. She refers to my sister as “Mama.”

That word.

My sister is a wife and a mother of two, but when I look at her I still see pigtails.

To me, she’s the girl who watched cartoons on Saturdays, eating Captain Crunch. The girl who ran barefoot. The teenager who worked at Chik-fil-A, who let me use her employee discount.

I remember when I was sixteen, she was a child. She awoke one night screaming. She clutched her side and howled, writhing on the floor.

“What’s wrong?” I shouted

“I’m dying!” she said.

My mother came running. She touched my sister’s belly. She thought my sister might be suffering from severe constipation.

“Are you eating plenty of fiber?” my mother asked.

“I’m dying!” my sister shouted.

“Wait here while I get the castor oil.”

My mother always suspected her children were victims of bowel blockage. In fact, she believed society’s problems could be blamed on this issue.

As a young man, I was afraid to bring female prospects near our house for fear that my mother would ask them highly personal questions about digestion.

That night, I loaded my sister into the car, we sped across town to the hospital. The emergency room was packed, and I’ll never forget it.

We sat in a waiting room. My sister curled beside me, moaning. I was helpless. I was was barely old enough to drive, but to my sister I was the only man she knew. And I tried to pretend I was a grown-up.

“It’s gonna be okay,” I said. Because that’s what big brothers say.

I didn’t know if it were true.

“I’m scared,” she said, holding her belly.

“You’re gonna be okay.”

“How do you know?”

“Because,” as if that explained everything. “I know.”

But it was false. I didn’t know if she would be all right.

The girl crawled into my lap. I touched her silky hair. I was so worried I was shaking.

That night, the doctor welcomed us into the exam room. His first words were, “Good news, your sister’s gonna be just fine. It’s just a vestigial organ problem.”

“A what?” I said.

“Her appendix,” he said. “All we gotta do is cut it out, easiest thing in the world.”

I’d never felt so relieved. I didn’t know whether to laugh or break dance. I looked my sister in the eye.

“Did you hear that?” I said. “You’re gonna be okay.”

She sniffed her nose. “For real?”

“Yes,” said the doctor. “As long as you keep eating plenty of fiber, I don’t see why you shouldn’t live well into your forties.”

Her appendectomy took a few minutes. She was back in the recovery room with stitches in her belly, eating two ice cream cones at once.

“Guess what!” my sister said when the nurses wheeled her in. “I didn’t even FEEL it!” She smiled big. “You were right, I’m okay!”

I stayed the night in the hospital, and I fell asleep in the vinyl chair beside beside her.

That was a long time ago, but in some ways, I am still that sixteen-year-old fool. And in some ways she is still that pig-tailed girl.

And one day, when Lucy grows up to be big and strong, perhaps when my life is over, she will read this. Time will have moved on without me, and I will be just a memory.

But she will see these sentences, and I hope she knows that when the clock struck midnight tonight, I was thinking about how much everyone loves her. And how she’s going to be okay.

Happy 2019 to you and yours.

And whatever you do this year, please eat plenty of fiber.

62 comments

  1. Brenda - January 1, 2019 7:04 am

    Prayers for Lucy and family! Happy New Year Sean, it’s going to be ok!

    Reply
  2. Gaye Keith - January 1, 2019 7:26 am

    Prayers for this precious child and your sister!

    Reply
  3. Sandi. - January 1, 2019 7:35 am

    Happy New Year, Sean. I know it will be happy for you and your family members as soon as baby Lucy goes home from the hospital.

    Reply
  4. Ann M Syfert - January 1, 2019 7:58 am

    Prayers for Lucy, your family and you, Sean. God bless her with complete healing. And have a very Happy New Year!! And it WILL be alright!!!

    Reply
  5. ramblinrose1956 - January 1, 2019 8:26 am

    Sending love and prayers for sweet Lucy. Everything will be ok.

    Reply
  6. Beth Reed - January 1, 2019 8:45 am

    My heart is breaking for your sister and baby Lucy. What a serious illness Lucy has. Praying for Lucy, your sister and you. All your family. Please keep us posted on how she is doing.
    Your a great brother Sean and I am sure she is glad to hach you close.
    Wishing you and your family a very happy new year.

    Reply
  7. Shirley - January 1, 2019 9:14 am

    Sean, I’m sorry to hear that little Lucy is sick. Sending prayers for Lucy’s healing and for her mom and family. God is able. Happy New Year!

    Reply
  8. Karen - January 1, 2019 10:22 am

    I cannot imagine what it must have been like for you to drive your little sister to the ER at age 16. You have faced some really difficult situations. Your life experiences have made you into a good writer.
    I am saying a prayer for Lucy, for your sister, and for you. Spending the night in the hospital is a tough way for all of you to begin the year. Please keep us updated on how your niece is doing.

    Reply
  9. Nancy - January 1, 2019 10:50 am

    Praying for Little Lucy and the entire family. Happy New Year and may God’s blessings be on you all.

    Reply
  10. Chris W. Spencer - January 1, 2019 10:52 am

    Prayers that baby Lucy will soon be well and that yall can take her home.

    Reply
  11. Melanie - January 1, 2019 11:15 am

    Wishing you, your sister and that gorgeous little baby girl a healthy, bright and blessed New Year. And many thanks to the doctors and nurses who are helping to make that possible. ❤️

    Reply
  12. Roy Parker - January 1, 2019 11:19 am

    Praying for your family. Happy New Year and God bless you all.

    Reply
  13. Naomi - January 1, 2019 11:34 am

    Praying for Lucy and her baby and her uncle.

    Reply
  14. Connie Havard Ryland - January 1, 2019 11:45 am

    Praying for that sweet baby, your sister and the rest of the family. Nothing is more heart wrenching than a sick baby. God be with you all. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  15. Edna B. - January 1, 2019 12:59 pm

    Prayers for Lucy. May God Bless her and watch over her. May this new year be great for you and your family Sean. Happy New Year, hugs ,Edna B.

    Reply
  16. Dianne Rathje - January 1, 2019 1:03 pm

    Reading this while praying–with some tears and a few chuckles. Thanks Sean for your wisdom and love.

    Reply
  17. Cathy S Davis - January 1, 2019 1:10 pm

    Praying with all of you for your precious Lucy.

    Reply
  18. Keloth Anne - January 1, 2019 1:13 pm

    Lots of prayers for precious Lucy, her Mom and everyone 💕🙏

    Reply
  19. Delynn Roberts - January 1, 2019 1:17 pm

    Please let Lucy & “mama” know that we are praying for them. Lord, please wrap this precious baby & her whole family in Your arms. May she be filled with Your healing touch. Give the medical team the wisdom & love they need to take care of this precious family. We entrust them into Your loving care. In Your Mighty & Gentle Holy Name we pray. Amen Delynn

    Reply
  20. Rhonda - January 1, 2019 1:22 pm

    Please keep us posted on little Lucy. These are deep wrinkle days for mama. Prayers for those women in your life also.

    Reply
  21. Robin Cox - January 1, 2019 1:31 pm

    Happy New Year Sean.

    Reply
  22. Myra Scott - January 1, 2019 1:45 pm

    Praying for that sweet baby and your family.

    Reply
  23. Laura - January 1, 2019 1:51 pm

    I am sorry to hear about Lucy having meningitis. I have added her to my prayer list. I had meningitis as a 2 year old. The doctor misdiagnosed it as a flu bug and when i got much worse my Daddy took me to the ER. I was in a coma for 2 weeks with parents at my bedside and lots of prayers and tears. I am happy you were there for your sister when she was sick and now. I believe the love of family and prayers are the best medicine there is. It worked for me (in the old days of my youth there weren’t many medicines around to help a viral meningitis) and as a nurse for nearly 50 years, I have seen the power of family and prayer work when medicine failed!!

    Reply
  24. Moody Jim - January 1, 2019 2:06 pm

    Sacred Heart Peds is awesome. Lucy and daughter will be fine. Because. I tell all my patients to eat fiber too, smart Mom. Happy New Year.

    Reply
    • Moody Jim - January 1, 2019 2:08 pm

      Lucy and Mom👍

      Reply
  25. chatfield84 - January 1, 2019 2:13 pm

    I’m praying for Lucy and her mama. Blessings to you and your family.

    Reply
  26. Teresa Tindle - January 1, 2019 2:16 pm

    Prayers prayers from all over the world are being sent to Lucy and her mama. For you two big brother and grandmama. She’s gonna be all right. Love you.

    Reply
  27. Debbie Britt - January 1, 2019 2:30 pm

    Prayers for your little niece!!

    Reply
  28. Eiizabeth - January 1, 2019 2:44 pm

    Another tear-jerker. Sweet story.

    Reply
  29. Joy - January 1, 2019 2:44 pm

    Praying for Lucy, her Mama and all of the family. Our God is in the Miracle Business and He provides for all our needs. Please keep us updated on Lucy. You have a very smart Mama…if only we would eat more fiber we would all be a lot healthier!

    God bless you and may you have a very Happy New Year!

    Reply
  30. Jo Brooks - January 1, 2019 2:55 pm

    Prayers for Lucy! I hope the next thing I ready about Lucy is that she is belting out a good healthy cry.

    Reply
  31. Darlene - January 1, 2019 3:10 pm

    Sean, my friend’s twins are are Lucy’s neighbors!! I’m praying everyone is well soon and able to get home. Praying.

    Reply
  32. Janie F. - January 1, 2019 3:28 pm

    My cousin had spinal meningitis when he was an infant too. Today he owns a very successful business, is a father of three & a grandfather of seven. When your niece reads this it will touch her heart as it touched ours. Prayers for a speedy recovery for your sister’s baby girl.🙏

    Reply
  33. Bev - January 1, 2019 3:29 pm

    Praying for Lucy🙏🏻🙏🏻.
    And yes, I’ll be eating plenty of fiber!! You crack me up my dear friend 😍😍

    Reply
  34. Betty F. - January 1, 2019 3:30 pm

    Thank heaven for the Laura’s and Jim’s who can give you tangible hope. The prayers can hold you invisibly. Please do keep us up on Lucy’s progress.

    Reply
  35. Sue Richardson - January 1, 2019 3:34 pm

    Praying for Lucy. Keep us updated.

    Reply
  36. Phillip Saunders - January 1, 2019 3:43 pm

    Prayers on the way for Lucy, your sister, and the whole family, plus the Drs. and nurses who care for Lucy. Now, got to go. My raisin bran is getting soggy in the bowl.

    Reply
  37. Karen Irby - January 1, 2019 3:45 pm

    Oh, Sean, I’ll be praying for sweet Lucy and your family. I know how scary it is to have a baby in the hospital from my grandson’s stay in the NICU. Hopefully, by the time you read these comments, she will be on the mend! God bless baby Lucy, her Mom and your family, and a blessed New Year too!

    Reply
  38. Shelton A. - January 1, 2019 3:46 pm

    May God give healing to Lucy and peace and comfort to your sister.

    Reply
  39. Judy - January 1, 2019 4:07 pm

    I am praying for Lucy and her Mama. And for all those who love them. Please keep us updated.

    Reply
  40. Jess in Athens, GA - January 1, 2019 4:26 pm

    I had to laugh when the doctor said your sister should live well into her forties. I should hope so. Of course when one is a kid people in their forties are old timers for sure! I hope your sister and her baby are doing fine. And I hope you have a wonderful New Year, Sean….just keep on writing.

    Reply
  41. Linda Chipman - January 1, 2019 6:00 pm

    The bond between brothers and sisters is like no other. And I have the very best brother ever!

    Reply
  42. Pamela McEachern - January 1, 2019 6:07 pm

    2018 glad it’s gone! 2019 brings healing and lots of well wishes for Baby Lucy. I hope she feels 100% soon and you and your family know the love we all are sending your way.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham 2019 🙏💗

    Reply
  43. Susan Self - January 1, 2019 6:07 pm

    My sister has been gone since 1992. I miss her so much. One of my brothers has passed. I miss him too. So I love harder the two brothers left. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  44. Patricia A Schmaltz - January 1, 2019 6:17 pm

    Fiber is awesome! My Dad (an MD, so you know it was true) always said to eat an apple every day. Yes, I realize others know about this trick. The other thing to try is Psyllium powder. Goes with everything!
    Wishing you a happy colon and a happy 2019!

    Reply
  45. Wadena Sieler-Colbert - January 1, 2019 7:17 pm

    Prayers and love for a Blessed New Year for you all!

    Reply
  46. Linda - January 1, 2019 7:49 pm

    It’s going to be ok, Sean. Medicine gets better every single day. That is an excellent hospital she is in.
    Please know you are all kept in prayers….

    Reply
  47. Jan - January 1, 2019 7:56 pm

    Prayers and love for Lucy, you and your family! May God watch over you all!

    Reply
  48. throughmyeyesusa - January 1, 2019 8:16 pm

    Prayers up for baby Lucy, her “Mama”, Uncle Sean & Family, and a blessed 2019 for all of you.
    May your New Year be filled with the blessings of good health and all the happiness your hearts can hold!

    Reply
  49. Kelly - January 1, 2019 9:35 pm

    Praying for your sweet niece and your entire family!

    Reply
  50. Betty - January 1, 2019 10:36 pm

    Happy New Year, Sean. I’m praying for Lucy & your whole family.

    Reply
  51. Jack Darnell - January 1, 2019 11:29 pm

    Yeah, life is like that. in many ways we never grow up. I was mama’s baby intop my 60s. Just sayin. I pray the baby will be fine.

    Reply
  52. Gale Smith - January 1, 2019 11:33 pm

    Prayers for Lucy and all the family. My granddaughter was in hospital with meningitis 5 days after she was born. She is now 14 and is amazing: smart, beautiful, graceful….poetry in motion when she dances. It will be ok, Sean, God is in control.

    Reply
  53. Chrystie - January 2, 2019 12:59 am

    Big brothers are some of the most important people on the planet. They are the best encoragers, often by just being present and resilient. I have an absolutely fantastic big brother. Your sister has a great big brother too. Keep up the great work. Prayers for all of you, especially Lucy and your sister.

    Reply
  54. Ellen - January 2, 2019 1:36 am

    You are an awesome big brother. I wish I had one. I only had little ones but they are pretty great. Prayers for your family and especially baby Lucy!

    Reply
  55. Janet Mary Lee - January 2, 2019 5:54 am

    My added prayers for baby Lucy and your whole family!! You all are very special!! I wish you all love,safety and Joy in the New Year!!

    Reply
  56. Marlene T - January 2, 2019 6:15 am

    Hi my favorite Chip Monk. I am praying that Lucy is getting better. That’s the only problem I have found with blogs. How will we know and we do care. Don’t forget about her big sister. I’m sure she’s concerned too and the young ones don’t know how to express it.

    Reply
  57. Carol Ham - January 2, 2019 7:19 am

    Hi, Sean. I love every column you have written. I am from Alabama and married a “Yankee” in the Coast Guard and we are 52 years together. Your columns take me back to Alabama, when my brother and sisters loved me. That was of course before. trump! Lol Happy New Year from Washington State!

    Reply
  58. Arelene Mack - January 2, 2019 4:12 pm

    Sweet Sean, I am praying for little Lucy and your whole family. The same thing nearly killed me at 3 months old and my sister, Rene, at 16 months old at the same time. Our parents were distraught. But, over 60 years later, Rene and I are both still here and rejoicing in the New Year. May our merciful God bless the little one with healing, and the family with joy and togetherness!

    Reply
  59. Barbara Bray - January 2, 2019 8:40 pm

    Little Lucy doesn’t know it yet but she has been blessed with one of the sweetest Uncles God ever made. …..and one day she will tell him so .

    Reply
  60. Leigh Wanless - January 2, 2019 11:55 pm

    Special prayers sent up for Baby Lucy (and her Momma and Uncle Sean too)! There’s not much scarier than a sick baby for making you feel a little helpless.

    Reply
  61. Shaw - January 3, 2019 7:16 pm

    Any update on Baby Lucy? Praying for all concerned

    Reply

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