Sister of Mine

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. A mother of two.

And she makes me so proud it hurts.

Happy birthday, Sarah.

44 comments

  1. Sandi. - January 26, 2020 7:48 am

    Sean, remind your younger sister how blessed she is to be related to you! Have a fantastic birthday, Sarah.

    Reply
  2. George T Jacoby - January 26, 2020 8:02 am

    You know, Sean, you tell us frequently that you love us – I want you to know that you are loved, too, by more people than would fit in your yard for a barbecue. I’m one of them, and I want Sarah to know that as the father of four daughters with a half-dozen or more “adopted” daughters, if she ever needs a surrogate father, I’m her man – I love all of you… Happy birthday, Sarah <3 🙂

    Reply
  3. Lita - January 26, 2020 10:35 am

    Thank you, Sean xx

    Reply
  4. GaryD - January 26, 2020 11:10 am

    Happy Birthday, Sarah.

    Reply
  5. Richda McNutt - January 26, 2020 11:30 am

    Happy Birthday, Sarah – I don’t know what you will receive on your birthday, but I know that your greatest gift is your brother, Sean.

    Reply
  6. Meredith Smith - January 26, 2020 12:09 pm

    Sean if ever there was a loving birthday announcement that was it. So sweet and from the depths of your heart. Happy Birthday Sister, and be thankful for a wonderful brother like Sean.

    Reply
  7. Gwen Douglas - January 26, 2020 12:11 pm

    Beautiful tribute to a beautiful family. You both turned out well in spite of your circumstances. God works things for our good even if we never understand. You are a blessing to so many.

    Reply
  8. Barbara Pope - January 26, 2020 12:53 pm

    Sounds like you two kept each other afloat.
    Happy Birthday to Sarah!

    Reply
  9. Jo Ann - January 26, 2020 12:54 pm

    Happy Birthday, Sean’s sister, Sarah!! Hope you have a wonderful day!

    Reply
  10. Jim Richardson - January 26, 2020 1:14 pm

    You are truly blessed to have the enormous amount of love in your heart. Many have discovered that loving others brings more joy than being loved. Seems your cup runneth over with joy.

    Reply
  11. Patti A. Culp - January 26, 2020 1:15 pm

    Sean. you have a heart of gold! Your love for Jamie, Sarah, and life shines through your stories!!

    Reply
  12. Elizabeth - January 26, 2020 1:16 pm

    Oh Sean! That’s beautiful and perfect!

    Reply
  13. Paul Click - January 26, 2020 1:39 pm

    And if anybody is wondering, that’s what love looks like!

    Reply
  14. Margaret Cade - January 26, 2020 1:40 pm

    How beautiful. You have the biggest heart ever! ❤️

    Reply
  15. Sharon weaver - January 26, 2020 1:49 pm

    Absolutely ❤️

    Reply
  16. Tana Newman Branch - January 26, 2020 1:55 pm

    Sean, you enrich so many lives by being your honest and true self. Thank you! Happy Birthday to your darling sister, Sarah.

    Reply
  17. Berryman Mary M - January 26, 2020 1:56 pm

    And the greatest of these is Love!!

    Reply
  18. Jess - January 26, 2020 2:06 pm

    Happy Birthday, Sarah. I don’t know you, but I love you just like I love your brother, Sean. Have a wonderful day, enjoy every day to the maximum.

    Reply
  19. Mary Neiheisel - January 26, 2020 2:10 pm

    Such a beautiful tribute from sibling to sibling. It is awesome to see this love. Happy Birthday, Sarah.

    Reply
  20. Connie Havard Ryland - January 26, 2020 2:12 pm

    Happy birthday Sarah. I love the way you love the women in your life, Sean. You present them to us as treasures and I can feel your love in your words.

    Reply
  21. Jennifer Stultz - January 26, 2020 2:19 pm

    I felt every word of this story. I would know Sarah if she walked in my door. I felt the pain and joy. Thank you for stirring me today.

    Reply
  22. Wings - January 26, 2020 3:29 pm

    Happy, Wonder Full of Love Birthday, Sarah!

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  23. Helen - January 26, 2020 3:38 pm

    Happy Birthday Sarah! You and your brother are lucky to have each other.

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  24. Gail Guinn - January 26, 2020 3:41 pm

    This touches my soul. Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  25. Keloth Anne - January 26, 2020 3:43 pm

    Happy Birthday to your sister!!!

    Reply
  26. Sharon Brock - January 26, 2020 4:11 pm

    Sisters are wonderful. I have 4 and I cherish each one. I am the oldest. Happy birthday Sarah.

    Reply
  27. Marilyn - January 26, 2020 4:12 pm

    So touching that I nearly shed a tear in my coffee. Happy Birthday, Sarah and may God Bless you and your brother – always.

    Reply
  28. Linda Moon - January 26, 2020 4:44 pm

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SARAH. I’m glad you and Sean survived the pool prank or accident or whatever it REALLY was.
    I am so very sorry you two lost your father. I understand that kind of loss. You and Sean are, indeed, SURVIVORS. Many people are proud of both of you, including me!

    Reply
  29. Cathi Russell - January 26, 2020 5:36 pm

    Sean, you’re the best big brother! Happy Birthday to Sarah & echoing what someone else said…I wish there were more men who loved the women in their life as tenderly as you do. ❤

    Reply
  30. Jarred O Taylor II - January 26, 2020 5:56 pm

    If my math is right, your were 19 when Sarah turned 16 and you gave her the car keys. There are not many 19 year old brothers who would do that for their kid sister. The story was about your sister, but I learned more about you than her.

    Reply
  31. Small-town Southern Girl - January 26, 2020 6:15 pm

    Beautiful tribute. So poignant, trying to stem the tears! 👩‍❤️‍💋‍👨

    Reply
  32. Glenda Hulbert - January 26, 2020 6:32 pm

    YEP, I cried all throughout this post and and tears now run down my wrinkled face. YOU, SEAN ~ have a wonderful way with words and I’m so glad that your wife and mother stuck with you throughout the under-achieving years. They knew that the jewel had to be polished…and you would, indeed shine!!! I am thinking Zig Ziglar’s son, Tom should employ you to write these inspirational homolies on his website: do contact him, please or I’LL HAVE TO – I HAVE A DOG OF MY OWN TO TEND TO AND AND A HUNDRED THOUSAND OTHER THINGS…TOM ZIGLAR’S DAD IS THE illustrious author and speaker who inspired me to greater things, [I saw him on stage a few times and own all his books] he is one you’re likely to have on your shelf.
    Lot’s of love to you, your wife and your dogs from Okeechobee, FL. p.s. I do read you daily, often repost on Facebook as I have friends who also love you, but they don’t subscribe due to too many emails, mostly work related, etc.
    You really need to think about it awhile, hug your wife and your dogs and put in your heart the warmth of knowing that you are a rare and special man, Your Mom is wonderful, YOUR WIFE IS EXTRAORDINARY AND YOU HAVE A LOT TO BE THANKFUL FOR,
    HUGS, Glenda from OKEECHOBEE, FLORIDA

    Reply
  33. Chasity Davis Ritter - January 26, 2020 6:43 pm

    I’ll admit it… you always get to me when you talk about your sister Sarah. My daughter’s name is Sarah too and I love her with the fierceness I feel in the way you love your sister when you write about her. Just like the way I miss my Dad when I feel you missing yours. You know how to reach out and touch a soul through your writings. To help us remember that not all things are bad in this world and that no matter what…. we are never ever alone. We’ve always got each other. Happy birthday Sarah!

    Reply
  34. Anne Haas - January 26, 2020 7:02 pm

    So beautiful!!!

    Reply
  35. grantburris - January 26, 2020 9:01 pm

    This was truly one of your best, Sean. Most of all it revealed the depth of your love for your sister. I had to read it more than once. Thank you for displaying that beautiful thing called love. It was wonderful to see it in your words. Happy Birthday to your sister. I hope she realizes what a gift she has in you.

    Reply
  36. Judy Broussard - January 26, 2020 9:11 pm

    Happy Birthday Sarah

    Reply
  37. Angela V Young - January 26, 2020 11:15 pm

    Ah, Sean, you made me cry! Happy Birthday, Sarah!

    Reply
  38. throughmyeyesusa - January 27, 2020 12:23 am

    My sons don’t speak. They were never close. They will never speak of each other as you do of your beloved sister. They don’t even exchange birthday cards. It breaks my heart. It fills me with guilt and remorse. I don’t know where I went wrong; somewhere.

    They didn’t have a tragic childhood. One had a horrible, crippling accident just out of high school. He has spent his life in a wheelchair. He is fully employed, married, a homeowner who drives his own car and leads his life in spite of unspeakable pain. It has garnered no empathy from his sibling. They have always been very different, with different interests; but more different than a brother and a sister?

    I simply failed at the most important job in the world. And they pay the price.

    Reply
  39. Judy Tayloe - January 27, 2020 1:14 am

    Happy Birthday, Sarah!

    Reply
  40. lfry1220 - January 27, 2020 5:53 pm

    I agree 100% with Richda McNutt – you are the greatest gift a sister could have for a brother❤️ . . . happy birthday, Sarah!

    Reply
  41. Susan McCall - January 27, 2020 6:27 pm

    Such precious memories! Cherish that relationship!

    Reply
  42. Phyllis Sullivan - January 27, 2020 7:59 pm

    I’m sorry. I know this is supposed to be a comment but I can’t talk right now. There is a lump in my throat that may not go away anytime soon. Love to you and Sarah and all who are in your tribe.

    Reply
  43. that is jack - January 28, 2020 3:33 pm

    Sisters are great. Mine were older, they probably thought I had a button nose. They both loved me. One taught me life the other taught me to ride a bicycle and play hop scotch. I miss ’em both.
    WE are lucky. 😉

    Reply
  44. Ann - January 30, 2020 12:34 am

    You are her blessing 🥰

    Reply

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