While I Was Waiting...
Sister, you have been sick for weeks. Sicker than I’ve ever known you to be.
I keep looking back over my shoulder, remembering our youth and joy, what it was like for you and me. Now, you’ve been my sister for seven decades.
I wonder if I valued you then as much as I value you now.
I swivel my head to the left, then to the right, like an owl trying to turn almost full circle.
If I’m not deceiving myself, our childhood was made up of ordinary things, ordinary people, ordinary goodness, ordinary sadness.
I’m a big picture person, and you are into the details. Our realities may not be a close match.
I’m the older girl, always two grades ahead and wanting to just get things right without getting into trouble. (The hero child.) You were the laughy one, longing for a practical joke and fun. (The quick adjuster.)
Remember when we ran home in the dark yelping and holding hands, trying to keep the Boogie man away? Remember how we covered lemons with salt and sucked them?
That gentle world is gone now, but I can still hear the unraveling laughter of a third and fifth grader. I still want my food salted, though I’m told I should give it up. Flavor. All about flavor.
Then there’s Lot’s wife. I think about her.
God turned her into a pillar of salt for looking back. She knew what she was leaving behind. But what a big mistake she made. Pretty serious consequences.
I know you know the story. I don’t have to explain any of it. We are sisters. I know where you went to church as a kid.
As a grownup, you could quickly shift gears to accommodate children. Still, you had snap and spirit. Your children could count on you as a hip-carrying momma and as an anchor.
You were the one who would carry several bags as if it was not okay to bring in one bag at a time. Always, a hard worker.
You and I have known each other longer than we’ve known any other living person.
And now you are seriously ill. You have seen doctors, been in E.R., had coughing spells, medical tests, breathing issues. All that and still, no one knows what’s wrong.
Just know this: I cannot imagine my world without you. You are like salt, adding a little flavor.
While I am waiting to hear news, you tell me the doctor thinks it could be a virus you picked up at the hospital while giving extended care to a son.
How can that be right? This is sick-at-heart awareness.
I look up at a blue-eyed sky and pray once more. I never meant to take you for granted. You are my sister of sunlight.
While waiting, I know who is in charge. Not you, not me. No, it’s in His big hands. I’ll call tomorrow.
Author of Women, Resilient Women, 2018
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A photo of a box of salt, taken by Pat Durmon, June 2018.