Sisters At Heart

September 16, 2008
I glanced at the open casket with a heavy heart and found that I could not pull my eyes away. The beauty and tranquility that I saw at moment one warmed my heart. Then, at moment two, I remembered the tragedy that had led to this “beauty.” And then moment three came, and I felt guilty for even thinking good of her peace.

I finally unglued my eyes from the unbelievable sight and turned back to my mother, who was talking to the guardian of someone who I had used to call my “sister,” my “other half.” I then saw that they were in deep conversation about the situation swirling around all of us like a wicked shadow, and I stood quietly with my back to the casket and held back tears.

At last, it was over. My mother and I exited the funeral home in somber moods and in practically unbearable silence. As we drove home, memories of my “sister” and I flooded my head; a flowing river that was too much to take in at once. I managed to escape to the safety of my bedroom and let the tears gush from my weary eyes. It was all so unfair.

We shared the same first and middle names—by complete coincidence, and nothing more. We were enemies turned friends, particularly by fate—that is, if you believe in that sort of thing. In a nutshell, we were inseparable from mid-third-grade and on for what seemed like many, many years. It is only natural that sadness comes to mind when counting how long our friendship lasted—nearly seven years, to be exact.

Truthfully, those moments were not sad. They were, in fact, the opposite. We spent hours on the phone, and even more hours together. We were together so often that many who did not know us well assumed that we were sisters. And then, without much thought, we decided we liked the idea of being sisters. We fought like sisters, debated like sisters, and loved like sisters. We came from two different backgrounds, but that and more was what made our friendship strong; and, in the end, what caused it to fall apart.

I came from a Christian home with two loving and caring parents, not to mention a little brother. Every lesson that was taught to me as a child was taught with a background of Christian faith, whether I learned it at church or from my parents in my own home.

She came from a place very different. With divorced parents, grandparents as legal guardians, and a home that included a mother, a father, a daughter, and a granddaughter, things were different—different from what I could ever know.

She brought out the outgoing and semi-rebellious side of me, and I managed to calm her seemingly “rough” personality. We were light and dark apart, but the beauty of morning and evening when together. We shared everything, stood up for one another, and clung to each other for dear life. Besides the times our should-have-been sisterhood caused us to quarrel, you rarely saw one without the other. She was part of me, and I was part of her. That was how it always was.

And then the Jaws of Life opted to rip us apart. Rather, high school became the unbearable strain on our relationship—the very strain that broke our unbreakable bond. She scampered off to a private catholic school, while I followed the rest of the crowd to the “feeder school” for my junior high—the public school.

This school was big, different, and (without my best friend) lonely. I found myself walking in the halls alone, speaking to no one, with my eyes glued to my feet—for the first time in my life. Without my other half, I was lost. I began to wander through life, wondering what my purpose was. And as she became busy with marching band and homework, along with a few personal matters, I sat alone in my room and wished she could be there with me.

Eventually I found other friends, other pastimes, and other outlets to release my stresses. And as we began to grow apart, we both began to experience great hardship. What tore us apart even more was that we never seemed to be able to share our pain with one another in the way we had used to what seemed like so long ago. Even more upsetting, we could never talk about what was happening to our friendship.

After many more months of struggle, we got together to exchange Christmas presents at the beginning of January of our sophomore years of high school. Truly, that had been a sad excuse to get together. I showed up at her house for the first time in months with empty hands, while guilt stabbed at my heart while I opened the gift she had placed in those empty hands.

I pulled out of that neatly wrapped box a necklace—a silver cross with a beautiful silver cross to hang around my neck. I treasured that gift like nothing material I had ever treasured before. It was a symbol of our friendship—rather, what it had been. I wore it around my neck with every outfit, every single day after she gave it to me. But she never knew how much I cared about her gift. That day we got together was the last time that I saw her before the wake and funeral.

She was not the tranquil vision of peace in the open casket that I said goodbye to that day, though it was someone we had both grown to know and, possibly, even love. The news of her mother’s death several days before had shattered my heart. I had abandoned my best friend in her time of need. Her mother had been sick, and I had acted as if it had mattered not to me.

I clung to my silver cross and wept. I wanted my best friend back; I wanted to make up for everything I had ever done wrong and everything I hadn’t done at all. I regretted letting our friendship fall away when it could have been kept. When I received her thank-you card for attending the funeral several weeks after the event, I wanted to write back.

I didn’t—not for three months following the thank-you card in the mail. I was filled with doubt and anxiety. I feared that what we had once cherished could never be fixed. There were broken pieces that had been lost, and I had long ago given up trying to find them. The day I turned sixteen, remembering a promise we had made long ago regarding the turning of such an age, I gave up all hope of ever speaking to her again.

And then, three weeks following that day, I had a rapid change of heart. I began typing a letter to the friend I had lost, pouring out my heart to a person that possibly would or would not read my innermost thoughts at all. I wrote it, printed it, stapled it, folded it, sealed it in an envelope, addressed it, stamped it, and tossed it in a mailbox. The rest, I knew, was up to God.

And three weeks following that day, a letter came for me from the last person I had sent a letter to. There, in writing, was everything I had missed. Between the two letters—and the one I wrote back that same day—we made complete amends. We found that we had missed each other nearly too much to bear. While I had gone months thinking that she had forgotten, she had been playing memories of our friendship in her head like a slideshow. And while she had figured that I had given up and moved on, I had been praying that what we had once shared would be restored. And she asked—pleaded—that I call her once I got her letter, saying that we desperately needed to get together again.

I did not call her that day. For one reason or another, I found myself nervous at the thought of hearing her voice again. After all of this time, how in the world could I simply pick up the phone and continue where we had left off all that time ago? I read her letter over and over again and prayed that I would make the right decision.

So all day the next day, I toyed with the idea as if preparing a formal presentation. What should I say? Should I even call at all? My thoughts overwhelmed me, and I flopped down on my bed and prayed more about the decision I was ready to make. Finally, then, I walked across the room and decided to take a chance.

I picked up my cell phone from the desk in front of me and dialed the very number that I had dialed practically every single day all throughout the last half of elementary school, middle school, and junior high. And when I had found the right voice, a smile came across my face like a long awaited miracle.

Nothing had changed. We were still sisters at heart, just as we always had been.





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