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A Sister's Pain

By , Arlington, TX
Growing up isn’t easy.
Between the peer pressures of adolescence, a demanding club volleyball schedule and the academic rigors of a college-prep school, my worries seem insurmountable. That is, until I begin thinking about Karen.

I grew up knowing Karen as my primary babysitter. This tall, slender, blue-eyed beauty worked in my father’s office as a surgical assistant about the time I was born. She has been an integral part of my life since my infancy, sitting for my sister and me whenever my parents took the night off and enjoyed dinner or a movie. Karen’s passion and love for the Lord along with her strong moral character impacted my life, as did her simple, but stylish, fashion sense. Oh, how I wanted to be just like Karen! She was funny, warm, and friendly, and she was interested in whatever I had to say and game for whatever I wanted to do. We went to the park, to the movies, and to the mall together. Karen became so much a part of my life that I “adopted” her as a big sister. As I grew through my seventeen years, Karen grew up also. She became a registered nurse, worked as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical firm, bought a car and eventually a house! Karen was exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Life was going well for her, until she met Heath.

Karen made decisions based on fundamental truths she holds dear. She never drank or smoked. She never did drugs or entered into “casual” relationships. Forever looking for “Mr. Right”, Karen was selective when it came to men. An anesthesiologist caught her eye five years ago and married my sister a year later. Red flags flew, though, as they dated. He was an Ivy Leaguer who scolded Karen about not being well-read or well-versed in the arts or music. Heath isolated her from her friends and family, to the point that I saw very little of Karen once she was married. Immediately after getting married she had a son, Ethan, so she decided to stay home and be a full-time mom. I thought that her life was ideal and complete, but I was wrong.

Soon they moved into the high-rent neighborhood of Dallas and purchased a million dollar home. Again, I dreamed of my life unfolding just as Karen’s had developed. The red flags that had flown so high before the marriage now snapped in the wind as they flew. My dream was shattered when Heath left his family during the Thanksgiving holiday of 2008. Karen withdrew into her own hell, until her husband decided to come back and work things out. Nothing really changed between them. Karen was constantly told she wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough for Heath. “I just don’t love you anymore” was Heath’s mantra. As her self-esteem took a nose drive, so did her confidence. Eventually Heath refused counseling and let the life that he and Karen had started to build completely die. Heath left his family for a second, and last, time in October 2009.

My best friend has had to pick up the pieces of a broken marriage, a broken life. Her son of three years demands all of her attention today, as his world was turned upside down when his father left him, too. Now Karen is faced with the reality that she will soon be a single parent who must look for a job in an economy that holds little financial security. Karen and Heath have a court date in April to dissolve their marriage. The decision of a judge and the stroke of a pen will change forever the lives of three people.

My heart aches for my friend, my sister, my Karen. As her world falls apart, I’m reminded everyday of just how unimportant my obstacles are in comparison. Karen’s been forthright about her circumstances and the events leading up to now. She points out where she lost her focus and her resolve, and she pleads with me to not follow in her footsteps. She is gracious. She is real. She is a role model. I find solace in knowing that Karen has grown and matured immeasurably and she will find joy in being the best mother to her son, regardless of her circumstances. Life holds no guarantees. It strikes you with unexpected blows. Karen has taught me to persevere when life hits you hard. She reminds me that life choices have lasting consequences. In comparison, my teenage choices seem so much easier to make.





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