The day she was born is a day I will never forget.
I was about to take on the most important role of my life: that of big sister.
My sister, Monique, was born when I was about three.
I may have been young but I still remember the most important parts of that day.
Like seeing her through the window for the first time. Hearing her cry. And identifying that she was almost as big as me at birth.
She seemed so big compared to all of the other babies in that room. I now know that’s because she was.
My dad picked her up to show her off and she screamed so loud I thought something was wrong with her.
I kept asking my aunts and uncles if she was okay. She was, at least it seemed.
My mother named her LeeAnn.
I was so excited to have a sister. I saw it as a built-in friend. My own little baby doll. I was proud and protective, too.
My dad, well, he was over the moon. She looked just like him. She had beautiful golden blonde hair, a natural tanned tone and cute little baby-chubby- cheeks.
I couldn’t wait to hold her!
When I did I was quickly making plans for our future. I had so many plans for us when we “got bigger.”
Someday we were gonna live right next door to each other with our own babies and husbands. We’d go on vacations together and have our weekly lunches and maybe even spa days.
We eventually got LeeAnn home and life started back to usual. I was comfortable in my role as big sister and took it seriously.
One day, though, something changed in LeeAnn. She stopped eating. She looked pale. And slept, a lot.
I can still remember hearing my mom tell my dad “I think somethings wrong. She wont eat. She’s clammy. And she’s always tired.”
My dad tried to get her to eat. I followed his cues by trying to do the same. I can still see her sitting in her high chair.
She seemed tired. She didn’t want to eat or play. I was trying to coerce her into eating. She was about two at the time.
I knew she loved ice cream so I thought I would see if she’d eat that. If she did, all was well in my world. When she wouldn’t eat the ice cream I knew something was very wrong.
I immediately started to pray. I didn’t know much about God back then but I knew he existed. I prayed a lot. Almost as much as LeeAnn loved ice cream.
My mom and dad took her to the doctor. They ran multiple tests. And LeeAnn was diagnosed with Type One Juvenile Diabetes, Brittle.
I was in the room when the doctor told my parents she was inevitably going to die. I was so young. LeeAnn was just a baby, yet we knew what death was.
That was the first time I heard the word ‘death.’
The doctors’ said she probably wouldn’t live to be 18. I felt like every year was a race with time. And every year that passed we all sighed in relief.
But one day, at age 26, just like the doctor said, LeeAnn’s time ran out. She died due to complications of diabetes. I hate the word “complications.” Death IS the complication in my world.
The day she died, just like her birth, is forever etched into my memory.
Like so many other surviving siblings I feel like a part of me and my heart and my history… died with her that day.
At the time of her death I was busy building a career. Money, fame, success by society’s standard, was all I could see.
Meanwhile, my sister, who had known her whole life that she was going to die was dreaming of simple things like love, marriage, motherhood and travel.
It feels like forever since I’ve heard her laugh or had a conversation with her but since cancer I feel more connected to her than ever before.
For just like her, I now, too, dream of simple things.
I can still see us bike riding, roller skating, and burying our little time capsule on the side of our house.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss her.
Ain’t nothin’ like a sunny day. Chit chat on a street cafe. Take a walk. Take a ride. I remember how I used to want it all. Funny now the big things seem so small.
In my first Behind the Beat post, I share with you the song Simple Things by Amy Grant. It’s the third song off of her Simple Things album. And the album was her twelfth studio album, released in 2003.
This song and album, albeit an older one, sums up much of my thoughts and feelings surrounding personal loss.
And whenever I hear it, I think of my sister. The lessons I’ve learned. And how much I look forward to seeing her again, someday, under better circumstances.
Is there an album or song that resonates with you?