As I look back on my life, I realize the importance of all those things my parents tried to teach me about the importance of faith and family. The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes and so much more, they all play a part on trying to keep me on path to a better world. Faith provides the hope that all of us need to weather the storms of life and a family with faith provides a close knit group to help reinforce that faith. But during my formative and development years, while I quickly learned what my parents were trying to impart to me in a value structure for living, I sometimes didn't fully appreciate the things my big sister did to be a comfort to a little boy who I am sure was sometimes a big pest. Today, my older sister turns eighty and she's as spry and full of the Spirit as ever, and I must salute her as I remember some of those things that I took for granted.
I remember as a young boy going to sleep the night before Easter Sunday with a high fever and the aches and pains of the flu. That night I was very disappointed knowing that I wouldn't be going to church which was traditionally followed by the annual Easter egg hunt. It was a great event and all who participated found a basket full of eggs which at the conclusion was traded in for surprises. I was very disappointed, but something was done for me that eased the pain. When I awoke early on that Easter Sunday, I found the end of a strand of yarn next to me on the bed which ran out my bedroom door. On that end was a note which said follow the yarn for your surprise. I was just a little dizzy, but I got up, put on my slippers and robe in the early morning light and began winding up the yarn as I began following the trail. Outside the door was a basket with a note telling me to pick it up and over the course of my navigating the steps downstairs, walking through the front vestibule and looking in the coat closet, down two steps to what we called the playroom, up the other side into the kitchen, dining room, sunroom and living room I found goodies, a couple of neat games and a large chocolate bunny. At the end was a note that merely said Happy Easter and as I sat there in wonder, looking at my now filled basket with a smile on my face. Just then my older sister came down the steps and told me to go back to bed before Mom got up.
A year or two later, I remember the time on a Friday evening after dinner when my older sister invited me to go to a high school basketball game with a few of her friends. It was a big deal since the high school she attended, the same school where I would later spend my own high school years later, was the number one basketball team in the state and it was a joy to watch them play. Now she certainly didn't have to have a tag along with her friends, yet she knew I was probably bored on that Friday night and she included me. She even took me with the after the game to Mama D'Angelo's for pizza which was special. And that evening, like the Easter previously mentioned, was probably something which at the time I never properly thanked her for, but it certainly comes to mind dramatically now.
I remember when she went off to college and while I tried to act like it didn't matter to me, I realized that I would miss her and I recall that when she told me goodbye, I merely said, "See you at Thanksgiving, Freakface." She laughed at my nickname for her. After all, she called me "Cootie," like the character in the then popular game of the day, and it used to make me mad. And I realized as I got older, that she was the one I could turn to for a shoulder when I needed one no matter how far apart we were. I could just pick up the phone and she was there to encourage me, always giving good advice and willing to listen. And her dear husband Gerry probably became just as close to me in my heart as she, for he was a dear soul. We used to have an annual get-together during football season which was always an annual highlight, but now he is gone.
Big Sis is always still there for me and I hope she knows that I am also here for her. We don't get to see each other much anymore, but we have a nice long chat on the phone each week and I always look forward to our "visits." And now we're both getting old and I guess we just enjoy sharing the memories we have of the family and those good old days in Newport News and at Nags Head. And so, if you ask what this all has to do with being a Sunday devotional, I will just say this. Our faith in God and Christ is all about love and love comes in many forms. But the love I have received from a very gentle and kind big sister is truly love from the heart just the way God intended for us. If we can learn to apply that very love in its proper way to all we cross paths with in this crazy world of ours, just imagine how things could change. And to my dear big sister on her eightieth birthday, I wish her Happy Birthday and a most splendid Sunday for her to enjoy. May God continue to guide her as she navigates the remainder of her life here on earth and I just know when life ends for both of us in this realm, we'll be close together again in a much better place. God bless you all.