A few days ago, in between periods 3 and 4, I noticed I had a handful of text messages.
With 25 teenagers shuffling in and out of my classroom every 55 minutes, needing hall passes, homework updates, and hugs when the day is off-kilter, looking at my cell phone is a luxury that happens in a fraction of a minute.
Time in a classroom is unlike time anywhere else on the planet. I’m certain of this.
With a quick glance, one message stood out:
There, looking back at the camera was our beautiful sister, whose hair the day before had been a long braid winding down over her tiny chest as she sat through treatment. Now, a new bob just above her shoulders gave insight to what’s coming next….
I was overwhelmed with pride and respect for this beautiful young woman who, 14 years my junior, is my baby sister, but in many ways, my baby, too. When she was born, folks often thought in the rural community where we lived at the time, that she was my child. I carried her with me everywhere, keeping her safe, making her laugh, and letting her know how much I loved her every day.
Now, I can only carry her in my heart and wish that I could take away her burden.
In the six weeks since receiving her diagnosis and two weeks since beginning her chemo, she’s gained so much perspective and understanding. She has found acceptance. She is strong. She is beautiful. She is a fighter.
A few hours later….
… as I entered our local grocery store after school, a list forming in my tired brain, I looked up to see pale blue eyes looking back at me in the bustle of people entering the store ~ she on the exit, I on the entrance.Everything around us stopped.
No movement.Just pale blue eyes looking at me.
A yarn cap hid the petite woman’s shorn head. Our eyes met. I looked away quickly.
Instantly, I wanted to say, “I’m not looking away in embarrassment, but out of respect.” It was too late. I felt horrible. I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t want her to think I was staring. I really wanted to say I understand. My sister is going through it, too.
Instead, I said nothing and felt intense sadness.
It was what my sister fears will happen to her. People will look away.
I looked back after she passed by, noticing the pastels of her tattered yarn cap. I wondered about her age. Was she older, as she appeared to be, or younger, but worn down by the drugs invading her body?
I pushed my cart quietly into the store and thought, “Is this what #BabySister will encounter? How will she feel?”
I feel like I betrayed my sister and the quiet woman with the pale blue eyes in my moment of uncertainty.
I should’ve …. what? I’m not sure, exactly. Maybe just smiled a polite smile, as I would’ve to anyone in the store? Said hello, as I often do to others?
The sounds of afternoon busy-ness returned. People pushed past me.
Tears began to fall.
Phase 1. And so it begins….