When I was seven, I was diagnosed with a rare, but treatable disease called Henoch-Schonlein Purpura. It is a disease that mainly affects children, and for most patients, once treated, the symptoms resolve in an average of four to six weeks. My case however, ended up lasting for almost seven years. The severity of my case initially led to a hospital stay that lasted much longer than most children who contract the disease—I was there for 45 days.
At that time, I had an older sister and two younger brothers, and what I didn’t learn until later, was that my mom and dad had a fifth child on the way. Sadly, due to the stress of my sickness, as well as other factors that I’m sure I’ll never be fully aware of, my mom ended up losing the baby.
Two years later, my disease was being well managed and I was on the steady road to recovery. That was when we learned that my mom was pregnant. Nine months after that my little sister arrived. At the time I didn’t know why, because I was only nine and had no knowledge of what had happened during my hospital stay, but I felt an inexplicable connection to her. From the very beginning I knew that she was special, and I always did my best to love her, support her and protect her.
Throughout our years together, despite such a large age difference, we have always gotten along and have always been able to relate to each other. But life happens—moving in, moving out, school, internships, jobs—and the opportunities to spend time together have become fewer and further between.
Recently we had the opportunity to spend some time together, and we spoke about our experiences growing up. During our conversation she voiced concerns that while she was happy with what she’s accomplished, she feared she might have missed out on some things in life. Between the pressure of doing well in school, the pressure of making our parents proud and happy, and the pressure of not making the same mistakes as her four older siblings, I can see why she would think that she spent a lot of her life making certain choices based solely on what she’s learned from those who have come before her, instead of based on her own desires.
I want her to know that she shouldn’t believe that her life will only ever be defined by those things that she ‘couldn’t’ do, because in reality, she has accomplished so very much.
This week my little sister graduates from college, and my gift to her is a key.
When I bought my Giving Key I had the word ‘angel’ inscribed on it—because that is what my little sister is, she is my angel (although she’ll argue that I have it backwards—that instead, I am hers). Since getting my key, this small reminder has not only allowed me to keep her close, but has also acted as a daily reminder that all is never lost, and that beautiful things can come from even the worst situations.
This fall my sister will be attending law school. When I asked her why she wanted to be a lawyer, her simple reply was, “I want to help people.”
So I am giving her this key as a reminder that she is beautiful and strong and exceptionally smart; and I know that her life is meant for great things. There are a lot of people in this world—people who need guidance, people who need help, people who are less fortunate than her and I and simply need someone on their side, and she should use what she has accomplished and what she has been given to help those in need. It is time for her to be someone else’s angel.
Babe, as you start your journey, know that I love you and that I am so very proud of you. And no matter what, always remember that your life is about what you can do, not what you can’t.
You will forever be my angel.