On May 25, 1994, my perfect four years on earth were suddenly interrupted, when my parents insisted I meet this 11 lb, 11 oz, dark haired baby, they called Emily.
My grandparents, aunts and uncles all seemed so happy about this Emily person. But I wasn’t so sure.
“When is she going back to the hospital?”, I asked, serious as can be. Didn’t they know our family was full? Couldn’t they see we were already perfect as a family of three?
But to my dismay, my parents believed they knew better, and Emily stayed. But she didn’t just stay; she had her own room, her own toys, and my parents even liked her more than me. Or so it seemed.
Sure, she was cute, even fun at times. But when you’re four, it’s hard and confusing to go from all of the attention, to less than half of the attention overnight.
But soon enough, Emily started to grow up, and so did I. And next thing I knew, we called ourselves the “best buddies”. Turns out she wasn’t so bad after all.
We loved to play house and school in our indoor-treehouse, take wagon rides and piggy back rides with dad, and read books before bed with mom. We were content to play and dance together for hours without a care in the world.
Like most siblings, we had personality differences. I was the oldest — reserved, sensitive, and responsible. And she was the baby — social, carefree, and got away with everything fun loving. But the older we got, it seemed we had more than personality differences working against us. With our four year age gap, things started to change.
In 2000, I went to middle school and Emily started 2nd grade. I quickly traded in my American Girl dolls and stuffed animals for boy crushes and cheerleading practice and she went from the one I did everything with to the one I wanted nothing to do with. Our interests differed and we began spending our days apart.
We were forced to reevaluate this whole sister thing. Sleepovers one night, fights the next. From sharing to screaming to “I hate you” to “I’m sorry”, all in a day’s work. I was convinced that our days as “best buddies” were a thing of the past and that we had transitioned from sisters that were friends to the type of siblings that tolerated each other.
But 7 long years later, I was going off to college, and Emily started high school. I was leaving home and she was entering into 4 years I knew all too well. Our relationship began to strengthen as she started needing advice on true friends, mean teachers, and prom dresses. She came to Auburn almost every weekend with my parents during football season, and although we were still at very different stages of life, we both could sense that the gap was finally closing.
My college years were flying by and it was now time for Emily to commit to a college of her own. Naturally, she applied and was accepted into Auburn and I couldn’t wait for her to experience and create lifelong memories in “The Loveliest Village On The Plains”, just like I had. We would soon be bonded by our love for orange and blue and forever forget the days we couldn’t get along.
But then, against my own prayers, Emily committed into the University of Georgia. The enemy, if you will. My parents rejoiced. I cried. And although she wouldn’t admit it now, she felt caught in the middle. Great, one more thing we won’t have in common… Just when our friendship was starting to mend.
Fast forward to Fall 2015 — Emily was deep into the college life — cheering for the ‘dawgs, sorority socials and late night cram sessions at UGA . I was engaged long distance, finishing up graduate school, living at home, and learning a lot about life and relationships.
Like how relational closeness isn’t determined by your stage of life or geographical setting. That family has this strange yet beautiful way of forgiving in the midst of craziness. And that a sister is one of the sweetest gifts from the Lord.
Last weekend, I watched that once chubby baby, Emily, walk across the stage in a cap and gown. Her smile was contagious, as usual. I was the proudest sister in the room. As she shook her professor’s hand, I couldn’t help but remember how disheartened I was 4 years ago when she told me she was going to UGA. And just how silly that seemed now.
It was evident that her 4 years in Athens helped clearly define who she was today. A lover of Jesus, friendship, adventure, children, sleeping, and late night junk food. To name a few. And it was even more evident that I have a lot to learn from the way she finds joy in life.
I was exhausted after a full day of graduation events, but when asked if I wanted to go out with her to celebrate, Yes! was all that would come out. College house parties are no longer on my to-do list but I knew I would regret not spending her graduation night by her side. Her friends were sweet to welcome me along, as I tried to be cool and pretend I still stay up that late.
We finally climbed into her bed at a time I hadn’t seen in years and reminisced on the full and exciting day. As she dozed off, mid conversation, I pulled the covers up over her, turned off the light, and smiled. Goodnight, Em.
There she was. My baby sister. Fast asleep after a monumental day in her life on earth. She was beautiful, smart, independent, hilarious, encouraging and confident. And exactly where God needed her to be. It had never been more obvious.
Looks like mom and dad were right, Emily. Our family did need you. I needed you. This world needed you. I’m so glad you stayed.
The real world is tough, but so are you. And your best buddy is always just a phone call away.
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