From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

Spit Promises

It is the friends that you can call at 4:00 A.M. that matter.

Marlene Dietrich

With five years difference in our ages, people still said how uncanny it was for us to look so much alike. My sister and I shared a lot of the same facial features and, of course, we both have long, red hair. Well, at least I had hair until I started chemotherapy. My long red locks fell from my head in clumps as the treatments went on.

I touched my now-bald head. Fresh tears sprang to my eyes. People would not say we looked alike now. My sister Marlanea was flying in from Montana to see me. She didn’t know how bad I was going to look. I wanted to prepare her for the shock or protect her from what she was going to see. I had always watched over her, trying to keep her safe and out of harm’s way. She was born on my fifth birthday. Our mother said she was my birthday present. I took that seriously, and I loved her with all my heart.

We went through our growing-up years inseparable. We were each other’s best companions. Our parents used to tell us that we should have been twins for how much we resembled each other, for how close we were.

We even thought alike. When we were shopping, we would buy each other small gifts—from T-shirts to coffee cups—but most of the time we bought each other the same thing. We shared a connection that was beyond most people’s understanding.

Now adults, we live in different states. She called me on the phone, and all I said was “Hello.” Instantly, she said, “I know something is wrong. Tell me. What is it?”

No longer amazed at her uncanny ability to tell when something is wrong, I told her, at eight o’clock that morning, I had to put our family pet to sleep. Together in silence, we cried. Tears I could not shed earlier that morning now flowed freely as I talked on the phone with my sister.

Since finding out that I have cancer, she has called almost daily. Concern always in her voice, but cheerful nonetheless. She has sent me a funny card every week, a bright ray of hope that makes me believe life will be okay again.

During one tearful phone conversation she told me she knew for sure that I would not die from this intruder called cancer.

“Oh how do you know?” I asked through my tears.

“Because when we were really small, we made a spit promise that we could only die if the other sister was ready to die, too. And I’m not ready to die yet so neither can you.”

We never discussed what would happen if we broke a spit promise. But we both knew that it had to be serious.

I heard her cab pull up in front of my house. My sister, my friend, had arrived.

With trembling hands I reached up and touched my bald head once more before I opened the door to my best friend—my sister.

There she was, the sun shining behind her, lighting her up like the angel I had always thought her to be. There she was in her tight jeans and a T-shirt, wearing a hat that read, “I’m having a bad hair day.” We both smiled.

“Hello sister,” I said.

“Hello sister,” she replied.

She raised her hand and removed her hat. My sister had shaved her head. We stood there crying and laughing and hugging.

“We still look like sisters,” was all she said.

“I love you,” was all that I could say.

I shut my eyes and said a silent prayer, Thank you God for my life. Thank you God in heaven for my sister. Thank you Mother for my gift.

Dawn Braulick

For Better or For Worse®

by Lynn Johnston

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE. © United Feature Syndicate.

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