From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

Sister’s Song

We heard a song, we heard it in harmony.

Maxene Andrews, of the Andrews Sisters

The Oklahoma City (OKC) bombing had devastated our community; but six weeks later at the largest high school in OKC, we were having our baccalaureate service as usual in a neighborhood church. There was still a heartfelt obligation to affirm this end-of-year ceremony for our students. At our “Little United Nations,” as I liked to call it, we were a strong community of faith and our young Vietnamese Catholics would worship beside our African-American Baptists, in this, their next to the last ceremony before they danced off into the world of college and jobs.

Of course, court rulings involving separation of church and state meant the students and parents were totally in charge of this event. The students had to meet on their own for the rehearsal and to set the tone of the program. Even though it was difficult to “let go” of a service of this nature, as the building principal I had done just that. From the past history of the school I knew that this release of responsibility had normally worked out fine as the students were mature and Northwest Classen was known for its wonderful end-of-year activities. It was a difficult time for everyone. Several students had loved ones injured and killed in the bombing.

As the principal, my role was minimal, but I was able to participate in helping students pin collars on their robes in the waiting area, help quiet the nervous jitters, and supervise as they lined up for this most important event—which many viewed as a dress rehearsal for commencement.

Finally, all was in readiness, and I slid silently into a back pew as the students began to proudly march down the center of the sanctuary. Many a parent’s eyes dripped tears as a son or daughter quietly walked in line with their classmates to the front rows of the church, which had been reserved for the graduating class of 1995.

The program began normally with a routine of introductions and speeches. Finally, it was time for one of the most coveted parts of the ceremony—the senior solo. Several students each year would try out for this spot, but only one was chosen.

One of our beautiful young ladies walked proudly to the lectern and prepared to sing. Her song was an old hymn and one that seemed especially appropriate after this recent tragedy—“His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” However, as she began to sing, something appeared to be wrong. She began to stumble through the first verse of the song, and tears started running down her face. Suddenly from the back of the church, the song echoed from another voice. Her older sister had seen her distress and had come to her aid. She calmly walked down the center aisle of the church, keeping her eyes steadfastly on her sister, as she continued to sing along. She took her place next to her sister and placed her arm around her shoulder. They sang triumphantly, the original singer buoyed by the love and courage of her family member, until the song was finished.

There were other parts to the program, of course. A young minister encouraged the graduates with the theme of, “The sun will come up tomorrow, no matter what happens.” The senior speakers were refreshing and challenged their young colleagues to seek significant tasks to the greater glory of mankind.

For me, however, the epiphany of that program will forever be the story of the two young women—especially the one who didn’t stop to think of the possible embarrassment of walking down a long aisle from the back of the church to rescue her sister. Because at that one gleaming moment in their family history, the only thing that mattered was that her sister needed her, and she was prepared to answer the call and claim the victory of that moment.

Rita Billbe

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