NO MATTER WHAT

NO MATTER WHAT

From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

No Matter What

No matter the distance between us—physical or emotional—there will always be one in the world who knew me in my innocence, and knows the heart of me in a way that no other can. And should I ever know real trouble in my life, she will suddenly appear beside me, to hold my hand in hers.

Anthony Brandt

I remember my sister, Linda, always sticking up for me when we were kids. She’s four years older than I am, and out of five children in our family, we were the peacemakers. We promised to be there for each other—no matter what!

Whenever I did something wrong, I was sent to my room with the sentence of “Wait until your father gets home.” We sat quietly together on the edge of the bed holding hands, knowing what was in store when Dad arrived. She helped me put every pair of underwear on that I owned and layered pajamas and shorts under my nightgown in an attempt to pad my behind.

One day, after my oldest sister forced me to swallow a penny, Linda and I silently waited for the copper coin to rip out my insides, thinking it would kill me. She tried everything to get me to throw up and rubbed my aching belly for an hour. When old Mr. Lincoln came out the other end, we laughed so hard we almost peed our pants.

Both of us shared a private world of happiness and sanctuary to which we escaped from the rest of the family. Late-night popcorn, tea parties, giggling under the covers in our beds and sharing dreams of future happiness were the most peaceful times in my childhood.

Punishment sometimes included pulling weeds from the yard. One day, we decided to bend thorns off the prickly rose bushes. We licked the base and stuck them on the end of our noses. We became rhinoceroses in the wild of Africa, chasing each other throughout the yard.

Our grandmother told us stories of life in Sweden and about a beautiful young princess. Whenever I had a bad day or felt plain ugly, Linda let me dress up in her clothes, painted my face with makeup, and made believe I was that princess.

As we grew into adults, we both chased our individual dreams. Although we had husbands, careers and children of our own, we were never far from each other’s heart or mind. Linda named her youngest daughter after me, and I named my little girl after the princess we pretended to be.

I knew I could always count on her for anything, anytime, anywhere. When my son committed suicide after suffering brain damage from a car accident, Linda took the first plane out to support me.

Words were of little comfort, but she held me close and we cried together, as though it was her own loss. She helped make the funeral arrangements and graciously dealt with visitors, opening up her heart to strangers.

I’ll never forget how I stood so broken in front of the casket as she held me tightly so I wouldn’t fall faint. Once again, she brushed my hair, made tea and held my hand in silence. Linda promised to always be there and would never let me suffer alone, no matter what!

Other family members and friends shunned me over the situation because of their own ignorance. “Let’s just sweep this under the rug,” they would say. Linda always gave me unconditional love, never judged or blamed me, and continues to offer me strength.

She seemed to understand the agony and insanity I was living with and waits patiently while I continue to heal. Linda taught me how to release some of my guilt and love myself again. Our late-night talks on the telephone gave me courage and hope to live again. I owe my life to her for standing beside me, giving me hope.

When I feel raw and my heart aches inside, we cry together on the telephone. I’m reminded of the stubble on my son’s face as he lay in his eternal peace and the small mole located on his neck. I always tripped on the size-fourteen tennis shoes he left in the walkway and realized it would be one of the many things I missed. We reminisce about the smile he wore so proudly and his blue eyes that I can see in the mirror when I squint just right. The greatest gift I taught him was to love unconditionally, and Linda reminds me of the tenderness and affection he displayed for his mom.

Every month, my daughter receives a special treasure of love from her favorite aunt. A small toy, a homemade craft, a picture or a simple postcard ensuring my child is still a special little sister. I have learned to love my own princess more deeply because of a terrific role model.

On anniversary dates, the pain of my loss is unbearable. I receive calls and special tokens of friendship. An angel rests on the marker at the cemetery, keeping watch on the young nephew who is deeply missed.

Life was much simpler when I think of the laughter we shared as children traveling through the desert. We hung our legs over the tailgate of the family station wagon watching the world go by. The hot sun warmed our legs as the breeze kissed our toes with delight. Together we devoured a bag of cherries meant for the whole family. Free of any cares in the world, we sat side by side, spitting the seeds into the wind. The cars receiving these pits were not appreciative of our talents. My father never understood why the parade of cars behind would honk and wave their fists in anger.

I miss those days of innocence from our youth and feel blessed to share my soul with Linda. I am so thankful for having her beside me through good and bad times. I honor her with unconditional love and hope I’ve made a positive contribution to her life. We will remain best friends forever and will accept each other for who we are no matter what!

Judy Lynne Lucia

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