From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

The Miracle of My Sister’s Laughing

There can never be enough said of the virtues, the dangers, the power of a shared laugh.

Françoise Sagan

Some of the lowest days of my life came shortly after my husband’s death. While still grieving, I came face to face with the reality of raising our four children alone. The funeral was over, friends and family gone. It was the kids and I, each of us grieving as our ages and personalities allowed. One son angry, the other quiet; one daughter demanding, the other mothering. And somehow I was supposed to deal with it all. I was supposed to give the sole direction, the lone understanding and single wise responses.

While at the bottom of this inadequacy well, my sister arrived. She’d planned it that way, saving her visit until everyone else had left. Within hours, the closeness we had shared in the past came flooding back. She let me talk and cry but also helped me begin doing things. We got my kids returned to school, and then started tackling projects. We started with my closet since its half emptiness constantly reminded me of my now-gone husband. We decided to install a closet organizer, so I could add my sweaters and other clothes to fill it up.

Things didn’t go well. While she held one end, I’d try to install and hammer the other. Nothing fit. As we improvised, things got worse. Then in the midst of our frustration, I noticed the picture on the organizer’s box. A two-dimensional woman smiled back from it while she single-handedly installed what my sister and I were failing to do. While still holding up my end, I said, “Hey Jeanne, look at that picture. I wish!”

She took one look at the woman and said, “Yeah, right. She’s even wearing a dress.” That’s when it happened. Somehow the whole situation turned into a joke.

Every fumble we made, every board that slipped, every screw that refused to twist brought us back to the perfect lady on the box and made us laugh. We laughed until the tears came. We laughed until we had to drop the organizer and run for the bathroom.

It was the first time I’d laughed in weeks.

That laughter happened fifteen years ago, yet I remember it as if it happened yesterday. It changed nothing, yet it changed everything. My kids were still grieving. I was still hurting, overwhelmed and inadequate. But when I hugged my sister good-bye, I knew God had used her to give me a miracle. For in the hard months following her departure, on my worst days, I inevitably opened my closet and spotted my slightly tilting organizer. No matter how I felt, I just couldn’t help smiling.

Deborah Hedstrom-Page

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