October 8, 2012

In a few weeks, I will officially be older than my sister. If that sounds weird to you, it sounds weird to me, too. But it’s true that I’ll turn 29 on October 28, and on October 30, it will be seven years since my sister Katrina died from breast cancer. Since she died at age 28, I’ll now officially be older than she was when she died.

Every fall, I feel her loss even more keenly than usual. Maybe it’s because one of my favorite photos of Katrina, taken about a year before her death, is of her and my niece and nephew playing in the leaves. In the photo, she’s wearing bright jewel tones and, in a rare cancer-free moment, still has her hair. She’s caught in the moment, sitting on the ground in a pile of leaves, laughing and smiling, hands held out as though to ward off the dusty leaves her children throw at her with abandon. There is so much peace in that photo, so much joy. So much life.

My sister had that kind of larger-than-life personality. She had charisma. She wasn’t perfect, but she was just so likeable. We liked the same music, the same clothes, the same movies, many of the same interests. She was warm and funny and fun.

Now that I’m older and a mom myself, I wonder how our relationship would have changed over the years. I’d like to think that our friendship would have grown stronger, as it has with my sister Kendra. I wonder what she would think of my children, who she never got to meet. I also wonder what she'd think of me. So often, I feel myself trying to measure up to my memories of Katrina. If only I had her sense of hospitality. If only I had her charisma. If only I were comfortable in front of crowds. If only, if only. Even though I know she wasn’t perfect, in my mind, she’s become that way. Saint Katrina, keeper of lost causes and coffee.

That’s not true, of course. I know that she was only human, she could get mad or frustrated or pout when she didn’t get her way. But she had such wisdom, a heart for others and the spiritual maturity that helped her extend grace to those around her. When she died, I missed that wisdom. More than that, I simply missed the sound of her voice and her laughter and her willingness to talk about anything and everything. For months after her death, the answering machine message at her house remained the same. I heard it so many times – and listened so intently to it – that, in my head, I can still hear her lovely musical voice after the machine clicked on, “Hi, you’ve reached Jim and Katrina…” Each time I heard it after she died, I paused to hold on to it, to engrave it on my heart and in my mind. I never want to lose the sound of her voice.

I know that because of Katrina’s faith in Jesus, she’ll never really be gone - someday I will see her again. And until then, I'm comforted by the thought that she will live on in my memories. One of the sweetest things a dear friend of mine did was turn quietly to me one day and ask, “What would Katrina think of that?” My throat tightened with unshed tears, but in my heart I felt so grateful. To me, she is still so real. I felt honored when my friend posed that question so casually as though to say: Of course what Katrina would think now still matters.

Because in my heart, it does.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Cor. 13:4-8a

Lord, thank you for the legacies our loved ones leave behind. May we be intentional in our relationships with others and take time to appreciate all of the things, big and small, that make our loved ones the unique and wonderful individuals they are. Thank you for placing them in our lives, for whatever length of time they are ours to cherish. Help us to appreciate them each and every day. Amen.

Katrina and her daughter, Madeline


  1. This was written so beautifully! Your sister sounds like one amazing women, mom, sister, and daughter! Thank you for sharing this, it touched my heart! Like you said, we have great hope in the Lord that we will be together again...and be together FOREVER!!

  2. Thank you for your encouragement; I'm so glad you liked the post. Blessings! :)


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