When Your Sister Dies Too Young

October 23, 2013

In my mind’s eye, she is larger than life – clear blue eyes still laughing, no more wrinkles than she had when she died at 28. While my own eyes have started to crinkle and form lines in the corners, she is still eternally young. While I peer anxiously at my roots to search for gray hairs or smooth work-worn hands over hips gone soft from two children, she remains eternally beautiful. 

My beautiful sister Katrina
And even though it’s been eight years since she died in 2005, I still talk to her when I’m all alone.

Just like New Orleans is still rebuilding its city eight years after Hurricane Katrina swept through; I’m still rebuilding my heart after the loss of my own dear sister Katrina. 

There are parts of me that know that she's gone. The rational part that knows that life and death are equal halves of the same coin; the emotional part that held her soft, manicured hands in her final moments, who whispered brokenly: It's ok. You can go. I love you. The part of me that knows that she was meant for something more

The ultimate act of unselfishness is to let someone go, even when we are desperate for them to stay. But the reality of letting go is a mirror for us of the love God has for us, proven by sending his son to earth, knowing he would die. Not from terminal illness or cancer, a heart attack or stroke, but from something as common and as devastating as sin. 

I can’t explain it, exactly. But the legacy my sister left was the same one Jesus has bequeathed us, his children: Love. And eternal life. So when my oldest daughter proudly tells me her full name -- Elise Katrina Demery -- and she asks me, for perhaps the hundredth time, who Katrina was -- I have the chance to tell her about the auntie who lives in Heaven with Jesus, who we'll see again someday.

And in the evening, as I get the baby ready for bed, I sing a song that rises up from memories of days at First Baptist Church, wooden pews and worn carpet, voices singing as one while the piano plays. Noelle pauses her constant stream of babble as I start to sing "Blest Be the Tie that Binds":

Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.

Before our Father's throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.

We share each other's woes,
our mutual burdens bear;
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.

When I reach the final verse, my heart stutters, throat closing and eyes tearing up. But as my daughter smiles at me, I catch my breath and smile, too, the pain and the pleasure of life mingled as they so often are. 

When we asunder part,
it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,
and hope to meet again.

Are you looking for resources around kindness, friendship and intentional living? Have you checked out our books?
Our newest book, 100 Daily Acts of Friendship for Girls, is written specifically for girls ages 8-12 as they navigate friendships in upper elementary and middle school. With a scripture, short story, reflection questions and 50 fun activities to do with you or friends, it's a wonderful way to encourage your daughter, niece, granddaughter, God daughter and her friends to build healthy friendships from an early age.

And our adult friendship devotional, The One Year Daily Acts of Friendship is a perfect compliment to our book for tweens. With a daily scripture, story, and friendship prompt, its encouraging and slightly challenging (in a good way!) as you find, keep, and love your friends.   

We've also written two kindness devotionals, The One Year Daily Acts of Kindness and 100 Days of Kindness. They tell the story of how our families embarked on a one-year journey of kindness, and include our successes, failures, and the encouragement you need as a family to incorporate kindness into your own life.

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We're in this together,

Kristin, Kendra, and Julie


  1. That was a beautiful post, Kristin. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Beautiful...Katrina was such a treasure....

  3. That made me cry. Yes your sister was an amazing woman of God and yes she is in Heaven with Him! We can smile because of that.

  4. That was beautiful Kristin! She was such a beautiful person, I feel blessed to have known her.

  5. Beautiful sharing, Kristin. Reminds me of my cousin who died at 26. Stopping by from Imperfect Prose.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kelly. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  6. oh Kristin... how this makes my heart ache. i'm so desperately sorry for your loss--i can't imagine how much you miss her. i love that you named your eldest daughter after Katrina. what an incredible legacy your sister leaves... thank you for linking with #imperfectprose friend. e.

    1. Thank you, Emily -- it's funny because for as much as I miss her, I am SO incredibly grateful that she was my sister at all, that I got to know the amazing woman that she was, that my memories of her (while imperfect) aren't tainted by ill will or regret. I can't wait to see her again, but in the meantime I hope I can leave the kind of legacy that she did. Thanks for letting us link up with #imperfectprose. :)

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