June 26th, 1984
That was the day I received something that everyone wants at some point in their life, but not everyone gets to have; something I was lucky enough to receive twice more in my life; something that can be a curse at times, but something that has the potential to be one of the very coolest things you will ever have.
I got a sister.
I was almost 4 years old at the time, so I don't remember much about the early stages of having a little girl sibling. I know, from stories that our parents tell us, that my brother and I were totally enamored with her, and drove our mom crazy trying to 'help' do things with and for her.
I have many, many memories of Joy once I was a little older, of course. She was my roommate my entire childhood. A few years were spent with all THREE of my sisters as my roommates, but always, always, it was me and Joy.
She was neat as a pen, and I was really messy. It drove her crazy how I would leave my many discarded outfits on the floor instead of putting them away. Once, about 5 years ago when she was visiting my house, she laughed at me for stressing about a few toys and dishes that needed to be put away. "How in the heck are you so organized and neat now? Why couldn't you have been like that when we shared a room?"
She liked to go to bed early, and I would often lay awake half the night reading a book.
She and I shared a queen sized bed that became the guest bed when company was in town (which happened a lot, because our parents are awesome and everyone wants to come visit them!) so she and I spent many a night on mattresses in the floor or the couches in the living room.
We couldn't share many clothing items as adults the way a lot of sisters do, because she was so petite, and I...well, that word has never been used to describe me...ever. I do have a few shirts that she would borrow from time to time, and vice-versa.
She LOVED birthdays, and always made a big deal out of them. She really loved celebrating her own, too, and secretly wanted tons of flowers, presents, cards, phone calls, and balloons. She was more that willing to do those things for others, probably at least in part because of how important they were to her. It was aways a competition in our family, once we had grown up and moved away, to see who could be the first to call and wish a 'happy birthday' to the one whose day it was. Joy almost always won. A lot of times she would stay up till midnight, then call at 12:01 to say happy birthday. I was quick to inform her that she better NEVER wake me up from an exhausted-mommy sleep to tell me happy birthday. She was sweet and never did, despite her raging desire to win the phone call race. But she always sent a card, and she always called, and I always felt loved. Since we didn't have a lot of money growing up, one of our presents was getting to pick our birthday supper. I always picked Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Joy always chose BLT's, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie instead of cake.
Today is June 26th, 2013. It's Joy's 29th birthday. I wasn't the first one to call her today. And neither was anyone else in our family. This is the third year in a row that I haven't spoken to her on this day.
Joy is with Jesus.
I think about her a lot, but never more so than around her birthday, because knowing how important they were to her, and not being able to help her feel special on her birthday, makes me feel like a crappy sister.
Yesterday I was thinking about heaven, and wondering what the birthday party etiquette is there. And I think it must be spectacular, and so much more than I can envision, because, after all, that's how the GOD of heaven is, right?
We planted a bunch of flowers at her grave the first spring after she died. There are daffodils, and tulips, and irises, and lilies, and roses, and gladiolas. The tulips and the daffodils bloom early, and then the irises, but the lilies and the roses and the gladiolas all bloom together, and, for the last three years, they have been in full bloom, a breathtaking variety of colors and shapes, on her birthday.
So this is how I know that the party in heaven must be jamming.' Because a God who loves me, and my mom and dad, and my sisters and brother, enough to let the flowers bloom for her birthday on earth, a day she isn't even here to celebrate anymore, surely loves Joy enough to have a great party with her in heaven.
And even though I don't get to talk to her today, I can rest assured that the Lord loves her even more than I do, and He is taking care of making her day special.
But, still, 29 years of a habit is hard to undo. So, there will be balloons, and flowers, and BLT's and mac-n-cheese and pumpkin pie today. And I will look up to the sky, and speak to my Lord, and ask Him to tell her happy birthday, and that I love her, and that I'm sorry I never let her call me at midnight to win the birthday-phone-call race, and I'm sorry for leaving my clothes all over the floor all our lives, and I'm sorry for staying up all night reading when all she wanted was a dark room to sleep in, and I miss her, and she is my hero, and she was the bravest person I ever knew. And I wish I could see her face when the Lord tells her "People all over the country, and in other countries, are reading about your life, and how you served Me, and how you followed Me. You're famous, Joy."
She will blush, and her ears will turn red, and she will brush her bangs off her forehead, and say "Help me, I can't even handle this."
So, this is my birthday present to you, Joy Beth; it's from me, and Heath, and everyone who helped us along the way- I will continue to tell HIS story, and spread HIS glory, just like you would want me to. I love you so much. Thank you for being my little sister. You taught me so much about serving the Lord, and you did it without even trying.
I think the Lord will tell her, don't you? After all, He bloomed flowers on her grave just for our family, because we can't give them to her, so He gave them to us instead.
My God's goodness is breathtaking.