SNAP: Stories for Living

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Story #14 – My Sister

There are many heroes around me, but one person stands out, and that is my sister. She is no longer alive to tell the story of how she tried her best as a child, and later as an adult, to protect me, sacrificing her psyche and life in the process.

I was 6 and my sister was 11 when we met our abuser. It was after he was sent back to Ireland that my sister wrote a special story her 8th grade year. The story was about a perfect little doll and how my sister protected the little doll from harm’s way. I was unaware of the story as a child but as an adult my father told me my sister was recognized at Mass one Sunday for having written the story.

When we moved from Rhode Island six years later, I was 12 and my sister was 17. She soon went off to college and our lives took different paths. My sister had a battle with alcoholism by her mid-20s but eventually met the challenge with success, had years of sobriety, married, had a daughter, obtained her master’s degree and became a teacher. Little did I know of the story my sister wrote about the special doll. Then in 1990 our aunt was moving and decided to mail back to us all the letters we had sent her from childhood.

The package arrived and my sister and mother were whispering about one of the letters. I overheard my sister ask my mom, “should we tell her?” My mom nodded and my sister read me the story of the perfect little doll she protected as a child. Puzzled, I listened and at the end my mom said to me, “do you know who that is about?” I answered “no”, having no idea. My mother said “well it’s about you”. I had no conscious memory of our history or the abuse, and would not for more than 15 years later.

Years after having the story read to me, hindsight is 20/20 and now I realize my sister’s childhood story, recognized at school and Sunday mass, was about her efforts to protect me, her little sister, from the horrors of abuse. I was able to repress my memories of abuse for decades, but based on observations, I think my sister remembered the abuse. Her life was one of great sacrifice, spent protecting me, watching me grow while I blocked the past. On December 30, 2005 my sister, at the age of 48, passed away while watching the movie White Christmas. Anyone who has seen this Christmas classic knows that there is a sister act in the film with two sisters who perform the song “Sisters”. The movie was the last thing she saw in this world. My sister will always be the hero in my midst and she is in my heart.

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