Sister’s keeper

April 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm

My husband was accepted into graduate school a few months before we had our first baby. Not long after starting classes, his cohort—fellow classmates starting the program with him—got together with their families for a get-to-know-you barbecue. I was in my last month of pregnancy and nervous about all the unknowns ahead of me, but God knew what I needed because it was at that barbecue that I met Tricia.

I remember her warm, friendly smile reaching out to me. She had crossed the bridge of new motherhood a few months before, and I watched with curiosity as she interacted with her infant son, imagining what my future would hold. We introduced ourselves and spent much of the evening talking about pregnancy, birth, and the various challenges and blessings of motherhood. It was wonderful to know that I had a fellow sister going through the very same experiences as me—being supportive as her husband started the long road of graduate school and navigating the trials and joys of new motherhood.

Only a few weeks later, I gave birth to our first daughter. Her birth was a wonderful experience, but adjusting to the reality and exhaustion of caring for a newborn was shocking and difficult for me. After roughly 72 hours with almost no sleep, we left the hospital and brought our new baby home. I didn’t know how I was going to find the courage and energy to care continuously for a new and demanding little person. Everything had changed so abruptly, and I was utterly overwhelmed.

With all of this weighing heavily on me, we walked up to our front door. There, inside the screen door, was a loaf of bread wrapped in a towel with a card and a gift. I opened the card and saw Tricia’s name signed at the bottom. Her words broke through all my fears, exhaustion, and despair:

I wish you luck and peace with your little baby girl. It truly is the greatest thing in the world, and it only seems to get better and more fun as they get older. If it seems really tough in the beginning (it did to me), just remember they eventually do sleep through the night and there are few greater feelings than when your baby looks up at you and smiles for the 1st time.

I burst into tears as I read those words. They could not have come at a more perfect moment. Though I had only met Tricia once before, her love and friendship filled me with courage, peace, and hope. I was overcome by the power of her simple act of love. She probably didn’t think it was much, but it meant everything to me in that moment.

I got several phone messages from Tricia during those first weeks—calling to see how we were doing and offering to get us groceries or watch the baby so I could take a nap. Regretfully, I didn’t return those calls to accept her offers of service, but knowing that she was thinking of me lifted my spirits. Ultimately, she was absolutely right—caring for our daughter got a little easier every day and her first precious smiles made all the exhaustion of the previous weeks fade away. Tricia’s kindness helped carry me through that difficult time of transition. I hardly knew her, but I could not deny that she loved me.

Tricia and I became close friends, and she continued to love me through her beautiful and simple acts of service. More than once she left small gifts on our doorstep—flowers and treats. Though she intended them to be anonymous, we discovered the giver accidentally. She brought blackberries when she found a great sale, gave bags of apples from their apple tree, invited us for dinners and barbecues, and gave countless other small acts of service.

Later, Tricia’s love helped lift me as we experienced a difficult time in my family. In November of 2006, my brother and his wife passed away in a boating accident. Their bodies were missing for weeks, and my family was driving many miles everyday to and from the reservoir where search teams were working to find them. During that time, Tricia and her husband gave us a card with a gift certificate for gasoline enclosed—thoughtfully recognizing that it might be a need with all of the driving we had been doing. In addition to this simple gift, they called and sent emails periodically communicating their friendship and promises of prayers in our behalf. We felt their love and, through them, the love of God. It is difficult to know what to do for someone experiencing the death of a loved one, but it is often those small and simple things that mean the most.

Since that time, our husbands both found jobs in other states, and our families became geographically separated, but my love and gratitude for my dear friend has never diminished. She was her “sister’s keeper” at a time when this sister deeply needed her love. I want to make the world a better place, but so often I overlook the very places where I can do the most good. “Making a difference” in the world can happen in the day-to-day moments all around us. We don’t have to look far to find opportunities to lift others. Our services need only love to make them powerful. Tricia reached out to a person she hardly knew, but that small act blossomed into something life-changing and wonderful. I want to be a friend like Tricia.